your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

gotta reduce free views of premium posts to two per month

Sorry, guys. Four free views is clearly too many, because you’re not subscribing.

No one else online is doing quite what I’m doing here. If my work is valuable to you, I need you to support it by subscribing.

Five bucks per month. That’s about three quid in the U.K. That’s one latte. It’s less than one movie ticket. It’s less than your monthly Netflix subscription.

It’s not a lot to ask for as payment for all the stuff I’m giving you.

Thank you.

previous: what’s that counter in the bottom right of your browser window?

The one that looks like this:


That’s what tells you how many free views of premium posts you’ve got left. At the moment, the counter is set at four — which means that nonsubscribers get to look at four premium posts each month before they’ll see requests to pay, either by becoming a monthly subscriber or on a pay-per-post basis.

If you don’t want to see that counter at all, you can find more information on bonuses for subscribers and a link to subscribe here.

Once you’re logged in via TinyPass as a subscriber, you won’t see that counter at all.

Please subscribe, if you haven’t already. It’s vital for the site’s survival.

posted in:
maryann buzz

  • PJK

    Could you please add some indication to the post listings which posts are premium?

  • They’re tagged “premium.” And it’s indicated in the daily digest, too.

    What sort of indication would you find useful? Something in the post title? A banner in the image? And how would this change how you use the site? Would you just not click on a post if it’s premium?

    I ask because I gave a lot of thought to how much info would be free in premium posts. The premium reviews, for instance, are, I think, still useful, in that nonsubscribers can see which traffic light I chose and a short blurb that gives an idea of my reaction, as well as external links (to IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, etc). I would hope that there’s still something useful there for those who don’t want to subscribe. Are you finding that that’s not the case?

  • PJK

    Thank you. It gives people an indication of which posts are premium before they click on them. If you give people a limited supply of free views it’s only fair to inform them beforehand when they would spend those free views.

    With the old situation (before you added the label in the title) you’d already have clicked on the article and spent one of the free views. Now you can at least make an informed choice.

    I think I burned through the free views for this month this way, because I clicked on articles that didn’t necessarily interested me that much, but which suddenly popped up this counter thing in the corner. I would have chosen what to read much more selectively if I had know this beforehand.

  • Ryan

    I didn’t realise at first how the premium system worked until one day I went to read your Man of Steel review and was blocked. It wasn’t entirely clear what was happening, but I soon figured it out. I have to day I was rather annoyed. I knew you were going to post premium articles for subscribers only, but I didn’t realise that would include your regular features, like reviews. I’m a firm believer that Internet commentary should be free. In fact, I think that’s the prime directive of blogs and Internet commentary, is free access for all. I know that running a website costs money, and that you have been trying to find a way for a couple of years to generate an income from this site. I first came to this site, because I loved your Doctor Who reviews and commentary, but I stayed for everything else. But, I’ve already found myself visiting your site less and less, due to the higher number of premium posts. I really don’t want there to be a time when I stop visiting entirely. But, the fact is, me, personally, will never pay to read an article on any website. That may sound selfish, but it’s against what I believe these sorts of websites stand for

  • Could you do me a favor? Could you explain how you think the content at this site gets created? How many hours a day do you think it requires?

    How do you think “Internet commentary should be free” actually works in real life?

  • FYI, since I started making some posts premium, I’ve posted 82 items. 11 of them are premium. Is that a “high number”?

  • I’m giving readers a limited number of free views *of a limited number of premium* posts. Most posts here do not fall under the paywall at all.

    There has also been almost 16 years of free views here.

  • Oh, and one more thing. Most premium posts will eventually come off premium and be available to everyone. I’ll notify readers via the daily digest when that happens for each post. So if you’d like to sign up for that list — the form is in the sidebar, and it’s absolutely free — you’ll be alerted as to when you can continue to read my content for free.

  • Anne-Kari

    I get that nearly everything on the internet is ‘free’ these days, and generally speaking I probably wouldn’t subscribe to anything made by a big corporation. I get it, really I do.

    But in terms of this site? I’m happy to subscribe. I subscribed years ago. This is an ad-free, independent site that were it a print-only publication, I would pay to have delivered to my house.

