We began this blog in April 2002, when it was just the Volokh Brothers. That’s almost 12 years of blogging. (How can it have been that long?)
In the course of these years, we’ve tried various experiments. The growth of the blog from the two brothers to a dozen-odd regular contributors has been one such experiment (or perhaps a series of experiments). The introduction of comments has been another. I know from reader e-mail that not all these changes have been universally acclaimed. But I think that, on balance, the blog is more viable and valuable because of these changes.
We’re now trying what might be the most ambitious experiment yet: a joint venture with the Washington Post. The Post will host our blog, and pass along its content to Post readers (for instance, by occasionally linking to our stories from the online front page). We will continue to write the blog, and Volokh.com will still take you here.
We will also retain full editorial control over what we write. And this full editorial control will be made easy by the facts that we have (1) day jobs, (2) continued ownership of our trademark and the volokh.com domain, and (3) plenty of happy experience blogging on our own, should the need arise to return to that.
The main difference will be that the blog, like the other Washingtonpost.com material, will be placed behind the Post’s rather permeable paywall. We realize that this may cause some inconvenience for some existing readers — we are sorry about that, and we tried to negotiate around it, but that’s the Post’s current approach.
Here are the details on how this will work:
1. For the first six months, you can access the blog for free. We negotiated that with the Post, by giving up likely about half of our share of the advertising revenue for that time. (Six months is the longest we could get.)
2. Even after the six months, the blog will be outside the paywall for any .edu and .gov readers. If you are an .edu and .gov user, but want to access the blog from home, you will be able to do that just by registering for a free account. (Indeed, that’s true for all Washington Post content.)
3. The first 10 page accesses per month to Washington Post material will be free, so if you’re an occasional reader, you’ll likely be able to read the blog the familiar way.
4. Even beyond this, all readers will still be able to read all the posts on the blog via
- its RSS feed,
- its Facebook feed (which will be up shortly), and
- its Twitter feed (click Follow at http://twitter.com/VolokhC) — about 10,000 of you already subscribe to us via Twitter.
We’d have liked to keep our blog entirely outside the paywall, but one problem with joint ventures is that one sometimes doesn’t get what one likes. And I hope the payoff will be a broader reach for our ideas, which is why we blog in the first place.
I suspect that many of you might have more questions, so let me try to answer them below.
1. Do you really mean that you’re keeping editorial independence? Won’t the content of the blog inevitably change? Those were the first questions we asked the Post people, and they assured us that they had no desire to change what we do.
After all, they approached us because of who we are and what we write. They know our ideologies. They know our blogging style. They know that we sometimes put up quirky non-law posts. They tell us they’re fine with all of that.
This having been said, we recognize that a few things will change, not because of their demands but because our attitudes to blogging will change in some measure. When someone else’s brand is at stake in what you write, you think about that before writing.
I don’t think this will make us shy away from controversy — that’s not our temperament — but it might lead us to cut back on a few of the more personal posts (though I’ll never cut back on the math puzzles). Still, on balance I expect that this will be a very slight effect. We blog because we have things we want to say, and having the Post platform will, if anything, make us more likely to want to say them.
2. What about the comments? We’ll still have comments on the blog, we’ll still ask our commenters to keep it civil and substantive, and we’ll still delete comments that strike us as over the line (and ban commenters who turn to vulgarities or personal insults).
We probably will have an influx of new commenters, so we can’t predict precisely how they will affect our commenting culture. But I hope they are influenced by the culture they see, and will try to adapt to it.
3. What will you do with all the millions you’ll rake in? We are sharing advertising revenue with the Post, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be much. Our hourly rate for our blogging time will remain pretty pathetic. We’re not in it for the money; if we were, we’d be writing briefs, not blog posts.
4. You’ve got a good thing going — why mess with it? That is a question we asked ourselves a lot when we were deciding whether to experiment with this. But it comes down to why we blog: to spread our ideas.
We think there’s a good chance that this joint venture with the Washington Post will help us find a broader audience for our ideas, while still keeping — we very much hope — all of you in our existing audience. And if you like our ideas, we hope that you’ll also value the possibility that those ideas will be spread more widely than before.
So please bear with us as we try this out. We hope that a year from now the blog will be stronger than ever before, and that you’ll be here to enjoy it with us.