After sending out a notification a couple of weeks ago that I was in the process of putting in a paywall that would limit non-subscribers to three free articles a month, I got a number of questions/comments/complaints concerning this … all from non-subscribers, of course.
So I thought I would lay it out in a post. Why subscribe?
- I pay to provide a site that is ad-free, and have for almost a decade. It costs about $360/year. Why do I do it, when there are numerous “free” web site options? The answer is simple but long, and it’s this: Reading only really works when your mind is uninterrupted. The jarring effect of having each paragraph of text broken by a screaming ad, or by pop-ups, or by tailored and targeted messages rotating top/bottom/side of your screen, whether you realize it or not, is distracting af. Even The NY Times and WSJ won’t give you a quiet read to yourself anymore, let alone the junk-filled advertorials of every cycling “news” site out there. When you come here, you get peace and quiet and a space to concentrate. It’s not free.
- I don’t believe in paying people to advertise to me. Virtually all subscriptions are this way, whether cable, pay-to-read sites, Spitify … The typical subscription requires you to pay so that once you enter the site you can be subjected to more ads. You are paying people to advertise to you. I dislike this and am pretty sure that straight content that meets standards of relevance, punctuation, and basic grammar is rare on the Internet unless you also have to pay to get subjected to someone’s advertising. My model is the book. Once you buy it, the transaction is complete.
- I have subscribers who have been paying since I first began accepting money; some have back-paid for a decade’s worth of subscriptions. Their loyalty and dedicated readership is worth a lot to me. It’s worth it financially but it’s also worth it as a motivator. You might think that $2.99 is a pittance, but there are days when I don’t feel like writing, and the knowledge that people are paying in the expectation that I will post something is a huge motivator. It’s not that way with people who simply read … I appreciate readership, but after almost ten years it’s the committed core of supporters who keep me fired up.
- One long-time reader and subscription refusenik said that a paywall will prevent other people from “discovering” my blog. That’s not true. Three free articles a month is more than enough for people to dig around. Moreover, what creative person gives away everything they make so that they can get “exposure”? Answer: People who don’t value what they make. If it takes time, effort, and expense to create, and people don’t want to pay for it, then perhaps it’s not very good. If it is good, then those who use it should be willing to pay for it, same as they do for Slurpees. Not saying this blog is even remotely as good as a Slurpee.
- Another criticism: A paywall will screen out poor readers. Reply: Three free reads a month, plus this bonus–email me your situation and if it is dire and if this blog is central to your life, I’ll create a free account for you.
- And this one: “I’m just a cheapskate.” Well, honesty is the best policy, but even the cheapskate gets three free reads a month, and being a cheapskate isn’t much of an argument as to why I should keep giving away what takes so much effort and actual money to make.
- Scarily, this site is a kind of library. It has over 2,000,000 words and more than 2,500 posts. Something that’s not evident from the way this site is set up is the depth and breadth of content. I can view reads/downloads from things that were posted years ago; a healthy chunk of site visitors are referring to old material. It’s no longer simply a matter of putting up new stuff, but it’s also a matter of giving access to a library of materials that cover the waterfront with regard to cycling. Hosting that space and keeping it current takes time and money. Should it be a public service? Maybe, but that’s what it’s been for almost a decade, and again … three free reads/downloads a month.
- Freddy Freeloaders continue to swell. My web stats show that although visitation continues to grow, subscriptions are much slower. At some point it starts to feel like I’m punishing the very people who support me most, while rewarding those who support me not at all. Time to end that. All of the South Bay people who’ve pointedly told me they “never read the blog” while somehow keeping abreast of every post will finally get to stop reading it.
- Bare financial necessity: mine. Over the next few years I plan to be greatly reducing my workload as a lawyer, and to segue into doing way more of what I love doing most, which is riding and writing. Unlike people who write from a chair based on what they’ve read, this blog, in Michael Marckx’s words, is produced by “method writing,” a play on method acting. I do and then I write, and the doing costs money. It’s my goal over the next few years to build a subscription base that will make it feasible to go out and physically collect the data, whatever they may be.
Haven’t subscribed yet? Maybe it’s time! Your $2.99/month keeps the pedals turning, the shutter snapping, and the pedals cranking. Please Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!