The unfortunate truth is that most blogs make money from ad revenue which are inflexible, ineffective, and intrusive. Some people have come up with interesting solutions, such as the concept of sponsorship or subscriptions, but we are far from a solution.
There have also been other, less beneficient, solutions out there. Championed by individuals like Darren Rowse, new tips and tricks on how to “monetize your blog” exploded on the Internet.
The premise was fairly basic. You should provide a “value” to your audience other then your writing. Rowse used his own blog, Problogger as an example. The value that Problogger provides is a service which helps other bloggers get started.
And that’s what the problem is.
It’s simple to start a blog about blogging that provides blogging services. Or say, a WordPress blog about WordPress that provides WordPress services.
But what if you want to start a blog about interior design or power tools. How are you supposed to start a blog and run a full time business in these fields? Something doesn’t feel right.
I wish I had a solution. I don’t. There are people far smarter then I working on the problem. That being said, it feels as if we are getting closer, even if we are mostly dog paddling.
I came across an interesting project the other day, which partially inspired this post. It’s called CentUp.
Basically, CentUp allows publishers to add a button to their posts, similar to the Twitter or Facebook “Like” buttons. But when a user clicks on the CentUp button, they can choose to pull a few cents or more from their account to give to the publisher.
Half of the money they choose to give also goes to charity. They are in the midst of an Indie Gogo campaign to raise money before launch. I encourage you to check it out.
CentUp is not the first company to imagine this solution. In 2010, a company known as Flattr launched a very similar product. They also provide a button publishers can put on their websites, or even Twitter streams, to encourage microdonations, but is based on a monthly subscription model versus a pay-as-you-go type system.
Flattr has attracted a few high traffic sites such as Duck Duck Go and The Oatmeal, but they are far from widespread.
Readability, one of several “Read Later” apps actually tryed something similar a while back. They allowed users to opt-in to a subscription at $5 per month, with plans to distribute that money to publishers based on how much they were read by subscribed users.
The system was in place, but after a year and a half, Readability closed its doors to subscriptions and gave unclaimed money away to charity.
In his annoucement about Readability’s suspension of its subscription service, Richard Ziade explained the main problem he encountered.
And the great majority of those publishers never registered. Out of the millions—yes, millions—of domains that flowed through Readability, just over 2,000 registered to claim their money.
As a result, most of the money we collected—over 90%—has gone unclaimed.
When he appeared on The Big Web Show with Jeffrey Zeldman, Ziade explained the problem a little more. Despite his conversaitons with large publishers, exactly zero of these companies stepped up. Coming from print which was always supported by ads, there was hesitation among the larger publishers to adopt a new model.
How We Change That
CentUp believes they can solve the problem by adding charitable donations alongside their micropayments, but this feels a little too idealistic. What a new digital monetization model needs is a huge digital publisher to step forward, embrace it, and publicily announce what they are doing.
That way all the little guys can say, “Well if XXX is doing it, why shouldn’t I?” What if Gawker was there? Or Wired? Or the New York Times?
Maybe CentUp or Flattr are going to be the ones to do it. Maybe Readability will take another shot. But maybe not.
The Power of WordPress
WordPress powers about 19% of the Internet. There are over 60 million blogs on WordPress.com. CNN, TechCrunch, TED and many others use the Automattic WordPress VIP service.
What if the WordPress foundation or Automattic threw its support behind a product? That’s a lot of publishers to connect to.
What if Automattic proposed a solution? Big companies trust Automattic and WordPress to have their best interests at heart and to only come forward with strong and innovative ideas.
What we need is widespread adoption of a model, to stick to our guns and follow through. To me, the best place to start is with the WordPress community for shear mass alone. Besides, WordPress isn’t just a community, it’s a network of publishers. There are great ideas out there, we just need to connect them to the right people, and hardly any system can facilitate this connection better then WordPress.
I don’t know, it seems like a good place to start.
But hey, what do you think?