Fund The Web
The Trump administration may just dismantle net neutrality and there is a certain amount of uncertainty about the future of the internet as we know it. It has always been on a shaky path, the lofty ideals of a barrier-less community of information sharing opening avenues for revenge-porn, hate-speech, and awful spammy advertising.
The latter may seem like it does not belong, but it does. These (and other) misuses of the web take advantage of the trust and goodwill of the internet. It was always naive to think that #onhere people would be better than their real-life counterparts, but one hope was that the new platform would be free of the cruft of other industries and would be able to operate much more efficiently.
If I wanted to sell stuff, I would have applied for a marketing job at that place.
That was sort of true. This random blog post is not meant to be a treatise on the the history of the internet, and so I will stop before I begin on a long tangent of the history of the web. For one thing, I am woefully unqualified to do so.
Still, for all the internet’s awfulness, it is much cheaper to communicate information and ideas than any medium before it. The problem is that producing information is still not cost-free. At the very least, the time involved is significant 1.
When newsletters and zines, and community papers were more feasible concerns, the information produced could be funded by tying itself up with the physical medium on which it was carried. The news is/was on newsprint and you paid for newsprint and so that (helped) fund the newspaper. \
On the internet, advertisements are not as feasible as they once were. Advertisers can measure exactly how little people actually read and so are less likely to pay their old rates. That’s another discussion. Some podcasts and sites like to sell affiliate links or sell T-Shirts that essentially perform the function of the old physical medium supporting the publication.
For this little blog, the costs are so low that I can rely on the even older model of a self-funded “publication”.
For my other site – Mean Green Nation, the UNT sports blog it is a little different. Ironically, as MGN gets popular, it costs more to make. Bandwith and storage costs more and so with each new reader or download of the podcast, my costs go up.
I do a number of things to keep costs very low, but I can foresee a future where it becomes unsustainable or at the very least a difficult hobby to maintain.
I like to own and control my words and information, so I stay away from Medium or Facebook or any other hosted blog platform. This allows me to do some things that aren’t allowed, but also shifts some other costs and responsibilities my way.
In the sports blog racket, there are generally two ways of self-funding:
The biggest risk with selling ads is compromising content. Sites like SBNation or The Ringer or even Deadspin are great and fun, but posting guidelines and requirements are designed toward accumulating page views. Why? Well so they can sell ads.
The sponsored content (read: ads) are the same.
If I wanted to sell [whatever is in the flashing sidebar], I would have applied for the marketing job at that place.
The arrangements that sites like Daring Fireball have in which advertisement/sponsorship works out to everyone’s benefit without being obnoxious, or exploitative are the ideal for advertising. There (and in other places) advertisement is limited, and vetted. The ads are unintrusive and yet obvious.
daring fireball ad
So I decided on a membership model.
I like transparency and to keep things simple. Instead of filling posts with affiliate links or selling shirts or mugs or what-have-you, I made it straight-forward.
If readers like the stuff on MGN, I asked them to consider sending a few bucks my way. Instead of patreon, I chose memberful after browsing kottke.org and Six Colors.
Memberful and Stripe (the payment processor) make money on each transaction. There are tiers, so if you have a particularly large readership and need multiple levels beside the default two, you can try that.
I will report with my findings. This may be a great success or a small failure. I like those odds. Lord knows I do not want to fiddle with an adsense account.
And really, time is probably the most valuable resource any person has. ↩