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  • The new site is sexy, but I think we could do this change better (just follow me on this, I promise it's going somewhere). Cowbird has, up to this point, had a fairly basic strategy:

    1) Develop Content - Cowbird did a great job of building community, which encouraged users to post often. That allowed those users to develop relationships with each other, which in turn encouraged them to post more often (which of course meant more content creation). This is awesome for the users and built a huge amount of free content on the site that anyone from the web could browse and read.

    2) Promote, promote, promote - Because it allowed Google to index the site, and because it made it easy for users to share their stories via Facebook and Twitter, Cowbird became a great blogging tool for its users and a powerful SEO machine for its admins. It was a useful tool that shared enough content to market itself.

    In other words, Cowbird leveraged its users to do all of the content creation and the vast majority of the promotion. I'm not here to dispute that Cowbird is an awesome community, a great tool, and a lot of fun, because it's clearly all of the three. My point is that Cowbird has no paid writers or marketers. However, from a practical standpoint, Cowbird's entire user base has been doing the work of writers and marketers. To me, that makes Cowbird, and everything on it, community property.

    Given that understanding, I'm confused as to why the users who woodshedded Cowbird from the ground up are being monetized to the tune of $5 a month - shouldn't the original users who were creating the content and providing all of the free marketing be grandfathered in with free citizenship? For the record I haven't been on the site long so I don't think I personally deserve free citizenship, but what about people like Benjamin Weinberg? I think that man "loves" literally every story that gets posted on this site, and he posts high quality stories and poems that a lot of people enjoy and I'm willing to bet more than a few have shared (there's that word again). How is it fair to ask him or someone like him to pay to be a full member of the site?

    So here's where we end up - Cowbird started as and will likely remain a user-driven community. I, and I think most people, get that the sheer logistics of supporting a community of this size make monetization necessary; servers are expensive, and Benjamin and Annie need to eat. However, Cowbird's power users who built and promoted this site from the ground up deserve recognition and reward for bringing the site to a point where it could be monetized. There needs to be a metric, a cutoff date, or something that allows those users who have done the most work to become citizens without cost. Without institutional acknowledgement to those who built Cowbird, the site is less a storytelling community and more like a frat, where it makes no difference how long you've been around; the only metric for full membership is how willing you are to open your wallet.

    If you're reading this and you agree, please share and sprout your own thoughts.

    By the way, I Googled my ass off and checked blog.cowbird.com to see if maybe this was addressed somewhere, but I couldn't find anything. If this is something the site is already handling, someone please just let me know via the email or Twitter on my profile and I'll delete this story.
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