On Monday, we posted a piece about Philadelphia’s new Business Privilege Tax. In short the city now wants to tax bloggers whether they are making an income with their blog or not. It appears to be another case of a misguided municipality looking to bring in new revenue streams.
As expected, most bloggers are angered by this new tax. I don’t live in Philadelphia and I try my hardest to not complain about taxes. Therefore, I want to ask a much more important question:
Should blogging be free?
Nowadays, anyone with an Internet connection can sign up and get a free blog. That’s right anyone can have a free platform to share their thoughts and ideas with the world! It sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it? But what I want to know is, should it be free? Should users have to pay to blog? In short my answer is:
Blogs, and blogging shouldn’t be free. Period.
Before I begin telling you why I don’t think blogging should be free, let me add a little disclaimer. I make a living off of folks that choose to pay for blogging. The company that I own can and does create many different types of web applications. But, the vast majority of our work is focused on developing custom WordPress installations. So for me and many other professional blog developers it’s a slap in the face to see folks go around claiming that anyone can build a business with free tools. When businesses and entrepreneurs tout the “free model” they are effectively saying, “Don’t hire Joe Hall, because let’s face it, you can get it all for free.” In short free blogging can and does have real negative business implications for professional developers.
But, this issue isn’t about me, it’s about you! It’s about how much you value your ideas and what you are willing to do, to make sure they are heard. You see, before the Internet, individuals had to make huge sacrifices to get the same type of coverage that anyone with a free blog can get today.
For example during the civil rights movement, folks were willing to put their life on the line to get the media’s attention. Even to this day, there are billions of people that do not have access to the Internet or free blogging. I wonder what they would be willing to sacrifice for a free platform.
Those of us that can blog for free have become lazy and irresponsible. Mostly because we haven’t had to sacrifice anything to have our platform. The barrier for entry into blogging is nearly non existent for most of us in the first world. When you are forced to make an investment in an activity you are less likely to take it for granted.
If you aren’t willing to invest in your own ideas, then you have no right to share them. It’s your responsibility to pay for the cost and repercussions of your own ideas, it’s part of existing in a civil society. When you use free blogging services, someone else is paying to support your ideas. Someone else is letting you have a free platform at their expense. Datacenters and system administrators don’t work for free.
I have a friend who recently started a personal blog. She is paying for hosting, and a professional custom theme. She values her own ideas enough to pay to make sure that their delivery is flawless. Is she the best blogger in the world? Will her blog be popular? Who knows. But, the point is that she cares enough about what she has to say that shes putting her money where her mouth is.
So, how much should blogging cost? That’s a tough question. Honestly, I am not sure. How much do you think your ideas are worth? How much would you be willing to pay if free blogging didn’t exist? Should you pay for blogging with money? Or how about time? I wouldn’t mind seeing a blogging service that provides professional blogs for users that commit to 4 or 5 hours of volunteer work a month. Sure, it might not pay the hosting fees, but at least it would encourage a selfless sacrifice.
In the end how can you truly place value on your ideas if you don’t have to work or invest to spread them? Anyone can stand on their soapbox and yell, few can climb a mountain and sing.
PS: Feel free to leave comments below! However, I won’t be around to answer them til Monday.