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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

free pageviews per month dropping to 20

I’ve dropped the free page views per month to 20.

There is an extremely limited time left in which I am going to be able to keep up the enormous workload here without more support from readers. If you would be sorry to see activity here decrease dramatically, please subscribe now. You can do so by clicking on the pageviews counter at the bottom right of your screen.

Thank you.

(Please see here if you’ve subscribed and are still seeing the pageview counter and getting the reminders to subscribe.)


previous: I’ve done some futzing with the TinyPass paywall… [Sep 29 2013]

I’ve been extremely disappointed by the lack of response from regular readers here to the paywall situation. Most posts remained free, while a few choice ones were premium, but then everyone got four free premium posts per month. When that didn’t prompt many people to subscribe, I dropped the free premium views to two. Still no luck.

So here’s how the new system works. Everything here is now behind a paywall. Everyone gets 99 free views per month. Here’s the catch: if you’re not a logged-in subscriber, you’re gonna get reminders after every few pageviews to pay up. After 99 pageviews, you’ll be blocked.

If you’re spending that much time here, you really need to be supporting my work here.

Two upsides to the new system:

• There’s now an option for an annual subscription.
• The full-content RSS feed (a bonus for subscribers) is now operating properly again — no posts are getting truncated.

There’s also now a way for me to alter some aspects of the site so that it appears differently to subscribers and nonsubscribers. I might look into running ads again, to appear only to nonsubscribers, for instance.

Current subscribers have already been sent an email notifying them of the change in paywall tactics. But if you’re already a subscriber, there’s nothing you need to do and you shouldn’t notice any difference at all (as long as you’re logged in, that is).

Come the new year, I’m going to be making some hard decisions about what I can continue to do here without more support from regular readers. (There are thousands of you, and only a few hundred have subscribed. I need more of you.) If you haven’t already become a subscriber, now is the time to do so.

Thank you.

(Oh, and, of course, I reserve the right to lower that 99-free number if necessary.)


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  • Yeah, I was wondering what that 98 views left thing was in the corner. I’m a subscriber, too. I guess I’m not logged in or something.


    Ok, logged in. # all gone.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    Yeah, I think 99 is way too much. Nobody needs to read 99 reviews a month, even if they go to the movies twice a week that’s 8 films per month. I’d drop that to 10 or 12.

  • It’s not just reviews, however: *everything* now counts toward the 99 pageviews. Reviews, trailers, Doctor Who Things, Question of the Week — every post and page here.

    I’ll see how this works.

  • RogerBW

    I was seeing some advertisements just above or at the top of the Disqus pane in the last few weeks, but they seem to have vanished now.

  • That was me. I put an ad above the comments for Amazon US’s Prime service, which is a must if you stream lots of stuff in the US. I get an affiliate fee if people subscribe.

  • Rod Ribeiro

    You’re missing the point. If I have 99 views, maybe I can’t see all the site at once, but I can see what’s most interesting to me. You’re creating only a mild scarcity for those who like all the site, and none for the general public (let me say clearly I’m not a Doctor Who fan). This is not the way to go.

  • Yes, but you’re getting a reminder every few posts to subscribe.

    I’m trying to find a balance between not driving readers away entirely and prompting them to pay.

  • Judy

    Come on people, subscribe. This is valuable content, well worth the cost to enjoy!

  • Fiona Love

    Maryanne,

    While I do enjoy your work and think that your viewpoint is interesting and worth reading, I think that your pay-wall solution is the wrong way to go.

    It seems punitive and turns casual readers off. I think that asking for donations would be a better route to asking for remuneration for your work. You can even have occasional fund-raising drives like NPR. Give away stuff like tote-bags or something.

    Of course even this solution may not provide the amount of support you need. And there’s the rub.

    I’ve been doing online comics for the past six years and despite my best efforts, I don’t make a ton of money at it. I have a “day job” (in quotes because it’s at night). And yeah, I’d really like to make a living off of my work. That’d be swell. But at the end of the day I have to ask myself why I am doing the work. Am I doing it to earn a living? While that would be ideal, no. I’m doing it because I love to do it. So I’ll keep making comics, and hopefully get better at it and hope that people will read and like my comics and maybe I’ll even get some small financial support here or there.

