Bloggers calling for donations or reader contributions like “buy me a beer” or “buy me a coffee” have been around for over ten years, as has the debate over whether they should.
Now however, with more mainstream media putting up paywalls, the growth of subscription based content providers and the rise of crowdfunding, is it a better time for bloggers to put their hand out too?
As an example, it appears Guardian News and Media (Guardian and Observer) is trying to monetize its content every which way. It produces a variety of content from outside parties, categorising it as either:
- ‘Supported by’ – editorially independent content, produced by journalists, funded by foundations and the like;
- ‘Paid content/Paid for by’ – produced by the paper’s commercial department not journalists; or
- ‘Advertiser content/from our advertisers’ – produced by the advertisers themselves.
Whilst they are earning money from advertisers and sponsors, the Guardian also asks its readers to ‘Become a Supporter’ (subscriber) or ‘Make a Contribution’ (donate).
Paypal has long had a ‘donate’ button you can put on your blog and even set up a recurring subscription-like donation. How would this go down with your audience?
Similarly, I’ve seen many bloggers disclose affiliate referrals to their readers as a way to ‘donate’ to help them keep the lights on or pay their internet bills.
Patreon claims to have sent over $150 million to creators using its membership model whereby your fans pay you a subscription amount of their choice. This model seems to be growing in popularity for creators of all kinds, but particularly podcasters and YouTubers.
Inklpay is a new player offering $0.10 micropayments either in the form of voluntary ‘tips’ or an enforced paywall per piece of content. Would this work for you?
At ProBlogger, we occasionally run blogging events and often receive feedback from attendees that we should charge more given the value of these events. We noticed that the event ticketing system Eventbrite now also offers a ‘donate’ option alongside its free or paid ticketing. This concept seems like those restaurants where they don’t have prices on the menus and instead ask you to pay what you think the meal is worth or what you can afford.
So, what about you? Have you ever asked for or received donations on your blog? What system do you use? Do you donate to others? Would a voluntary subscription fee, once-off contribution or a micropayment per piece of content work for you? More importantly, would your audience see value in that?
Please contribute to the production of this content by leaving your ‘tip’ in the comments below (see what I did there?!).
(Photo by Thomas Malama on Unsplash)
I have yet to get on the Patreon bandwagon, or any other donation bandwagon just yet. Patreon seems to be much better suited for video content and maybe podcasts (eg – YouTubers).
I would not put a micro-paywall up, that just seems like a hassle for far too little in advance. Plus, what portion of visitors is already a member of that system and can simply just press the button? I’d imagine a large majority are not registered and would have to set up their whole account to donate 10 cents to read an article… yea, that doesn’t seem like something I want to do.
For now, I’ll keep with advertisers (just got into affiliate myself!), and eventually once I begin making videos / a podcast, Patreon! Maybe I’d put up a PayPal “Donate” button on my newsletter subscription page, and other places with good resources around my blog, but I wouldn’t expect much in return until my newsletter is more useful :D. Maybe I should start an email course, that would be a much better draw.
Generally, I have too much other stuff to worry about before I get to that level. At least that’s how I see it now. Interested to see what other people think of donations, micro-paywalls, and Patreon.
While i started writing i never had the idea of requesting donation,then after shaping up my writing style i tend to do but the response was not much as i expected.
Neither me had a good response from the readers. Just feel it’s a waste of time!!
I guess it depends on the audience. Sorry it didn’t work out for you when you tried.
You are correct at some point
In some European countries (such as Finland) asking for donations is illegal unless you are registered non-profit and have applied (annual) permit to collect donations. Being one of those unfortunate Europeans I’ve had to use various subscription based solutions (paywalls) instead of donations (though I would ultimately think that donations might work better).
Voluntary payments/ subscriptions didn’t really work. Of about 20,000 monthly visitors only about three dozen paid (bummer).
A more strict subscription system (with most of the in-depth content locked behind paywall) doubled the number of paying subscribers.
And for the last two years I’ve been behind a full featured paywall (all content is for subscribers only, and there’s a free trial that allows few free pieces). Once again the number of paying subscribers has slowly but surely doubled. 130+ paying subscribers may not sound much, but they are all more or less ‘hardcore fans’ and it does pay all the blogging related fees.
Possibly the biggest downside in moving behind a paywall was/has been losing 95% of the search engine visibility.
On the upside there’s much less ‘noise’ as there is no need to please advertisers, search engines etc. I can focus on writing and doing things I (and hopefully the readers) will find important.
All in all I find myself being a much happier and more financially independent as a blogger.
