The conversation about this decision on her Facebook wall has brought up a lot of questions for me.
First of all, I want to go on record to say that I think Gina has every right to charge for her content and that I wish her nothing but luck in being able to make her skills and passions profitable. I also think that her fees are reasonable ($5/month, $35/year), especially when compared to comparable content like magazines.
That said, I won't be paying for the content.
That said, I won't be paying for the content.
This isn't because I don't think it's worth $5 a month, and it isn't even because I can't find $5 a month to spend on reading content. (It is, and I could). However, I currently have well over 100 blogs in my Google Reader feed, many with topics that are closer matches to my own personal interests than The Feminist Breeder's. I absolutely cannot afford to pay $500 a month to read these blogs.
Judging from her responses to readers about this decision (which have ranged from excited to disappointed to angry), it appears that Gina has several reasons for making this decision. A public legal battle with an anti-homebirth internet persona has brought calls on her sponsors to drop their ads from her pages, a strict WHO code compliance has made it difficult to join bigger ad networks (though, shout out to BlogHer for letting me opt-out of all formula ads in their network!), and a general frustration with the abuse she takes from trolls on the internet have all combined to make this the right decision for her.
The thing that struck me the most though, was when she said this:
"I understand if people can't/don't want to pay for it, but accusing me of 'denying privilege' because I'm asking for payment for my work is just about the most anti-feminist thing I've ever seen on this page (and BOY, I've seen a lot). Ladies, if I want something you make, I'll pay you for it. If I can't pay you, I won't ask you to make it for me. If you're willing to give it to me for free under certain circumstances, then I'll say THANKS! But at no time will I insult you because you won't work for free. Please, ladies, STOP working for free."There's not much money in blogging. Well, I take that back. For a very narrow section of blogs, there's money, but there's not much money for most blogs, especially for blogs that serve as a sort of niche market for social issues, like the feminist blogs out there. At the same time, a lot of feminist work is being done online, and it's a great asset to all social justice issues to be able to connect and share ideas online. But when blogs that are doing a lot of that work are including figuring out economic sustainability models into their goals, we have to have a discussion about how we value that work.
I blog as a hobby. It's the one space where I get to wear all of my hats simultaneously, and--for that--it's a reward in and of itself. It makes me a better scholar, teacher, mother--a better person, really--to get my ideas out on the page and get feedback from other people. Sure, I sometimes spend longer than I should researching some silly little blog entry that's going to get a few thousand hits and then vanish into the cyber world, but I know that when I start doing it. I don't ever expect to get rich blogging, and I'm happy when the money I bring in from ads is enough to cover the expenses of paying for hosting fees and maybe a couple bottles of wine over the course of a year (and I don't drink expensive wine).
Am I hurting feminism by "giving it away"? Are bloggers who don't charge for their content devaluing themselves and--by extension--the others who do similar work?
Obviously, I'm biased when I say that I don't think so. I think that blogging has helped me professionally and personally, and I have never seen it as a for-profit endeavor. I don't think that choosing to run community writing workshops for free or helping friends edit their resumes is devaluing my skills, either. We all have to find a balance between the work we do for money and the work we do for love, and when the two intersect, we can rejoice.
That said, I understand that there is a need for people to do this type of writing and work that are paid for it. We need consistent, high-quality, high-traffic sources for these conversations, and that takes time, talent, and resources. That takes money.
I don't know how to resolve the fact that I won't pay for Gina's blog now that it's moved to a subscription service with the understanding that paying people for what they produce is important. If every blog on the internet suddenly went to the same model, I would probably choose two or three blogs and hope that would be enough to fill my desire for knowledge and community.
I'm glad that's not a choice I have to make and that these things are free, but I hope that my joy doesn't cost the people creating those blogs more than it should.
What do you think? What are the economic ethics of blogging? Would you pay for the blogs you read? Do you pay for the blogs you read? How do you find a balance between work you do for pay and work you do for love?
Photo: 401(K) 2013