JOURNALISM ON THE WEB….And speaking of science journalism…..

Science writer (and blogger) David Appell has been researching a story over the past few days, but instead of pitching it to the usual dead tree crowd he wants to find out if there’s a blog-based market for it:

If I can raise $200 in contributions from my readers, I’ll report the story here first. This is a fraction of what I’d usually get for this type of work, but I want to try it for the idea of it all.

If you want to read this story first, you can contribute by clicking on the PayPal button below. I’m suggesting a donation of $5–about what you’d pay for a magazine off the rack. If only 40 of you contribute, I’ll write the article for you. If less than 40 contribute, I’ll refund your money.

You can click the link to see if the story sounds interesting enough to cough up five bucks for it.

Will this work? Maybe ? as a novelty. Is there a future in it? I kinda doubt it. After all, what’s the incentive? Why pay $5 when I can just wait for other people to do it and then read the story when it comes out for free? (The free rider problem, of course, is practically a metaphor for the entire web, hardly something unique to this particular proposition.)

Plus the pricing is off. $5 may indeed be the newsstand price of a magazine, but for $5 you get a whole magazine. Why pay that much for one article?

During the entire second half of the 90s, when software development was my profession, I stayed pretty skeptical about the web because most of the internet business models I looked at failed to make any sense. I mean, communism probably sounded great in the 19th century version of a PowerPoint presentation too, but the business model kinda sucked, didn’t it?

I guess I’m still on the same bandwagon here. The internet is a great thing, it’s changing (and will continue to change) our society, and there’s money to be made there. But something big has to happen before web media becomes a moneymaker on a wide scale. The problem is that people aren’t going to pay for web journalism unless it’s really good, and really good journalism is produced by really good journalists. But unless human nature changes radically in the near future and people start voluntarily paying for stuff they don’t have to, web journalism isn’t going to pay very well and all the really good journalists will continue to get hoovered up by all the regular old media outlets.

Am I wrong about this? Maybe. I guess your view probably depends on your reaction to Andrew Sullivan’s pledge week a few months ago. Was it “Damn! $80,000!” or was it “Jeez, even Andrew Sullivan could only scrounge together $80,000”?

(By the way, since I ragged on his idea I should add that David has an excellent blog called Quark Soup that you ought to visit if science oriented blogging interests you. Check it out when you get a chance.)