I just commented on a blog post by one of The Lichfield Blog’s excellent contributors, Annette Rubery. She talks about the closure of Guardian Local and the attitude of the Guardian towards contributions.
I wanted to make sure you, my readers, saw my comment, so here it is;
This is something I think about a LOT. As one of the main non-journalistic influences of The Lichfield Blog I’m mainly charged (self-inflicted, of course) with the task of making sure TLB survives and thrives.
A big part of that is, honestly, ‘how do we get people to contribute for free?’
That’s not something that sits comfortably with me and is instantly followed (in my head) by ‘what does it give them?’
You’re contributions are some of the most exciting that we have! As you know we’ve talked about how to make sure that isn’t just sucking up your time for nothing but producing an end product that makes it worthwhile.
Because while free contributions are brilliant, as any volunteer organisation will understand (and I’ve seen enough to know), you can never rely on volunteer contributions. Paid work will (obviously) always come first as will pretty much everything else you can think of.
TLB works well so far because so many people have committed so much to it. It won’t take much to erode that commitment though and so we need to be aware that if we don’t provide solid returns (and yes, that sounds horrifically corporate) our contributors will eventually disappear. I wouldn’t blame them.
Cuddly community-benefit volunteer fuel only takes you so far down the road. At some point you need to switch to the premium stuff to keep going.