GWAS Notes: Let them eat cake!

GWAS (Birthday) Notes

On New Years Eve I went to a party planned by a beloved aunt who had all the best intentions to create a fun atmosphere for 100 or so people. Chairs were placed in an orderly arrangement, games were facilitated, the menu was full and appetising, the playlist was in tune... then only 20 people showed up.

Those 20 people (self included) gravitated towards the lounge room, rather than the festive BBQ area, because it was freakin' cold. We were also made to wait for what felt like YEARS for dinner, in her hope that more people would come to the party.

Eventually some more people did show up, the dedicated party-goers, but they had (rudely) grabbed pizza on their way. Grandiose plans sometimes get in the way of reality. Push your party plan too hard and you'll be sorely disappointed, because you can't dictate how people will behave... no matter how 'quality' your offering is.

Rupert Murdoch is my aunt.

Murdoch's push to get people to pay for the content offered by his various News Corp services has divided the media-consuming community. Some say no-one will pay because free content has been the norm and consumer habits are hard to change; others suggest that if he wants to attract paying consumers, his company will need to lift its game. In this scenario, Murdoch is rather like the Marie Antoinette of the media world, screaming "Let them eat cake!" from his ivory tower, when most people are content to nibble on the free canapes (and I admit, Media Musings does nibble at the News Corp cake, and I also borrow images from other sites and the glossies for commentary purposes).

We have all been to very excellent parties (like the one over at mamamia), taking away from them experiences we cherish – and they're not always the big, fancy ones. The most memorable parties I've been to have been the more intimate soirees where I've engaged in great conversations or had an unexpectedly fun time – like the 21st I went to not long ago where 50-odd people (young and old) wound up dancing around the backyard for HOURS... and not a single drop of alcohol had been consumed. Same goes for online content – I love to visit the sites on my blogroll, because they offer me something special or unique to talk about; to engage with. They give me some sort of enjoyment or, like the best magazines, insight into a world I am not a part of (thank you, Vogue, ELLE, et al), or connect me with people or ideas that suit my sensibility (thank you, Frankie).

Girl With A Satchel celebrates her 3-year blog birthday this weekend (whee!). Yep, three years and counting. The rewards of blogging have definitely not been financial – like Mia Freedman, this thing has never been about the money (even when I worked in mags, it was never about the money).

I am super-grateful to the sponsors who have come on board to help fund the blog (in particular Krista from My Look Book, Sassi Sam and Niki from Beloved, who have been with me almost from the beginning), and am even more grateful that I've never had to chase advertising – it has come to the blog. Most recently, it has been a treat to get iSubscribe on board, who supply me with more than a few magazine subscriptions (some publishers have cottoned onto the fact that supplying me with mags is a good way to get coverage, others have been less obliging).

I have been approached by ad networks, but have been reluctant to sign on because I want to protect the integrity of the blog's content, and because I generally like to run my own show. Call me a control freak, but some ads are just ugly, while other products clash with my values, and I have Pollyanna standards to maintain. I also have a lovely list of contributors who do not get paid for their work – and I would very much like to pay them their due.

I'm grateful that I still get the odd freelance writing commission to help pay the grocery bills (thank you, Cosmo, for giving me reign over your book page) and to my in-laws for supporting Husband and I by providing us with a home. This year I'm also returning to Queensland University of Technology to tutor aspiring young writerly types, which has a cash bonus.

Husband and I are responsible with the money we earn, yet we struggle... a lot. I am too embarrassed to tell you how much we collectively earned last financial year, so let's just say NOT MUCH. But this is our choice. We eschew fancy things and lead a simple life and go about our work because we feel we can contribute in some small way to God's grand plans. Simple as that.

So, dear reader, it's over to you. I am a mini player in this online world, but I would like to stay. If that means continuing to run sponsored adverts, so be it. If that means offering you some sort of 'quality' package to subscribe to for a small fee, great. If it means starting up a Girl With A Satchel Club, even better (Babysitter's Club dreams come true!). In short, the ball's in your court and the cake's there for eating - for free or a small fee.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


anna said...

