Why I’m Staying at Patheos Pagan

The Patheos contract kerfuffle could not have come at a worse time. We’re overloaded with political turmoil, I’m being pushed to deepen my devotional work, and on top of that I’ve come down with a horrible cold that requires medication that impacts my concentration. I’ve made a few private comments and I issued a brief statement to The Wild Hunt, but other than that I’ve been trying to keep a low profile.

But I’ve seen some concerns about censorship and content, so I feel the need to explain my thinking and restate my commitment to the integrity of my work.

I’m not going to recap the whole situation. Jason Mankey’s piece on Through the Grapevine is factual, though obviously some people disagree with his interpretation of the facts. I’m in strong agreement with Tom Swiss’s comments at the end of this piece:

If Patheos wants to give me a tiny bit of money to keep doing what I’m doing, and Patheos itself is not advocating anything I find nasty, and I can use their platform to continue to advocate for what (I think) is right … I don’t see that storming off in high dudgeon is going to produce a better outcome.

As for me…

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I will always write what I’m called to write

I’m a Pagan, a polytheist, a Druid, and a Unitarian Universalist. I write about my religious beliefs, the practices that support those beliefs, and the experiences that flow from my practices. I write about the social and political positions that flow from my religion. I try to be a voice of reason, but I’m not afraid to take a stand when necessary.

I’ve been on Patheos for four years. I’ve never been censored. I’ve never had anyone ask me to edit my work. I had one question about the copyright of a photo I used – it was mine (as are all the uncredited images on this blog).

If my work is ever censored for anything short of libel or copyright violations, I’ll move. I own the rights to my work and I can move it somewhere else if I like, with a 60 day notice.

The small amount of money I make from Patheos is enough for me to put up with drama like this. But it does not approach being enough to tempt me to alter what my Gods and my conscience want me to write.

Patheos Pagan has been a good thing for me and my work

Writers want to be read. My work has far greater reach on Patheos than it ever did on my own. Within a year my traffic doubled, and within two years it was up 6x. It leveled off last year with the Facebook algorithm change (shares don’t go as far as they used to), but that happened across all blogging sites.

Patheos handles all the tech concerns and all the hosting costs. Their servers aren’t the best, but they’re a lot better than they used to be, and I don’t have to deal with them. All I have to do is write and post.

Being on the same platform as other good writers is nice. We help each other with writing and blogging tips, we inspire each other, and occasionally we argue with each other. We make each other better writers, and I’m honored to be a part of this group. I’m sorry some good friends have left, but that’s their decision and I respect it.

I support Patheos’ mission

I like being part of a large multifaith religious site. Part of that is the UU in me. Another part is the polytheist concept that many Gods call different people to worship Them in different ways. 21st century America is the biggest religious marketplace in the history of humanity. People no longer feel obligated to remain in the religion of their childhood, and when they go looking, I want them to see Paganism as an option alongside the “Big Five,” atheism, and other paths.

That means sometimes I’m on a platform with someone preaching a religion I find objectionable. So be it. That also means they’re on a platform with a Pagan. I’ll get along respectfully with anyone who shows me the same courtesy – and the vast majority of Patheos bloggers do.

The contract changes nothing except the pay structure

The pay changes are slightly negative for me. They mean that bloggers who were making nothing are likely to see some pay. None of the amounts are significant. Patheos is dependent on ad revenue (which is why they pay based on page views) and the on-line advertising market is struggling. A couple of the atheist blogs are popular enough to pay their writers quite nicely – readership of Pagan blogs just isn’t that big.

There was considerable concern about who we are and aren’t allowed to criticize. The initial contract was vague – a revision clarified that only applies to Patheos and its parent company BeliefNet. I do not find it unusual that a blogging site would insist that its writers not disparage it.

This clause is irrelevant. Patheos has always had the right to remove any blogger for any reason or for no reason at all. The revised contract gives it no more rights than it had under the old contract, or under no contract.

I’ve been very happy with the treatment I and the Pagan channel have received from Patheos management. I’ve been in “wait and see” mode since the sale to BeliefNet four months ago. So far, so good. If the Evangelical owners of BeliefNet start making it difficult to promote Paganism, then I’ll leave. But I’m not leaving a good situation over what might happen.

Patheos is a business trying to survive

Patheos started as a vision for multifaith dialogue and it still has that vision, but it’s also a business – a business that is entirely dependent on ad revenue. I don’t like all the ads either, but without the ads, I don’t get paid, the web hosting service doesn’t get paid, the tech wizards don’t get paid, and there’s no Patheos.

That’s the dilemma of all internet content providers. Either you run a bunch of ads, or you set up a paywall, or you do NPR-style fundraising (the model The Wild Hunt uses). Or you pay for it out of your own pocket.

At least Patheos pays their writers something, unlike say, the Huffington Post.

Another objection was the requirement that “tier one” bloggers post three times a week and “tier two” bloggers post twice a week. I’ve been posting three times most weeks for years – that’s a large part of why have the audience I do. If you post irregularly, you’ll never build an audience. If you only want to write when you feel like it, a non-commercial hosting service like Blogger or WordPress would probably be best for you, though Jason Mankey has set up group blogs for those who want to be a part of them.

I do not blame Patheos management for pushing bloggers to write more frequently and more regularly. That’s part of being a business.

I’m always open to a better situation

I’ve seen several people talking about setting up an alternative site for Pagan bloggers. I hope they know what they’re getting into, but in any case I wish them well. If they build something better, if it works, if my writing would fit there – and if I’m wanted – I’d consider moving. The Pagan revival preacher inside me is always looking for a bigger pulpit.

But for now, when I consider finances, convenience, and reach, Patheos is the best place for me. The new contract doesn’t change that.

And so I’m staying at Patheos Pagan.

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