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Why contribute?

While there is so much available on the internet for free, people have become accustomed to not expecting to pay for reading an article.

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People reading content that moves them, but yet pay nothing for the experience, can be disheartening to those who have put their being into making worthwhile content. Everyone has to make a choice about how they spend their time, and if one is not appreciated in real and concrete ways that facilitate their continuing, they can do something else that is more satisfying and doesn't require paying for hosting and maintaining a website.

Why use the term 'contribute'? In some countries, the term 'donation' is only allowed to be used by registered charities. For everyone else, such monies are actually income, and are thus a payment for the effort to provide the content.

Also, the term 'donation' implies that the effort is volunteer work, which for some, implies that there is no actual need for the money. That is not necessarilly the correct assumption.

If something you read moves you, directly reward the person who writes it, so they know they are valued, and are able to continue to provide quality content without compromise.

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Writing a few articles or a hundred is one thing, but a book is hundreds of hours of work to plot it out, writing for weeks on end, roping in or paying for others to check the manuscript to ensure that it meets publisher standards, then lose a substantial cut to the distributor.

That is a big gamble to do on the say so of a few people.

If people think the material is worth putting into a book, then contribute to the writer's income in the mean time in a concrete way to show how serious they think such an idea is. Otherwise, it may just be an excuse to avoid guilt at receiving something for nothing, without any actual sacrifice on the their part. Token gestures don't pay bills, money does.

A writer is going to be willing to take the time to bring all their ideas together into a book -- physical or ebook -- if they get concrete support along the way.

Also, some writers, while able to provide articles, may not have the disciplinary skills to manage such a project, or may have disabilities that would prevent them operating at that level of output, let alone manage the promotional activity required.

A book requires multidisiplinary skills to pull off successfully, which may well exceed the financial and physical resources of most writers.

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For example:

  1. a.Most of the internet functionality and standards are defined by people who are paid by their companies who have a vested interest in shifting the technology to be better working with their own products, like browsers.
  2. b.Search engine and social media companies provide their facilities in exchange for gathering huge amounts of your daily usage and personal data that they then use to help their advertisers place very targetted ads in your way. It works very well for them.
  3. c.Most media companies are only providing enough content to hold your attention long enough for you to notice their advertisers, and build their sites so that you will view as many ads as possible.
  4. d.Criminals have created appealing sites purely to either hijack your digital identity or infect your computer to onsell its facilities to other criminals.
  5. e.Nation-states are creating content to appeal to your prejudices to be disruptive to your world.
  6. f.Most of the rest of the companies on the web are selling products or services, the profits from which are used to pay their staff to look after their websites.

Basically, most websites providing so-called 'free' content are paying for it because they are making money off you or your data, and being enormously successful. There is no free lunch!

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They can do one or more of:

  1. a.Give over some of their site to third-party advertising.
  2. b.Put it behind a paywall, with perhaps some teaser pages, where visitors have to pay before viewing.
  3. c.Provide the content, and ask for people to give some money if it proved worthwhile to them.

Advertising basically competes with the site owner's own content, possibly enticing visitors to click away from the site. Typically, the advertisements use content from other sites, which enables those sites to track every visitor to the host site, and learn more of their browsing habits.

Such advertising competition distracts many site owners into writing content purely to attract people to click the ads. While such content may be mildly entertaining, it will hardly be something that has the capacity to change your life.

Using a paywall is what many old newspapers have done, and that has basically meant that the content does not get seen by very many, regardless of how worthwhile it would be. Unfortunately, paywalls tend to be self-defeating, as restricting content means that there is far less opportunity for people to see if there is content worth paying for.

Some sites have chosen to make their content freely available and beg for people to pay. The Guardian is now breaking even with that approach, and Wikipedia periodically displays banners extolling how if everyone paid a little, they wouldn't have to beg so blatantly.

Site owners can choose what they want to do, but avoiding using advertisements allows them to keep their integrity and their site free of distractions. Hiding content is self-defeating, so the only alternative is to publish and rely on the goodwill of their readers. Reward them, please.

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