Sounds like you’ve found a good solution Keijo and your readers value your content. May I ask what paywall tool/software you use?
It’s a totally custom thingie I build myself.
I did study some options (like Piano/Tinypass), but the available options were either too expensive, or they were simply overkill for my needs, or had ‘features’ I did not like, or did not provide enough room for customization. Coding your own paywall solution might sound like an extreme option, but in the end writing the ‘barebones system’ took no more than couple of nights.
I’ve been contemplating this, because on several occasions now I’ve had readers ask me how they can compensate me for all the time I put into the advice I’ve given them (these were readers who I provided 1-on-1 help via email). One of them even flat-out said: “Why don’t you just put a PayPal ‘Donate’ button on your blog?”
To date, I’ve resisted the idea. I’m really torn. One part of me feels like it’s akin to begging, but the other part of me feels like I should absolutely allow people to pay me if they feel they want to.
I’m still undecided.
It’s great when we can get sponsorships to support what we create for our readers, but our readers can be our most passionate supporters too, so it would be interesting to see what would happen if you let them. Maybe you could make the connection to busking – “throw a tip in the case”?
If your work is supportive of a company, then, yes, the company should pay.
yes , you can ask, giving or not , it is up to on them, so why not you can ask
Wow, this has really made me stop and think now. I am in the process of creating one of the largest online directories of work at home mom businesses and the costs associated with the creation can get pretty steep. If I had the nerve to ask for donations or create a subscription model towards my site, it could help tremendously instead of depending solely on affiliate and adsense profits. Something to think about for sure!
I think it could work well in the case for accessing a directory
I will put more thought into it. It’s given me a lot to think about now, thanks! I’ve been putting off getting it up and running for years and hoping to get it full force very soon! Money and time have been the biggest issues. #MomLife
I think a lot depends upon the blog, what it provides for its community, and that specific community. If the blog provides oodles of useful free content and links to free downloads, then why not?! If it’s a general blog (mine covers my books, freelancing and creativity) then perhaps not as some of your audience may also be your readers or clients.
I struggle with the whole “donate” thing Laney, It’s not e-commerce, and it’s not value driven free information. For me it changes the landscape and is almost like ticking a luck box and hoping for the best. I can see that putting a system in place that has a minimum payment under the guise of a donate system for online training systems, books etc. But I think it’s hard enough to get comments and shares on your content never mind asking for a donation.
I agree with Derek_T.
It depends entirely on the blog. If it provides important service or help, asking for a donation isn’t really that out-of-place. But if your blog is more about promotions or something which is inclined to providing general information about a certain topic, then asking for donations would make your audience feel like something is off. These are just my two cents though.
I don’t like the word “donate”–it sounds too much like Feeding the Gimmee Monster. I like the idea of readers *paying* for the kind of blogging I do, where I spend time collecting links and writing things people can use. It’s work. It’s the electronic version of a magazine. So I have no compunctions whatsoever about telling people they ought to be paying what they’d pay for a slick monthly magazine. Since some real-world sponsors retired and haven’t been replaced, I’ve been blogging about my incredibly low income…but even if I were rich, the case could still be made that readers ought to be paying for the work I do writing the blog.
Some blogs *should* be free for all to read. Obviously readers aren’t going to pay for the 400-word answers to F.A.Q. or “invitations” to sales on a real-world-business web site, nor for the very personal “Hi Mom, this is the outfit I wore to classes today” kind of blog. For those who think a blog shouldn’t disclose the blogger’s “personal beliefs,” gender, etc.–your blogs are infomercials not literature, and your readers have no reason to pay. (Fwiw “personal beliefs” about products or services someone wants me to buy are more likely to turn me off than “personal beliefs” about sex/religion/politics or even music.)
Some blog *posts* should be paid for by the products they support, not by readers. For my Amazon-associate book posts, Amazon pays; if I wrote more about newer, more popular books, Amazon would be paying more. So I don’t ask readers to pay for the book reviews.
For posts that are not directly product-supportive, that involve lots of time thinking, researching, observing, reporting, revising…I think anyone who’s able to sustain a *writing* blog should put up a few free samples of the kind of writing they do, and, as soon as they dare, put further Good Stuff behind a “paywall.”
You’re not asking for “donations” like a panhandler asking for spare change, or a professional charity hustler “fundraising for the cause” (and in many cases actually donating 3% to the cause). You’re asking for *wages for work done*. You’re asserting that you’re doing professional quality work, as a writer, and expect to be paid accordingly.