Is there a trend towards subscription-required content, and what does this mean to us? October 8, 2001 6:28 AM   Subscribe

Subscription-based sites and weblogs: For better or for worse, Salon has long been a major staple of weblog news links, including front-page posts to MeFi. Now that their news and politics sections have become premium exclusives, will they still be useful to webloggers? And if this is the beginning of a trend towards more for-pay and less free content on the web, how will this affect link-based weblogs?
posted by harmful to General Weblog-Related at 6:28 AM (18 comments total)

I found Salon useful, not only because I could link it on my weblog and send links to friends, I could assume that others on discussion sites like this one had already read it. Subscriptions may have been necessary to keep the company afloat, but I think the site will suffer for it. Salon may be accessible through the web, but if significant parts are limited to subscribers, is it still truly part of the web?
posted by harmful at 6:52 AM on October 8, 2001

Not to me. Anything that requires a special client or fee (or both, like AOL) is in a smaller subset of the Web. Free registration is similar. However, while most people will use someone else's free login, they're not as likely to use someone else's pay login. Also, in my experience, public pay logins are usually deleted in a short time, while free public logins or workarounds usually aren't deleted at all.
posted by gleemax at 7:11 AM on October 8, 2001

The "link-based webloggers" might actually have to begin to write instead of just linking; they might actually have to produce real content of their own. (What a concept! Actually saying something yourself instead of echoing what other people say!)

In other words, small loss.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:20 AM on October 8, 2001

Let’s hope no one links to Salon that heavily.

I take it you’re not a Robot Wisdom fan?
posted by gleemax at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2001

I was grateful when he linked to me, because my traffic approximately doubled (and has been rising ever since), but I never visit that site myself. I prefer people who really write.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:51 AM on October 8, 2001

i like to see commentary on the sites linked, but i see nothing wrong with just plain linking to the info (of course, with at least an explanation to what's linked.). it gives just as much of a chance for myself and/or others to read whatever was linked to, form our own opinion, and write about it on our own pages.
posted by lotsofno at 9:20 AM on October 8, 2001

Linking is fine. But when you're creating your own content, what other people do with their content (like hiding it behind paid logins) won't matter to you.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:12 AM on October 8, 2001

steven, I thought we had put that discussion to bed sometime shortly after sxsw 2000, when even ben brown was forced to admit that most people just don't have anything very interesting to say. :)

seriously, I see real value in link-driven sites (that's why I maintain one); for both the filtering and commentary. and your supposition is based on the premise that online writers will choose a traditional essay format rather than one that is native to the web, ie hypertext.

in any case, I won't link to anything my readers will not be able to see for free. I'm sorry to see any worthwhile publication go this route for that reason.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:15 AM on October 8, 2001

i find link-driven sites to be necessary, though my website is probably closer to steven's preferences. i don't think all link-driven sites post simply to perpetuate the weblog circle jerk of memes; i try to find the sites whose links are original. to me, that has the same value as those sites driven by original content. that's life: if you want to be appreciated, you've got to make yourself stand out somehow.
posted by moz at 10:43 AM on October 8, 2001

I prefer people who really write.

I suppose I do too, Steven, but I don’t mind the linksters all that much. I tend to float around aimlessly, without much direction.

rebecca: and your supposition is based on the premise that online writers will choose a traditional essay format rather than one that is native to the web, ie hypertext.

Not necessarily. A list of hyperlinks can pass for a weblog, but a well-written site isn’t barred from heavy hyperlinking or short content. In my opinion, the value of a site is minimal if all someone has to say is ‘go here and look at this <adjective> thing someone else did. Isn’t it <adjective>?’ I wouldn’t enjoy such a site unless I shared many interests with the author or knew her personally.
posted by gleemax at 10:43 AM on October 8, 2001

gleemax, this supposition: "when you're creating your own content, what other people do with their content (like hiding it behind paid logins) won't matter to you."

I like link-driven weblogs because they point me to things on the web that I otherwise might not see. I find this filtering function invaluable, and an intelligent editor's commentary as well.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:36 PM on October 8, 2001

I tend to share Steven's preference for sites with original content, but a link-driven site that either has fascinating links that I wouldn't run across on my own or an enjoyable voice can be equally enjoyable. That said, links to something like Salon would tend to fail the first test.
posted by snarkout at 1:04 PM on October 8, 2001

"I like"

I think this is the main factor. It's the weblog gravity well effect. Whether the site has more links, more commentary, or a mixture doesn't matter. I tend to gravitate to sites that share my views, but I also make myself visit plenty of other sites that are polar opposites. I like the ability to find out the opinions of those that I would never hang out with normally.

I think Salon should try for a better revenue model and try publishing a dead trees edition. Maybe they could even try a DVD edition like these ex-game developers.

Actually, Salon has a much better chance than these guys. It's a pretty crazy situation and you can find out more on the 9/7 entries here.

We will continue to see this happen for any site that doesn't have some way to make money. Look at all the ways Yahoo has found to make money. Excite didn't and that's why it's dying.
posted by john at 1:21 PM on October 8, 2001

salon auctions!
posted by rebeccablood at 2:02 PM on October 8, 2001

Rebecca, as you well know, I use a lot of links on my site. I do write essays, too, but most of what I write is based on links. But I decided from the very beginning that I wanted to make sure my site was worth reading even if ultimately all the links got broken. It's not all-or-nothing.

However, as gleemax says, a lot of linking sites actually contribute little or nothing at all; in a few cases there's an editorial voice, but often it's not even that distinct.

In any case, those of us who write can survive pretty well without linking if need be, but the linkers have to have writers to which to link. In a sense, linkers are parasitic. (IMHO)

My friend Chris wrote a good discussion about it in his essay "A million DJ's, one musician."
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:52 PM on October 8, 2001

I'm not arguing that one is better than the other; I'm arguing that *neither* is better than the other. they are each wonderful and special in their own ways.

posted by rebeccablood at 7:00 PM on October 8, 2001

Well, one of the beauties of the web is that there is arbitrarily large amount of room for different ideas on it. Each of us will continue to create what we think is a good web site.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:13 PM on October 8, 2001

I’m even entitled to continue creating what I think is a bad web site.
posted by gleemax at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2001

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