    So you might have to work at a grocery store to make ends meet. In the evening you can write for your website because that’s your passion.

    And I know that movie tickets and transportation to theaters to see movies costs money, but I would hope as a online critic of some fame you would be at least able to go to press screenings. And if not, maybe the donations can help defer some of the cost.

    Anyway, best of luck in the future. I bear you no ill will and I hope that you succeed whatever the method you choose to employ.

    Best Wishes,

    Fiona

  • bronxbee

    it’s amazing to me how many people — including, amazingly *creative* people — think that the desire to earn a decent living from producing a creative, interesting, different “product” is something out of line. being able to go to press screenings or gallery openings, even if for free, to see the work that is making *other* people rich is hardly a compensation. should one only be paid a living wage for things you hate doing? (although today, even making a living wage doing something you hate is almost out of the question). a creative person spends years and years learning their craft… does a person who makes bespoke shirts, handmade shoes, designer clothes, expect to be paid decently for their creative efforts? yes, indeed. so why not writers, cartoonists, artists… no one forces you to read the site, but that doesn’t mean it should be offered up as a willing sacrifice with no hope of return.

  • Fiona Love

    Bronxbee,

    In an ideal world we would all be paid a living wage for doing what we are passionate about, particularly someone as talented an able as Maryann. Unfortunately we live in a world where people cannot be bothered to support the things they like or even love. A painful lesson I have learned personally.

    Since we live in this less-than-ideal reality, two questions remain:

    One, should the creative person who is not getting properly compensated for their work continue with the work?

    Two, should the creative person allow other people access to their work if they are not willing to compensate the creative person accordingly?

    Personally, I have answered yes to both questions. Maryann has to make her own determination. My encouragement is to continue the work, regardless. And if she prefers to keep it behind a pay wall, that is fine as long as she is OK with declining viewership (depending on the robustness of the pay wall).

    I do not think Maryann should close up shop because people are unwilling to compensate her for her work. I think this would be more injurious to Maryann than to her readers. So regardless of how she chooses to proceed, I would encourage her to continue the work.

    As an old art teacher of mine once told me:

    Is the art worth doing even if you are not getting fame or fortune commiserate with your talents?

    He would then answer his own question: Ask Van Gogh.

    Admittedly not the best example considering he cut off his ear and committed suicide, but his work now sells for millions and he is universally admired.

  • ux

    This makes me sad. I’ve depended on this blog for probably 5 or 6 years to find out what movies would unintentionally make me mourn for society and avoid them. I understand that the writing you do here is real work and you need to be compensated somehow, but as much as I’d like to support you, I just can’t afford $50 a year and there’s no way around that.

    I’d be happy to help with any kind of social media campaign for extra publicity or donations, and if there was a pay-as-you-wish option I could probably commit to a couple bucks a month, but this is just going to make it impossible for me to remain a reader and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Even considering the circumstances, I’m not sure it’s the best business move.

  • So, what I do is real work, and I should continue to provide it as a service for the Internet, even if everyone who depends on it can’t afford or can’t be bothered to support it.

    How does *that* work as a “business move”?

    I guess I haven’t made myself clear enough. I’m broke. I’m in debt. I’m terrified. It’s not like I’m doing this for fun in my off hours and would like folks to chip in to support my hobby. I work more than full time hours here — that’s what it takes to make what you see here. And I’m making next to nothing. So the choice for everyone — readers and me — is very soon going to be: I can keep doing this if I can get paid real money for it. Or I have to stop doing it so I can do something else that will earn me real money. If I can even find paying work. But it’s pretty clear now that not enough people care about the site to toss only five bucks a month my way. So what kind of idiot would I be to keep doing this?

    It makes me sad — sadder than you can possibly imagine — to think I might have to give this up. But *I* just can’t afford to keep *this* up, and there’s no way around *that.*

  • I’ve asked for donations. It didn’t work.

