One of the big stories in the media-blogosphere last week was a brouhaha over blogger Maria Popova’s use of affiliate links on her Brain Pickings blog, something critics such as Felix Salmon of Reuters argued was in conflict with her stated goal of keeping the blog advertising free. The debate that emerged was a microcosm of the discussions that have been going on for some time now around self-published blogging stars like Andrew Sullivan — who has staked his future on a user-driven subscription model — and the benefits and risks of monetization models like affiliate links and sponsored content.
Popova’s presence at the center of these ongoing debates is one reason why we are delighted to announce that she will be joining us at our paidContent Live conference in New York on April 17 to talk about these and other topics. The Bulgarian-born curator will be appearing alongside Andrew Sullivan and financial blogger Andrew Ross Sorkin, who runs the DealBook site for the New York Times, and you can find out more information about the conference here.
Andrew Sullivan took the media world by surprise before 2013 was even a week old, when he announced that he was leaving The Daily Beast and launching his own site, and would be relying on monthly fees from readers to support him and the team behind his blog The Daily Dish. He raised more than $300,000 in just a couple of weeks, and some readers donated far more than he was asking — as much as $10,000 in one case — to become members of the site.
Readers vs. advertising revenue?
In a similar way, Popova has said she prefers to rely on readers for support, although she uses a donation system rather than a monthly subscription. Both Sullivan and the blogger/curator have said they would rather be supported directly by readers instead of subjecting those readers to annoying advertisements, and that commitment is one reason why Popova’s use of affiliate links triggered some controversy — although the blogger has said she sees them as a way for readers to support her as well (and she has since added disclosure about them to her site).
Meanwhile, the broader debate over how writers should be compensated, and the impact of new content models, continues unabated: Is going solo like Sullivan or Popova have done something that only a select few superstars can do, or is it theoretically possible for many? How does that change the relationship between writers like Sorkin or analytical mastermind Nate Silver and traditional publishers like the New York Times? What are some of the ways traditional media outlets — and/or the writers who work for them — can take advantage of this disruption?
These and other questions are going to be at the top of the agenda for paidContent Live in New York, where we also have a broad slate of other fascinating panels and fire-side interviews to offer. If you’d like to be part of the group Jay Rosen has called “the people formerly known as the audience,” you can register and buy tickets here.