Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


On sharing

Filed under: — adam @ 12:29 pm

There are two competing monetary questions in content ownership: “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’ve already done?” and “How can I get the maximum amount for what I’m going to do next?”.

The former is seemingly answered by maximum control. Tight focused marketing, sell as many copies, wring every last dollar out of existing properties by making sure that people need to buy them more than once and can’t do anything interesting with them. In my opinion, this is a strategy for shooting the latter. It makes enemies, it makes people not care what else you have, and it makes people upset.

Feeding the commons is about ongoing effort. Releasing your work to as many people as possible gets you attention for the next thing you do. It’s so simple. It’s not about selling any one thing anymore, it’s about selling your stream. My previous post, Preaching to the Esquire, is a link that contains the entire text of an article from Esquire. It’s blatantly copied. But if it hadn’t been, only existing subscribers would have read it. As it is, that article is getting forwarded around to lots of people, and it has at the bottom of it this:

Wow. Not something I expected from “Esquire.”

followed by this ringing endoresment:

Esquire is a great magazine. Read it more often: there’s tons of articles on politics, science, current events…it’s, like, Maxim for intelligent people.

Esquire probably had nothing to do with this, but in one stroke, Esquire has certainly grabbed more people for their stream. Many of them will buy an issue. Some of them will subscribe. It’s not about monetizing this article, it’s about getting people to pay attention to what you’re going to do next – the recurring and predictable revenue streams that keep ongoing operations… ongoing.

Put your best work out there, let it speak for itself, and maybe someone will already be paying attention next time you have something interesting to say. Maybe they’ll even pay for the privilege. Locking it up where only people who are already interested can find it is a recipe for obscurity and irrelevance. Yes, TimesSelect, I’m looking at you.

4 Responses to “On sharing”

  1. gordon krefting Says:

    I agree with most of what you’re saying… certainly letting people read your stuff is a much better way of promoting yourself that not letting them read it.

    Most legacy content providers (traditional media types) today are concentrating on monetizing their content, not on marketing it. “Maybe they’ll even pay for the privilege” isn’t a business model that is getting much attention in an industry that demands high profit margins.

    So far, I haven’t hated TimesSelect, I feel that the amount of stuff I’m reading every month is pretty easily worth my 8 bucks. (Actually, I pay for the crossword too, which is also worth the money.) I doubt that it’s doing much to improve the Times’ bottom line though; I’m the only subscriber I know.

    So, I’m curious. How do you think the Times can make money online? (Ad revenue is getting better, but I doubt it even covers their costs.)

  2. adam Says:

    I picked on TimesSelect because that’s an easy target, and it’s already showing the signs of suffering behind the paid wall. If people are reading for opinions, it helps to have those opinions as widely disseminated as possible. More specifically, if you’re trying to convince people of something, as opinion columnists often do, you want to target the people who aren’t already so convinced that they’ll pay up front to hear what you have to say. But of course – those are the people who pay. The trick is conversion – getting the unconvinced to become convinced enough to pay on a regular basis.

    Similarly, I’m not convinced that opinion pieces themselves are a viable business model for much longer – they’re too static, and there are plenty of smart people offering commentary for free. But how about this – a paid membership site where it’s free to read (and ad supported), but if you want to argue with a Times columnist, you have to pay to post. Kick it off each week with the standard opinion piece, and then let the columnist duke it out with the readers who want to argue. I think people would bite for this and it would get some great debate going.

  3. Anne Says:

    Great idea.
    I hate Maureen Dowd.
    I have always wanted to take that specious Bitch down.

  4. adam Says:

    Oh – it gets even better. Instead of a paid membership, you could have an auction where you can bid on opportunities to argue with each of the columnists.

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