When you pay for political commentary and news why are you really paying?

I have had a very interesting couple of days which has involved chatting via e-mail to 83 of our readers. Out of all the interactions, one person’s e-mail to me made me think about why people subscribe to New Media

When I used to buy newspapers I bought them because I found items of interest to me inside them. I stopped buying them when I found that the majority of items that they offered had little or no interest to me. Once I stopped buying them I became a news surfer. I surfed the various free websites all over the world for news that was of interest to me. I discovered a few New Media sites that often had items that interested me and that also presented the news and opinion in an entertaining way.

Eventually, I found myself mainly visiting three New Media sites. One of the sites asked me to either donate or subscribe to help them to continue doing what they were doing so I did.

The New Media site that I visited slightly more than the one I financially supported has never asked for my support or had a subscription model so I continue to visit it for free which is a lost opportunity for them as they continue to follow the old media model which is to get all their revenue from ads.

When the site I support needed a professional studio they fundraised for each individual item that they required. I particularly liked how they explained to their readers what items they need to expand further and then broke it down to costs of each item so that when the readers donated they could see the fundraising thermometer go up. Instead of just donating the money they could see that they paid for a third of a camera tripod or the full amount of a camera battery. It made me feel part of the project in a small way and happy that I had helped them to progress to the next level. I really believe in what they are doing and admire their courage. I also enjoy their humour.

The site I support provides free access to short videos but to view their reports in full you need to be a subscriber.

I asked myself what it was about the site that made me support them financially. There are a number of sites that provide similar commentary and news for free so why do I support these guys? I asked myself how I would feel if they closed down. I asked myself what motivated me to pay for something that I could still get at least partially for free? When I pay money to my favourite New Media site I am paying because it is a site that I read most days and would very much miss if it closed down. I am paying because I want to support a New Media enterprise that I believe in and that provides a valuable balance to an imbalanced media landscape. Also, I am paying because if all the free sites suddenly went behind a paywall it is the one site that I wouldn’t hesitate to pay for. The others I read occasionally because they are free but like the NZ Herald that I might check once a month, I do not value their service enough to pay for it.

In my e-mails back and forth to 83 readers recently one reader said how much he enjoys reading Whaleoil and that he tried to subscribe but PayPal made it too difficult so he gave up. Now that Stripe was an option and I was offering to help him turn his pending sub into an active one he felt the need to explain to me why he would continue to read Whaleoil for free but would not be completing his subscription.

He explained that he had great admiration for Cam and our team at Whaleoil and the outlet we provide but the fly in the ointment was me and it had caused him to have a change of heart. While he wished Whaleoil the best for the “important media role” it plays it would have to do it without his financial support because he does not like my articles about Islam. I don’t know if the reader expected me to apologise for my point of view and to promise to stop writing about Islam in order to get his subscription or if he thought that he was doing us a favour by pointing out that my articles are preventing people like him from paying for the service that Whaleoil provides.

I support the New Media site that I do because I find most of what it does interesting and relevant and it is also entertaining and thought provoking.  I also really believe in what they are doing and want to see them succeed. I don’t watch all of their reporters as I have my favourites but overall I find what they provide to be well worth my financial support. The reader who wrote to let me know that my articles are the sole reason why he will not support Whaleoil financially should ask himself what he would do if Whaleoil went behind a paywall. Does he have other free sites where he would be just as happy to get his daily fix of political commentary news and entertainment or would he realise that he would really miss Whaleoil if it was no longer available to him.

I think it is like that old saying…


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