Arnold Kling

Blogging for Dollars

Arnold Kling, Great Questions of Economics
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One of Glenn Reynolds' readers pointed out that Scott Adams in The Dilbert Future predicted the emergence of something like the phenomenon of free web logs.

This model depends on people being willing to take the time to put information on the Net without the benefit of payment. Why will people do that? They will do it because that's our most basic human nature...

Adams' thesis is that people naturally like to gossip, voice their opinions, etc.

On the other hand, one of my readers, Brad Hutchings, emailed me (and I'll add my reactions in italics):

I wonder what would happen if you started charging $12 for a yearly membership to your GQE blog...You'd have to find the appropriate balance between what you give away and what only members can see

I think that the way to get a subscription model to work would be for a bunch of web loggers to get together to form a club. Subscribers might get custom email notices geared to their preferences, special communication channels with authors, or other benefits.

I think you'd get more grief from other bloggers than from your readers. Like the Linux crowd, a lot of bloggers get pretty full of themselves with the service and sacrifice they offer their readers. I find with my trialware that the technical types get all bent out of shape on price. People like my Mom, who are the intended customers and just want stuff that works well, are more than happy to pay a premium price for good software. I imagine it's the same with intelligent entertainment.

The point about your Mom as opposed to the technical type is spot on. I think that a model of for-profit web logging would lead to Bloggers tuning their material for their readers, whereas now their goal is to impress other Bloggers. A for-profit model would empower readers or currupt the Bloggers, depending on your point of view. I agree with the analogy to open source software, which I once called The User Disenfranchisement Movement.

Discussion Question: Do you think that for web logs to be of high quality that a business model must be found? Without a business model, won't Bloggers lose motivation and let the quality of their web logs suffer?

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