The digital divide: paid-for vs page-views

Some readers, particularly those I asked to subscribe, might remember I wrote a series of articles on the state of Britain for a website called Beacon in 2014-15. It was initially set up as a pay-walled multi-writer blog, where you subscribed to one writer and gained access to everyone. I had fun writing for it and made a modest amount of money writing articles I would not have written otherwise.

Eventually, Beacon changed its default to allowing articles to be read without a subscription. It was following what its writers asked it to do, but retrospectively, perhaps this was a mistake: it turned subscribers into donators. Earlier this month, I heard that it was closing.

Beacon was a brave experiment, but I think it fell into what is becoming publishing’s digital divide, between paid-for publications and free-to-view ones that have to chase page-views or ask for donations. While there should continue to be a place for specialist and business free-to-view sites which can support themselves with focused advertising, events and other paid-for services, it’s getting harder to see how free works for general interest publications.

* With Beacon’s closure, I have moved some of my favourite articles for it to my own website, in particular those about travelling in Britain; some of these are listed below.

Cake, tea and pork pie at Hobbit motorway services (about Gloucester Services, which has since won a listing in the Good Food Guide)

To see an awe-inspiring ancient place of worship, visit Salisbury not Stonehenge

Two Warwickshire mansions: the time capsule and the gallery

From Tynemouth chic to Whitley Bay, where every day is like Sunday (as an update, North Tyneside Council is making progress on renovating the Spanish City)

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