    Everyone has a right to choose not to buy something. I hope that other people who’ve enjoyed the tons of free content this site has provided over the years will consider coughing up the cost of one freakin’ Grande Latte per month to support something original.

  • Thanks, Anne-Kari.

    I really am asking for very little from subscribers. As you note, it’s the price of a single cup of fancy coffee (the kind that many people have once a day). It’s less than a pack of cigarettes. It’s half the price of a movie ticket, a quarter the price of a new DVD. My site is a luxury item for many readers, I realize, but does it give you the equivalent pleasure of those other things? I would hope it does.

  • PJK


    I just noticed that for premium posts, when the freeview counter hits zero, not only the article is no longer visible but also the comments that people made on the article. Was this intentional? Or is this a bug?

  • That’s intentional. The comments are still there, but they’re not visible except to those who are logged in.

  • PJK

    Isn’t that tantamount to claiming ownership to those comments? Are you not crossing the line there?

    I mean I can understand that you disable commenting for non-subscribers as an added incentive to make people subscribe so they can contribute to the discussion as it is going on, but by blocking the comments from being read you are basically making decisions about who can read text written by others without asking for their consent.

    You’d be in your right to block your own responses from being read, but i.m.o. you have no right to decide this for others without their consent.

  • Bluejay

    How does it work for, say, the New York Times website? I’m a subscriber, so I see everything. But I imagine that non-subscribers can’t see the comments section to the articles that they can’t access.

    My first thought is that it’s fair. We’re all at a party hosted by MAJ at her house, with special rooms reserved for paying guests. If you’re not a paying guest, why would it make sense to demand that you be able to hear the conversation of the people in the room?

  • LaSargenta

    You get full access to 10 articles a month (including comments) without a subscription. After 10 has been reached, you get nothing unless you subscribe.

  • Isn’t that tantamount to claiming ownership to those comments? Are you not crossing the line there?

    No, I don’t think it’s crossing a line, and no, I don’t think I’m claiming ownership of anything.

    Technically, there’s no way, with TinyPass, that I can show the comments on a post that’s been designated as premium.

    If this means you don’t want to comment on posts anymore, I understand.

    Premium posts won’t be premium forever, so comments will eventually be visible to everybody.

    But you’re free to post your commentary about my reviews elsewhere — at, say, your own blog — and I couldn’t stop you from doing that. If you want to participate in the community here, however, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that — on only a few posts here — you need to pay just a little bit of money for that.

    I’m sorry if you’re unhappy about all of this. I figured that this paywall stuff was going to make some people angry.

    Give me another option. I’m not being facetious — I’m completely serious. What other options do I have? Please tell me. I really really want to know.

    If there were some way for me to make a living from this without having to make anybody pay or restrict some content, I would do it. And honestly, I don’t know if this is going to work, either. (Response so far suggests that it won’t.)

    Do you not think it’s a little bit unreasonable for everyone to expect me to keep doing this for free forever?

  • OnceJolly

    I don’t think that’s quite right. You get a certain number of “views,” which you could exhaust on a single article.

  • LaSargenta

    That could be true. I can see how their server might track it that way.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    FFS, it’s a minor miracle, all things considered, that flickfilosopher.com has lasted as long as it has, and you want to quibble over the ability to view comments, on the basis of ownership?!? WTF, dude. That’s like helping out with dinner at a friend’s house and then claiming you own their frying pans.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That may sound selfish

    Y’think? You also left out entitled, childish, and rude. Tell me, are you also that guy who uses the comfy chairs in the bookstore to read books, then puts them back on the shelves?

  • OnceJolly

    Problem with that analogy is that once you start excluding people from the kitchen, the conversations that used to make coming there in the first place worthwhile may no longer be happening.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    If all you’re doing is eating the food, and all you’re contributing is conversation, then at a certain point you’re not actually contributing anything of value. And now, you’re just bitching that the fridge is empty.

    See, the analogy works just fine.

  • PJK

    Look, let me make things clear here, I’m trying to spark a discussion about the consequences of introducing a paywall. In order to do that I have to point out what I think are things that I feel are not (for a lack of a proper word) proper.

