Kickstarter looks and acts just like some of the 2.0 designs for public radio pledge interfaces I built for XPN back in 2001. Except, we had plenty of research to show us that you got way higher donations if you put your biggest dollar amounts at the top of the page. That way, people scroll down to the threshold of their comfort level instead of stopping short of what they really could give.
Curt Woodward’s piece on newspaper paywalls struck a chord with me, because so many traditional publications have struggled to convert online advertising into a viable source of revenue that they’re considering two starkly different models:
- The Wall Street Journal / New York Times model, which trickles out a handful of free articles through a paywall that’s leaky enough to let social conversations slip through.
- The NPR model, which encourages the audience to pledge an aspirational amount that covers
I’m fine with advertising, but my own experience running ads on spinme.com and on clients’ properties has shown me that writers can make far more money by asking audiences for direct support instead of waiting for the pennies from each ad click.
As a writer, that also means acknowledging and supporting fine work when I see it. I don’t get to read every single issue of The Magazine, but I support it because I want to see that project succeed. Every time I see a dispatch from NSFWCORP in my inbox, I know it’s going to contain compelling stories about topic I would never have taken the time to track down. I send NewsWorks some cash every month because its RSS feed has become my primary news source of record for things that happen in my city that can affect me and my business.
It’s striking to me that NewsWorks succeeds because of its public radio roots. Most folks are still afraid to ask for support, even in an environment where lazy writing’s in a race to the bottom for shares of fractional ad revenue. Truth be told, I wrote a few of those content mill pieces when I first switched gears from radio into writing and web content.
Radio programmers call it “appointment listening” when you clear your schedule just to hear your favorite show. We’re entering a great period of “appointment reading” that connects the dots between reporting, essays, and books for readers willing to take a direct role in supporting writers they admire.