An open letter to Erick Erickson

Dear Erick:

To begin, I’d like to thank you and Bill Blankschaen for writing You Will Be Made to Care. I was pleased to be selected as one of those who received an advance copy for review, and even more pleased with the final result. Again, I was “intrigued by the direction that it went and by the emotions this book took me through as I read through it.” So congratulations for its success, and know that many of us appreciate you bringing up this necessary discussion as subsequent events have placed religious freedom squarely in the headlines again.

At around the same time as YWBMTC was in its final stages of editing and initial promotion, you were embarking on a journey which interested me as a blogger: trying to succeed with a sponsorship-based advertising system. As I wrote on January 11:

I’ve been impressed with (Erickson’s) new website, one which I can read without being overrun by annoying pop-up ads and false story breaks that only serve to increase page view count (in order to extort more money from would-be advertisers.) On Thursday he had a candid assessment of how his website was doing and so far he seems to be successful. Good news for those of us who value content over clickbait.

Thus, I was pleased to see a couple weeks back that your venture was growing, with a doubling of readership and significant increases in areas that you are trying to stress, such as listenership to your radio show and engagement with elected officials. I’ll grant that over time this may level off, but I think you have a long way to go until you reach that plateau given that you are still in the startup stages.

But there is one aspect of your three-month assessment that troubles me:

Our advertising model is very unique among conservative websites and, frankly, may come to an end as I’m struggling to fill sponsorships going forward. But it has been so different I’m actually getting attacked for it. (Emphasis mine.)

I was cheered somewhat that you then wrote:

But I have to try to work on that area to beef up sponsorships. What I do know is that it works. Several of the advertisers tell me they saw an uptick in donations, sign ups, and volunteers through their sponsoring the Resurgent. That makes me hopeful we will be able to keep this going a while, particularly as my radio presence keeps growing.

Now I realize that, compared to your site, mine is small potatoes: my page views in a good year might equal yours for a weekday. I also know that, while by necessity and God-given talent in my chosen field I work outside of media to help put food on my table, you are using The Resurgent and your radio show to put food on yours. You have a lot more skin in the game with your website than I do, as I’m just a part-time blogger. But I’m using my venue and an open letter format because I want to share my thoughts with you as well as encourage readers to go to your site, helping it to succeed. I believe in what you are trying to accomplish.

So I’m imploring you to stay the course on this sponsorship-based model as long as you can because I think it will eventually succeed and hopefully lead others to follow. I never felt comfortable with having the clickbait links when they were on my site, but it seemed to be the only way to get a modest revenue stream going. I’m praying The Resurgent changes that and provides an example to follow for other high-readership sites.

For about a decade I have worked as a remote contributing writer for a publication that has a donation-based revenue model with no advertisements, the Patriot Post. Like you, they have struggled to make their expenses over the last few years but by the grace of God they are still going. If their website can go two decades with the support of their readership carrying them through I think it’s possible for your enterprise to prosper as well with the weekly sponsors you are cultivating – with the results you’re getting they should become repeat business.

One thing we have in common is that we have both run websites for over a decade, so you know as well as I do the ebb and flow of working in the political commentary field. You picked a good time to make a successful debut, so my hope is this successful beginning prepared you well for the trials and tribulations still to come once the political season is over and interest wanes.

Again, I want to express my hope you can stay with your sponsorship-based model and keep the clickbait and pop-ups away from The Resurgent. While we both pray for a resurgence of faith to overspread our country, our little corner of the internet can use something worth following as well.

Sincerely,

Michael Swartz
Salisbury, Maryland

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