social media

Fall in love with your content

Every day I read all sorts of blogs. I follow hundreds of blogs with Google Reader and I’m constantly following links on Twitter and Facebook to various people’s blogs.

And I’ve gotten used to the mediocrity of most stuff out there.

There are very few people writing about what they love. But there are a whole pile of people writing about what they think will make them money.

You see, blogging is hot. Trendy even. Just about every company, church, start-up, and author I meet will quickly tell me… “I need to have a blog.” So the first thing people see is that blogging can somehow make them money. (Build a tribe, generate leads, sell product, sell ads) And in every marketing meeting in every corner of every market someone is in charge of getting bloggers to talk about their product. “User-generated content is what we need.” (aka free advertising!)

But they are missing the point. And their metrics always come back emptier than they’d hoped.


The reason people read a blog is because they connect with the content. A reader can tell the difference between a crappy post to promote a product or service and something they genuinely care about.

There are a lot of people, many of them my friends, who will sell you a big bag of tricks about how to make money with a blog. They will tell you it’s about design and whistles and SEO and mixed media. Most developers care more about the functionality of a site than they do the one thing that will actually work. (And make unlimited money.) Really, really good content. 

But the truth is that all that matters is that you love your content. You have to love it or no one else will. 

Mac news item Poll

POLL: Are you willing to pay to read news online?

From subscription to free to subscription and back

Quietly, newspapers are starting to charge online visitors subscription fees for full access to their sites. In just a few days, The New York Times, will noticeably switch from a free system to a 3-tiered pay system.

I believe The New York Times Company, like Rupert Murdoch from News Corp, have been emboldened on this concept by The Wall Street Journal’s alleged success with online subscriptions. News Corps brand new iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, will cost you $39.99 per year. I download the iPad app, and while it is brilliantly beautiful, the reality is that it the actual news is just news I can get on or for free.

Also, in a weird twist of fate, the iPad versions are actually more expensive and just as ad filled as the print editions. (I get the print edition of Wired for less than $1 per issue. Why would I pay $3.99 per issue to get it on my iPad?) This messes with people’s internal cost vs. benefit analysis and stops them from buying more than one “curiosity” edition. Conversely, subscription rates are going down and not up for iPad versions.

At the end of the day I don’t think this strategy will last very long. When the payment gateways pop in on folks current sources for news, eyeballs will shift from paid content to free content, and the big news companies will re-evaluate their strategies. (At the same time giving lesser known sources of news incredible new levels of traffic.)

Think about it: When you hit a payment gateway when looking for a news story, what are you going to do? Google it and find a free version of the same story. Duh.

The Tortoise and the Hare

What’s really interesting here is that the big news companies will lose money on a silly, short-sighted strategy. They are going to spend big money building these gateways and even more money trying to market these new ideas. Whereas, the smaller companies who might want to go to a subscription model, but just not have the capital to make it happen, will likely be the big winners.

A better idea

My opinion? Why in the world are these companies asking individuals to pay? Why not force the ISPs to pay, like ESPN did with That’s where the money is. Even if cable companies raised rates on their customers to cover these new costs, we wouldn’t whine because we are addicted to high-speed internet.

All of this begs the poll above. Are you willing to start paying for news that you get for free today?

social media Weblogs

Blog economics of hate

The easiest way to draw traffic to your site all you have to do is hate on people.

My definition of flaming content online: To bad mouth purely for the sake of creating traffic, link baiting, retweeting, Facebooking, and otherwise bad-mouthing a person, organization, company, or news item for a purely selfish reason. (Read here to see what it is like to receive these criticisms)

Why does this work? When someone reads something that you write, they are left with a number of choices. Do nothing, comment, talk about it, share it, tweet it, email it, or bookmark it.

Over time, you learn that people are more likely to link to or forward something that is salacious than they are something that is benign, informative, or encouraging. That’s just the nature of consuming new media. The result is that some people write purely to draw traffic and since “flaming sells” they know that flaming people/organizations will draw more notoriety, traffic, and the hope for… income.

Here’s a formula that I’ve seen play out for the past several years.

  • Normal content = x1
  • Flaming content = x5

That’s pretty much what it looks like. If your Twitter account, Facebook profile, or blog flames someone you’ll get more traffic. Why? People love to read rants.

So are you saying that all blog traffic is drawn to flame speech? Not at all. And here is why:

  • Remarkable content = x10 (or more)

Which leads to my point: Most people write hate/flame based content because they don’t have the time/guts/brains/skills to write something remarkable in the first place. In other words, it is easier for them to draw traffic with flame-worthy content than it is to draw traffic with remarkable content.