Oooh I always wanted to be in the Babysitter's Club! I'd definitely join a Girl With a Satchel Club! :)

Happy birthday GWAS!

Anonymous said...

I'd prefer ads and to keep it free for users, I would continue to ignore them like I do everywhere else. It's part of on-line life, we'll cope.

Lauren said...

happy birthday erica xx

ddgdaily said...

Happy blog-birthday lovely, may there be many, many more!

Bon said...

I love, love, love GWAS and - while in principle I am against the idea of paying for online content - I would pay a small fee to access it if necessary. Love your work!

Unknown said...

Happy blog-Birthday lovely,
Count me in for a GWAS subscription, if that's what you decide :) x

Chantelle {fat mum slim} said...

You've set up a great little nook in the online world Erica, one you should be very proud of.

There are a few spaces I would pay for. Yours and Mama Mia are two that come to mind. I don't mind the ads. You're savvy and make sure they fit in. I would still like to see them if we paid.

I know pro-blogger tried this with some success... but if you had a little paypal button here somewhere that said Buy Me A Coffee {which we could do through paypal} I'd shout you a coffee or two each week.

Happy Bloggy Birthday. xx

Rochelle said...

Happy bloggy birthday, lovely!

You know how much I love this blog, and I'd definitely be happy to take out some sort of subscription. I can't quite imagine not being paid for the work I do every day (and I understand that you're not looking for sympathy here) so for me, it makes sense.

Louise said...

I like your blog and probably check in once or twice a week. I don't read every post, just what catches my eye and when I have a minute at work. If I had to pay to read this site, I wouldn't read it. You might lose a lot of people who just stop in now and then, if you charged people to read.

Would you be happier having less readers, but more money?

I guess that is where it is going to be a hard choise for bloggers, because as writers they want their words to reach as big an audience as possible.

jess said...

Happy Birthday GWAS! :)

Like many other readers have said, if you choose to do a subscription with a small fee, I would consider it.

Talia Cain said...

Erica, you should definitely think about having a paypal donation option for your readers on top of your advertising. I would subscribe to your blog if it became subscription only but I suspect that would affect your readership numbers in a massive way.

Alison said...

Happy birthday Erica.
I would be happy to pay a small fee- but for your blog alone -are you reading Mr Murdoch?
Why not explore advertising a la
The reason is that we will ignore the adverts (being accomplished and cynical online types) and if you have a subscription service it may be harder to attract new readers.
Anyway please keep going.
love Alison xx

lizzaaaay said...

happy birthday! :)

not so keen on the idea of paying...i would not read it if we had to pay, and that would make me very sad indeed, given how much I love GWAS!


Paula said...

Your blog and I share a birthday!
You deserve to be rewarded for the work that you put in here Erica, I wish you many more sponsors in 2010!

booknook said...

Another vote here for the "buy me a coffee" idea!

Good Luck, there is no reason you should not be paid for your work. If only all bloggers were!

Love to the Satchel...

Sarah said...

I read this blog everyday as I'm currently overseas and missing Aussie mags. But even when I'm at home I read it regularly and always catch up on past posts. I would be up for paying a small subscription fee, but I'm talking really small because I'm a student with zero funds.

That said though, I would do that because this is an individual's blog and I understand the energy going into it. I don't think I would ever pay for News Corp because I only read newspapers online when I can't access the physical news. Also, it's such a faceless corporation that I don't feel the need to. His comments have given people thought though about the nature of the content we access.

Keep up the great blog!

The Monash Street Project said...

Hey Erika - I love GWAS and would be happy to pay to subscribe, but would also be fine to see more ads. As a lot of other readers have said, yours and Mamamia are my favourite blogs and whatever it takes to keep them going I am behind!

Happy blog-birthday! xxxx

SquiggleMum said...

I'm a huge fan, and will support you whatever you decide to do. Happy bloggy birthday!! Cath xx

M said...

