Monday, June 06, 2016

On Not Giving It Away

Some time back -- oh, five or six years ago -- a fellow poker scribbler pointed out to me something about this blog, something I had been aware of but hadn’t necessarily thought about too closely before.

His point was an obvious one, really. By writing a lot about the big poker tournaments and series -- posts which I often tag as “High Society,” even when the buy-ins aren’t so big -- I essentially give free promotion to those events. “They should pay you for it,” he said half-jokingly, noting how at the time I’d been writing every single day about a certain lengthy poker festival for several weeks.

Now even if I hadn’t specifically thought about that particular festival and series of posts to which he was referring, I had previously given some thought to the idea that I was essentially “giving it away” here on the blog. By that point I had also been writing about poker for other sites frequently, too, and getting paid to do so. That necessarily had gotten me thinking about the relationship between time and money and how whatever time I spent writing posts on HBP wasn’t translating into a tangible monetary reward as happened when I wrote for other sites.

But I decided early on there was a different kind of reward that came from writing here “for free” (so to speak). I liked engaging with the poker community this way -- and still do, even if poker blogs have moved over to the periphery as many have gravitated toward other ways of engaging with each other. I never worried too much about “monetizing” the blog, and grew to covet having this personal space to write and share ideas without any restrictions other than the ones I chose to impose upon myself.

To be honest, the fact that the blog did indirectly serve as a kind of online “portfolio” that helped get me some notice and eventually some actual paid writing gigs made it easier to think that way. Sure, I wasn’t being paid directly over here, but the time spent was “worth it” in the mundane, literal sense, while also providing all those non-monetary benefits, too.

Recently in poker a popular site made a decision to stop “giving it away” without getting something in return. No, the site didn’t put up a paywall or anything, but figured out a way to prevent most users from freely accessing what they were producing. (I say “most users” because work-arounds are pretty easy to come by, for those who look into it.)

The idea is to get contact information from site visitors in order to be able to market other products to them before allowing them to proceed. It’s a small hassle, this request to get something first before the site gives anything up. However, what it says about the way the site views its relationship with those who visit it isn’t small at all.

Most won’t mind the hurdle, though some may not wish to try to jump over it, thereby making the content somewhat exclusive rather than freely given. The justification -- as reported by those who looked into the matter a bit further and asked questions about it -- was precisely what I’m describing, namely, a decision to stop “giving it away” and instead trying to realize some sort of payback for the content that is being provided (and for which there is some cost to produce).

There was some immediate criticism here and there, including some good arguments for why in this particular instance the decision to restrict access is especially lamentable given the centrality of the site to the community. I decided to stay out of the debates (mostly), although I have complained in private to several folks as I, too, see the decision as unfortunate for a variety of reasons.

I enjoy poker. I enjoy writing about it and giving others who like the game something that might add further to their enjoyment. I also like the way nearly all of the poker community -- especially those who run tournaments and series -- tend to think similarly about the overall positive that comes from freely-distributed promotion and reporting that excites players and fans alike and (importantly) nurtures the game in a broader sense.

It’s my blog and I’ll write about what I want to, and I’ll never ask anyone to give me something first before “giving it away” here. But remembering what my friend said to me five or six years ago, I’m not so enthused right now to use this space to promote those who don’t believe there’s any benefit to be had from being part of a community unless you get something tangible back for everything you give.

I get it -- business is business. But the poker community isn’t a poker game -- i.e., a “zero sum” situation in which no one can win unless someone else loses. We both can give and receive and still come out ahead.

I mean, I’ll write about other things. Not getting paid anyway... right?

Photo: “Please Pay Here 3-14-09 19” (adapted), Steven Depolo. CC BY 2.0.

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Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Actually, I bought your book because of finding this site, so there's that for you.

6/06/2016 4:02 PM  
Blogger persuadeo said...

Seems to me writers have more credibility and freedom when they are not paid by the organization they are covering, and am not inclined to read stuff that is bought coverage.

6/07/2016 5:02 PM  

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