Those who actually watched and paid attention would have known this days or weeks before I did, but this morning I received an e-mail announcing the demise of PJTV, the video arm of the PJ Media internet site. The reason I didn’t pay attention is because if I’ve watched PJTV a half-dozen times, that would have been accidental – not to say that it was or wasn’t quality work, but I’m the type of person who would rather read the State of the Union speech than waste an hour watching it. Movies and television really don’t interest me all that much, although I’m fine with watching a ballgame on the tube. And thanks to the power of the internet, the PJTV contributors will still be getting their message out on their own.
Still, I have a soft spot for PJ Media (which used to be Pajamas Media) because, once upon a time, I was a contributor to their site. (I was their Maryland state correspondent for the 2010 election, since we were considered a possible swing state with a key gubernatorial election, and also contributed a handful of articles like this one in the months afterward. They paid very well for the latter.)
But the site has changed since I was last contributed there. While it was once primarily political, in recent years it’s gone to a more general-interest site where increasing emphasis is placed on non-electoral areas like parenting, faith, and lifestyle. (It still features one of my favorite writers, Victor Davis Hanson, though.) Presumably the more or less modest amount of advertising they have on the PJMedia site (which has improved itself graphically over the years, evolving to a relatively clean design that reminds me of the of the homepage I have with the Microsoft Edge internet browser I use) is enough to pay their bills.
On the other hand, the PJTV side was a little confusing because it was a mix of free and subscriber content. Obviously the subscription base wasn’t enough to justify the continued expense, as a Daily Beast story by Lloyd Grove (which references the ubiquitous unnamed “former employees and outside observers”) claims:
Several former employees and outside observers described the two enterprises as money-losing ventures whose advertising revenue and online traffic—8.3 million unique visitors in the first quarter of 2016 for PJMedia.com, according to a Google analytics tracking figure provided by a PJ Media spokesperson—were hampered because much of PJ TV’s content was behind a paywall and available only to subscribers. (The spokesperson declined to specify the number of subscribers, explaining that the information is proprietary).
8.3 million unique visitors in a quarter translates out to about 92,000 a day. Even being generous and saying 10% were PJTV subscribers, that’s only 9,200 daily viewers and you have a hard time getting advertisers with that audience.
And having written recently about Erick Erickson’s struggles to get The Resurgent off the ground (which doesn’t feature its own video channel and may have to scrap its subscriber-based model, much to my disappointment) it’s becoming clear that the political audience is becoming so fragmented and fatigued that they are just tuning out. This particular cycle has become less about issues and more about celebrity, and it’s very hard to compete with that with political commentary even if it is on the humorous side.
Naturally the creation and demise of enterprises on the internet is nothing new, and survival is tough - I have outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted probably thousands of political sites over the years, but at some future time the end will come to this one as well. There are a number of websites and ideas that I have been a part of, such as Red County, Conservative Weekly, and American Certified, which failed to last. All of them reached a point where the time and effort placed into keeping up the website as opposed to other, more productive pursuits outweighed the satisfaction (or revenue) one got from creating the content. I decided early on this would not be all political because if it had been it wouldn’t have made it two years, and even on my site I have started and stopped various features when they became too much of a burden. For example, spending three hours transcribing a phone interview every week because the software to do it wasn’t affordable to me led to the demise of Ten Questions.
When I was much younger, half a lifetime ago, MTV was blamed for shortening the attention span of youth to a point where their education was suffering. Johnny couldn’t read because he was not interested in a 50-minute English class. Perhaps the same is happening to long-form entertainment such as a TV network, such that PJTV was.
But the real issue is that we are spoiled: the internet is more or less free, although you pay a provider to place you there. What I think PJTV has become the latest to find is why should people pay for content when they can get comparable entertainment for nothing? I don’t have that answer because, if I did, this wouldn’t be an enterprise which probably pays me millage per hour to create. (Is this an appropriate moment to remind people I have a “donate” button?)
With the absolute mass of content now available thanks to the World Wide Web, there really is no such thing as “must-see TV” anymore. PJTV won’t be the last to learn that lesson.
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.
Ask and you shall receive.
You might recall that I said in my latest odds and ends piece:
Finally, if there were a third person I would like to add to monoblogue (at least on a weekly basis) it’s this lady.
“This lady” is energy columnist and commentator Marita Noon, and beginning next week she will indeed be a third voice for monoblogue. Right now the plan is for me to run her weekly columns in this Thursday morning timeslot.