    I’m not mad at MaryAnn for choosing this model and I wish she could have found another way of making this site work for her financially so we could have stayed at the open model we all enjoyed before because I think that sparked a genuine discussion about the movies she reviewed for everyone, from the diehard “50 times a day” visitors to the people who’d check in specifically for one movie review.

    With the current system in place this organic process has been completely destroyed because you can’t be a casual visitor and comment on a movie review and check back because it will blow through your free views with every check you do (I can’t get back into posts that I read under freeview to check if anybody responded to any comments because of this).

    The discussion I was trying to spark with the starting post was the following: Can someone claim ownership of content not produced by them in an effort to secure income from content produced by them without explicit consent from the other parties?

    I wanted people to think about the ramifications of this idea.

    This is a new phenomenon that came with the online world we live in, because before we had a strict separation of the producer and consumer roles. A artist would produce a work and the consumer would buy and “consume” the work and that was about the level of interaction they had.

    With the advent of the interactive model we’ve blurred this line and I want people to think about what is acceptable now that the traditional roles no longer apply (we are in fact now both producer and consumer).

    So to summarise: This isn’t just about MaryAnn and FlickFilosopher.com, this is about what we as a community find acceptable and not acceptable when introducing a paywall on a community driven site.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The first problem here is that you seem to make a claim of ownership to comments. IANAL, but I’m pretty sure you don’t have one. Just as you don’t have a claim of ownership to a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Blog comments are allowed at the blog owner’s pleasure, and the owner has the right to edit and remove any comments at will. Again, IANAL, but even if you tried to claim ownership, I’m fairly certain you’d have to show damages. Given that you, in particular, are commenting anonymously, I don’t see how you could even demonstrate that you personally wrote those comments.

    I also think you’re pretty confused as to what constitutes a “community driven site”. What is it you think you are producing to maintain and promote this site? The only community created content here is the comment threads, and with all due respect to and admiration of MaryAnn, and despite her best efforts to change this, that isn’t that much content. The average post here gets, what, two dozen comments? If this were the kind of site that generated a couple hundred comments per post on average, you might have a point. As it stands, the simple fact is that the only a very, very small percentage of readers on this site even stop to leave a comment.

    Your concern also comes off as entirely unreasonable, because MaryAnn’s policies are eminently reasonable. Every viewer is given limited access to paid content. That access is then restricted for a limited period of time. And as she mentioned to Ryan last week, we’re only talking about 15% of the content on the site. If it seems like it’s the most valuable content that gets put behind the pay wall well fucking duh, man!

    As far as your desire to “spark conversation”, to what end? Concern that your precious words aren’t getting their due? Like Ryan, do have some sort of cyber-anarchist ideal that everything that gives you enjoyment ought to be free? All you seem to want to talk about is how inconvenient and distressing it all is for you. What you don’t offer are meaningful options on how you and others can materially support the site.

  • Blue

    Good grief, what an angry little man you are.

    What gives you the right to attack someone like that?

    Unfortuantley I won’t be coming back to this site, what with the half arsed “premium” views concept (here’s a little fact about the internet for you: even in the age of trolling most people visit sites like this to read not comment) and your jumping to its defence in such an obnoxious way.

    I’m not hanging around to read whatever rant you post next. “Premium” or not.

  • PJK

    1) MaryAnn can do whatever she likes with her content. I’ve never said otherwise, not once in this entire thread.
    2) Do not make me out to be some sort of Cyber-Anarchist who demands that everything has to be free, because that is not me. If you want to rail against people who hold that attitude, please rail against those people, but don’t try to tar me with that brush because it feeds your moral outrage.
    3) It seems to me that your point is “comments are not worth a damn”, so why are you so upset that I seem to place a larger value on them?
    4) I comment anonymously because I don’t want every a-hole spammer/troller/ to have an easy way of finding me. MaryAnn knows who I am (I’ve sent her plenty of mails of the last few years plus I have entered my mail address on every comment I made). I’m still getting tons of spam on my first mail address, so I’m very careful on where I use my current most used mail address. I you feel the need to make it easy for those people to find you, be my guest, I’ll stick to my own ways of doing things.

