Write as frequently as time allows. Do enough commercial work so that income is good.
It doesn't matter how often you post as long as quality is the same.
Have donation info on each post. Sell DVD's. It may reduce email volume.
Email questions should pay if they expect you to answer. No need to promise to answer all.
If you still need advertisements then have them.
Whilst I really do enjoy and learn from your writing, I think the main reason I visit your site so regularly is because of the images - you're a great photographer and an inspiration. I would rather see the bias change to more images/less writing (although I definitely think this should be continued, and I'd really like to know what's going on in your head when you take some of them).
By coincidence, I recently had a discussion with the guys from Photography Monthly in the UK about the fact that I was losing interest in their type of publication because of sites like yours - although writing and imagery of this standard, regularity and consistency is rare. The magazines also suffer from regurgitating old techniques, with the only fresh element being the new gear. As I grow older and hopefully a little wiser(!), I've realised that my kit is absolutely fine and it's about the picture. HCB images were really grainy and soft ;-)
I would be OK to pay a monthly subscription. I've become increasingly concerned that nothing is for free and quality content must ultimately be paid for, otherwise it's unsustainable. Incidentally, this is is the first time I've ever been prepared to cough up some readies (although keep it reasonable?)
Great site. Please keep going.
Thank you for this inspiring, intelligent and great site. I think that your articles are such high quality that maybe you should be pitching them or arranging a paid publication deal elsewhere for many of them and then uploading them here afterwards. Your writing is fabulous!
I cannot afford to pay a subscription but I am happy to click on ads and would follow links to buy things if they were not all American - I'm UK based.
I really, really, love your photography not just because it inspires me as a photographer but if you found ways to sometimes 'mass' produce some of it as prints I, and I am sure others, would love to buy them. Is that viable?
But most of all I just want to say that I understand your problem and I hope you find a way to resolve it because this is really the best photography site I have found. Thank you so much this. Thank you for inspiring, motivating and being you.
Hi Ming, while it's fun to see your work I think it would be a mistake to charge. You already charge for your iPad app and the site does provide advertising for your workshops, a value I hope you don't overlook. I don't mind ads but if you put up a pay wall I will stop visiting your site. Best of luck!
For the most part of the last 8 months, I have visited your site almost everyday and appreciate your time and effort in producing well-thought out and wonderfully written articles - a joy for me to read. Yet, I do understand that your need to economically sustain your self and your art. Some years ago, I was active at a site called Nikonians.org - a forum/community of Nikon users. Initially, the membership was free, and we had a nice crowd, both pros and amateurs, exchanging ideas, advice and constructive feedback. However, after some point of time, the people who ran that site decided on a subscription based membership - and I recall how many detested that idea - as a result, membership numbers fell drastically.
I foresee a similar scenario with your site if you decide on a subscription. To me, a good option for you would be to run the site with ads ( but not too intrusive). Secondly, I'd highly recommend you to write, say once or twice a week - so that you could devote more time to your paid assignments. Personally, I could live with reading one article per week from you - and I'm sure you would not suffer "writer's block" as well that way.
I've often wondered how you find the time to do your professional work and at the same time write such high quality articles that have depth, are insightful, and spiced with just the right amount of humour. I love the way you discuss the psychological and philosophical issues involved in photography. Your clean, advertisement-free website makes you stand out from the crowd. So it's only right that you should be justly rewarded for your dedication to excellence.
I suggest that you consider a two-tier approach, i.e. (a) have some general articles that are free to attract readers to your site and to let people know the type of stuff that you do professionally, and (b) a subscription-based section for more in-depth discussion. What's important is quality and I'd be happy to pay for insightful articles that come out three or four times a month.
I'm not in favour of advertisements, as they are distracting and can be inappropriate for the quality website you have. But at the end of the way, you have to earn a living and I will respect your decision if that's the best way for your to go.
Kind regards and keep up the great service to your fellow photographers and newbies like me. But don't forget yourself and your family.
Based on how often you update this blog I'm not surprised. I've often wondered, "gee, how does this guy get any work done, he's always spoiling us with quality entries!" Advertising - fine. Subscription - OK. Patronage - don't see how that could work. Pay to play - definitely not. Don't want this to morph into talking about or reviewing "what's popular". There are plenty of places to go for that. The value of your blog is in its intelligent, creative and original thoughts and opinions. A lot of signal and not a lot of noise. Hopefully you can come up with the "right" solution. I also agree with some of the others that if you contribute an entry once a week or once every two weeks instead of almost daily - well if that solves the problem - go for it. More interested in quality and unique perspective rather than quantity. Good luck.