When I brought Cathy Keim on board last year, I did so with the hope to increase the number of posts and readers. The situation changed when I began working again full-time so I’m definitely not complaining about having Cathy in the fold - she has been a Godsend in terms of keeping this website full of daily content and even covering some events I couldn’t get to. Moreover, Cathy brings a passion and expertise in several key conservative areas such as immigration and abortion – she makes the site more well-rounded since I focus on different areas of the political world such as legislation and electoral races and prospects.
In that same way, I expect Marita to bring a very similar perspective to mine when it comes to energy issues. She understands that using the resources we were blessed with is one ticket to the prosperity we’re able to achieve in a capitalist system. Yet rather than just an armchair quarterback like me she’s a recognized expert in the field, so she will be a valuable contributor to monoblogue. I’ve dabbled in the arena for awhile, but I thought Noon could make some definite improvements in making energy more of a staple topic here.
I’m going to quote her short bio from the website called Energy Makes America Great. (I’m certainly sure it helps.)
Marita Noon is the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts have made Marita “America’s voice for energy.”
Marita is also a columnist for Breitbart.com and a regular contributor to many online commentary sites including The American Spectator, RedState.com, Canada Free Press and NetRight Daily. Additionally her writing can be found in numerous newspapers and websites. (Next week this one will be included.)
Yet there’s also a sneaky reason I’m putting her on Thursday – come April, I will have a website that can grab two very diverse audiences that aren’t necessarily nuts-and-bolts political observers. Marita will come along in the morning and my Shorebird of the Week will return for the evenings. Since I write SotW on Wednesday nights for Thursday posting, I have a free day to work on other things – I’m not promising anything, but maybe there’s a book for the post-Trump world in the making. So We May Breathe Free just begs for a sequel.
So I hope you’re looking forward to the addition as much as I am.
This has been the political winter of my discontent.
You likely know I’m not a fan of The Donald, but this post isn’t going to be about him per se. The sheer divisiveness of Donald Trump’s campaign, however, is not only relevant to some of the things I’m going to say but also serves as a good analogy to a lot of what I have been seeing and hearing about other, more peripheral political issues.
Over the course of doing monoblogue I have liked to take stock on my anniversaries (December 1 each year) and when I reach milestone posts, of which this is one (post 4,500.) Some may say I do too much navel-gazing but it should be pointed out that the original intent of blogging was to be a public diary of sorts – in fact, the political blog RedState is simply a collection of the diaries various contributors put up. Normally it’s those given front page access who have their voices heard, but they also have the right to promote others as they see fit. Besides, Saturday is usually my slowest day reader-wise so this is as good as time as any to share some of these thoughts, one of which led off this piece.
While the original intent of all these websites was to promote a diversity of thought, it seems that there are lines in the sand being drawn that could alter the political landscape for years to come. Perhaps this is simply a repeat of the era when each city of any size may have had its Democratic newspaper and Republican newspaper, but anymore it seems like we have “Trumpbart,” “RubioState,” and so forth. (Maybe it’s my personal bias, but I haven’t seen a really pro-Cruz national site - let alone Kasich or Carson.) The folks at National Review don’t like Trump, the Trump backers counter that both Cruz and Rubio aren’t “natural born citizens,” and everyone has staked out territory from which to fight this conservative un-civil war.
We’re even seeing this extend to the state level in politics and the blogosphere. One such battle is ongoing between Ryan Miner (who blogs at A Miner Detail and does his own radio show) and the folks at Red Maryland (who pretty much do the same.) It would probably not be a good idea to put Ryan and Brian Griffiths in a room together right now, and to me there’s no reason to stoop down to the eighth-grade level because they back different candidates in a Congressional race. That’s not to say this is anything new, because when I first began there was a lot of bad blood between local bloggers in Salisbury that I had to work around since I was lumped in with them.
Perhaps it’s my nature, or maybe – just maybe – I’ve learned a couple things along the way, but over the years I have tried to write in such a way that I don’t lose any sleep by regretting what I said. My measuring stick for political candidates is mainly issue-based, so my dislike for Donald Trump is because I find him far short of being conservative enough for my tastes. The attitude he exhibits is just rancid butter on the moldy bagel that is Donald Trump.
