I write this blog for my own amusement. I like the comment threads that get started – I like nothing more, blogwise, than sparking a really interesting debate and seeing a whole string of comments from an article I’ve written, delving off into things I don’t actually know enough about to comment on. I like it even when I write a really personal blog and I get just one comment from one person which makes me feel like I’m not the only person who has those kinds of stupid thoughts. I enjoy writing, putting things together, seeing my writing up on a screen and thinking to myself, yes, that’s one well-written entry. I’m proud of that.
If I didn’t think these things about this blog, then I wouldn’t bother having a blog. I’m not a writer, I’m not hoping to be a writer, and perhaps if I really was famous and people paid to have my words printed and written down in newspapers or magazines or books then maybe I’d think about asking people to subscribe to my blog – except that I probably wouldn’t, because obviously I’d be earning off the words I’m writing elsewhere and if I’m so stingy as to make people pay to see everything I write, well, that’s just harsh.
I’m a student, I’m bad with money, I am almost entirely skint, on my uppers, on a shoestring. So I could certainly do with the money. I write a good blog, so I guess one could make the argument that I deserve the money: if my talent was making clothes, and I made them for other people, I would obviously have people pay me for the things I made. If my talent was painting pictures, people would buy them from me. If I was a brilliant musician, people would pay me to do concerts or parties or whatever. But instead I write for the entertainment of others and so perhaps I should expect to get paid for that.
Except that that isn’t how the internet works, not really. Of all the major newspapers only the Murdoch-owned ones are currently planning on charging anyone to read them (the Times already does). Journals and such are run on a subscription-type basis. But there is an awful lot of good quality stuff out there that is there for free – the websites of all the magazines, most newspapers, and then a lot of other internet-only phenomena like the Onion or the Huffington Post. As far as I am aware the vast majority of these services are free. Along with a huge number of comics and blogs and things, all written and drawn by crowds of highly talented people. And yes, some of these places make money through merchandise – Questionable Content, for example, or XKCD, both of which are written by people whose full-time job it is to do so – because they make enough money to live on by selling merchandise such as t-shirts and mugs.
If you’re that big a sensation I can understand why you might get people to pay a subscription fee for your services – I have no problem with the new Times website being subscription-only for a lot of content. If you’re selling merchandise I have no problem with that either. In both of these cases, after all, your money gets you something extra – a tangible belonging, a mug, print, or t-shirt; or articles and features which the non-paying public don’t get to see.
If you’re not big enough to run on a subscription basis, then some people choose to have a Donate button, using Paypal or whatever. By donating you don’t get anything extra. You just get a warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that you’ve given a blogger the chance to have another drink on Friday or go out to the cinema or buy a new vibrator or whatever. It’s nonsensical and illogical. I’m happy to donate to a good cause and get nothing in return – where my money is going to feed someone, clothe them, get them into school, contribute to research into diseases like cancer or HIV/AIDS. But even if I wasn’t as poor as I am I’m not going to fund a near-stranger’s restaurant bill, bar tab or sex toy collection. I’m not going to want to think that my money is going to something more essential like their food, heating or rent.
Very simply because blogging, at this level, is about enjoyment. It’s not about service provision. Really I suspect I get more out of writing this blog than my readers do out of reading it and I think the same goes for pretty much any blog out there, even the bigger and slightly more heard-of ones. It’s not a transaction, and it’s not fair. If you spend a lot of time when you’re not at work writing a blog and you want to use that time to make money: go and work in your local bar in the evenings instead. Asking my readers to donate money to me becuase I write a blog is like me asking my friends to give me money for being amusing and drunk, it’s like me asking the conductor in orchestra to pay me for showing up with my cello most weeks and playing music I love, it’s like me asking the National Trust to pay me to look round their houses, it’s like me asking my friends to pay me to bake them some bread or make them some jam.
Basically, no, I will never have a Donate button. Not even if I get daily hit figures in the thousands. And I will never give money to someone else to do something like this which they do purely for their own entertainment.