I enjoy your web site and would prefer advertising, referral links, and donations. I was a diglloyd subscriber for years, but dropped it because he kept increasing the number of paid subscriptions and reading them often required referencing other sections that I was not subscribed to. You could not freely navigate between each without subscribing to all. The original subscription cost around $25 and I dropped everything when the cost would have set me back $200. I’d rather spend time taking photos than reading equipment reviews.
As someone who also runs a photography blog, I completely understand. I think one solution is to have exclusive/premium content accessible only to subscribers. Nonsubscribers can still access regular articles (perhaps with ads). I think one way to decide which articles should be for subscribers is whether the article discloses a technique or some valuable information.
This solution helps in several ways:
1. Doesn't disproportionately shift the burden to those who are contributing vs. noncontributors.
2. Those who contribute are able to use information or techniques that differentiate their work from the rest of the market.
3. May reduce plagiarism (because the plagiarizer would have to subscribe first).
4. If all bloggers did this, then there would be no pressure on other bloggers to work for free.
5. If you as the author are compensated you will be given an incentive to increase the quantity (and maybe even the quality if that were possible) of articles.
6. It is a more sustainable model than the current model (free content).
I come here everyday. I enjoy what you are doing and I learned a lot here.
I support all four of your options. I think the pay-to-play option is very original. I don't buy new gear very often but for what I am interested in buying, I'd like to buy only after reading reviews from people I trust on the Internet (yourself included). Also the idea of patronage is very original, I'll support if the cost is something I can afford.
Meanwhile keep up the good work and I think most people understand you have to make a living first before you can do this site. We won't complain if we don't see new blogs or review as frequently.
I think one way that could increase revenue enormously is to make your website multilingual.
In whichever direction you turn your content, it would have much more access than just in english,
and you'd be more appealing to advertising.
In agreement with some of the previous comments, I think you should add a DONATE button. I really like your site and I am here mostly for learning more about photography. I'd be happy to Donate for your continuing work. I enjoy gear reviews but it isn't the reason why I came to your site. Perhaps the Donate idea could go along with the Patronage, but I personally don't care about prints.
There are two main threads of your work here: reviews and what I'll call technique. The latter would include general thoughts on image-making, workflow, approach, etc.
I'm here for the latter. I don't buy new equipment very often -- my photographs and prints will improve by focusing on techniques and thought process -- so reviews are less engaging for me. Which is not to say they aren't excellent -- they are.
That said, I'd encourage you to simply dial back on the blog and focus more on your commercial work. Add the advertising for sure. And produce more tutorials on workflow and technique. Show us your contact sheet and selection approach. Show us the thought process on editing with a broader selection of work. Show us your lighting setups for product shots. I bought the first workflow tutorial (great stuff) and am about to buy the second.
I'd really like to see a thorough working-through of your black and white workflow, with an emphasis on printing, using your very best work as the basis for discussion.
But no matter what, you should make the day job pay. The frequency of posting could be cut by half and you'd still be head and shoulders above most photography sites.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ming. First, I have no problem with advertising – go for it! Second, include a 'DONATE' button at the end of every article. Third, if more commercial work is available to you, would it be possible for you to accept it in lieu of maintaining your regime of prolific writing? I for one would totally understand if you posted fewer articles and made it known that you cannot reply to all emails. You can't keep this up buddy! You have many subscribers and the momentum will continue. I might be wrong but I think your heart is with this blog. If true, I sincerely hope that you can turn it into a means for you to earn a comfortable living and wish you the best success in whatever you choose to do.
Ming....time is one of the most valuable assets you have so you need to capitalize on it.Charge a reasonable annual fee for your great work and no one will complain.....well,there will always be some complainers who don't want to recognize the efforts of others.The amount of time you put in to provide us with the well written articles is invaluable to many of us.It is also important to you to build up a monthly/annual income stream so you can plan your time effectively and sleep well at night.You are not going to be able to please all your followers so do what you think is best for you.I'm sure that whatever you decide to do will be fair and acceptable to most all your flock.I,for one,will go with whatever you decide to do.Believe in yourself and go for it.Good luck and best regards.
Ming, I agree with Des. I think a multi tier approach, balanced between (relevant) advertising, short free contents and subscription based total contents. You have build enough credibility to attract advertisers, and reading through the comments, it seems that there is a consent for you to at least start getting your investments back, and gain some money on top of it. Your contents are highly educational and nothing wrong in charging/paying for. Although I am snapping shots for the last 45 years, I still manage to learn from your site and daily communications. Whichever way you go, do not loose your free spirit and independence. I go wherever you decide to go.
