Paying For Blog Content: Would You Do It?

When The New York Times enacted a paywall system for their online content in March of 2011, it ruffled more than a few feathers amongst readers. They were accustomed to accessing just about everything on the web for free.

While many predicted this online subscription fee would hurt the publication, it has actually helped. This year, for the first time ever, The Times is poised to earn more from subscriptions (online and print) than from advertising – an estimated $91 million.

Now, I don't have to tell you that gigantic, traditional, old-as-the-dinosaurs publications like The New York Times and fresh, spunky little independent fashion blogs are not on the same page (at all) when it comes to readership or ad revenue, but somewhere in the middle is The Daily Dish blogger Andrew Sullivan.

Mashable reported yesterday that after announcing that he would separate from The Daily Beast, cut off ads and establish a “freemium-based meter” on his site, Sullivan brought in roughly $333,000 in 24 hours.

How did he do it?


Sullivan's paywall of sorts asks readers to pay $20 a year for unlimited access to The Dish. However, you can still access most of his content for free anyway, through social media and blog links and a certain amount of free “read more” clicks per month. In a day, 12,000 readers paid up, $19.99 (or more!) for continued access. Sullivan has a staff of seven, and the “paywall” is one step in the right direction towards their goal of raising nearly $1 million in funding this year.

A new way to make money blogging?


Andrew Sullivan has been working on The Dish for more than a decade, and being linked with The Daily Beast certainly didn't hurt his exposure either (he has nearly 1 million regular readers). While most of us are not blogging on this scale just yet, the success of his alternative revenue model is encouraging for independent publishers.

If your readers truly love what you're doing, do you think they'd pay for access? While $20 might be steep, what about $5 a year? $1 a year? Think about how great that could be for your business if 100, 500 or 1,000 of your readers agreed to pay! Since virtually no bloggers have set up a paywall for their site, we don't yet have a case study for success.


If your favorite blogger started charging for unlimited access, would you pay? Would you consider setting up a paywall on your site?




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27 Responses

  1. The Home T

    They’d have to be offering some pretty exclusive content to drive that type of interest. It’s also worth noting the years of blogging that was done before the model worked. Good for him though!

  2. Rachelle Porsenna

    Maybe I would change my mind later but for now NO, I wouldn’t pay to read a blog or charge readers to read mine. The content has to be major for me to pay for it. I only have 2 magazine subscriptions. If the blog is offering a service or some sort of tools or tutorial that I need then i would be willing to pay. I buy my all my photoshop actions from photography blogs.


  3. Rachel

    My site is not at the stage where I could paywall it (I wish), but I don’t think it is a bad thing anymore. I’ve been reading The Times (the UK one who paywalled) since my early teens, when I was at boarding school I had the paper delivered to my dorm every week, and I was happy to pay for that. However, as I got more into blogging, got my first smartphone etc., Twitter hit it big I started getting my news online and stopped reading the paper version I had cover to cover. Then, The Times made it if you have the paper delivered to your house every day you get the online subscription for free. My parents are old fashioned, they order the paper and like to read it, but they gave me the login in details for their online subscription, and while they are paying for it, having my newspaper of choice on my iPhone, Windows Phone and the family iPad so I can read it on a bigger screen at breakfast, I know without a doubt if they stopped paying for it I would carry on paying for the subscription. Why? Because I enjoy the writing, style and features. I have favourite columnists and journalists at the papers who’s writing I enjoy and find interesting. These are all things I find in certain blogs, so while if I’ve never experienced The Times online I might have a different answer, if some of the blogs I really, really enjoy reading who always have high quality, worthwhile content like Joy The Baker and Cupcakes & Cashmere wanted a yearly subscription something like $20, I’d pay for it. I’ve paid for both their books after all, how is this any different?

