I’m Moving All My Writing Behind a Paywall

Hey there.

For a while now I’ve been wrestling with writing online. Ever since I stopped writing MillennialEvangelical.com, I’ve struggled a bit with what to write. What’s my niche? Do I have one? Does it matter?

I’ve written the “Content Made Simple” newsletter for nearly four years now. It’s a weekly newsletter about social media trends and strategy….among other things. About 700 people receive that every week, and I understand that it’s helpful for a lot of folks. I want to write a lot more about social media strategy and trends.

…But I just have a hard time motivating myself to write here at this blog.

I’ve really struggled with writing generally. I love doing it, but about what? For what purpose? I don’t care about people knowing me. I don’t care about getting as many views as possible. Writing with a prompt is easy. Writing for various outlets that ask me to write and give me some direction is fun.

But, investing hours of time into a free blog just isn’t it for me anymore. It doesn’t really seem worth it.

So I decided this weekend to move any writing I do behind a paywall through Substack.

The new project is called Terms of Service.

Why the Paywall?

Honestly? Part of the reason I struggle to write is because I don’t want to give away my writing for free to the few hundred people who may read it.

As an example, right now, I can earn $250 for writing a column for a website. It’s a blessing! I’m grateful. This sort of professional writing pays real bills.

…It also makes it a little hard to motivate myself to write for free on my blog. If I’m going to be honest.

If I’m going to take an hour or two or longer to write a piece of content, I’d rather 10 people read it and pay to read it than 100 people read it for free and move on with their lives.

Also, I think that when people pay for things, they value them more. I get more out of my New York Times paid subscription than just about any free content I read anywhere. I think part of the reason for that is that I pay for it and I value it more.

I think that what I write is worth a small fee, especially the social media strategy content. So I think it’s time that I start acting like it’s worth something.

I also think this will lead to less tweeting about trends and strategy. I plan to move most of that behind the paywall too. I won’t be abandoning Twitter or anything like that. But I do think most of my commentary on social/internet trends will move from Twitter to Terms of Service as well.

How People Consume Content Has Changed

Once upon a time, if you wrote a personal blog like this one, you could grow a nice readership. Those early days of blogging were great.

These days, most personal blogs amount to little more than noise on social media timelines. It feels harder than ever to make a real impact.

Today, the content world is just a bit different. The massive amount of time investment needed to get a personal blog like this off of the ground just isn’t worth it. At least not to me.

Few people read when I write content here, and the feedback I get is minimal. Like I said above, I think I would rather have a devoted group of 10 people paying to read what I write, engaging with it, than 100 people reading what I write and never hearing from them again.

I don’t really expect the paid readership format to work. But I am willing to experiment with it and see what happens.

How Much Does It Cost?

It costs $5/month or $50 per year to subscribe. You can subscribe here.

My weekly “Content Made Simple” email will continue to be free as part of the Terms of Service project (you can also subscribe to that for free at the link above). It will be delivered through Substack, totally free to anyone who wants to subscribe. All other content will be behind the paywall, visible on the site and delivered via email whenever anything new is published.

What Is Included?

I am currently planning to write two posts per week, in addition to my weekly free newsletter. The content will vary between social media/online content strategy and commentary on social media trends. I plan on writing more posts like this or this or this.

This is my plan, for now:

  • Monday: New content behind paywall
  • Tuesday: Free Content Made Simple newsletter
  • Thursday: New content behind paywall

I want to give this a try for a year or so, hopefully. If no one subscribes, so be it. I’ll hang up the keyboard, and we’ll call it a day.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps I’ll see a few of you over on Terms of Service.

I Don’t Want to Change the World Anymore

When I was in the eighth grade, I had it all planned out: I would attend West Point Military Academy. I would become a lawyer. Then a senator. Then President of the United States. I wanted to change the world.

When I was a freshman in college, I resisted the Lord calling me to ministry because I was afraid of living on food stamps as a youth pastor for the rest of my life. After a number of friends and mentors (and the Holy Spirit) convicted me of my fear, I recognized the calling like they did and submitted myself to a lifetime of ministry. I had no idea what that would look like, but I knew I wanted to change the world.

But in the last year or so, I think something’s changed.

I don’t want to change the world anymore.

I can’t say for sure if my heart was in the right or wrong place when I used to want to change the world. Sometimes I am sure my motives were mostly good.

But I know that, many times, I wanted to change the world so I would be remembered. So that I would appear in school history textbooks and documentaries you would never watch on your own time but that you love to watch at school.

I wanted to change the world because it was the only way I thought I could achieve significance.

But I don’t want to change the world anymore.

I don’t want to be remembered in history textbooks or documentaries.

