Friday, February 24, 2012

Introducing Frockwriter+

how to make gif

Do or do not, there is no try, right? It’s been three years and seven months since frockwriter first saw the light of day. You never know when you start these things just where you will wind up. But here we are with 65,000 unique visitors and 100,000+ page views this month. Links to our stories on a plethora of blogs and mainstream news sites. And notably, beyond the growing number of visitors – many of whom are first-timers who arrive via much bigger sites – a dedicated core of readers who keep coming back to the blog time and time and time again. Some visit, incredulously, over 200 times a month. Traffic, links and consumer engagement are wonderful validation for any blogger. But you can’t pay your rent with them. Eighteen months ago, I introduced advertising. This has helped, but it's a Catch 22 situation: I can’t devote more time to the blog without compromising my ability to earn a living. And unless I spend more time blogging, traffic will never reach a sufficiently critical mass whereby advertising fully supports the blog. So I am trying something new: I am introducing a subscription service in the hope that those who do really value frockwriter’s content and are disappointed that there’s not more of it will be interested in supporting it. I’m calling it frockwriter+. I appreciate this a controversial move. In terms of the fashion blogosphere, as far as I am aware, it’s a fairly radical concept. Before you strike frockwriter off your favourites list in disgust, I’d just like to provide a little background.

First up, this is and isn’t a “paywall” per se. It’s what is called a “metered system”.

There are no changes to the look and feel of frockwriter’s home page. And as far as casual readers go - that is, people who don’t visit the blog more than a couple of times a week - they won’t even notice the meter is there. The meter only kicks in after readers have clicked through to read eight posts. Just a reminder that there have been months, notably in the last year, when, due to work or other commitments, I have blogged as little as four times a month.

What you will notice pop up if you click through to read more than eight posts per month - or else simply click the new permanent "Subscribe to frockwriter" button on the right-hand side of this page - is a green Press+ lightbox from our subscription partner Journalism Online. 

There are two subscription options: unlimited access for one month for USD 1.99 and unlimited access for one year for USD 19.99.

What is Journalism Online? A New York-based digital media specialist that provides e-commerce solutions for publishers. The company was launched in April 2009 (and sold in March 2011 to US print services giant RR Donnelley) by three former veteran US media executives - American Lawyer and Court TV founder Steven Brill, former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz and former AT&T Broadband ceo Leo Hindery Jr.

Press+ is Journalism Online’s primary e-commerce platform. There are currently 500 newspaper and magazine publishers using Press+, including The Independent in the UK and The Onlon in the US.

Frockwriter is the first Press+ blogger affiliate.

Why go for a subscription model, instead of adopting some of the numerous other monetisation strategies that are currently being deployed by other bloggers?

Simple answer. Because I’m a journalist.

Sure, like every other blogger, I am now also a micro-publisher. Unlike many other bloggers, however, I come from a traditional journalism background and I continue to work with mainstream media outlets in Australia and abroad. I value these relationships, my relationships with readers and I take ethics issues very seriously. I don’t ever want to stop working as a journalist.

As such, here is a list of things you won’t find on frockwriter, that you may find on many other blogs.

I don’t do sponsored posts.  
I don’t do sponsored links in posts.  
I don’t have Goodle Ads.
I don’t have any advertising other than transparent display advertising, as managed independently by a third party (Pages Digital).
I don’t run any additional hidden editorial support for display ads.
I don’t do paid ambassadorships or paid collaborations with commercial brands and companies – in spite of requests, one offer recently in the five figure arena.
I don’t accept gifts. I recently attended a blogger-focussed launch where the gift bags were worth $1000-1500 apiece (pending the style of sunglasses included in the bags). Yes, marketers are currently throwing money at bloggers.

The one exception I have made to the sponsorship issue is when it comes to attending fashion weeks and festivals. Since launching frockwriter, I have accepted sponsored air travel and accommodation to some fashion weeks or festivals that are away from my Sydney base, where coverage of said events benefits the industry, as distinct from a single commercial entity. I accept this strictly on behalf of frockwriter and the sponsorship is disclosed in the ensuing posts. Noone has any editorial control over any component of the coverage. In spite of requests for gratuitous sponsor plugs in some cases. And just to clarify, these are not all-expenses-paid trips. Certainly not in my experience anyway. The remaining costs involved in field coverage – which can be exorbitant, not including valuable time away from paid work – are at the reporter’s expense.

Once again, this is not a criticism of the business choices of other bloggers, many of whom have emerged as models and celebrities. Models make their living out of promoting commercial products. Many actors supplement their acting earnings as paid product ambassadors. Bloggers, it seems, are held up as champions of the truth simply because they are publishers. Yes there are now FTC regulations in the US governing the transparency of bloggers’ commercial dealings, although this does not seem to be terribly well policed. And as many bloggers may well ask, why aren't the same rules applied to the traditional fashion press, where ‘buy one (ad) get one (editorial mention) free’ is par for the course and whose fulltime staff members are regularly showered with luxury gifts in exchange for coverage? Further complicating matters is that marketers themselves have now become publishers.

So there you have it.

I have thoroughly enjoyed your company over the past three and a half years and hope you have enjoyed reading the blog. I hope to be able to bring you many more stories. Not everything needs to be an in-depth feature of course. I really hope to be able to develop fashion week coverage in particular. But just on longer posts, FYI I have had more feedback on this month’s “Close encounters of the KL kind” post than I think I’ve had on any other single post in the six years I’ve been blogging. With perhaps the exception of the 'SMH banned from NY Fashion Week' post at, which was published on a far bigger platform. Apart from the traffic and comments on the KL story, a number of people went to the trouble of emailing me or sending messages to say how much they enjoyed it, notably the work that went into it.

Just on privacy, I appreciate that some people might be nervous about providing personal information. It’s a big change from perusing a blog with relative anonymity – the data routinely collected by most bloggers (including myself) via Google Analytics, Sitemeter etc… notwithstanding – to ponying up funds for a subscription. To this end, please see the new Privacy Policy that appears at the bottom of the screen and the privacy policy of Journalism Online, which is handling every aspect of the subscriptions.

I am well aware that “paywall” is a dirty word. There is a big difference, however, between mainstream publishers who launch paywalls and little old frockwriter. Without the paywall, the mainstream publishers still have their cover prices and advertising bases – which, although under threat are nevertheless long-established and the fruit of the work of full-time sales teams. They also have fulltime staff pumping out content.

I’m not trying to make a killing out of blogging. Just a living. With the time and effort I have put into this blog since July 4 2008, this has been at times a significant challenge. It has not been easy to say no to various commercial offers.   

So to new subscribers I just want to say, many thanks and welcome aboard guys!

And to those readers who just want to remain casual friends who pop in now and then with no strings attached, I totally understand your choice and hope to see you again next month.


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