Would you pay to read this?

I read an article yesterday about Substack, which is a platform that writers are using to host their newsletters. It's kind of like blogs, as far as I can tell. But you can charge people to read your stuff, if you want. The subscribers pay a monthy subscription. Substack takes a cut.

Apparently some writers are getting a lot of traffic over there. But so far, the only one I've picked up on is FidelityPDX, a column about matters relating to my fair city, Portlandia. Their latest post is way more than one would ever want to know about the sordid goings-on swirling around Diego Hernandez, the guy who's being drummed out of the Oregon legislature for alleged sexual harassment. 

That particular newsletter is completely free to read, but many others on Substack charge the monthly fee.

And so the thought occurs to me: Going forward, should I move some or all of this content over to Substack, and try to squeeze a few bucks a month out of this hobby?

On the surface, it would change the dynamics of the undertaking. Once you have subscribers, a duty arises to give them content. That's not true of a free blog. 

But let's face it, I'm posting here every day. Once I got back into it, it's become a kind of an obsession again. And so realistically speaking, there really would be no added pressure if people subscribed.

On my original blog, I was able to host some advertising, which barely covered (that is, usually didn't cover) the expense of having my own server, run from scratch. On the current blog, Google deals with the whole server business, and so I have no out-of-pocket expenses. But Google won't let me run ads. Don't ask me why; they won't tell me. So there's really no way to monetize things here.

One alternative is the Patreon route. This is basically just a tip jar for artists, writers, and other noble souls. But there's an option there to sign up to bestow a recurring monthly tip on your favorite creative type. A podcast I like, A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs, has a Patreon account. Backers of the podcast get a special bonus podcast mini-episode every month; Patreon handles the distribution. That might be an avenue for me to wring some spare change out of this.

I guess the biggest question is whether readers would pay anything to read my stuff, and if so, how many would pay how much. The minimum subscription rate on Substack is $5 a month; on Patreon, I believe it's $1 a month. Substack is a paywall; Patreon is a voluntary thing, where nobody is denied access. That's a big difference.

Or maybe I'll just get real and stop dreaming about money coming from this kind of writing. I'm glad it's not my day job.


  1. Try it! Your readers won't lack for content, and it would be fascinating to see if you get more and different readers. I see no downside.

  2. I would kick in if it was a Patreon deal. I pretty much check in here daily, so if subscribers is an incentive to you to keep the good stuff coming, I'm happy to support that.


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