  • Yeah, Van Gogh is not the best example.

    Unless you’re suggesting I commit suicide.

  • ux

    I didn’t mean to imply that expecting to be supported by your work is morally repugnant; it just seems to me that you have a lot of loyal readers who care enough to want to help but can’t manage the flat rate you’ve set. I wonder if you can’t find some way to leverage that into at least some of the support you need. What would be so wrong about adding some Google Ads? Would something like that really impact your impartiality? I don’t mean to trivialize or explain away your situation, and I want this site to continue as always, but I know I won’t be able to help in this way and I wonder if there aren’t additional ways of utilizing readers like me that would increase this site’s chances of survival.

  • Bluejay

    I just can’t afford $50 a year … I could probably commit to a couple bucks a month

    Full disclosure: I got in on an earlier subscription deal and am paying less than that. But I just want to point out that $50 a year comes out to just around four bucks a month, or 14 cents a day. I won’t presume to tell you you can afford 14 cents a day, but that’s just how $50/year breaks down, if that perspective helps.

    this is just going to make it impossible for me to remain a reader

    But you CAN remain a reader. If you can’t afford to or don’t want to pay, you can remain a reader for 20 free views a month. That’s a better deal than you’ll get from most real-world businesses; Starbucks won’t give you 20 free coffees a month just because you really, really like coffee.

  • Danielm80

    I’d be happy to help with any kind of social media campaign for extra publicity or donations, and if there was a pay-as-you-wish option I could probably commit to a couple bucks a month…

    You can always buy some of MaryAnn’s merchandise. Her book about The Princess Bride is hilarious. The purchases won’t get rid of the paywall around her reviews–at least, not right away–but it might ensure that there are reviews online for you to read.

    You can also follow her Amazon link when you’re shopping online. That way, she gets a small commission on items you were going to buy anyway.

    MaryAnn has chosen a very difficult career path, and it’s possible that there are no good business moves for her to take. Until she’s hired as a full-time critic at the New Yorker, her fans are supporting her in whatever way we can, small or large.

  • I used to have ads all over the site. They brought in very little money, and ad revenues online have dropped since then. Even the huge sites are feeling the sting from plummeting ad revenues.

    When I started the subscription thing (long before the paywall), I was asking readers to give only a single lousy buck per month. Very few took me up on it.

    Maybe I’ll do a “sale,” and let new readers subscribe at a cheaper rate for a short time. But that feels like it would be unfair to those who have paid the higher rate.

  • Bluejay

    Unfortunately we live in a world where people cannot be bothered to support the things they like or even love.

    I hope that those of us who think that’s a problem also decide that we personally won’t be part of that problem.

  • bronxbee

    the NY Times used to give you 10, not sure how many you get now, because i’m a subscriber…but any that don’t charge a subscription fee are loaded with ads and most likely have a full staff (paid) that takes care of all the little problems and uploads. a lot of the ones where you pay a subscription have a load of ads too… (NYTimes…)

  • LaSargenta

    Are you for real? Creative work is just as important as any other kind and deserves remuniration and not just enough to cover the cost of getting to screenings.

  • Fiona Love

    Reread my post. I agree it deserves remuneration. I wish we lived in that world. We don’t.

  • Fiona Love

    I would love to help out. Unfortunately I live paycheck to paycheck. Every extra dime goes to paying off debt I’ve accumulated by using my credit card to pay utilities bills and for food. I wish my job paid me a living wage. If my financial situation improves, I’d be more than happy to contribute.

  • Fiona Love

    Unfortunately I think more and more people are finding themselves in this situation. And as peoples’ disposable income decreases or disappears all together, things that we wish to support we cannot. And I only see it getting worse before it (hopefully) gets better.

  • Fiona Love

    No. But he did do some amazing work.

  • Bluejay

    That’s an entirely fair and valid reason not to contribute. However, that’s different from people who, as you say, “cannot be bothered” to contribute. I hope that people who CAN contribute, and who derive enjoyment from MaryAnn’s work, decide to count themselves among those who make life a little easier for creatives rather than harder.

