I had a sad Friday the 13th when a quirky website I very much enjoy called The Toast announced they are closing down. The founders of the Toast had a very frank conversation about their decision to do so; I do not know much about website monetization, but I found it a very fascinating discussion of how the websites we read every day make enough money to stay afloat (or not) and pay their writers (or not).
I wonder if the digital age has taught us to expect free content. Anytime you read (or watch or listen to) something fantastic, a lot of people were involved in creating it, from writers and editors to web designers and comment moderators. We are so used to scrolling Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram and instantly clicking through to interesting links, whether at new media hubs like Buzzfeed and Slate or traditional giants like the New York Times and Washington Post without thinking about who pays the people who make those sites interesting, entertaining, and reliable. I personally have known a moment of outrage when something that caught my attention is behind a paywall! And moving from journalism to publishing, e-book piracy is an ongoing problem for publishers and authors, as this handy infographic explores. Then following last week’s BEA/Book Con in Chicago, there was conversation on Twitter about why it’s awful when galleys intended for bloggers, reviewers, and librarians turn up for sale on eBay:
Here are the reasons why it's wrong to sell an unpublished ARC on eBay. 1. The author has worked really, really hard & deserves a royalty.
— Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) May 15, 2016
This is very simple. If you sell ARCs, you are stealing from me and my publisher. If you buy ARCs, you are supporting that theft. The end.
— Jay Kristoff (@misterkristoff) May 15, 2016
As a literary agent, I obviously think it’s important to protect authors and to make sure they, and everyone who works on their books, are paid for their hard work. But on the other hand, the internet can be an amazing equalizer, bringing resources to communities who wouldn’t have them otherwise. So maybe we need to be looking for the next frontier of the internet that will protect both its important accessibility and intellectual property!
What do you think? Is the explosion of internet content training us to think we should be able to read for free? What kinds of websites or other content would you be willing to pay for? What do you think the next frontier is to monetize our favorite sites and keep the best parts of the internet accessible to all users?