But let’s talk about the future. I’m going to pick on Red Maryland for a moment, but there are any number of websites out there which qualify. It’s unfortunate that A Miner Detail is down as I write this (for what reason I don’t know) but they did a parody piece recently on clickbait articles. Yet if you go to the RM site (as I just did to check this) you get a pop-up ad for Windows drivers (probably malware) in the corner with each page and an annoying pop-up ad when you click on an article. To be fair, this is true with a number of “news” sites with the Washington Times coming to mind as another prime offender.
But if the guys who do Red Maryland, the Washington Times, and 100 other national conservative sites are making money with the plethora of pop-up ads and clickbait, and can sleep at night satisfied that they are doing their part to advance their cause, well, more power to them. It’s not for me, in fact, I just decided to pull the Newsmax and content.ad pop-ups off my site because they’re now pretty much populated with clickbait. I still have the Amazon account and will keep TrackBill because they are selling goods and services for which I am compensated on a commission basis.
Lately I’ve also noticed that RM is doing “sponsored” Facebook ads, which can be a somewhat expensive means of getting out the word. But I decided to join them with a very modest (as modest as I can get) boosting of my book review post that I did recently. It will run through Monday. It’s just an experiment to see if it affects traffic in any meaningful way.
But I think an alternative is possible. For several years I have written for the Patriot Post, which does not do advertising – yet I still get a modest stipend each month. (Modest to the point where I would love to have about 15 other such clients and just write for those all week. The commute would be a lot better – bed to my chair.) About three or four times a year they have a campaign to solicit funds from their readers, with the key one being around the holidays, yet they succeed in raising over $300,000 annually to support their operations.
Yet the example I have been following over the last few weeks is Erick Erickson’s new site, The Resurgent. They will accept advertising but it is limited to one sponsor a week that pays $5,000 for the privilege. So you have a very clean site with a minimum of advertising, and this is the sort of model I would like to see promoted.
Granted, it’s taken Erick about a decade to build his name up to a point where he can command that sort of coin, but if you went and followed my link ask yourself: isn’t that a lot better than pop-up ads and clickbait? Today is the day I declare monoblogue a clickbait-free zone.
The way I see it, my job isn’t to provide controversy or sensationalize the Maryland political world. My job is to educate and enlighten citizens, hopefully to sway their political beliefs in a more conservative direction. While I have other features such as my Shorebird of the Week or music reviews, those exist because I want to broaden my audience and also not burn out on political posts. To me, content is king but it has to be well-written – or at least as well-written as my talent and interest allow.
So that is my milestone. There are times I wonder just how long I’ll be doing this, but I suppose as long as I’m satisfied with the effort I’ll keep plugging away.
While this may sound like it’s tied in to yesterday’s post, I’m actually veering off in a different direction with this one.
Each day I receive Erick Erickson’s e-mail missive, probably because I’ve been on the RedState list for many years. Since Erick was the biggest part of RedState it made logical sense and his new endeavor has kept a lot of the same look, feel, and message. On Thursday, though, he had a post that looked at blogging and the entrepreneurship aspect of it, and he put out a proposal I found quite interesting.
I may be doomed to failure on this new radio website endeavor, but I am going to try something new in terms of ad revenue.
Over the past two years with my radio show, I’ve been growing an email list of radio listeners. That list has crossed 200,000 people. At the same time, this site, to which I have not dedicated a lot of time, is averaging about 75,000 page views a day. Again, it is not even my day job yet.
So when I kick things off again with the new design on January 4th, I’ve going to try a sponsor model instead of an ad model. In other words, I am going to strip away all the advertising and just do a sponsor a week.
What the Sponsor Gets:
They will get a graphic on the front page and a graphic on each post. It will be a static image so ad blockers cannot block it. They will not be in competition with any other advertiser.
They will also get a thank you mention on Monday and Friday that will make it in the emails of those days. So in the worst case scenario they’ll be getting 75,000 page views a day, plus 400,000 eyeballs in email over the course of a week.
What the starting price is going to be: $5000.00 for the week.
I do not need to make a huge profit off the radio website. I do need to cover costs, pay for the redesign, pay a staffer, etc.
We will see if it works. Hopefully, over time, I can raise the price.
I do not want Taboola throwing up on my redesign. I do not want pop up ads and auto play videos and semi-porn to draw in eyeballs.
I may fail. I may not be able to get the advertisers. But I am going to try.