I would happily sign up for a monthly subscription in the $25-$50/month range. I subscribe to Lynda.com for a lot of my technical training, Adobe has me as a creative cloud subscriber this year for $29.99/mo and it would be a joy to see you privatize this feed and get paid well for it. I don't believe in the credo that if it's online it's supposed to be free. I also don't support the people who think it should.
You are at "Guru" status to this reader because of two extremely valuable qualities... Physicist-turned 'Tog with an appreciable touch of philosopher. What spins out of that mix are extremely well-presented and written ideas, great photographic work, some very sly and subtle humor and a peek at your Elton John-disco 'Blad. Charge Money!
Everyone who reads your pages deserves to pay homage to the master. Charge a subscription fee AND put ads on your page. Then, hire an assistant to compile what you've already written and turn it into an update-able eBook and sell the shit out of it...
Just my dos centavos...
I visit your site at least 3 times a week. I think that your blog, photography, meaningful insights and reviews are all great.
I chose advertising as this is probably the most convenient for your followers. I was also tempted to chose patronage however I am not sure how much space I could devote in my house to regular prints and also this would be price and quality dependant.
Keep up the great work though, I for one would miss your site if it disappeared.
I feel that the debate starts at free v paid. I sit at the centre of this debate in magazine publishing (I won't post who with but you will see from my email address). Free can work in my world but only with substantial advertising or sponsorship revenues to offset the publishing investment whilst guaranteeing editorial independence. But a truth that has become obvious to us is that readers are prepared to pay for unique and valued content. You provide this though your engaging and intelligent long form 'journalism'. So, advertising is ok if relevant (research shows readers enjoy reading targeted marketing content). Or, readers will pay for great content that is well written.
To me it suggest you might go both ways at the same time (strategists will say this is a wooly-minded fix, but if it works...). 1) test a donation button 2) run a size constricted ad skyscraper though you might need to redesign your right hand column structure. Run this for six months and make some projections. Plan b) is go paid and be damned. I am not sure how many unique users you have to make this viable, but if it is not at a price that makes you jump (say fifteen bucks a year, a paperback?). Worth a look but avoid the Reid type model where content is undiscoverable unless you pay (I have paid but just don't get it) - you have to lead folk down the pathway to paid content (part free to promote engagement and paid for the full content is what we and some others do).
Anyway, enough warbling from me. I have enjoyed reading what you publish since finding you about two months ago. Long form and intelligent is a precious combination and I wish you every success in whichever direction you choose.
Very best wishes.
First, I think your site is excellent, thank you for the immense work you put into it.
Personally I'd be willing to pay a fee to read your site via subscription and/or put up with the uglification of your site that Google ads bring. Another advertising possibility might be The Deck Network (http://decknetwork.net/).
I'm sure you've already given this issue of trying to get paid for your time and efforts a lot of thought but here are a few other ideas based on people I follow. Horace Dedieu (Asymco.com) gives away his insightful tech analysis content and runs workshops as you do and has begun selling videos of his workshops in the form of iPad apps. Another idea is to do a weekly sponsored podcast. Bill Wadman and Jeffrey Sadoris have been running a photography podcast for awhile which eschews gear talk and focuses on the creative struggle of artists. They were recently picked up by the 5by5 network (where Dedieu also does a podcast) which brings sponsorship and covers streaming costs and pays the podcaster. There are other podcast networks such as Mule which might be interested given your growing popularity.
I do hope you'll find a solution appropriate for your own needs.
Hi Ming, first of all: thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Let's hope you'll be able to keep up the good work on your site and the unique blog and reviews! Ads are no problem for me, nor is a small amount of euro's (!) for reviews on a subscription bases. Please don't forget the European users/readers in this story; prices in euro's as well, and ads from European resellers. I don't mind a Steve-Huff-kind of approach with a few selected dealers that offer special deals for readers (or maybe even photo-walks or mini-events).
Hey Ming, thanks for your excellent articles. You are the few ones photographic blog that I read extensively. I agree with some other readers, facilitate donations (rather then regular subscriptions) and have some selected advertising.
Some articles are to long for read in one go, you can split it in few posts, this will give you more time. You don't have to post every two days. You should write a little less, sometimes is difficult to follow you :) (lack of reading time). I don't think, pay for read (articles) work very well. A example Backpackinglight some time I had pay for read but I find some articles uninspiring so in the long run you stop to used it, is to easy to find other contents in the net. Suggestion: A voluntary donation link but also a kind of free wheeling "subscription" few option like Donate $5 $10 $25 etc with a 6 months, 1 year reminder, working with donor email, "You have paid $x 6 months/ 1 year a go, please remember renew. Well just my 2ç.
I am ready to pay for a subscription or "pay to play". I am also member of diggloyd (subscriptions required) but as you say, when you want to buy a lens, you are not affraid to pay 1500 or more USD so there is no reason not willing to pay a small fee to help you and for your work.
