I’d argue it’s not working at all, as evidenced by the race to the bottom nature of advertising revenues, the exploration of pay-wall systems in big publishers to help pad advertising revenue (because ad revenue isn’t enough), the fact that more than a few blogs I know need the extra money from members to make writing work full-time, and the overall on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy nature of most news publications.
No, I don’t think advertising works any longer as the sole revenue stream.
I didn’t mean to suggest that advertising worked as a sole revenue stream. Here’s what I wrote:
Even in their glory days, newspapers were chock-full of ads to help cover the costs of writing, editing, printing and distributing the paper everyday. Selling the paper wasn’t enough to cover the costs of getting it out the door each night.
Advertising works best in conjunction with other revenue streams. Most newspapers and magazines aren’t free with ads — there’s a newsstand price and you see ads.
I think what Ben is getting at is not that the Internet should be that way too, but that we should go one step father — offer no ads, and just charge people for content.
The mixed model newspapers and magazines have used for decades isn’t going anywhere. It even works online, in some regards. Writers with large enough sites with ads, RSS sponsors and membership drives seem to make enough to go full-time.
That said, paywalls don’t seem to be the way to go at all. I don’t think that’s the answer.
The question here is what’s sustainable and what’s not. Ben doesn’t think writing supported by only ads will continue to be possible in the future. He’s probably right.