So let’s look at this as a business model. Those of us who have revenue-producing websites don’t seem to have a lot of options on ways to make money.
First, there is always the old rumor that goes around about some billionaire benefactor like George Soros going around and propping up particular bloggers. That may well exist but I can assure you the Koch brothers have never stroked a check to me. (Maybe I’m just doing it all wrong?)
The second approach is to bleg, as several bloggers I know have to various amounts of success. Once in a great while I have passed on their tales of woe. Many of these bleggars’ sites also have static ads, the combination of which keeps bloggers like Peter Ingemi going. (You may know him better as DaTechGuy – have fedora, will travel.)
And then you have what many of the big guys and commercial media sites have: the ad-laden mess that Erickson is referring to. On a couple occasions I was an Examiner for that website, and the sad thing about it was that for all the advertisements cluttering up my posts and occasional slideshows I don’t think I ever got more than $50 a month. I pick on Examiner but the same is true for the Washington Times or rare.us websites as well as more local and regional sites like Red Maryland. This also encompasses the pure clickbait of the TEA Party News Network and groups like that. I don’t like going to those sites because they bombard me with ads and auto-play videos I don’t want to watch – generally I’m there to read and get out.
Erickson’s site as it exists today is actually very unobtrusive as it just has a handful of static ads on the header, sidebar, and footer. (It’s set up a lot like this one.) So there’s probably a small amount of revenue coming in but nowhere near the $5,000 a week he’s going to request.
There aren’t many who do sponsorship posts, or posts like my record reviews for which I am compensated regardless of whether I like the music or not. (The sponsor encourages the honest criticism.) So I am interested to see how a large-scale operation like Erickson’s fares under this model. $5,000 a week is $260,000 a year – I think he can afford a staffer, IT person, and still make a go of it with that sort of revenue.
Yet it’s also instructive of the power of marketing. Somehow Erickson has built up the mailing list past 200,000 even though I’ve never listened to his local radio show. (I’m sure familiarity through RedState has put many thousands on that list.) 200,000 e-mails has beget the 75,000 page views a day – over 500,000 weekly. It doesn’t work out to an economy of scale – a blog like mine that has 1,000 views a week at slow times like this can’t subsist on one $5 a week sponsorship. Needless to say, I can’t come up with $5,000 for a week although I’m sure my readership would increase.
Of course, there is the interesting question of what sponsors will come forth. Left unanswered is what criteria Erickson will have for advertisers, but the obvious advantage with his venture is that he gets to choose who benefits, unlike some other methods where someone else controls content and delivery. (They can make for interesting bedfellows because if I go to look at certain sites the cookies track with me. For example, I see Kathy Szeliga for Senate ads on a lot of places I go, even if they’re not Maryland-based.)
To me, though, the control of content is almost as important as the revenue. If you listen to talk radio regularly you’re probably aware that they host a much different variety of advertisers than, say, the NFL game of the week. I hear more ads for get-rich-quick, be-your-own-boss hucksters who have to invest in gold there than I do anything else. To me, that affects the credibility of the shows they sponsor – although, to be fair, this may be the local station selling the spots, too.
So I’m going to be interested to see how Erickson does with this idea. I suspect he will do well the first six to eight weeks, but the test will come by spring. If he’s able to do well and even raise the price it may be something to explore for the rest of the blogging world.
I received an amusing e-mail missive this evening from the Washington Times, and it suited me well because I didn’t really want to discuss politics after last night’s debate I didn’t watch. Seems it only took them 33 years and over a billion dollars to finally have a profitable month. And if you go to their website – which is the reason they are even close to being in the black, since the print edition is a money pit – you’ll find the reason: it’s almost as bad as the Examiner site for annoying ads. (Having once written for examiner.com I can vouch that money doesn’t spread much among those who provide content.)
Reading that and realizing I’m only weeks away from the decade mark of doing this site made me ponder my profitability. While it’s not making me rich, my site does make me a modest profit mainly thanks to compensated posts and the handful of political ads I accept. (I don’t want to guess my hourly rate on doing this, though, because I’m sure it’s expressed in millage, not even pennies.)
Yet it took from about the time I graduated high school to now for the Washington Times to make money. This despite the fact they had a niche in the market that was otherwise mostly unfilled as a right-leaning print outfit. It sort of makes me wonder about whether I have the patience of Job in developing this site further given the fact I work full-time outside the home.
