Amanda Palmer gives a really smart talk on funding the arts and on the intimacy between creators and fans:
[T]he more formidable the paywall, the more money you might generate in the short term, but the less likely it is that new readers are going to discover your content and want to subscribe to you in the future.
Amazing offline resources like the Oxford English Dictionary and the Encylopedia Britannica are facing existential threats not only because their paywalls are too high for people to feel that they’re worth subscribing to, but also because their audiences are not being replaced at nearly the rate at which they’re dying off. The FT, for instance, has discovered that its current subscriber base is pretty price-insensitive, and has taken the opportunity to raise its subscription prices aggressively. That makes perfect sense if Pearson, the FT’s parent, is looking to maximize short term cashflows, especially if it’s going to sell off the FT sooner rather than later anyway. But if you’re trying to build a brand which will flourish over the long term, it’s important to make that brand as discoverable as possible.
I’ve found Felix’s analysis of the question of how to get content paid for has been extremely clarifying. One small point. He writes:
If you look at the $611,000 that Sullivan has raised to date, essentially none of it has come from people who feel forced to cough up $20 per year in order to be able to read his website. To a first approximation, all of that money has come from supporters: people who want Sullivan, and the Dish, to continue.
That’s not entirely accurate. We started selling pre-subscriptions without the meter running because of time constraints between announcing our shift (early January) and implementing it (early February). But in the last 30 days, with the meter running for only 28 of them, we raised just over $100K. That’s one fifth of what might be called the kickstarter period.
Here are the sales of subs for the past 30 days:
Of course, we don’t know what will happen in the next thirty days. But the weekly waves of new subscribers does show the meter working at the margins. If it were to keep up this pace – which, of course, I doubt because I am a pessimist – we’d bring in $1.2 million a year from the meter alone. As for the meter, we now have 14,500 readers at their maximum 6 or 7 clicks and about to hit the meter request. If they all decided to sign up, we’d instantly have close to $300,000 more and hit our target for the year in keeping the Dish viable within its previous budget.
We have eleven more months to get there. You can help us – and help pioneer the simplest, clearest model for supporting online journalism – by subscribing here.