  4. Aily

    I think paywell is a clever way to monetize a blog, but it depends on the content. I don´t think someone will pay for a subscription just to look at outfit pictures. There´s pinterest, tumblr, weheartit, and tond of fashion bloggers that does the same thing. Now, I would pay for a more informational/educative blog. I would for this site, because I learn something from it. I would pay for a DIY blog because they teach me something or perhaps a fashion news blog like Fashionista. If I have to pay for something I should get something out of it.

    • Rachel

      When I wrote my comment above, I actually thought to myself when I was thinking of blogs to give as examples of what I’d pay for ‘I love that blog but there is no way I’d pay for just outfit posts’ – and then I really thought about it and it was food blogs I think that I’d be most willing to pay for, because you’re getting something in return, recipes, or IFB, where we’re getting so many thought provoking or how to articles that are really relevant to us as bloggers.

  5. purplebananasandfudgeballs

    I would never ever pay to read someone’s blog…ever. Right now, I’m trying to think of a blog that I love so much..oh, thought of one..xoJane. I’d pay to read that shit. I love it. Anyone else, though…um, no. Sad to say, but even if IFB set up a paywall, I’d have to wish you guys ‘ciao’.

    I can understand someone wanting to set up a paywall for the extra money, but xoJane is probably the only one I’d pay to read. Blogging advice, food porn, and outfit posts I can find somewhere else for free.

  6. .

    Interesting topic…
    In a nutshell: no – I wouldn’t pay to read fashion blogs.
    There are so many wonderful blogs out there. Even if my favorites decided to implement a paywall system, I would find inspiration elsewhere. There will always be great fashion blogs that offer free content.

  7. Chaucee from Streets and Stripes

    Honestly, I probably wouldn’t pay for most. Mayyyyybe one or two, but to me I don’t have that kind of income to be paying for info like that.

  8. Toni Styles

    I would never in many many moons, charge someone to view my blog. There is only 1 blog in the world of blogs that I would ever pay money to access – it’s a family, somewhat photography based blog, that is so incredible and inspiring. <3

  9. Siobhan

    I was in the newsagent’s today looking for some fashion magazines. I wanted “NYLON” and “Dazed and Confused” but balked at paying 7euro for each. I thought “why pay for these when I can basically get the same content online for free?”

    So no, I won’t be paying OR charging for blogs.

    Siobhan @ Milk Tea Blog

    Check out my life and fashion in Japan!

  10. Andria Rivers

    Hmm…not sure if I would put a paywall on my blog, but like someone above said, if I were to subscribe to a blog it would have to include lifestyle content, culture, beauty and fashion tips, etc.

    Indie Punk Goddess

  11. Kimberly

    I do this already on one of my fashion blogs, but it’s a jobs centric fashion blog, therefore people are more willing to pay because it’s critical information. I went from making $100 or so per month to making 5 figures per year from the site, and it’s my main source of income. But charging for a personal style blog is a pretty ridiculous idea; you have to offer content that users NEED, more so than want.

  12. TheFashionista

    I wouldn’t pay, he may have earned money for the 1st year but those were current readers. The number of current readers may decrease the following year. Many will have buyer remorse after the first year.

  13. Uduak Oduok, Esq.

    I absolutely would. Bloggers are content creators who bring a lot of expertise, industry experience and intellectual property to the table that is worth paying for. Also, while there are many free content out there, it is overwhelming crappy content, and frankly, readers are looking for bloggers who can have the ability to curate and separate themselves from the rest. We have seen blogging evolve in just six short years. Who would have “tonk it” with the huge paradigm shifts, the blog conferences, the FTC now making rules for bloggers, bloggers working with reputable brands? From where I sit, it is the next logical step and whether readers pay really rests on the blog and the kind of content delivered, the trust relationship built over time, among other factors.


  14. Kristen

    I wouldn’t. I write all my own content, but I don’t own the news. If I won’t give them fashion and beauty news for free there’s always someone else who will.

