I hope Kottke’s decision to blog full time without advertising will be a success. He’s got a large reader base. I stopped reading Kottke for most of 2004 but have re-subscribed so I can follow his progress.
The interesting question is whether this approach scales to more than a small number of weblogs. On one hand, I think it does, because even obscure subject matter can find an audience (see Wired’s The Long Tail). But on the other hand, it doesn’t matter. Personal, independent, no-income weblogs will always be important.
I also wondered whether some kind of bloggers cooperative would work. You donate money to the group as a whole and read whatever blogs you like from the list of members. Sort of like contributing to a public radio station, not to a particular show. But I’m not sure that really solves anything, and introduces new problems (bureaucracy, larger initial donation, and paying for weblogs you don’t read). Better to sell directly from creator to consumer.
Last year I subscribed to Shane Glines’ Cartoon Retro experiment. He posts sketches every day, writes about classic art and cartoons he is studying, and occasionally updates his site with full features. The eventual goal will be to produce entire short films, outside the studio system, funded by fans. This is an effort I can fully support. Unlike Kottke or John Gruber, there is no free content from Shane Glines, so that $5 a month goes a long way.