You might have had a bit of a rude shock on your last visit: Whaleoil is making it harder for free-loaders to use the site.
We have a ‘social contract’ with our readers that we will never charge for access. In exchange, we display advertising to make sure we can pay the bills.
This has always been a hand-to-mouth operation, but as more and more people have chosen to block our adverts, our income has gone down.
There is also a general trend in the on-line news industry that advertising is on the decline.
The final kick in the guts is the release of major web browsers that will strip ads, thereby undermining the economics of running an ad-funded web site.
Adapt or die.
So, as step one we are now selling ad-free subscriptions. If you have been freeloading on the quiet (and to be fair, who hasn’t), this is a great way for you to pay off some of your guilt as well as get a much faster loading Whaleoil.
If you are not flush with cash, then you can still enjoy Whaleoil with ads.
However, those of you who have chosen to strip the ads yourself will find your access to be degrading over time. At some point you may even have no access at all. Such is our social contract with you – either you accept our ads, or you pay for a fast ad-free experience.
So Whaleoil remains free, but we are going to punish those who are trying to have it free as well as not suffer the ads. Those people are going to find the free lunch is coming to an end.
The ad-free offer is step one in getting the backoffice systems worked out to provide an added value membership system with various levels of financial support.
Once we have shaken out all the kinks, Whaleoil will be introducing other optional add-on features which allow you to financially support Whaleoil at a level higher than $10 a month.
To be clear, the Whaleoil you see today, and have been reading for years, will remain free to read to anyone who accepts the ads.
But we are building the concept of a “1000 supporters Whaleoil Club”, where those who sign up will be provided additional content, access, benefits, analysis and insights.
Just as happened with INCITE:Politics, there was a fear that Whaleoil would simply start locking some of its content up. A year later, readers can honestly assess for themselves that Whaleoil has not changed a bit. And INCITE:Politics readers can attest to the fact that its content is completely different from what Whaleoil publishes.
The same concept will be employed with our “Whaleoil 1000” offer: Instead of just asking you for money every so often (and you have been so generous), we are looking to support those people who support us financially by giving them additional value.
In the end, Whaleoil needs to protect itself against the industry trend where advertising income on the Internet is waning. We want to still be here in another ten years, and to do that, we have to ensure we change with the real-world economics of running a website.
We also want to protect ourselves against political opponents who have historically bullied our advertisers to drop their advertising from this site.
If you like to sign up to be part of the Foundation Member intake of the “1000 Club”, you can do so here.
And if you’re still not convinced, can I remind you of the alternative?