Adam’s Law of Traffic: Write something remarkable and everyone will talk about it. Write about something you hate about someone and some people will talk about it. Write about normal stuff and only your mama will talk about it.

Bonus math: Since mountains of people like to copy the thoughts of others… sometimes giving credit and other times not.

Copied content + traffic = x5

Church Leadership Culture management Marketing

Free vs. Paid Content in the Church


Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a raging battle going on about the concept of free vs. paid content on the internet. Big names in media like Rupert Murdoch have drawn the line in the sand– they are going to make people pay for news content. Others have embraced the Google model of an advertising-based system of free content. Last week Seth Godin took the debate to a new level. He is firmly in the free camp while Malcolm is in the the paid camp. Of course, most of Seth’s income comes from consulting, speaking, and book proceeds– so Seth may be in the free camp for some things, but his paycheck comes from paid content too.

Inside the church the same debate has just begun. And all of these questions lead back to the same two central questions that newspapers are wrestling with, “Since creating content isn’t free, who is going to pay?” “In a world of free content, where is the ethical line?

Two Sides to the Content Coin

1. Gospel-oriented content should be freely available. As someone who has successfully started an internet business in the last five years I know the power of free. Ask Tim Schmoyer. Ask Ryan Nielsen. Nothing draws traffic to a youth ministry website quite like free. In the youth ministry world there is an expectation of free content. There is a righteous indignation when you question the ethics of free, too. No one cares that it costs me thousands of dollars to create, host, and market “free” content. There is a general consensus that stuff about youth ministry should be free and you shouldn’t expect anything in return for free lessons, videos, music, etc. “Don’t ask me to click on an ad. Don’t ask me to sign up for a newsletter. I need something free because I don’t have budget to buy stuff.” I’ve gotten nasty emails from folks who insist that all content about ministry should be free. These same people often are in paid ministry. So they want to get paid for using someone’s free content. Talk about wanting your cake and eating it too! Sheesh.

2. Gospel-oriented content should cost something. Of course, the ironic thing about the free thing is that the people who think ministry content should be free want to get paid by their churches, ministries, or non-profits. If I told you that you shouldn’t get paid for being a youth pastor you’d get angry with me! There is a certain immaturity to the free thing. At the end of the day there is no such thing as free content on the internet. Someone sits down to write something, they save it as a PDF, they post it on a website, and they offer it for free to anyone who wants to download it. It seems free when it isn’t. That computer cost you something. The education that powered your thoughts cost you something. The time you spent creating it… was it for work you were being paid for at the church? If so, does that content even belong to you? If it was your free time, isn’t that time worth something? If you don’t think your time is worth something why should I use your stuff? When you posted it somewhere on the web, who paid for that server space? If it’s on a well-known site, who is paying for the building of that site/brand? Who is paying for maintaining it? If you added graphics to the content, who paid for that? If you had someone proofread it, who paid for that persons work? That doesn’t seem free to me.

There is no such thing as “free” content, even Gospel-oriented content, so people should expect to pay something for the works they use. The real question is, “Who should pay?” In the old media world the user was expected to pay for the content. You subscribed to a newspaper to get the content and the profit in the model came from advertising. You wanted a book so you went to a bookstore and bought it. In the 1980s and 1990s most of us in ministry would have thought it immoral to copy books and give them to friends, copy cassette tapes and give them to students, etc. But now there is an expectation that advertising will somehow pay for all the content I want/need. That’s the new media age. Free to me, let advertisers foot the bill. Wouldn’t it be funny to see a pastors salary supported by advertising? He’d preach in an outfit that resembled a Nascar driver’s suit! It’s always funny to think about real world applications of stuff we do on the internet everyday, isn’t it?

Digital media has created an ethics dilemna for people in ministry, hasn’t it? There seems to be a feeling that the parable of the talents can’t possibly relate to actual money. People who advocate for free content will concede… “It’s OK to break even, just don’t get rich!” So if content cost me $500 to produce a lesson… why is it wrong to want to return $1000? (Like the parable) Don’t you remember the parable… Jesus called the man who just broke even a wicked and lazy servant. What then would Jesus say to people who intend to invest $500 in content and give it away? Super wicked and super lazy?

We would never walk up to an auto mechanic and expect him to change our oil for free simply because we are in ministry. We would never go to the dentist and insist that he give us free dental. We would never go to the grocery store and expect the grocer to pay for the pastors food. And yet we have no problem with this when it comes to Gospel-oriented content. Something is out of whack, isn’t it?

As with all things that seem to leave us in a quandry– I am wondering if there is a 3rd way. Is there a way that is both ethically satisfying and free? Is there a way that is both affordable for ministry folks and pays for itself?

Chime in. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. If you’re in the paid camp– speak up! If you think everything should be free, give me a counter-punch.