Off and on over the years I have made a point to contribute a few dollars to some of my favorite independent bloggers. At one point I realized that I was never getting around to reading any of the hardcopy magazines I subscribed to, and decided I should instead occasionally contribute a magazine subscription’s worth of cash to indie bloggers that I did read. So I try to do that now and then. Most recently I sent a few dollars to Tom Tomorrow to subscribe to “Sparky’s List.” He sends out his weekly cartoons (before they go public), along with some extras, commentary, drafts, and such to a mailing list of subscribers. I find the models that offer a little extra (like Sparky’s list) to be very appealing. However, I also donate to people who just put up a little tip jar on their blogs.
It’s all good.
Related to this, I am very intrigued by what Josh Marshall is doing over at Talking Points Memo. I’ve been reading that site since its beginning – early on I thought it was very good (as Marshall’s mostly solo blog with a strong authorial voice) then for a few years didn’t read it much as I felt it had become sort of homogenized (except for the excellent pushback they did against privatization of Social Security – that was very good work.) I follow Marshall on Twitter and had remarked to Spouse just a week or two ago that I felt, at least from his Twitter feed, that he was finding his voice again, so I started paying a bit more attention to the site, as well. These are all my own impressionistic views, of course. TPM and Marshall aren’t in my “read everything they write all the time” category (few are!), so for all I know he found his voice again months ago (or never lost it), but that’s my sense. I was also delighted that just recently TPM finally got away from using Facebook as an identity management tool. And this week Marshall announced that they’re going to offer a subscription model (with benefits for subscribers):
TPM has the most interested, engaged and knowledgable audience anywhere on the web. And that audience, you, have always been at the heart of our editorial model. It was reader tips and feedback that helped us break the story that won us the first top tier journalism award ever won by a web native news organization. So to build and nurture that core group of readers TPMPrime will feature a special members only discussion forum, free from trolls and flyby commenters.
They’re going to charge $50 per year. While I don’t think I’ve participated in any discussions/comment threads at TPM (partly due to the Facebook integration, partly just due to lack of time), I’m considering signup at a minimum to send a market signal for these kinds of efforts. It’s definitely worth keeping any eye on.
It feels related, to me, to Maciej’s post from awhile back on the perils of being a free user of software services (which I really took to heart). Obviously the analogy between a service and a content site isn’t perfect, but that’s a whole separate post, if only I’d ever get around to blogging. Oh, and if I do sign up, who knows, maybe I’d start participating, too. (But, as a Usenet veteran, my threshold for becoming a committed participant in Internet discussions is very high; itself a whole separate post topic, too.)