    Since you don’t seem that interested in talking about the statement I made, but seem more interested in making me the punching bag for your own dislike for “non-paying” readers and their “entitlements”, I’ll stop responding to you.

    Have a nice day and chill out.

  • You may rest assured that I have thought about everything you’ve written here. You may rest assured that I am torn up as hell about having to limit some content.

    The other alternative at this point is that the site goes away entirely.

    It is the readers — including people who think the way you do about all this — who will ultimately decide the fate of this site.

  • I’m sorry you’re now finding this site “half-arsed.”

    Do you have another option for me? I’m not being sarcastic when I ask this. I really would like to know.

  • OnceJolly

    This isn’t a dinner party. This is a business. I have been a subscriber for the last couple of years. However, the main reason I’ve been willing to do so has not been for the reviews (I don’t watch Dr. Who and I find that with the handful of movies I see in a year, my tastes don’t really match with MAJ), It’s because from time to time I’ve found following some of the discussions worthwhile to follow (I don’t post here often and am not claiming any personal role in contributing to the site). Whether it holds for you or not, limiting the guest list potentially does diminishes the value I get from the site. However, I do understand that this is a business and may be a necessity to continuing to run that business.

    But if you want to use the dinner party analogy – some people would come strictly to hear the hostess speak and some come because there are interesting guests and the *combination* of those guests and a good hostess results in a good time. I’m happy to bring the wine, but only if the latter holds.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    1) Oh, come on. That’s a meaningless defense: you could say “You can’t do that”, and it would have exactly the same power as what you did say.

    2) Then you should consider avoiding their rhetoric and using less loaded phrases than “crossing a line”, and “explicit consent”. Because those signal that not only do you want her to do something else, you’re willing to try and shame her into acquiescing.

    3) No, that’s completely wrong. My point is that 1) you don’t own your comments in any meaningful way, and 2) you overestimate the value of the reader commentary on this site.

    4) I’m not criticizing your choice to comment anonymously. I’m saying that that choice makes it harder to claim authorship, let alone ownership, of anything posted under the name you use.

    Actually, I am entirely talking about the very specific statements that you made. I understand that you don’t like how I am responding, or the implications about your statements that I’m pointing out, or even my tone. But that’s not the same as me going off on another tangent.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Wow, two attempts at “last word by fiat” within an hour. Nice.

  • LaSargenta

    Bookstore? What’s a “bookstore”?

  • LaSargenta

    I can’t believe the whining about a partial, temporary paywall.

    I still have print subscriptions to several things. I pay, every year, for each of those things, a subscription fee. Back when I was growing up, I didn’t expect editorial articles, short stories, photography, reviews, investigative journalism, and analysis to be free. It still isn’t. It is just an illusion that it is ‘free’, somehow, someone is paying … and it just might be the creatrix/creator … and then all of us enjoying this munificence are just sponging.

    This shit on the web isn’t free, either. If I can afford access to the web (a computer or a handheld thingy w/ web access and the data connection and the power to run it/them and the stability to have a bank account to pay for all this with), then I can afford a subscription.

    I don’t hold with the ideology that all intellectual fruits should be free because the way it plays out in our capitalistic society is that it is ‘free’ for individuals, but no one takes care of the people doing the thinking and creating…we are not living in an (ideal) environment where different skills and knowledge are respected and honored and seen as indivisible from the needs of the society so all people are supported. If I solve someone’s basement leakage problem, it is seriously unlikely that anyone is going to come to my home to leave off a freshly killed deer or bring me eggs weekly so I can eat; or come and do my laundry so I can continue to have clean clothes and linens while I travel the town looking for messed up homes and stores to repair.

    I mean, fer reals, guys?!! WTF???!?!?!?!

  • OnceJolly

    I’m not sure why you guys keep repeating this kind of reasoning. Not because I disagree in principle with it, but because I don’t think it’s effective. MAJ has no obligation to justify that she needs to be able to make a living if she’s going to carry on with this site. Reasonable people understand this. However, I don’t get the impression that pleading with people to “do the right thing and subscribe” was particularly successful in the past.