While that was the case for the first three years I did this site, too, the big difference is now being in a family rather than single. It takes time to be the soon-to-be husband and stepdad, and that lack of available time was one reason I brought Cathy on board.
But let’s talk profit. I still think this site is the right venue for certain non-political advertisers who want to reach a regional audience. It’s been some time since I checked my Google Analytics, but historically I have had an audience all across Maryland, with some play in D.C. as well. Maybe you have a niche of your own that seeks customers who are more intelligent and discerning. I think this could be the ticket.
In strict terms of how much I pay for the server vs. revenue, this has been a net winner for most of the last ten years. But I want to help you succeed, too.
After some technical difficulties with my server and then the internals of my site, I am back up – and not a moment too soon. I’m going to try and get a record review in for tomorrow and Cathy Keim has some wisdom to share this weekend as well.
So don’t fret for me, I’m fine and hopefully monoblogue will stay that way too.
After nine-plus years of doing monoblogue, the time has come to expand my horizons.
In the interest of both broadening the readership base and getting an occasional day off, I have decided to take on (with apologies to my Maryland GOP friend Heather Olsen) a “partner in crime.” In other words, monoblogue won’t necessarily be “mono” anymore.
Longtime readers, however, should know I’ve tried to break in this direction before with the “GO Friday” feature where I solicited guest opinions. But it really never caught fire in the way I wanted it to. It’s not to say I won’t keep doing that when the opportunity is presented, but I think this approach will work better for my needs.
However, the impetus behind bringing my new associate on board was somewhat accidental. I’ve actually featured some of this lady’s writing on occasions when I’ve quoted the Wicomico Society of Patriots, as she’s been instrumental in that cause for several years. But she came to me at the last Wicomico County Republican Club meeting with questions and thoughts about blogging. yet worried that she wouldn’t have to time to do a blog justice because of her busy schedule.
As I was compiling the notes for my post about that meeting, the thought struck me about bringing her onboard here. Even though she was a bit skeptical at first because of the “mono” part, I explained to her that numerous bloggers and writers with their names on the site have at least one other writer writing under their banner – for example, Michelle Malkin and Herman Cain have secondary contributors. This way, I said, you don’t have to worry about keeping up your own site and you can write when the mood strikes you.
I don’t know exactly what I said to bring her on board, but whatever it was proved to be successful. So tomorrow you will read the first post from my new contributor, Cathy Keim. First of all, Cathy pledges not to write about music or sports - which is a plus in my eyes – but I think you will really like what she has to say. She had an intriguing experience recently and you get to learn a little about it.
It’s also worth pointing out that Cathy has been trying to expand her contributions to the community, but despite the efforts of the Central Committee she was rebuffed for both a County Council seat as well as a spot on the Wicomico County Board of Education. I’m not guaranteeing blogging will further her political career – insofar as I know I’m the only local blogger who has won an election, even if it was just squeaking by in the final spot in 2010 – but this can be a place where Cathy can help to advance her conservative causes.
As for me, I will still be here and attempt to keep a daily schedule. But it will be nice to have the break and I look forward to bringing you Cathy’s perspective beginning at noon tomorrow.
The folks at Red Maryland must be so successful that they have put out the bat-signal that they want more helpers. Billing it as the Citizen News Project, they are looking for contributors representing all of Maryland’s counties to provide reports on “hot topics of government and policy” in their respective counties. Flush off their success at picking the right gubernatorial horse and joining the Liberty Alliance (which is nice, aside from the annoying popup tabs I now regularly get to ignore when visiting their family of sites) they want to spread the wealth as it were. At least that’s the impression I get.
But seriously, despite my differences with them over the years (hence my status as an erstwhile RM contributor) this could be a good idea. Having said that, though, I think they may be going about it the wrong way.
I’ve been blogging for almost a decade now, in perhaps a dozen different outlets I can think of off the top of my head – two blogs of my own and several others on a scale from local to national as a contributor. Bloggers tend to go through an initial stage where they write on a regular and frequent basis – it’s a stage that runs from a few weeks to maybe a few months. Almost invariably, though, there comes a point where a blogger feels like they are beating their head against a wall or the effort is no longer worth the reward. Often they burn out on the task of writing and leave the blog go for days, weeks, or simply never get back to it. Millions of blogs are considered dead sites as they stopped updating – my original site would be one.
