When I first started this website I didn’t have a plan for monetization. While I certainly believe people should be compensated for hard, useful work, all I wanted to do was read, write and think. The “business side” of running a blog felt like a nuisance and wasn’t something I had much passion or energy for. That hasn’t changed.
What has changed is passively putting third party code like Google Adsense on your website doesn’t really earn someone like me any money. While it was never a significant amount of cash in the first place, it wasn’t totally worthless. At this point it has become basically worthless, but that’s ok. I’m not going to complain about Google. Google doesn’t owe me anything and neither do the corporations that use the network. It was never a smart way for writers, particularly anti-establishment type writers highly critical of our economic system based on cronyism and fraud, to earn money. It never really made any sense, but I went down that road anyway because it was easy and allowed me to focus on what I really cared about, my work. But things have changed.
Advertisers have begun to flex their muscles over the past year or so, with YouTube demonetizing videos with any sort of unconventional political bent. From the advertisers’ perspective this makes perfect sense and there’s no point in complaining about it. This has forced many content producers to shift to a more reader supported model, which I think is far more empowering and healthy in the long-term despite painful short-term hits to revenue. Indeed, we shouldn’t trust any media that relies on large corporate advertisers to fund their “journalism,” as the product will be more like public relations than any hard-hitting truth to power. We’ve already seen that advertisers are willing to flex their muscles when it comes to content they don’t like, and we can expect that to accelerate going forward.
The latest warning sign comes courtesy of a Washington Post policy that forbids employees from disparaging advertisers. The Washingtonian reports:
A new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.” In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”
The Post‘s Guild sent out a bulletin Sunday night protesting the policy. “If you’re like most of us, you probably acknowledged its receipt without reading it,” says the note, which was written by Guild co-chair Fredrick Kunkle. “But what you don’t know could hurt you.”
The guild wants to jettison other parts of the policy, which the Post confirms to Washingtonian went into effect on May 1 and applies to the entire company:
A provision that prohibits employees from “Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.”
A demand that employees “Refrain from using social media while on your work time, unless using Social Media is an authorized part of your job.”
A clause that encourages employees to snitch on one another: “If you have any reason to believe that an employee may be in violation of The Post’s Social Media Policy … you should contact the Post’s Human Resources Department.”
I thought part of the appeal of a billionaire like Jeff Bezos owning a “paper of record” is that it might make it less beholden to large powerful interests than you might otherwise expect. Guess not.
One thing the last twelve months should make clear to everyone reading this is that billionaire-owned corporate media cannot and should not be trusted to provide honest information, and will definitely never challenge the true centers of power in society. This makes the need for independent publishers more crucial than ever, and since such publishers cannot and should not depend on corporate advertisers, readers need to step up and support them. I’m not talking about my work specifically, I’m talking about all of the independent content creators you enjoy. Support all of them.
On Friday, I plan to publish an article outlining my plan for turning Liberty Blitzkrieg into a reader-supported publication in the years ahead. I think that’s the only sustainable way to stay on point, refrain from the temptations of clickbait, and avoid the whims of corporate advertisers and Google.
Stay tuned for more.
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