After exactly one year, Jason Kottke, the daring soul who quit his Web design job in the hopes that micropayments from readers would support him, has called it quits. Kottke, whose blog already had a significant following, made headlines last year after quitting his full-time job and embarking on an experiment to test whether or not readers were willing to pay for some of the grassroots content that has been so highly touted in the last few years. The idea was that he would make his declaration once, without accepting ad revenue or making further solicitations throughout the year.
It was a gutsy move, and Kottke has to be given credit for betting his livelihood on blogging, which was the center of some major hype in both mainstream media and independent publishers. At the time, people seemed unsure as to whether blogging would step forth to save journalism as we know it or be a passing fancy in the Web community.
Many bloggers are sad to see Kottke's full-time blog come to an end. A quick search on Technorati shows an outpouring of support and praise for what he tried to do. But others aren't so sweet on the A-list blogger. A number of bloggers are disappointed with the lack of effort they say he put into it. When he went to full-time blogging, his site was to be a grand experiment that would show just how much bloggers could achieve if given the time to focus on their sites. But many readers were disillusioned to see that his site didn't change much after his $39,900 came trickling in. Kottke's site did a lot as far as bringing blogs into the media spotlight, but some bloggers are asking how much it actually accomplished.
Kottke's announcement comes only a month after another major blogging figure, Dan Gillmor, announced that his popular San Francisco Bay Area-focused blog, Bayosphere, wasn't paying the bills and that he and his partner would explore new projects.
While both blogs will continue to be updated for the foreseeable future, their financial demise is a wake-up call for those watching the evolution of blogging as a business. But counting out blogging as a sound business venture would be premature, just as writing off the entirety of Internet businesses after the dot-com crash. To some extent, the medium is still in its infancy, and bloggers are still trying to figure out what a working business model might entail.
Is the end of Kottke's micropayment experiment a sign that other bloggers are doomed as well? Or is the dream of making a living off ad-free blogging still alive and well?
Blog community response:
"So, Kottke, despite the way the experiment ended, I want to say, one blogger to another, 'Nice job, sir.' You made us proud."
"The annoying thing here, more than anything else, is the lack of transparency. Kottke apparently felt no responsibility to his employers either to do what he said he would do, or even to explain to them why he wasn't doing it...Bloggers are entitled to a private life, but at the same time, if they're going to commit to doing something--especially something they're being paid to do--then they should live up to that commitment."
"He's doing nothing innovative and what he does others do much better. I truly think he intentionally duped his patrons. He's now made it that much harder for anyone else to try the donation route. I know for certain I'd have to think long and hard about donating to someone else."
--dobbs on MetaFilter's comments
"It'll be up to us geeks populating the Web with good content right now to figure out a way to make good money with moderately sized audiences, or else the whole shebang's gonna end up being nothing but huge corporate sites and crappy little fly-by-nights."