I don't mind to pay monthly fee for subscription
I find myself equally financially challenged and yet, you are a solace, my respite at the end of a day, a like-minded genius that inspires and motivates me. Let me know what we need to pay and I will cancel something else in order to pay. NYTimes and WSJ aren't free either. I love the lack of advertising and the journalistic freedom you have, your intensity and your commitment. Your ideas are all good. Or you could also just live a kitty jar at the bottom of the page and let us donate.
It's all good. Please don't stop.
With massive gratitude,
Hi Ming, I always wondered, how you manage all of this... How about a mixed approach? You would not compromise your objectivity as long as you do select only the type of content and not the brands. Options 2/3/4 will probably not work too well. Experiments would be fruitless - just look on what already worked out in the internet and what not. The other option is to reduce your workload. How about charging for individual answers to eMails? This would reduce your workload and raise your income as well. And a personal comment / recommendation should be worth some dollars to the one asking (or he should not bother you at all). Next idea is probaly not easy to do, as everything you did so far is very personal and very you. Instead of hiring an assistant you may take in some additional writers / editors. You will probably find some talented people willingly to contribute for free. By selecting / editing the articles you would still remain control. You would be able to present some different points of view and maybe make your website even more interesting. Keep going - this is only the beginning!
I also think a donation button could help!
You should have one, there are people out there, that are willing to spend some money for good work!
Advertising is good. I also think the patronage thing is good too. I've donated when I can, even small amounts every now and then, to sites that I really enjoy, and yours is one I like. I agree that a "PayPal Donate button" might help a lot along with the Google ads. Subscriptions don't work for me well, as they are too hard to keep track of and I have a tight budget, but random donations work well.
1. Advertise. It's a no-brainer.
2. Consider some video reviews on youtube. Youtube allows you to monetise now. I've no idea how the economics of it work, but it must be worth looking at.
3. The modern form of patronage is called kickstarter. I think if you'd have done a kickstarter for camerapaedia the money would have rolled in. Think of another project. I'd certainly consider supporting a limited edition print run.
4. Sell some watches/kidneys/children.
5. Not my prefered option, but if you went subscription only I would pay.
6. Eventually you will need an assisstant/intern.
7. Sleep more, or the voices will start telling you to.
I agree with most of the others. I also like it when sites have a donate button that links to Paypal. I thought you had this but don't see it on your reviews.
Also, I would pay for a subscription, but don't really like the idea of filtering readers by how much the have to spend.
Do what ever you have to do, though, you have contributed a great deal of valuable information and perspective to the public forum already.
Facilitate donations (rather then subscriptions) and have some advertising. Keep the video stuff payed but not all (tease). Keep most other content free. But most important: keep going. This is only year one.
I would support any/all of the four options!
your content is original, and high quality. I believe that's why lots of us here are visiting your blog.
I've sometimes wondered myself : how can he spend so much time writing ? I guess you've given us an answer :)
If i had only one small piece of advice (for what it's worth) : write less. Same quality. Same original content. Same length for each individual article, but less articles. As another person mentioned, it's fine updating your blog every two days, or two weeks or two months. Quality counts, not quantity !
I would suggest a two tier approach, free for general information and payed for reviews and more detailed information. The problem with Reid Revue is that he does not provide enough free content to attract new business, it's pretty much word of mouth. You have to subscribe to see if his site has any value or not.
So I support the patron idea, except instead of a art print you get more advanced information.
Ming, what you do is unique. Maybe not sustainable but definitely unique, and your content has made me pay attention. I have no suggestions for how to make this monetarily worth it for you. The problem is that supporters naturally fade away and charging eliminates those who would replace them. Perhaps the solution is to increase the paid work and reduce the focus on the site. I believe that quality is timeless, so it doesn't matter if I read one post from you every two days or every two weeks or even every two months. While your site might grow more slowly it will continue to grow as long as you continue providing a unique viewpoint. Just don't allow the longer gaps between your work on the site and your commercial work to let you lose focus. You have impressed me in a way that few others have. I hope for the best for you ....
Your comments are fascinating reading and I like the independent manner in which you review product.
I subscribe to didilloyd and to Sean Reid's site, so (clearly!) I do not have a problem paying for content. I do not like advertising.
I understand your conundrum. Thanks for all the hard work to date. It is one thing to have passion, quite another to make it work commercially and run the site the way you'd like. I suspect the compromise you'll have to make will mean those of us who have free-loaded on your experience and knowledge will have to rethink our engagement with you. All the best, Ming.
with MUCH appreciation for all you do. Goodluck, Godspeed!