Archive: February 22nd, 2005

Another day, another micropayment

Jason Kottke has given up his day job. He is now attempting to make a living from personal publishing.

I, for one, welcome our new A-list blogger overlords.

Seriously, I think this is very brave and very cool. He explains his reasons for doing this and I find myself nodding my head in total agreement:

“The real problem was the tension between my web design career and my self-publishing efforts; that friction was unbalancing everything else. One of them had to go, and so I decided to switch careers and pursue the editing/writing of this site as a full-time job.”

Other people make their living from their blogs. Scrivs and John Gruber spring to mind. But this is a bit different. Whereas Scrivs and John Gruber write very focused blogs about very specific topics, Jason isn’t interested in that:

“I’m interested in too many things to settle on design or programming or writing or a particular topic.”

Also, the advertising model has been rejected as the revenue stream:

“In my experience, the third wheel of advertising often works to unbalance the relationship in favor of either the author or the readers (usually in favor of the author). If ads were involved, I might feel the need to change what or how I write to appease advertisers. I might write to increase pageviews and earn more revenue.”

Instead, he introduces the idea of micropatrons. Basically, if you enjoy the content, you can contribute money to support the site. Or not. It’s entirely up to you.

Personally, I find this model very intriguing. Neal Stephenson has spoken of Beowulf authors and Dante authors. What Jason is proposing combines the best of both worlds: the artistic freedom of the Beowulf author combined with the patronage of the Dante author.

Most of all, I’m excited by the hints of a return to more 0sil8 style content. Without the limitations of a nine to five job, I’m pretty certain that the constraints of the blog format will have Jason chaffing at the bit in no time. Like Heather, I’m beginning to have a canary-in-the-coal-mine reaction to everything being in a blog format.

I wish Jason all the best with his endeavour. I try put myself in his shoes and I don’t think I’d enjoy the pressure of having to publish to earn a crust but I can certainly fantasise about running a site like The Session as a full-time job. In fact, I just recently introduced a PayPal donation option to that site. I’ll be happy if it can cover the hosting costs.

I admire what Jason is doing. I admire it a lot. I really like that advertising doesn’t even enter into the equation. I’m starting to feel some of the old-school excitement I used to get from sites like 0sil8 and The Fray: personal publishing for its own sake.

I have the sneaking suspicion that the begrudgers at MetaFilter don’t recall a time before blogs. They appear to be fixated on the quality of links provided at Kottke.org. Trapped in a prison of their own making, they are incapable of looking past the walls of blogs to see the possibilities dawning on the horizon of personal publishing.