Sorry I've been silent over here as of late -- the change of routine has meant I'm reading less, and thinking less, about relevant stuff that's happening in the world, and I haven't been getting beyond the kinds of more observation-y ramblings I post over at my solo site. I'm trying to get a different pattern going. And the Blogger Survivor contest will help (starting Monday! stay tuned!).
But -- I do have a point this afternoon, although if you're not a baseball fan it's a completely uninteresting point. I was just reading on ESPN.com that baseball columnist Rob Neyer is being moved behind the "wall of premium" and becoming part of ESPN Insider starting in a couple of weeks. This strikes me as silly.
I'm pretty sure Neyer has a fairly substantial following -- he's been writing a 3-5x weekly column on ESPN.com for 7 years I think, and, at least to me, is the only thing that makes ESPN.com worth going to (scores and stats are anywhere -- Yahoo, etc). He's a very solid writer, and a personality comes through in his writing, of a down-to-earth, humble, pleasant, interesting guy. I enjoy his columns a lot; I've read all of his books; I read his rants about the Royals on his personal site; I'm absolutely a fan. But as much as I enjoy his writing, it's not worth the price of ESPN Insider to read it -- there's too much out there that's relatively similar, if not quite as good, for me to justify spending the money; and too much unrelated web content that's basically fungible anyway because it's just reading material for no truly useful purpose is free, and so I can't really justify paying for anything on the web. Maybe the New York Times. Maybe. (But not while I have a student Lexis password.) I can't imagine ESPN Insider has a great deal of subscribers. So putting Neyer behind the wall will presumably cut his audience drastically -- perhaps 90%? 95%? Obviously a blind guess on the numbers, but ESPN gets a lot of traffic and I can't imagine a ton of subscribers. Which, even if I could still read him, makes him a lot less relevant and interesting. Sites that are read -- sites that other people are reading too, and you can talk about, and are creating buzz -- are more interesting than weblogs that get 20 hits a day, no matter how good the weblog is. In a way. I think. I feel like this sucks more for Rob Neyer perhaps than any of his readers, which makes me wonder if he's getting a raise -- especially because a lower profile may mean he can sell fewer books. But it sucks for his readers, because ESPN Insider isn't worth it, and he alone won't (I imagine) drive subscriptions. So he loses, we lose, and, since I won't have any reason to visit ESPN anymore, ESPN loses. Who wins? The magic bullet to make money on the Internet hasn't been found yet, but does anyone think pay sites are the way to go? Paying for diversionary content that no one *needs* to read? It doesn't even sound plausible that that's the future. But what is? Banner ads? Maybe a global Internet fee distributed among all content providers based on traffic? Does that work? I haven't thought it through. But I like the questions. And I feel bad for Rob Neyer. He's a good writer, and seems like a good guy. (And, no, I don't know him; I'm not just shilling; he's actually good.)