And thus not fun? Don't get me wrong, I know many of you are doing jobs that are fun with companies that are great, especially if it's your own. I also know that blogging is hard work, I've been doing it for 14 months posting every day but Saturday. Give the question a chance though -- would the minute you start charging for blogging make it somehow more like work?
In light of the current discussions on the free nature of the Internet, yet the consideration on the proper recognition of skill and value for writers, this is not trivial. Perhaps you've given it some thought as it applies to your business model. So let's talk about the value of free for a moment. I know from this post at The Blog Herald that Lorelle is quite passionate about the topic, you should head over there and read what she has to say in the comments. Now stay with me, please.
For seven years I ran the readers' network of Fast Company magazine in Philadelphia. I took over the lead when in transition to find a better way to have events with the content I wanted and meet people locally as I used to work in North Jersey -- I know, no man's land. In the beginning I made it up, I met people who had great things to say and invited them to share with the group. They were small groups and intimate events.
Fast forward a few years and I had venue partnerships with all the major business schools in the area and nationally recognized speakers and authors like Dan Pink, Mike Abrashoff, Mike Useem, etc. We networked our programs through our members and on wires that advertised events throughout our region. All 98 events were absolutely, completely, totally free to attend -- for members and their guests. We discussed online business model with the curator of the Atwater Kent Museum, and a new POS tool for restaurants at the White Dog Cafe'. We went from 10 attendees to 200 for our networking boot camp and from a dozen members to 500+.
The events that got the most attendance were admittedly more clearly "me, myself, and I" sessions for attendees -- in other words, they were perceived as the quickest route to success. Not unlike the self-help books that are so popular and the how to blog posts.
The one that got 200 people had three fabulous facilitators who organized very interactive dialogues and experiences with the audience. We split the large group in three smaller teams that rotated among facilitators at regular intervals. That was a game changing experience. We captured the notes of every event and posted them online for those who could not make it. I say we, but in the end it was mostly me. Finally, every year I would send out a note to sum up the year with links to the event notes and feed forward the thread to the programming for the following year -- the thought leadership piece. All this for free.
Was that a waste of time? Not at all, it was an investment in my community that was being underserved by professional associations. Was it difficult to see people not show up after sending in RSVPs? Very, at times painful, because I knew there was tremendous value in the type of conversations we were creating. It was many-to-many even when we had a central speaker. Yet, there were many who could not see it, or got too busy with something else. One thing was certain -- anyone who experienced an event, kicked themselves for not having attended the others.
If I did it again today (we had our last free big event in mid June), I would charge for attendance. Not for me, I have a day job, I would distribute the funds evenly between the speaker and the venue. People need help in deciding the value of things, and unless we provide a guideline, they may not make the time. This is what I learned about events.
What about blogging? You tell me. Would it be the same for you if you got paid to blog?