So, you may recall from this post that I was working on a podcast on this subject before the holidays. But it turned out to be such a HUGE idea, there was no way to get it all in a 20-minute show.
So I decided to turn it into a series of blog posts instead. Blog posts are better anyway, because then we can have some discussion, which I’d love. You people have such excellent brains.
Here we go with Post #1….
To begin with, Free is good. When lots of people share the stuff they love and the stuff they’re good at, it creates a world I want to live in. A world where you can learn about pretty much anything you’re curious about. A world where blogs lead you to kindred spirits. A world where we’re treated to a wondrous feast of eye candy, ear candy, and brain candy every single day.
Right? I think we’re all in some agreement on this.
What worries me about Free, though, is that it has one fatal flaw: it’s not all that sustainable.
Here’s what I mean by that. Every cool blog post, every podcast, every video that you enjoy for free online comes to you because another human being chose to put their time and energy into making it. A few of these folks got paid for their efforts, but the vast majority were doing it for free.
So, there’s an equation at work here. And, if you remember your Algebra 101, equations need to have their two sides in balance. In this case of Free, that donation of time and energy needs to be balanced by some kind of reward.
To illustrate that point, let’s say that you choose to spend five dollars on materials and four hours of your time putting together a great tutorial for your blog. You make it, and you offer it up for Free. That’s one side of the equation.
The other side is what you get back in exchange for your time and expense. Maybe you get some nice comments from people who read your blog. Or maybe, someone is inspired to link over to your online store and make a purchase. Maybe you get featured on one of the big craft websites and end up with a lot of blog traffic. All of these are rewards. So the equation is: time, effort and expenses in, rewards out. If the two sides are balanced, you have sustainability.
The problem with Free at this moment in time is, lots of people (in craft and in every other interest area) are donating lots of time and energy. But not everyone is getting rewarded. Look around the crafty blogging community, and you’ll soon see that the equations are out of balance all over – good content that isn’t getting any comments. Online stores with few sales. Great blogs that aren’t getting noticed. In fact, maybe YOUR equation is out of balance, too.
(The place all of this gets really sticky is in the idea of “rewards.” For some bloggers (podcasters, or video-makers), the feel-good rewards of hearing from nice people are plenty. For others, blogging is a business, and the rewards need to be financial. So there’s no single solution for better sustainability. I’ll have a lot more to say about this in future posts.)
What’s the end result of this sustainability problem? Well, if you’re putting in hours of effort and not seeing the rewards that are meaningful to you, then sooner or later, you’re going to quit, right? With every blogger (podcaster, or video-maker) who quits, we lose a valuable original voice, a source of inspiration, a potential online friend.
We are so lucky to live in this landscape of Free right now. The question I’m obsessed with lately is: what can we do to keep it sustainable, so we can keep enjoying it?
What are your thoughts on this idea? Do you make Free? Does it feel sustainable right now? What rewards are important to you?