Economics of Blogging

Jaron Lanier’s new book makes a strong case that the digital economy is a rip-off, particularly of creators. This is something I’ve long thought, though my experience of it has been limited—until now.

The previous post has a link back to the first, exactly two years ago. This blog has acquired a few readers, and not because I’ve tried to attract them with any of the usual internet tricks. By far and away the most popular post, read by twenty five times more visitors than any other, is Scale and Composition, from about a year ago. Remarkable that it should stay current that long. But then it is the most didactic and explanatory of them all, and a pretty good example of what I used to teach, when I was a teacher—and I have to say, looking back, that the material is interesting and the explanation vivid. There must be a demand for pithy introductions to the most important thoughts in modern painting. But now I’m giving away for free what I used to be paid for—and what many people are still paid for, though they may provide it less effectively. I might even be supplying material for professors to use, unwillingly subsidizing the institution in other words.

The concept of free access to information, usually presented by the digital industries as empowering and progressive, is a hoax when applied to something like this. What I offer is not information, it’s more like expertise, usable insights. But this is one of the problems with the digital economy—information and expertise are equated. Everything is reduced to information. This works well for certain businesses, but not so well for the individual who has invested heavily in their own skills and knowledge. It’s worth something, and should be paid for, though how to arrange that I’m not at all sure. In reality nothing is free, so the “free” economy of the internet is a kind of delusion.

I’m in a mind to make this blog subscription only. So my readers will drop from around 5000 a month to maybe….100? Maybe less. I did a survey of subscribers and people who have commented and the overwhelming response was “why pay when there is so much free stuff on the internet?” Indeed. But 50 paid subscribers would be 50 readers who valued what they read, better than 5000 onlookers. The question is when.

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