  15. Sentrell

    I think Pugly Pixel has some sort of paywall on her site. She constantly gives away free blog photo templates, textures and geometric shapes but if you want exclusive access to additional items and tutorials you have to pay $5 a month. It’s a great price for access to so much customizable materials for your blog. I wouldn’t mind paying for content that would help me or my blog. I would look at it like a magazine subscription. I guess it really depends on what you are offering and how bad people want it…

  16. Elle

    I kind of view paywalls like I do blog-based books–there had better be some compelling, fresh content that I can’t get elsewhere to get me to pay up.

    Personally, I think I’d stick to advertising and other ways of monetizing my blog even if I had a million readers.

  17. Sabina

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with charging for a product you put your blood, sweat and tears into, and the Times, like so many other print publications, have finally realized what a huge mistake it was to offer all their content online for free while still expecting people to pay for the print version. Hopefully more publications will follow suit and start charging again.

    That said, well, with the blog market being as oversaturated as it is, it may seem unrealistic to expect people to pay for access to them. However, I think that when prices are kept reasonable and the product is something people want, most reasonable people will agree it isn’t unfair that they have to pay something for it. And if they have access to fewer blogs if they don’t want to, this isn’t exactly a tragedy.

  18. Tiffy Diamond

    If I had a blog that was pulling in the readers and fresh content that no one else provided I would. However, I do blogging for fun I don’t really put that kinda pressure on myself. So I don’t see myself ever charging.


  19. petite

    I think only established and respected bloggers can afford to introduce pay walls. There are plenty of other sources available for readers to get their fix unless the blogger has immense credibility, provides exclusives and a voice unlike any other.

  20. RikaConfesses

    My absolute favorite fashion blog is probably The Sartorialist. But would I pay just to look at the pictures? Probably not. But I could see myself paying a nominal fee ($5-10 per year?) for extra site funtionality – such as the ability to search the posts by keywords or browse posts by color, location, ect. However, this functionality would have to be pretty good and extensive or I wouldn’t buy it more than once.

    I don’t currently do any content on my blog that I think paywalling would be right for, but I suppose if I eventually did and I had the readership for it I might try it. I think its only really appropriate for content that enables the reader to DO something.. really good tutorials, hard to get information, ect.

  21. Peet

    No and no – I wouldn’t pay for my favorite blog and I wouldn’t set up a paywall. Are you kidding me?? That’s why blogers and youtubers got so successful, because theirs stuff is for free. How would you grow your readership then? People who don’t know you or your content wouldn’t pay, be it 1, 10 or 100 dollars.

  22. JuliaF

    Here’s someone trying it out.

    To read any farther beyond the first paragraph requires payment. I’ve read her stuff in the past (it’s like rubbernecking at a car accident), but no more! This chick, who has nowhere near the readership of Sullivan, is asking $35 a year. SMH.

  23. DaisyMae

    Feminist Breeder is charging $200 for a lifetime subscription, $35 a year, $5 a month, or a buck a day. On her Facebook she says she has over a hundred subscribers! A lot of people whined and claimed they couldn’t afford to pay…but she promised her readers that she would now write 3 posts a week and $35 isn’t tons. The other thing is that Feminist Breeder was getting harassed by trolls who were saying horrible things and disagreeing with her all. the. time. So she said if a troll pays and says something mean or insults her she will kick them off the blog! And keep the money! I think it is smart! I bet she is going to make a lot of money but that isn’t what this about. It is about making sure only her supporters can read her and keeping trolls away.

  24. mr.t.dion

    Patty Huntington a while ago put a firewall on her blog Frockwriter for the sheer fact that she actually extensively and in depth reported on both the creative design and business side of fashion brands and media. Note she is primarily a fashion journalist/writer to back up her credentials.

    From her own posts she has described how she has had success and also the opposite in enacting it, but it was needed because other media channels had been ripping off her stories with no credit or reference to her work. By getting readers to pay for it she could put more time into her blog.