  • Danygalw

    Given that not blowing through 20 pageviews in a single night is very difficult, I assume your strategy does not involve attracting any new readers, at all, or retaining any readers who don’t pay?

  • RogerBW

    Shocking, isn’t it? Anybody might think that the pageview limit was meant to be a taster of what you could get if you paid.

  • Danygalw

    …so her strategy involves neither attracting any new readers, at all, nor retaining any readers who don’t pay?

  • Danielm80

    If you’re blowing through 20 pages in a single night, and posting multiple comments saying you want to read more, then it’s possible MaryAnn has attracted a new reader.

    Of course, if none of the readers pay, then she won’t be able to post any more of the content you’re enjoying, since she has no other source of income.

  • Wow! If you like my work that much, perhaps you might consider paying to support it so I can keep doing it.

    Readers who don’t pay are welcome to stick around. They’re just limited in how much content they can enjoy for free.

    I’m curious: How do you think all the material you see blowing through those 20 pages is created?

  • Bluejay

    I think the Internet has spoiled us. We’re so used to getting so much online content for free — because those content creators have other sources of revenue — that we forget that getting free stuff is a treat, not an entitlement.

    Content creators have every right to ask for financial compensation for their work. Whether they give stuff away for free — and how much of it — is entirely up to them. When we say “But I demand MORE free stuff!” we just wind up sounding presumptuous.

    C’mon, folks! Unless you’re truly, honestly in dire circumstances, five bucks a month won’t kill you. But it would mean a world of difference to the person whose website you all seem to like visiting so much.

  • RogerBW

    It’s the new Gresham’s Law — because people are largely insensitive to quality, bad/free content drives out good/paid. If all you want from a newspaper is some vague idea of what you should be talking about at work, a news web site is just as good or better. (If you want thoughtful commentary, tough, because most newspapers stopped doing that years ago.)

  • Danygalw

    It’s not pages, it’s pageviews. Search results, index pages, this page, the home page all count, as does reloading a page. That’s what takes it from “if you like this you can pay for it” to “my business strategy involves never attracting any new readers ever again”. That’s why I commented in the first place, because the paywall was so bizarre.

    When I said blowing through, that was the right verb. It’s not an indication that I liked it that much, or even at all. It’s hard not to do that. I mean, it’s been months. If I actually cared about the content at all, I wouldn’t be staring at an arrogant blue box saying 17 views left (it’s purely from refreshing this page, trying to find the words to express what I mean) like I’m ever going to use them. I mean, there’s nothing on your site that can’t be found just as easily by googling.

    Ack. Of course I hope you find a way to support yourself by doing what you love, but… all the work you put in, how do you end up with something so generic? Obviously you’ve attracted a group of loyal followers, so you must be something right… why am I trying to give you advice when I’m not even capable of paying for things online, this could never result in… look, I just thought the paywall on the home page was going a bit far. And while you can access this page at 0 views it still counts before then. So that’s a bit weird. That’s all.

  • You’re awfully upset about content that you don’t care about and that’s so generic.

  • Danygalw

    I’m a little sad that you’re having trouble supporting yourself in the manner you’ve chosen, and keep getting misunderstood.

    In short: your home page, monthly archive pages, etc. aren’t content. It makes no sense for them to be behind a paywall: they’re what people look at to find out what this mysterious “content” is for which they could be paying. And having this page behind the paywall is just vindictive. Cruel.

  • Your concern for me and my generic content continues to mystify me. And not that it really matters, but I understand perfectly well what you’re saying. In fact, visitors that come here directly from another site (say, by following a link on the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes) do NOT increment the counter: that only happens when they come directly back here later. You know, like if they liked my stuff and want more of it. And some pages — like the “all recent posts” page — are ALSO excluded from the counter, so everyone can see what’s been posted and decide if they want to see more.

    I understand my own business strategy, thank you very much.

