Charging for Kindle Blogs is a good thing

This is not a contrarian argument. Neither is it me playing devil’s advocate. There’s a very clear argument for why letting bloggers earn from their kindle blog subscriptions is a good thing.

The Current Contribution to Reward Relationship

The Internet has a very strong ethos of ‘free’. This is taken to the point where certain things are automatically categorized as ‘should be free’. In particular - 

On the Internet, music, software, music videos, movies, news and content are expected to be free. The Internet creates this magical belief that all this content should be free because there are other means to monetize (advertisements, concerts for musicians, DVD sales and theater tickets for movies, etc.).   

On the surface this seems a rather altruistic viewpoint – surely, having everything free helps everyone.

The truth, however, is that anyone who creates something that helps people is creating value and is entitled to profit from it. Advocates of free don’t really have the right to ask people to work for free.

Just as royalty in the middle ages used ‘the divine right of kings’ to claim disproportionate wealth and status, this magical ‘everything on the Internet should be free’ belief is stealing money from content creators and lining the pockets of other people. 

If you’re a blogger or a content creator …

Surely what you create has some value and is adding something to people’s lives.

Contrast three situations (just a simple example) -

  1. You run a content site and run no ads and no affiliate accounts and don’t monetize your site in any way.

    You might not be making money off of your content – However, Google, companies that sell any products you write about, the company that owns or hosts your blog, and numerous other entities benefit from the value you provide.

  2. You run a content site and make money off of ads etc. 

    You are basically making money off of a combination of indirect means. The ads and affiliate income subsidize your content. This is better than getting no value for your content – However, it is still not optimal.

  3. You sell your content – either as subscriptions, or some other direct to customer agreement.

    This is in some ways a very straightforward exchange. Its also the most immune to bias and ulterior motives. If your earnings are based directly on helping customers then the likelihood of you doing what’s best for them is highest.

Basically, based on what option you choose, you’re either making other people rich or creating a win-win situation. The Internet is dangerous because it tends to push all content creators in the direction of giving away all their content and making money off of other unreliable channels.

Look beyond Free and the cracks show up

The model of ‘free content’ fails because there is a very real cost to content creation -

  1. When a blogger writes a blog post that’s a few hours of his life gone forever.   
  2. The model of free says – Give away your content. Work for years and years. Hope ad revenue and other streams of income will eventually reach a point where they pay the bills.  
  3. What the model of free does not disclose is that lots of bigger, smarter companies are going to be making money based off of your content from day 1.

When a big company buys in to the model of free, it leads to rather interesting situations -

  1. Even entities as big as Wikipedia have had to do collections of donations to keep going.  
  2. Facebook has had to go for numerous rounds of financing and had to try out all sorts of member privacy violating measures to try and monetize.
  3. YouTube still isn’t making money for Google.  

If even the geniuses at Google can pay $1.65 billion for YouTube and still not figure out how to make money off of ‘free content’ it’s worth considering our own chances.

Which brings us to …

$2 a month for a blog subscription is not such a bad thing.

A very rough break-up of the $2 someone spends is -

  1. $.70 to the blog author.  
  2. $.30 to $0.70 to Sprint for wireless delivery bandwidth.   
  3. Remaining to Amazon for facilitating everything.

Perhaps the price ought to be cut to $1 a month. However, asking for free is a bit unfair. Even on the Internet, free is not a sustainable model.

Amazon can’t do free because there are costs associated with bandwidth and maintaining Amazon.com.

As a blogger you should not do free because you’re finally getting paid for the content you provide. By not monetizing your content you’re underselling yourself (of course, if your blog is a means to build your brand and/or a following, then it doesn’t apply to you). 

For readers who want free blogs

You’re entitled to expect it, and thanks to the Internet, free blogs aren’t going away anytime soon.

However, having this avenue of income saves bloggers from doing ridiculous things like asking for donations or asking you to click on Google Ads or putting up banner ads that detract from reading the blog.

The concept of free and the mistake of giving away content for free has killed newspapers. Quality content has associated costs - sooner or later we’re going to have to wake up to that fact.

Amazon is establishing a new paradigm that might seem strange because we’ve gotten trained to expect free content. However, its rather similar to someone doing a job expecting to get paid. If a blogger is doing a good job, then there’s nothing wrong with him trying to make it his profession and earn an honest income from it.

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