Information wants to be free. Writers want to be paid.Posted by Donna Freedman on Jun 16, 2014 | 46 comments
“Why I refuse to have a donate button” helped me clarify something that’s been twigging me lately: the proliferation of “please pay me” buttons on personal websites.
Newspapers and other sites are experimenting with paywalls to recoup at least some of the costs associated with professional writing (and, presumably, professional standards). So why not bloggers?
To my daughter, at least, the pay-to-read mentality comes across “as either grandiose (let’s face it, none of us is the NYT) or greedy.”
“Asking readers for money just seems crass,” Abby writes. In part that’s because she associates pay-me buttons with paid content, aka “sponsored posts,” aka “stuff some company pays you to run.” While she acknowledges that not everyone would feel this way, Abby says she’s less likely to return to a blog with a donate button unless “there is a good reason why the person actually needs help.”
To some extent I can see the purpose of a button: It’s like paying for a magazine subscription. Sites that put out great stuff have writers who put great effort into the posts.
Lots of sites don’t.
In fact, I can recall donating to only one such site, a fascinating time-suck called Captain Awkward. (“Advice. Staircase wit. Faux pas. Movies.”) At the time, the writer was in serious need of a new laptop and yeah, her advice is great: thoughtful, well-crafted and often incredibly funny when it isn’t being incredibly painful and incredibly insightful. Often it’s all three simultaneously.
I like reading the stuff. So I donated a small amount – I think it was $20 – so that I could keep reading it. Or, rather, to make it easier for her to continue providing it.
Another way to help
Please note: I am not saying that some people have a hell of a nerve asking to be paid because their work stinks. I’m saying it makes me uncomfortable. Fortunately, there’s an antidote to that discomfort: eschewing a donate button of my own.
Like Captain Awkward and so many others, I write because it’s in me to write. I am delighted when readers turn posts into conversations. But while this love gives me such a thrill, it don’t pay my bills.
That said, there’s another way to support writers you enjoy reading. It’s called shopping.
If you need something from Amazon and you clicked on the top of the widget on this page, you’d be taken there to buy what you need – and I’ll get a tiny kickback.
If you’re looking for an offbeat gift for an offbeat friend, by all means choose the Salvador Dali watch (with his mustache as the minute and hour hands — hilarious, amirite?) from the Mental Floss ad on my site.
Want to take a trip? Book through the CheapOair ad, located under the “Sponsors” grouping.
And so on.
Of course, you don’t have to do that. As I’ve noted, people don’t come here to shop. They come here to read. Besides, I’m always talking about how to save money, so is it any wonder that the folks who come to learn that will take the lessons to heart?
Why we do it
And of course, I don’t have to do this site. No one forces bloggers to write. We do it because we like doing it.
But it takes time. It takes reflection and, often, research. It takes energy. What we put into our blogs does affect our day jobs and/or the rest of our lives.
There’s no shame in wanting to make a little profit on a side hustle. Earning money for writing means being able to declare things like Internet costs and those weekly giveaways as business expenses. If nothing else, it means feeling OK about a strategic pizza every so often, since not having to cook means some free time to be spent writing things we think are worthy of putting in front of a reader’s eyes.
The current line of thinking is that “information wants to be free.” But you know what? Writers want to be paid, one way or another.
Readers: Do those “donate” buttons bug you, or did you never even notice them?