    You might want to look into the meanings of “vindictive” and “cruel.” They don’t mean what you think they mean.

  • Danygalw

    You could look into “hyperbole” and “dramatic effect”.
    When I saw the little notification symbol on Disqus and clicked the link I got here and I see a blue box saying 19 views. Not 20. I don’t think your paywall works how you think it does.

  • I’m done debating and explaining myself to you. Subscribe, or don’t.

  • Bluejay

    Your whole argument has basically been this: “I don’t really like your candy, and I will never pay for it, but I want you to give me more free candy. Also, you’re selling your candy all wrong, so let me give you advice on how to sell your candy, even if I’ll never buy it. Also, you promised me 20 free candies, but I only got 19, so you owe me a free candy, which I don’t really like, but you should give it to me anyway.”

    I don’t know if you realize how arrogant and entitled you sound. But you do.

    If you care enough about this site to keep coming back every month to argue, maybe you should subscribe. If you don’t care enough to subscribe, then just enjoy the free views you have. Or move on.

  • Tami

    It’s a shame you are not able to make a living doing this; but I suspect the Paywall is going to drive people like myself away. I have been reading your website for years, but if I had to pay for every site I read, I’d never go to any sites. So while I enjoy your writing, I’ll probably go elsewhere.

    I was just talking to my husband earlier today that it’s a shame the Internet had been perverted from a place where everything was free to a place people feel entitled to make money off of.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand your desire to make a living doing this, but all you’re really doing is alienating your userbase. I don’t need a sight that does reviews, and am on a limited budget, so you’ll never see me paying. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s that I can’t justify it.

    I have a hunch that if you weren’t making money from ads, they weren’t set up well. I can’t tell you how to change it, but I’ve seen much smaller sites survive on ad revenue. I will say this, the design changes over the past few years had gotten progressively harder to use and find the pages I wanted. Maybe that played into the failure of advertising revenue. Or not.

    But whatever the case, I won’t be paying – not because I don’t like you sure but because I just can’t afford these kind of Paywall, especially if the idea spreads.

  • Your hunch about ads is wrong. Ad revenue has plummeted in recent years. Even corporate sites are hurting because of it — that’s why you see even more ads, and more obnoxious ads, crowding out the content across the web.

    I’m sorry that you believe it’s “perverted” that people want to earn a living from work that 1) requires lots of time and expertise, and 2) lots of people are enjoying. “Entitled”? Why do you feel entitled to professional work for free? Do you feel entitled to other professional services for free? Would you expect an accountant or a plumber to work for free, and do you think that they shouldn’t feel like they should be paid for their work?

    I honestly do not understand positions like yours. Do you *want* to read writing only from amateurs who write as a hobby? Can’t you tell the difference between that and professional work? Cuz that’s the Web you’re going to end up with.

    You are of course free to go elsewhere for your film reviews. If you can get stuff like mine elsewhere, for free, great.

    But you do realize, don’t you, that I’m not really losing anything when readers who do not want to support my work don’t come back?

  • LaSargenta

    Once upon a time, young lady, there were these things called “newspapers” (which usually were new each day) and “magazines” (which were new each week or month). We purchased them at a thing called “stores” or, if we really liked a particular one (or several) and didn’t want to miss a single one, we sent a thing called a “subscription form” to the publisher, usually with a check (a piece of paper that transferred a specific amount of money that we designated from our bank account to the publisher’s account), and the newspaper or magazine was then delivered to our door or mailbox. The publisher took care of paying the writers who wrote the stories and articles in the newspapers and magazines. They did this through a combination of the subscription money and the advertising printed along with the stories.

    So, for $29.99 a year, or $40 a year, or some other price, you got Cosmopolitan or Rolling Stone or Interview or Esquire delivered to your mailbox and you got to read it. If you spent a lot of time in doctors’ office or beauty parlors, and read fast, maybe you’d get an opportunity to read the magazines for free.

    I really don’t know where you got the idea that everything was going to be free on the Internet. Sounds like some 15 y.o.’s cyber wetdream.

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