Is It Wrong to Ask for Money in Exchange for Content?

Tip jar

I’m a member of the GOMI (Get Off My Internets) community, a place for people to snark about bloggers.

It’s full of intelligent, funny women and I trust their opinion.

Awkward, then, that I have found myself coming round to an idea they loathe: the tip jar.

A tip jar is a PayPal or GoFundMe button on a blogger’s website, where you can show your support financially. My snarky fellows find this abhorrent, largely because of the high concentration of hobbyists demanding cash for their poorly spelled and richly Instagrammed ‘lifestyle’ humblebrags.

I must calm myself.

Anywho, it is this fundamental no-no that I must address today. Not on a personal level – I don’t really think any mommy blogger with a PayPal account should be begging for cash – but as a value exchange where carefully written and valuable content is concerned.

As an example, which sites could you not live without? Which writers give you LIFE when you see a new post by them? As I mentioned, gomiblog.com is very important to me and I would happily pay a £5 a month subscription (we’ve actually told our glorious leader this many times but she stands firm).

I have donated to Wikipedia, I have given to Crowdfunders. I think when we get our hands on a little bit of cash, we’re quite eager to help others. I started a monthly payment to Great Ormond Street and Cancer Research when I realised I could afford to buy Tesco Finest chilli jam. Out of that transaction, I get a sense of pride and also a feeling that I have made my offering to the gods, who will now keep me from harm. Blame my mother.

So: when there is a sense of value exchanged, we enjoy ourselves; We LIKE paying. I do personally think this payment should be optional, based on suggested donations rather than a paywall model. The choice is what makes us feel magnanimous.

Cards against humanity

Cards Against Humanity, maker of politically incorrect playing cards, convinced nearly 12,500 people to literally gift it $71,145 on Black Friday last year.

Why would anybody give a company $5 or more in exchange for nothing? As Cards Against Humanity’s FAQ explained…

“Because the greatest Black Friday gift of all is buying nothing. We’re offering that for the rock-bottom price of $5. How can you afford NOT to seize this incredible opportunity?”

The page they put up after the campaign ended details exactly what the Cards Against Humanity team bought with the money. Oh yes, they kept it.

Cards against humanity
I actually loved this campaign. The sheer audacity is entertaining to me, and it feels real and human. Essentially, people were stumping up $5 because Cards Against Humanity is hilarious and brilliant, and the small team behind it deserves to be thanked.

Each of those team members gave some of their portion to charity, but each listed incredibly personal purchases – airfare for Valentine’s Day, student loan payment, home security system – that make us feel good that we helped. It works in the same way Humans of New York works: everyone, EVERYONE is special and we love seeing into their lives.

The line is blurred

No one is going to side-eye you if you use Kickstarter to get funding for your amazing pushchair design. No one disses The Times for putting articles behind a paywall (well, not as much as they used to).

If you're publishing valuable content on a teeny budget, what's the harm in a low-key tip jar? Click To Tweet

The choice is yours.