But while having a website of one’s own is daunting to a degree, joining an established site with a reader base already in place is an attractive option for some. It’s a model which has been tried to some extent by everyone from the Huffington Post to Examiner.com to RedState, with various incentives put in place. Red Maryland is apparently trying that same model.
I also believe that content is king and a good site has plenty of it. Red Maryland does relatively well in this respect as it averages a post or two per day; just a little bit more output than I do – although a significant percentage of the posts are simple promotions for their upcoming radio shows and events. Obviously they want to create more content, which is an admirable idea with the benefit (they hope) of increasing their site’s readership and cross-promotional opportunities.
Looking at this from the perspective of a guy who has more than just this site to maintain, in the case of my overall body of work the most important content is done for this site unless there is sufficient incentive to make someone else’s venue worthwhile – in other words, if I’m being paid a reasonable amount for my effort then it becomes a more pressing priority. In my case, that’s why content may be lacking at certain times because I have clients who pay me for my work – this space, not always so much.
On the other hand, if I’m a contributor who is working simply for credit or for a pittance I may ask myself why I’m placing my work where it may not be promoted well or in a place where I may not be allowed to use it for myself on my own site. In some cases I have managed to blend the two, but in general if I’m doing content I want to be able to use it for myself since I have a site to fill, too. Work smarter, not harder and all that.
So where am I going with this?
It may not be true of every county, but I suspect there are a number of people who already do the work Red Maryland seeks to have on sites of their own. I think that’s where they need to look first – do a little research and find out what counties already have alternative, regularly-updated news sites and see if there’s a match between the vision and coverage of those sites and what Red Maryland has in mind. If it’s a match they can then work out a content-sharing agreement perhaps similar to the former arrangement between RM and the Baltimore Sun.
Otherwise – and I admit I could be reading their appeal wrong – they are just looking for people to write for them occasionally and hoping these contributors don’t mind giving away content for free in the vain hope they’ll be discovered as part of the Red Maryland network.
Maryland has a lot of good writers, and RM‘s Mark Newgent should know because he was the editor of the now-defunct Watchdog Wire – Maryland. If that’s the model Red Maryland is looking to replicate, there’s a reason why Watchdog Wire is no more and it has nothing to do with the editor – just the lack of incentive.
So if you’re thinking about being a Red Maryland contributor, my advice to you is to go into it with eyes open and ask a lot of questions.
Well, here we are. Another year, another dollar.
Since the blogging phenomenon is perhaps 15 to 20 years old, depending on how you interpret its history, I would have to guess mine is a middle-aged site. Lots of sites have come and gone in the span of time since I began this enterprise but still I press on. And middle age is a time when the naivete of youth is replaced by both a maturity and a growing awareness of one’s legacy.
Normally when I do this annual introspective I consider a sort of “state of the site” address I have a number of accomplishments from the previous year, but this year was a little different. Unlike 2013, where I made it to regional and national events like the Turning the Tides conference, the David Craig announcement tour where I snagged a great interview, or – the granddaddy of them all – CPAC 2013, the last year was somewhat devoid of real exciting milestones. Those I had were more in the non-political realm, such as my too-brief tenure for American Certified, which allowed me to focus on a topic I enjoyed researching and writing about, or broadening my scope with occasional music and book reviews.
Instead, the main focus was a Maryland electoral campaign which had plenty of blogging fodder and was won by a candidate who was short on specifics but long on money to lend his campaign, at least to start. No, I was not a Larry Hogan supporter early on (although over the preceding two years I’d written about Change Maryland quite a bit) but he won the Republican primary and found a message which won the day in Maryland, reflecting a Republican tide nationally.
Yet just as the national GOP is already beginning to disappoint supporters who want a stiffer fight on amnesty, Obamacare, and the budget, the potential is there for Larry Hogan to fail the conservative movement in Maryland. It will be something that bears watching, and hopefully other outlets which were extremely critical of Martin O’Malley and his liberal, free-spending ways will be equally as quick to keep the incoming governor in line should he falter from a conservative stance. I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and it will take some time to dismantle, but we need to continually move the ball forward against a stiff defense. (One advantage we may have, though, is that Democrats in Maryland aren’t used to playing that way.)
