January 6, 2011

elephant should be free.

You can’t afford to read this article about our paygate.

You get three articles for free, every day—not including our Front Page, http://www.elephantjournal.com, which doesn’t count as a click. 95% of our readers read less than three articles a day. Going over your quota? Pay $1/month (12/yr)…or come back tomorrow and read another three for free, not including the Front Page. Since launching this a month ago we’ve been able to cut half our ads (which we don’t get much for, anyway) and focus on improving our content—and our readership traffic has actually grown. Please leave any comments, they help us improve.

elephant could be free. And out of business. Or cheap. And huge.

Over the past month, elephantjournal.com has launched our paygate—not a paywall, which blocks readers from reading unless you pay—but a cheap, weak “paygate” that only comes up after you read two or three articles in one day—something only 5% of our most dedicated readers do. It’s been an overwhelming success, and most readers are happy with it. We’ve broken even and are now ready to hire an editor and become a real media power both in terms of size and quality. But a few readers, understandably, are not used to paying for anything online—and want us to continue to give the store away for free. So I thought it worthwhile to share this dialogue, below. ~ ed.

Comment from one reader, a friend: “…u lost me forever when I couldn’t read a story unless I paid.  Of course I know u and I am coming back but…”

Free is Nice. But we take it for granted. And, usually, it’s not quality—it’s advertorial, not researched, spammy, cheap, sex-obsessed.

I posted this on our 32,000 strong Facebook page, this morning, and Leah (below) left a thoughtful response. Four folks “liked” her comment, so I figured her concern, and my response, were worth sharing more widely.

  • Leah: it’s a gamble to open it thought, as without paying we can only see two articles a day now.. not sure if i want to use my quota on something that has a vague title…by giving info for free you empower the people to make changes.. limiting us, doesn’t help those who care spread knowledge. No credit card equals no viewing. =0(
  • elephantjournal.com: Leah, media has never been free to produce. We’ve given it out for free for two years, really eight years overall including the magazine. We can’t talk sustainability unless we are sustainable. ~ W
  • PS: It’s just $2 buck a month. You can send check in if you like for the year (email us for address), if you don’t do Inspire Commerce (indie, mindful) or Paypal.

  • PPS: it’s always worth it to gamble on the future of “a girl.”
  •  One final PS: I’ve noticed that by giving away most of our articles–95% of our readers only read 3 articles or less a day—and charging $2/month to those readers who want to read more, and probably value elephant content enough to pay such …a modest sum—our subscribers value elephant more.

  • And that which we value, we read more fully and appreciate—and share. Since our paygate went live, our readership has actually increased. And for the first time in two years online, we broke even last month. If we keep going, we may be able to hire an editor—making our content better quality, with fewer typos and factual inaccuracies–which will in turn enable us to be more shareable, and do more good. So I hope you’ll consider subscribing if you’d like–or, come back tomorrow, you get another two or three articles for free. ~ Waylon

    $108 for a lifetime membership—if you live another 50 years that’s just $2/year 🙂

I’d invite all of you who bother to read this far to comment: do you hate our charging for what we do to those who read us the most? Or are you happy that, like other businesses, we charge for our services? Leading questions, I know—but please do feel empowered to be honest, it helps. ~ W

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