I don’t care to have a lasting impact on the world.

It sounds depressing, but I promise it’s not.

Serving as the leader of my local church’s student ministry has made me care more about discipling the middle and high schoolers in my community than getting blog pageviews on this site.

Settling into my role at LifeWay, even as much as it has changed over the years, has made me more interested in equipping others to stand in the spotlight than standing in it myself.

Reaching five years of marriage to my wife, Susie, has made me more interested in learning how to best serve and love her than pursuing opportunities to impress others.

Publishing my first book, a lifelong dream I never expected to accomplish, has made me less interested in ever publishing another one, no matter what “groundbreaking” ideas may come along.

As I have grown into adulthood and settled into a home, a job, and a community, I have lost my desire to change the world.

And I think that’s OK.

Whether it be because of recent events or because of a general growing in maturity I’m not sure, but I have come to the conclusion that living a life of ordinary faithfulness is no less noteworthy than a life that fills volumes of biographical books and documentaries.

I don’t want to change the world. I just want to live a life of quiet, ordinary faithfulness. To Christ. To my wife. To my church. To my work.

Don’t get me wrong: wanting to change the world isn’t bad. Don’t let me stop you.

I guess I’ve just become more concerned with doing everything I can to serve the people in my midst than with impressing people on the internet or otherwise around the world.

I’ve barely posted on here lately, and a small part of me has felt guilty about that. But a much bigger part of me hasn’t felt guilty about it at all, and I’ve wondered why.

I think it’s because I don’t care to change the world anymore.

I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and have been able to help on here over the years, but I just don’t care to do it as much anymore. Other things have taken priority.

I want to still help and serve people online. But it’s dramatically fallen down my list of priorities the last year or so.

So I apologize that I haven’t posted much on here lately.

But I’m not really that sorry about it.

I’m Not Worthy of the Foreword to My Book

My wife hasn’t read my book. I don’t know if she will. But she has read the foreword Dr. Thom Rainer wrote to my book. “It makes me cry every time,” she says.

I have to admit, I don’t feel worthy of the foreword Dr. Rainer wrote for Ministering to Millennials. Reading it doesn’t make me cry like it does my wife, but it does make me feel embarrassed and unworthy.

If you aren’t aware, Dr. Thom Rainer is the President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. That means he is my boss. He is also the author and co-author of a number of books including I Am a Church MemberAutopsy of a Deceased Church, and most recently, Becoming a Welcoming Church.

Perhaps most importantly in the context of my book, Dr. Rainer co-wrote The Millennials with his son, Jess Rainer.

I asked Dr. Rainer to write the foreword for my book because of his experience writing and speaking about Millennials and because I could not be more grateful to be working under his leadership in my role at LifeWay.

Here is the foreword for Ministering to Millennials. To purchase, order from Amazon or email me here.

I like Chris Martin.

He is an introvert like me. We love not talking to each another. We don’t worry about awkward conversations when we happen to get on an elevator together. We may grunt a few syllables, but then move into blissful silence.

But I like Chris for more reasons than his introversion. I like him because he knows his generation. He understands the Millennials. He is more than a casual observer. He is a researcher of the highest caliber, not just a numbers and stats researcher, but a keen observer of all things Millennials.

Indeed, when I want to know the attitudes of Christian Millennials, I look to Chris. When I want to get a deeper understanding of the non-Christian Millennials, I look to Chris. When I really want to know how they think, how they work, how they are motivated, and how they will respond, I look to Chris.

In your hands is an incredibly valuable tome about the Millennial generation. Frankly, you will find few resources with the kind of insights you are about to read. You will be amazed at his prescient knowledge, his thoughtful insights, and his fair treatment of a generation that has been analyzed, categorized, and stereotyped.

By the way, Chris works for me at LifeWay Christian Resources. I know him in that context as well. From day one at LifeWay, he has made a great impression and far exceeded any high expectations we may have had of him. If the entitled Millennial myth had any traction with us, he destroyed that fable quickly.

If you are leading a church, you have the right book to learn about the Millennials. If you are in the business world, you have the right book to learn about the Millennials. If you are a student of generational studies, you have the right book about the Millennials.

But, even if you are none of the above, you have the right book. You see, this book is a clear mirror of our society and culture today. It offers insights even the most casual reader would enjoy and derive great benefits.

I am thankful for Chris Martin. I am thankful for this book. But, above all, I am thankful for the heart of the man behind this book. You are about to enter the world of the Millennials from the perspective of one of the most gifted and insightful men I have ever known. He is a gift to many of us. And because of his relative youth, I pray he will be that gift for many years to come.

Thom S. Rainer
President and CEO
Lifeway Christian Resources