Good for you! I'm pretty new to the blogging world, but I've already experienced how lots of corpos want to bribe you for editorial endorsement, or place ads that have nothing whatsoever do with what you stand for....

Happy Birthday, and I'm looking forward to continue reading your blog!

Ondo Lady said...

Happy Blog anniversary to you and your wonderful blog. It really is a joy to read your posts. However in terms of paying to subscribe I am afraid I would have to say no. I just have a bit of a block with the idea of paying for online content. I would say go for ads because no one would doubt your integrity and you can still maintain control over which ads you put up and for how long.

Anonymous said...

Happy Blog Birthday Erica!

As a magazine fanatic I love what you've done with the blog. If you do choose to go the subscription route I's be more than happy to pay.

x t

Top Bird @ Wee Birdy said...

Happy Blogiversary dear GWAS! Thanks for all your support and friendship over the past few years - you're a gem and true inspiration.

I'd pay for your content any day. xx

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog but I could live without it if you had to pay. Sorry.

E said...

Yours is one of my favourite websites, and since I started reading it, you have really influenced the way I look at magazines (having being a total magazine junkie for years now). I would happily donate to ensure you made an income, and was able to keep writing. Perhaps combine a donation option with more advertising, although with the goal of (as much as possible) having advertisers who share your philosophy/values.

Lauren said...

I find it hard to reconcile in my mind paying for content online with my Christian values. Not that being a Christian means I am unwilling to pay, but rather that I would be very discerning about what I pay for. Would I pay for access to a Christian website rich in resources? Yes, if needed. Would I pay for Mamamia? Probably not, even though I visit it often. If I am going to use the money God has given me to pay for content on the internet, I want to make it glorifying to Him, and I'm just not sure that the constant drain that Mamamia can be on me and defending my views and my faith within the commenting community is worth spending my money on. Would I pay for GWAS? Probably. It is the midway point between satisfying my more frivolous interests and my godly ones. Erica, I have always admired the way you can exist simultaneously in both the kingdom of God and the world of magazines. Ultimately, I know that whatever decision you come to it will be after time of prayer and consideration of Gods calling - which is the right motivation for doing anything.

Taybian Design said...

Congratulations GWAS and Happy Birthday!
I love your blog and it would be the one of a select few that I would be happy to pay a small subscription fee for, however in saying that I believe that you would cut your captive (and potential) audiences substantially. I don't believe that this would be worth your while!
I'm all for paid ads on blogs, as long as they compliment your blog. One really important thing to remember is that the businesses that you align yourself with actually speak for your character and represent you and your blog also, so the integrity of the sponsors is paramount (as you mentioned) and their presence gives the blog reader/viewer a greater grasp on who you are!
Look forward to following your blog into the future :-)

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday GWAS, and congrats Erica!
I'd be happy to pay a fee to subscribe, though would prefer the 'Buy Me a Coffee' option which I think would be better for readership of GWAS. I'd also support and advertise Flourish here - it's the right fit. Send me the info.
All the best Erica for 2010.
Jane x
(PS: you don't need to publish this, this is direct to you)

Anonymous said...

ads is probably the way to go. As a lot of people have said, they are mainly ignored anyway. Perhaps you could look for companies who share similar values and see if they'll advertise. There may be charities etc who have very small advertising budgets who'd be happy to advertise on your site because it attracts readers who are likely to donate. You would lose a lot of readers if it was subscription only, but I think lots of people would donate to 'buy me a coffee'

Anonymous said...

another vote for ads + free.
apart from the $, subs & donations & such are also too much of an effort on behalf of many potential readers.

Lex said...

I only recently discovered this website, and I have thoroughly loved every minute of reading. However, had this been a 'subscription' site, I would have passed over it without a second thought. I didn't even notice you had ads, and at the risk of upsetting your advertisers, I didnt even notice that you had ads. We're all pretty adept at tuning them out, or at least forgetting them as soon as we've realised they're not of interest.
Please don't go subscriber. It'll be a big shame, but no doubt that the people that can't pay will find another blog to read for free.