Issue 16
In this issue of conduit:
1) Featured Question and Answer: "Spurring Discussion?"
2) Your Community Answer: Are you using trained moderators in your community?
3) Community Wire: " the Air that I Breathe?" - Paying for the Web.
4) Community Voice: Make Your Voice Count
This issue's quote: "Act as if it were impossible to fail." - Dorothea Brande

Featured Question and Answer
"Spurring Discussion?"
Our latest question is the following:
"How do I encourage discussions on my community boards?"
We have shared some suggestions, so please be sure to visit "Spurring Discussion?"
~Are you looking for information on a particular community building issuePlease visit our searchable archive of past question and answers.

Your Community Answer
Are you using trained moderators in your community?
Inquiring minds want to know, so please be sure to share your  answer .

Community Wire
" the Air that I Breathe?" - Paying for the Web.
The vexed question of whether content and services on the web should be paid for has been in and out of the headlines lately, as many companies struggle with the current economic instability and look for the means to generate revenue. The decision to move over to a subscription or pay for access model is not an easy one, however. There does almost seem to be an assumption amongst the vast majority of Internet users that the web is actually "free". This article is not intended as a summary of the debates, rather a collection of thoughts about paying for content and community on the web.

The Supermarket

The Internet is a vast and powerful resource where an individual can gain access to any subject matter, groups of people with similar interests, or different types of entertainment. Such information and opportunity is not free, however, since purchasing a computer, modem and internet access is involved in the first instance.

Yes, there is much that is free to browse and explore on the web (as indeed there should be) but "getting to it" does cost.

However, the provider of that information does not directly benefit from that expenditure. To use the supermarket analogy, they provide goods which are fresh, enticing and easy to find. They want to appeal to their shoppers, and provide the best customer service possible. Now, as consumers, paying for the means to get to the supermarket (by any means, and with ancillary costs such as car insurance and so on) shouldn't we be able to get our groceries for free?

No, probably not. We accept that we pay for the means to shop and then for the products we want.

The Library

What about libraries? Don't libraries provide free information to us? Well, many research libraries do charge for the information or other resources they provide, and most public libraries are paid for through taxes and via charges for delayed returns, photocopying and so on. Assuming no other services are used, the library still isn't so much free, as free at the point of service, but paid for behind the scenes. Someone, somewhere, somehow pays for the books, the staff, the equipment, the building... the very real things we visit and use.

The Club

What about clubs we join for entertainment or for hobbies or interests? Well, often these are paid for via subscriptions or on the basis of use. There are few organisations or clubs that we can join without there being some form of cost. Even those provided by public bodies are often only subsidised, with the rest of the income generated via other means such as taxation. We almost expect to pay membership fees in return for the "belonging" to the club, for the use of its facilities. In some cases the paying of a membership is a positive bonus since it provides cache.

The Internet is incredibly transparent. In the world of supermarkets, libraries and clubs there are very real, practical, economic arguments for paying for services and content. In the real world, we acknowledge that we have to pay for the services which are provided to us, or we don't choose to use those services. In most cases, there are costs which are obvious to us that our fees cover. Wear and tear on buildings. Room hire. Equipment. Materials. And so on.

The very transparency of the web and online communities is its downfall in the argument about paying for content or access to services. Since a web site appears disconnected from its cost centres (the server it runs on, the domain name fees, the designer's fees, etc.) then asking someone to pay for it directly is notoriously difficult. Chat rooms, message boards, and the individuals who populate them seem also to simply exist without seemingly costing anyone anything. Online advertising as a means to provide revenue is one solution, but the market at present is extremely depressed, and there are also difficulties in balancing the presence of advertising with end-user expectations and wants.

There a great many web site communities which provide valuable, entertaining, informative, supportive and engaging content, company and communication for their users, often without charge. Many are run by owners and staff who do so for other reasons than the economics. It would be a great shame, however, to see these sites disappear because the burden of expenditure falls on them and there is seemingly no means to recoup it.

The Internet is changing, but until there is a shift in the ways in which many millions of people approach their use of the web, there will be many web site owners who will continue to scratch their heads when thinking about how to gain value from the web sites they run. In a tight economy this is even more of a problem.

We wish you all the very best with your community (and if appropriate, revenue-generating) endeavours and we welcome your contributions and thoughts on this issue or any other!

Community Voice
Make Your Voice Count
We strive to provide services that will assist our colleagues and participants in the community development industry. You can help, by giving us your insight into services that we provide, and could provide.
By participating in a short survey ((only three questions very short. <g>) you will help us to give you what you need from Community Answers. To participate, please click here .
We thank you for your time and efforts!

You can contribute to and gain valuable insights by asking a question right now:

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