Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pride, A Leaky Boat and a Re-Design

Having finally grasped that life is a series of trade-offs (unless you have a Caribbean tax shelter and some sharp tax attorneys on staff), I come now to a trade-off I have grappled with for some time: to accept advertising or not.

There was no trade-off in the first year-and-a-half of this blog's existence; I blasted off a short commentary in perhaps an hour and then reveled in the glory of having 30 readers--on a good day. My website has been up since 1999, but in those early days the content--a listing of published articles and an excerpt of my first novel--rarely changed. I launched this blog on May 1, 2005.

Some 850 blog entries later, I find the satisfactions of having 5,000+ readers on a good day to be great, as is the intellectual stimulation of sharing ideas and information with you. But the time required to keep this leaky little craft afloat has leaped along with readership. Just answering email takes a few hours a day when traffic is heavy, and the research you have come to expect takes more hours a day. Readers Journal also takes time.

The site seems to require more bailing than ever, so to speak, and as the financial gunwales sink ever lower, I have to decide whether to scuttle the leaky craft or get it into drydock and make it financially viable.

And so now I am face to face with this question: have I refused ads out of a sort of intellectual pride, or even snobbery, or was it merely a facade to hide the fact nobody would want to advertise on this site anyway?

If I wasn't so stupid, and burdened with towering flaws of character, judgment and intellect, I might well be sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars which would enable me to loll away my hours here at OTM without a financial care in the world. But alas, I am stupid, and abundantly burdened with flaws, and so I do have financial cares.

Now the folks at forbes.com have invited this site to join their soon-to-be-launched network of business and financial blogs. The idea, of course, is to make money--for forbes.com and the bloggers--by marketing ads on the highly selective 1,000 blogs in the network. (Yes, it's quite a unique privilege.)

You, the incredible readers of this site, have made heroic efforts since last March to donate cold, hard cash in significant sums, and I am in awe of your goodwill and generosity. The thought of any of you turning away because I have decided to accept ads makes my blood run cold.
On the other hand, I know that many of our most esteemed bloggers, such as Mish, Calculated Risk, the Big Picture, et al., all run plenty of ads, and no one seems to think less of them for it--or less of Financial Sense, Kitco, etc.

Some of you may reckon that since I'm raking in big bucks ($27.16 a month is my current estimate of future ad revenues) then there is no reason to contribute to the site. The site remains free so this is your option. Others may persevere in contributing money, and since my total income from the site from all sources will most likely stubbornly remain locked in the mid-four figures, your donations will continue to be both important and much appreciated. I will continue to solicit your donations until I inherit a lavishly appointed castle or am bestowed with google stock (or equivalent undeserved windfall).

There is another irony of pride here, too--the foolish idea that anyone would want to advertise here.

So stripped of all kinds of pride--that I am above needing compensation for keeping this thing afloat, that anyone would be dumb enough to advertise here, etc.--I've decided to see what happens if I toss my hat into the forbes.com network ring. If I make nothing from ads, then it's an easy decision to drop out (with tail firmly between my legs). If you loathe the presence of advertising, then fire up your ad blocking software or download a free ad blocker.

I wish I could report that I have the strength and funds to do this without compensation, but that simply isn't true. I could stop, or cut back to one post a week, and that is an option. It's a trade-off, and so I've decided to try the forbes.com network and the ads which go with it. I will launch a redesigned blog on May 1, the 3rd anniversay of this modest little outpost of the worldwide web.

I've been pondering some new features for months, and tomorrow you'll see if they were worth all the effort or not.

If you note the ads are for oftwominds.com, then that means nobody was dumb enough to buy any ad space here. (Whoopie for free-market capitalism!) Readers Journal and my fiction pages will remain ad-free.

Hopefully the new site won't be too annoying; there's no way to know but to try it. I appreciate you giving it a glance. The content, for better or for worse, will continue to be the usual jumble. My goal, as always, is to provide some value or entertainment, and to offer a worthy forum for your essays, commentaries and poems (Readers Journal).

Thank you, readers, for enabling the readership of this site to grow at what is to me a mind-boggling pace.

I received this email from A.E.T. yesterday, and I am humbled by her comments:

Thank you so much for your blog. and site. musings, writings, hidden history, King George Is Back song. I came across your site researching property value decline, and have learned so much more and have had a great time! I find you so much like my father (no longer here, early death, at 60, year 2000) and myself in your humor and intelligence, and am inspired by your writings.
I want to buy your book and to keep coming back to see what your latest fun is.
And you do a great job of explaining things with humor and on-it ness that I don't come across often!!!

I don't get emails like this very often, but A.E.T. makes the whole enterprise worthwhile.
I also want to share an email from distinguished climate researcher /scientist Geoff Sherrington:

There is so much material on this topic that it is only now, while conducting a search on the Net, that I came across your article in oftwominds.com some several months after it was posted.
I am the Sherrington referenced in relation to correspondence with Prof Phil Jones on global temperatures. Therefore, I have a special interest in reading such material.
Simply, I wish to say that your essay is one of the cleanest, clearest expositions of this complicated subject that it has been my pleasure to read. Indeed, I wish that I had your communication skills. Unless you indicate otherwise, I would like to use this article in several forums, mostly related to Inquiries afoot in my home country of Australia.
Congratulations on a job well done.
Geoff Sherrington, Scientist

Here are the two excellent articles on global warming in the Readers Journal archives; the first is by frequent contributor Protagoras (referenced in the email above) and the second is by frequent contributor Michael Goodfellow:
The Hockey Stick Breaks (Global Warming Data refuted) by Protagoras (6/26/07)
Global Warming: Our Story So Far by Michael Goodfellow (6/26/07)

I am honored to host such excellence on Readers Journal.


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