Cycling blog Red Kite Prayer has started to ask for voluntary reader subscriptions. Publisher Patrick Brady said: "The effort comes at a time when advertising budgets are down, and reader suspicion of native content runs high."
The veteran journalist – he started his writing career in 1991 with Dirt Rag – added: "There's a slice of my readership – any readership, really – that's always suspicious that when you say something nice about a product, you're doing so because you were paid to say it, not because you really believe it. So there's this ongoing mistrust on the part of some readers that any good review is essentially advertorial. I'll never convince them all, but that's a rampart I'm happy to toil against."
The subs drive has already netted enough subscribers to equal the contribution made by a medium-sized advertiser, said Brady.
“Moving toward a reader-supported business model puts us more firmly in the company of mainstream media. Increasingly, we’re seeing big publishers solicit subscriptions from their readers.
"Unlike big publishers like the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, we’re not going to erect a paywall. All our content remains free. If people like what you read, we hope they’ll chip in.”
Red Kite Prayer specialises in long-form journalism, and won't run advertorials or “native” content.
“We want to keep our relationship with both manufacturers and readers straightforward,” Brady said.
“We’ve missed out on some revenue by declining to do that sort of content, but we’d rather draw a clear line between what is advertising and what is content; we believe it’s better for our readers, better for the manufacturers and ultimately better for us.”
Subscriptions range between $3 and $10 per month. Other sites to have launched online subs include Cycling Tips of Australia which recently put some of its content behind a paywall and started a VIP club with additional benefits as well as access to all content.