To be bluntly honest, though, the last couple months have been difficult. Toward the end of the campaign I was so burned out on everything that the thought of packing this enterprise in once the election was over crossed my mind a couple times. After all, my direct political involvement was coming to a somewhat disappointing end because I was defeated for one last term on our Central Committee and I thought it would be a little more difficult given my comparative lack of resources to provide the coverage my readers were used to. I still don’t think I’m back at 100 percent satisfied with my work and output as the election recedes farther into the rear view mirror but it is coming along and perhaps being upfront with those who support me will add a few percentage points to that total.
I sometimes feel this site is having a midlife crisis of sorts as it approaches a crossroads. It was great to have my political advertisers – who, by the way, went 3-1 in their elections – but so far none have stepped forward to replace them. While there was a point earlier this year where Salisbury fell to second or third place among the cities which visited this site most, it’s regained its lead as about 1/8 of my audience, and 3/5 of the total comes from Maryland. (Washington, D.C. is my second-biggest city, though, at a little over 10% of audience.) There have been some new, more passive revenue sources over the year, with another potential one waiting in the wings, but as far as direct sales I have long struggled to reach a goal of 6-10 constant advertisers.
Nine is an awkward age for anything. It seems that it takes having a decade under your belt to bring a little gravitas, but you’re no longer the new kid on the block either. I’ve tried a few new features over the last several months but not all of them have taken root and grew, which is a shame.
Still, I am hoping to go into the one-decade mark next year on the upswing in both revenue and readership; the real test, though, will be what kind of time I can devote to the enterprise. I think that shifting gears a little bit and focusing more on overall policy – with emphasis on key issues like energy, manufacturing, Radical Green, and the quest for limited government – will make for a better site than trying to keep up with the doings of umpteen local and state candidates involved in races I’m interested in because deadlines aren’t quite as pressing. We won the election, so now it’s time to win the argument and start setting sound policy.
In the end, if I were to assess the last year of monoblogue I would have to say I struggled to meet expectations, for a number of reasons. As I noted above, though, the passion is beginning to come back and that’s a good thing. I’m beginning to feel more excited about writing something on a daily basis rather than looking at it as a chore just to keep fresh content up.
I know I have a lot of fans out there, so if I have let you down a little in the past few weeks you will hopefully understand why. But I must say that the one consistent site metering system I’ve used over the years is pointing to 2014 being a record-breaking year – perhaps the new high will be reached as this very post is promoted because the numbers between 2014 and 2012 (my previous record) were extremely close. Through the end of November my readership for the year was up 4.8% over all of 2013. Add in December and it may be a 10% hike.
I’m hoping to have a little more clarity in other aspects of my life soon, too, so if that pans out I think things will work out for this site as well. Still, your support, thoughts, and prayers would be appreciated as I begin year ten.
Those who know me and have some idea of what makes me tick realize pretty quickly I am a numbers guy, and there is just something about round numbers that I like. So every time I turn the odometer of 1,000 posts it’s a big deal to me, and hitting the 4,000 mark is no different than hitting 1,000, 2,000, 2,500, or 3,000. (For the record, the last 1,000 posts took 853 days to compile.)
But today is an interesting day in the life of monoblogue. As you probably know, mine is primarily a state-based blog so I write constantly about Maryland politics. Aside from the first year of this site’s existence, though, I have been on the side which was out of power and had little to no say in the governing of this state. Last night, with the election of Larry Hogan, that all changed. While I’m not going to get into my election observations quite yet – I’m saving that for tomorrow morning’s post – but it should suffice to say that it will be interesting going trying to hold Larry’s feet to the fire.
Unlike the last few observances of Pxk, I don’t really have any earth-shattering news on the writing front. Obviously there may be a subtle change in direction now that I won’t be as active in the state GOP, but hopefully the nuts-and-bolts of a party in power will be relatively smooth and uninteresting writing anyway. (The Democrats, on the other hand – now that could be intriguing as a number of them will be pointing fingers about the demise of Anthony Brown statewide and the shellacking they took locally and many may be lining up for 2018.)
Honestly, I don’t know what part I played (if any) in recent successes, but one thing I do know is that I’m glad campaign season is over. Frankly, the last 2 or 3 weeks was a definite grind writing about the political because I was bored with it. When you figure I started covering this election in earnest about the middle of last year (arguably earlier since David Craig was in the running unofficially since 2011) it’s no surprise that I needed something different to write on.
