Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

04 Jun 2009, 8:05 a.m.


Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2009 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Scott Rosenberg has been on a roll recently, with blog entries like "Once more into the pay-wall breach: No gravedancing edition":

[Y]ou can get some revenue from readers, and there's nothing wrong with trying; but if in doing so you cut yourself off from the rest of the Web in any way, you are dooming yourself to irrelevance and financial decline. Don't make your content less valuable at the instant you're telling people it's going to cost them more to get it.

Relatedly, "It's not the pay, it's the wall":

The problem is that the steps publishers take to maximize revenue end up minimizing the value and utility of their Web pages. Building a "pay wall" typically means that only a paying subscriber can access the page - that's why it's a wall. So others can't link directly to it, and the article is unlikely to serve as the starting point for a wider conversation beyond the now-narrowed pool of subscribers.

In other words, when you put up a pay wall around a website you are asking people to pay more for access to material that you are simultaneously devaluing by cordoning it off from the rest of the Web. This makes no sense and is never going to work to support general-interest newsgathering (though it can be a perfectly good plan for specialty niches).

Scott speaks from experience here. He helped found and run Salon.

His new book on the history of blogging, Say Everything, comes out in a month and I'm looking forward to it. Leonard's been blogging for over ten years, and I met him via his blog, so I have a vested interest in the subject. In preparation, he's created a 5-minute video on the question "who was the first blogger?" in which he briefly goes mad and babbles about cave paintings. I'm pretty sure he did it on a Mac because I recognize GarageBand's Suspense Sting #3 or whatever in the first twelve seconds.

In a completely unrelated note (except that Scott as a tech-scene anthropologist would be well-placed to do this) the first person to make a really good joke comparing polyamory to Scrum will get at least fifteen sprints of fame on LiveJournal. Update: Wait, no! Scrum and LOLcats.