Ben Brooks is launching a paywall for his site. Non-members can see his content a week after it’s posted, while members can pay $4 per month to see it instantly. That means he’s removing ads and sponsorship from his site.
I wish him the best of luck with this, and hope it goes well for him, but this raises a few issues. First, are people going to pay $48/year to hear one man’s opinions on the internet? I don’t know. I’m sure Brooks doesn’t know, either, and won’t until a few months from now. I’m sure there are many people who find his content irreplaceable, but I’m also certain that there are plenty of people who don’t care that much to hear what he has to say 1. It’s a rather elegant way of trimming his readership to the first group of people.
The second issue that he raises is one that I’ve noticed increasing amounts of lately. Take his reasoning for not accepting promo codes:
I want nothing influencing me. I will still be accepting beta invitations, but will always say so when writing about an app. The reason for accepting beta invites is simple: I feel I pay for a beta invite in the form of my direct feedback to the developer.
Why can’t he also clarify that he received a promo code for the app when writing a review of one? Developers should not expect a review out of every promo code, nor should they expect positive reviews. This shouldn’t taint the review in any way. But, if Brooks requires this level of crash-course unbiased reviews, that’s his call.
I said above that I’ve noticed increasing amounts of it lately. Take today’s post from Anthony Kay:
As tech blogs become more influential and replace traditional media, the writers (often individuals or small teams) need to be mindful that their suggestions and recommendations will be viewed by readers as a stamp of approval. Whether they post about a $1 app or a $10 book (many likely received for free), bloggers need to respect the fact that a recommendation to spend money on something will lead many to do so simply because they trust the site, the writer, or both.
I entirely agree, but I think an all-or-nothing approach is misguided. A review can be honest even if the product was provided for free. It’s a matter of integrity.
This shouldn’t be taken as an attack on Ben Brooks. The same can be said for any site or weblog. ↩︎