    From my perspective, the point of premium content is to deny access to non-paying consumers, so that they’ll have to directly confront the following question: “Do I pay or do I do without?” I don’t engage in any intellectual gymnastics on the morality of paying for content when I’m tempted by ESPN’s “Insider” feature. I ask myself whether I want the content badly enough to justify the asking price and act accordingly.My decision isn’t mitigated by worries about whether or not sports journalist X is able to feed his family, or what effect it will have on the future content of the ESPN site.

    I have no problem with MAJ withholding access to non-paying contributors as a matter of *principle*. Once non-paying regulars figure out how the new system works, they can make their own decision about whether or not to submit comments.

  • Bluejay

    We still have those in Brooklyn.

  • You’re right: asking readers to voluntarily support this site did not work well enough. If it had, I wouldn’t have had to resort to trying a paywall.

    And you’re also right that philosophical issues don’t matter to most readers. They’ll pay if they think the content I’m offering is worth it. And if they don’t think it’s worth it, they won’t miss it when it’s gone.

  • OnceJolly

    I think a better analogy is going to the local pub, and being upset that you were asked to leave in mid-conversation with another patron because you didn’t buy anything. It’s not even like you ate the snacks or filled up a seat that could have been used by someone else, given the non-rival nature of digital content. Your behaviour *may* be commercially damaging if you upset the other patrons and they decide to leave, but that will be just as true of paying customers that misbehave.

  • But a pub in which almost *everyone* came and sat and bought nothing wouldn’t last for very long. How long would such a pub remain open?

  • OnceJolly

    Absolutely. I’m not objecting to the paywall and fully appreciate why it may be necessary. I just think Rocket’s analogy is poor.

  • The real problem is that there aren’t a lot of truly apt analogies for what’s happening on the Web.

  • OnceJolly

    You might want to spend some time thinking about what you’re actually doing when you’re posting comments. You’re basically agreeing to a license for the site to replicate your content as they see fit. They’re under no obligation to actually distribute that content under the terms that you want.Perhaps if you asked nicely, a site owner might remove your comments if they’re not being used in a way that you like. Probably better to understand what you’re agreeing to before you hit “post.”

  • OnceJolly

    BTW, you’re not actually ceding ownership (i.e. copyright) when you post here. There’s nothing to stop you from copying your own comments and posting them elsewhere (whether that is your own blog or another blog elsewhere).

  • LaSargenta

    Do I need a passport to get there?

  • LaSargenta

    With that comment I wasn’t actually trying to defend MAJ’s decisions. It was really a response in general to this ideology of “everything intellectual should be free” that seems to have infected our society. Die gedanken sind frei does not refer to everyone’s thoughts being free to take and run with, ya know?

    I’m just thoroughly perplexed by this way of thinking. This is the main place I spend time where I encounter it. So, I posted a comment.

    I do have empathy/sympathy/like-mindedness with some crowd-sourcing freeware programmers, but that’s all voluntary. Everyone participating is doing it for fun and brain-stretching. They are all lucky enough to have other ways of putting clothes on their backs and a roof over their heads. That’s different than consumption.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I would be happy to subscribe, but I only have a debit card, and as far as I can tell TinyPass only takes credit card details. Is there a way around this?

  • If your debit card is branded with MasterCard or Visa, that should work fine.

  • Overflight

    My main problem with the new system is that it doesn’t allow for a lump sum payment that grants you a subscription for a series of months: I don’t have a “real” credit card (and I currently live in the Netherlands where not only are such cards pretty rare but you can’t even get one without having had an account for 2 years) but rather a “rechargable” card that is supported by Mastercard. Therefore it«s a bit of a pain having to deal with recurring payments since you always have to remember to charge the card before hand (or leave a bunch of money in the card which IMHO somewhat defeats one of the advantages of having such a card which is in case of theft, the stolen amount is limited). If there is a way to activate a lump sum payment, please let me know.

  • You can pay with Paypal on Tinypass. Is that an option for you?

    If not, email me, and we’ll figure something out.

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