The peer-to-peer micropayment service Flattr wants to make November 29 "Pay a Blogger Day." No doubt, it's partially a marketing campaign for the service itself: if you're going to toss some coins a blogger's way, why not Flattr them, right? But it's also an occasion, says the Swedish startup, to highlight all the great content -- great, free content -- that's now available online, thanks to us bloggers. (You're welcome, of course.)
Jason B. Jones uses "Pay a Blogger Day" as an opportunity to write about the sustainability of academic blogging over on ProfHacker today. It's not simply a matter of financial sustainability for academic bloggers -- although I suppose you could interpret it as such. Rather it's about how academia still fails to recognize a lot of the online work that scholars and students create -- such are the demands of tenure and the expectations of a well-rounded CV-- and how that in turn points to a broader "crisis in digital sustainability" -- people opting to set aside their blogging for other projects. That last quote comes from Ernesto Priego whose HASTAC blog post also examines the problems (again, the lack of sustainability) of academic blogging as well as those of academic publishing.
Jones makes an argument that we view this "tenuous sustainability of blogs as a potential strength, rather than only a problem." In other, as we needn't be (too terribly) concerned with only creating online work that (in academic terms) is tenure-ready or -- and this is my addition to Jones' argument (in business terms) online work that is monetizable.
That's one of the things I struggle with, truth be told, here at Hack Education. More broadly, I struggle with it as a freelance writer, but that's a different lament. See, I get paid for the posts I write elsewhere (here, here, here, and here -- for now). But I make no money on Hack Education.
That's a conscious decision, by and large, to eschew ads. I hate ads on the Internet. Hate. It isn't simply that ads are ugly and that they destroy the readability of the written word. I hate the way it's reduced much of online writing to a race for the most page-views. Take a look at how many ads fill any single page of one of my former writing gigs, ReadWriteWeb. Take a gander at the SEO-driven headlines on Mashable. Take a look at the 20-pages-of-clickthrough-photo-montage-crap on Business Insider. Cringe along with me at the Top 10 lists of whatever -- plus, OMG, infographics! -- that a lot of blogs like to publish. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.
Of course this anti-ad / moral high ground that I perch on is decidedly unprofitable (and I suppose then fairly unsustainable). Try hitting the front page of Reddit for a blog post, spinning up an extra-super-duper-mega-large Amazon instance to cope with the traffic, looking at your AWS bill and whimpering. Try knowing that you're getting incredible traffic and readership, and knowing you still pretty much qualify for that "unpaid blogger" t-shirt that other, far wealthier folks wear with some strange pride.
Hack Education is very much a labor of love for me. I write here what I want, when I want, how I want. I cuss and call folks out in ways that, if I had an editor or a corporate sponsor, just wouldn't happen. I think that's what Jones means, in a way, about the strengths of writing that isn't directly tied to the institutional king-makers (or to a particular revenue stream).
I gotta think my rabble-rousing-writing is worth something in the ed-tech space. But despite all I write about ed-tech business models, I have no damn clue how I'd ask anyone to pay for what I do here. (In all fairness, I am a liberal arts major. And my inability to monetize this site is probably fuel for the fire of those who want to axe those programs right now. Clearly I'm well-equipped to stir shit up but ill-equipped for the business world.)
Maybe I'll sell t-shirts with my logo on it. Or something.