The successful and respected blog Retraction Watch–with 100,000 unique visitors and 450,000 page views per month, and growing–is now launching its own version of an online subscription.
But as Retraction Watch's founders, Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus, acknowledge, their subscription is more like a request that readers throw some cash into a tip jar.
"We're hoping some of you will consider making a financial contribution," Oransky writes. The idea is to use the extra funds for operating expenses, hiring other writers as contributors, conducting investigations, and building a proper retractions database.
But Retraction Watch will remain freely available to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. "Open access to information about scientific corrections and retractions is part of our ethos," Oransky writes.
Many online subscriptions offer premium services beyond what's available to non-subscribers. We don't hear nearly as much now as we did a few years ago about how information wants to be free. All sorts of payment schemes and subscriptions are now being tried on the web, and it's becoming clearer what works and what doesn't.
Could Oransky and Marcus have found a way to offer something extra without undermining the credo that their reporting should be freely available? Maybe when it establishes its retractions database, it could charge users for that, while continuing to offer the blog to everyone. I don't know, and I'm sure that Oransky and Marcus have thought about this more than I have. And I trust they are ready to experiment if this doesn't work.
The main thing is that Retraction Watch, which has become essential reading for scientists and science journalists, should find a way to continue and, if possible, expand.
So if you like it, throw some money in the jar, and ask them to play "Misty" for you.