We interrupt your regularly-scheduled ASP.NET Core Routing series to bring you an important announcement: I need your opinions!
I previously announced that this blog was moving to an optional-subscription model, and thanks to a few generous people, this blog has paid subscribers! I am amazed that my little blog has people that think so highly of it. But, as explained below, I don't have enough of them, and am having to look at other options. Hence, this post.
I am particularly looking for other bloggers' opinions on this topic, especially if they have already made this decision, or are about to.
Here's the real crux of the issue: I am faced with a difficult choice, one that may require me to either commit to a path that may not actually work, or go completely back on my word. I want your opinions, dear readers, as to which path I should take.
The Issue: Which Revenue Model?
This blog needs a revenue model, as my costs for maintaining it are inching ever upward as my readership grows. The current model is optional subscriptions, where subscribers get posts delivered to their inbox, no ads ever, access to comments, and more. What they do not get, at least at the moment, is access to exclusive posts.
I love the subscription model; I think it's the closest I'll ever get to providing a direct benefit to my readers. But this just makes the next part more difficult to write.
I don't think the current subscription model is working. Whether because I'm not offering enough incentives to subscribe, or it just isn't worth it in the big picture, I am not getting the subscribers I need to maintain this blog. So, I now have to explore other options.
I also recognize that is, ultimately, my decision, and one that directly impacts the amount of work I may have to do in the future. Please don't take offense if I select a path that the majority did not agree upon. I'm looking for your opinions, not "you must do this or I will leave" dictations.
Option 1: Keep Ads and Optional Subscriptions
The first option for this blog's revenue model is the most obvious: keep doing things the way I've done them for the past several years. The problem is that I truly believe the standard "ad-supported" model has failed, and my blog platform Ghost explains why:
"Google and Facebook have taken all the available ad dollars, leaving publishers to fight for the last remaining scraps of revenue by any means possible. Clickbait, fake news, content-farms and outrage are the desperate final attempts to hold onto past traffic levels."
Ads just aren't working for us anymore. Problem is, the next possible solution, micropayments, isn't working either. I do not make enough money from my dear readers through Buy Me A Coffee to merely pay for my server time, much less make improvements.
So, I absolutely can just keep doing what I'm doing, but that makes improvements and general maintenance more difficult. But I think there are also two other possibilities, ones that can enable me to make the improvements I want and also keep a readership. The first is to go to a full paid-subscription model.
Option 2: Go Full Paid Subscription
This means that, in effect, I would be putting up a paywall, and if you don't pay for a subscription, you don't get to read my content. The nice thing about this is that I wouldn't have to deal with ads at all, or have to go get sponsors.
A big issue with this option is that I have previously written the following:
"I am not going to force my readers to subscribe to read new content. You will have to wait longer after publishing, but all new posts will eventually be readable by everyone."
If I go to a full subscription model, then this statement becomes a lie.
Problem is, I truly believe a paid subscription model will work. At least, it will work way better than the other options. I know I would get enough readers to make this model work, and I know my content is good enough to keep attracting new readers.
But, and let's be real here, it means that 90% of my readership would now be locked out, unable to read new posts. That's an astounding loss, one that I don't really want to impose on you, my dear readers.
There is, however, another possibility, one that has already been shown to work, but that may not work for my specific situation: getting paid sponsors.
Option #3: Get Paid Sponsors
This would work like this: I would have a sponsor bar on the site (and in the RSS feed and the email newsletter) that would be unobtrusive but visible on every page:
I would solicit companies (mainly in the .NET space, but possibly in others) to sponsor this blog in weekly blocks, and use the revenue from this to improve the site.
I know this model works because another prominent technology blogger, Troy Hunt, does exactly this.
This is quite a bit more effort for me, but allows my entire readership to continue reading all of my posts forever, which is a major factor in this decision; I absolutely do not want to alienate my readers. I am totally willing to put in this effort if it allows my entire readership to keep reading my posts.
The issue is that I am unsure if I have enough readers to justify any sponsors spending their advertising dollars on my blog. I get, according to Cloudflare, 7500 unique readers per weekday, and they spend on average almost 4 minutes (!) reading my posts. I think that's a substantial audience, but how would I know?
If any advertisers are out there reading this, could you let me know if that's a large enough audience to warrant purchasing some sponsorship for this blog?
In short: I need your opinions, dear readers! Which option should I lean toward? I want you to hold nothing back, and I recognize that your interests do not necessarily align with mine in this decision. But I do want, value, your opinions.
There may also be other options which I have not considered, and if you have one, I'd love to hear about it.
Current paid subscribers: first of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH for supporting my little blog. Please rest assured that if I do choose an option that does not involve paid subscriptions for this blog, you will be refunded.
Comments on this post are unlocked; please let me know what you think.