Pledge drives, funding and weblogs

April 29th, 2003 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

Interesting to see Spinsanity is running a pledge drive ‘to help make what we do possible’. Couple moves such as this with a (Kuro5hin-hosted) case-study regarding the viability of donations as a revenue model and it is no wonder that Kelsey and Schneier’s Street Performer Protocol is seeing a resurgence in commentary.There are two sets of issues which arise, to my mind. The first relates to viability. It seems that fundraising can bring in money (see, for instance, InstaPundit’s pledge drive or Chris Albrighton) but some assessments – as in the K5 case – ask whether this is partly because it is so novel. People donate because they want donations to work. With only a handful of cases this works, but what about when more people adopt this method – when we move beyond ‘experiments’.Also, what level of money is needed? Instapundit has a full-time job and blogs ‘on the side’ (apart from the money he gets from MSNBC for his separate work there). Albrighton documented his needs quite well, but some cases (such as SpinSanity above) merely ask for money. At least on radio people say “we need X dollars. Please give it to us”. Some bloggers, who have, undoubtedly, been producing sterling output on a volunteer basis, seem to want ‘whatever they can get’. Is the pledge drive the best method for this, or is the tip jar sufficiant?The second relates to method of implementation. Albert claims that, amongst other things, in alternative media:

Typical hierarchies of power and influence over decisions should be reduced and, to the extent possible, eliminated. This has a two-fold practical meaning. Means of decision making should be participatory and democratic with the goal, broadly understood, that participants should affect decisions proportionately to the degree they are in turn affected by them. But also, circumstances of work (and training) should empower all participants so that their voting rights are not a formality but instead each participant has the information, confidence, time, and security to develop their opinions, present them, and effectively champion them, when need be. 

This leads to an argument I raised previously in regard to K5’s moves towards reader support. Some of those comments bear repeating now. In essence it is important, in the case of a community such as Kuro5hin, that the community not only contribute but should know what the expenses are (where the money is going) and have a say in what the expenses are (where the money should go).In the case of a weblog, of course, things are different. The weblog is (generally) seen primarily as a personal outlet and a means to interact with the world. While this indicates that weblogs need not have the same degree of openness about finances (though bear in mind the Raging Cow controversy) it also raises questions about the justification for fundraising.Soliciting cash – especially in the determined manner of a pledge drive – amounts to seeking a reward for the blog owner (by which, in these cases, we mean the author). It tends to change the role of the weblog from a discussion to a pulpit. It may be that having a strong public sphere on weblogs will require full-time input by some, or that people such as Albrighton will undertake costly research. But this seems to differ from the general weblog, where cash is merely a welcome bonus. Is this a good enough reason to blur the boundary between volunteer and paid worker?Related commentary:“The Gift Economy by Gifford Pinchot

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.