For the most part, a chasm exists between authors of books and bloggers.
Many in the former group have moved to blogging as a way of promoting their books, but their content comes in the form of something needing to be purchased at a bookstore. Conversely, professional bloggers tend to get their compensation via advertising, but their readers are able to read the content free of charge.
However, as popular agnostic, author Bart Ehrman shows that is not always the case.
Paying for Blog Posts?
Today I saw what looked like an interesting post on Facebook, linking to a blog by Bart Ehrman. I was surprised to find out, though, that I couldn’t read the entire post without paying for it! When I was first presented with it, I found myself becoming quite agitated. If it hadn’t been for the intriguing post, I would have closed the page and never given it a second thought. Instead it got me thinking – is this a viable model?
To be fair, Ehrman’s paywall structure is not intended to put more money in his pocketbook. Instead, all of the proceeds go to charitable organizations. His website states the following:
“The Bart D. Ehrman Foundation is a not-for-profit organization whose overarching purpose is to raise money for charities devoted to poverty, hunger, and homelessness. You can assist with this humanitarian effort by joining “The Bart Ehrman Blog,” giving you full access to Bart’s ideas and thoughts, answers to readers, responses to critics, and further reflections on his public debates. All money collected from membership fees is given over to charities devoted to helping those in need.”
The cost is $3.95/month (or $7.95 for 3 months or $24.95 for a full year). And while the proceeds go to help people in need, skeptics will undoubtedly point out that, because he is a self-proclaimed agnostic, Ehrman’s choices of charitable organizations are probably not what they would choose on their own. Then again, the agnostic and atheist communities likely put higher trust in Ehrman’s choices than in donating to a church or Christian charity.
How Much for The Money?
However, even if Ehrman was pocketing the money himself, I’m not sure I would care. The truth is, his readers are paying for content – in whatever form that might take. After signing up for the site, I took a look at some of his recent posts to see what exactly I was getting for my money. In the month of June, his posts totaled around 30,000 words – or close to 1/3 the size of an average book. Many of the posts are exactly the sort you would expect to find in one of his books, and at a cost of just over $2/month, the price is still cheaper than what you’d pay in a bookstore.
I believe there’s a couple reasons why Ehrman is able to make this model work. First, he is an established author with the credentials of serving as professor at a premiere institution. A large number of people already put trust in his work and are used to paying for his content. The typical blogger tries to build reputation from their blogs, and perhaps one day uses that to publish a book. Because this reputation-building is ground-up, it makes sense that content is freely available and subsidized through advertising.
Second, Ehrman has set the system up to give all proceeds away. While I believe this is a secondary factor, it does reduce the barriers to entry for would-be subscribers. Profit-seeking motives laid to rest, subscribers can pay for content they value and feel good about what they are doing.
What do you think of this model?
[Image via Ehrmanblog.org]