Ben Thompson posted a piece at Stratechery about Andrew Sullivan retiring from blogging, something I’ve mentioned on the TP2WP Facebook page, as Sullivan was our largest ever Typepad content conversion. I’m still excited about how we played a small part in launch of Sullivan’s site, even if it was limited to tedious data conversion!
Overall, Thompson’s piece is great and inspired me to start posting here again, both because it was so up beat about blogging and because I wanted to add to Thompson’s points about the monetization of blogs. Though Thompson touches on the subject by mentioning how WordPress can be integrated with payment platforms like Stripe, he notes that “there are still holes” when it comes to things like membership management and communities.
While it’s true that integrating paid content features into WordPress is still a chore, it’s mainly a chore of discovery, rather than one of development. Solutions exist, it’s just a matter knowing where to find them.
Andrew Sullivan, for example, used TinyPass—he’s even featured in the demo video on their front page. TinyPass allows content creators to quickly put up a “leaky paywall” similar to how the New York Times or Washington Post. This approach makes content public, but places limits on the type of or how much content a single user can view in a month. This approach strikes a good balances between maintaining the visibility to new audiences while charging daily readers for unmitigated access.
Similarly, the Treehouse or Lynda.com membership model can be implemented with WordPress plugins, like WooCommerce and their “Sensei” online learning extension. This software combo allows content creators to create a non-leaky paywall, placing free content on one side, and members-only content on the other. Woo says that is a non-standard sort of implementation of their plugin, but there are many membership solutions out there that do this with minimal configuration, like “Membership” from WPMUDev.
So while monetizing content on WordPress is still a bit of work, thankfully that work doesn’t involve rolling your own membership system or integrating with a merchant account at a bank. Instead, free or very low-cost plugins combined with simple payment gateways like Stripe, allow for a leaky paywall or membership system to be setup in an afternoon. That’s nothing short of miraculous when compared to trying to do this even a few years ago.
It’s my hope that this ready-made software will mean new premium blogs will sprout up over the next several years, following in Sullivan’s footsteps. As much as I like free content, I also value good content, and that’s often worth paying for.