There are some areas I’m thinking may be included here more, though. Thanks to the exposure of doing American Certified for a few months, I have more interest in the nuts and bolts niche of manufacturing, which is a worthy subject to explore. I’ve also had more of an interest in energy issues recently, in part because the two go hand-in-hand to a great extent.
Yet there’s one thing which has carried me through and that’s the support of my readers. I suppose I would be writing something even if I had five readers a week, but getting the occasional accolades and “attaboys” about pieces I write doesn’t get old. I’m still humbled by the recognition. When I see the Paypal notice about a hit to my tip jar or get the payment from an advertiser (or, as has happened before, a check from a supporter of the site) I’m still proud to have made that impact with someone. Look at it this way – my advertisers were 3-1 in their races.
I suppose if I have remaining goals for this site, they would be to maximize the readership which can be attained from a part-time blogger (who also has writing clients and works outside the home) and make it even more of a profitable enterprise. I’m hoping those political advertisers who helped me during campaign season transition into non-political ones who keep this thing going for the 3 1/2 years we’re not doing the heavy vote gathering.
In less than a month I’ll be starting my 10th year of doing this site, which is longer than many of those who I link to. Maybe I wasn’t in at the ground floor, but I wasn’t too far from the foundation.
Most blogs don’t make it to 400 posts, let alone 4,000. But as long as I enjoy doing it and am able to do so – I just renewed my server for another year – I hope you keep looking in this space for readable and thoughtful political content.
You all know I sell advertising on my site. Wait, you didn’t? Go here.
Anyway, a couple months back I was reading the reaction to a post I did when someone mentioned they saw a full-page ad for Durex condoms. On my page!
Now I run what I consider to be a family-friendly, PG-rated site with a minimum of profanity, damn it. (Surprising when I could easily cuss like a sailor about how this state and nation are currently being governed.) So a condom ad is about the last thing I would knowingly approve, particularly a full-page one – first of all, it covers up the advertising for which I am actually paid!
So I looked into this and a lot of people were thinking it was malware of some sort, trying to clean out their computers and finding they were fairly clean. I did that as well, and mine was fine.
But the ads would still come up – essentially it’s a large pop-up ad which supposedly goes away after 30 seconds. I never ran across a condom ad but they were for other relatively familiar products, and I found them annoying. I often search my site to verify my back links are the ones I’m wishing to use – an example is when I write the AC Week in review as I did yesterday for this morning – so I would see these ads every so often. It wasn’t every time, but maybe every 20th or 30th.
This morning it happened again, but in the search for the cause I found a number of places which blame a long-time feature of this site. This is a reply deep in the linked thread:
So if any of you still have ‘sitemeter’ code on any of your webpages, it would be a good idea to delete it, ASAP.
Another blogger named Jennette Fulda found the same thing in a much wittier fashion - apparently her site had the same issue.
So after about eight years or so, it’s goodbye to SiteMeter for me, too.
It’s not like I don’t have other ways to count visitors, as I have Google Analytics and another service as well. But I did have the principle that my SiteMeter was (almost) always open, while most other bloggers I’ve run across were oh-so-secretive about their readership. (Yet one often claimed to have “record days.”)
Regardless, I’m sure someone saw the thousands and thousands of sites which used SiteMeter to measure their traffic as an advertising gold mine given the data they collect, particularly as many didn’t have any advertising to begin with. Well, as word of this gets out SiteMeter is going to lose what little business they have because no one is giving us a cut of this and I don’t have to have their services when there are others out there which don’t intrude on my site in such a manner.
Listen, I don’t make a lot of money from this site. Yes, I have several political advertisers who pay me but come November that gravy train goes away. I’m hoping they are replaced by non-political businesses and have some prospects in that regard, but there’s always room for more. And every so often I get my tip jar rattled, which is nice.
I also get frequent e-mails about advertising, guest posts, or “traffic exchange” on my site from various entities on a regular basis. Just this month alone I’ve been hit up by Nova Media Networks, Vanbex.com, RTB System, Kitara Media, and Global Ad Space. Never heard of any of them, and I’m betting it’s the old pennies per CPM trick. (The Vanbex is a bitcoin exchange, so I think I know how I got on that list.) I would rather have more control on the content, so I keep my Amazon spaces, Newsmax (which pays me a small fee per month for the space), and the advertisers you see herein. (Some pay more than others, but the Patriot Post gets a free space because I write for them.)
I also get a modest fee for writing the music reviews, which is nice because I like listening to many different types of music – or at least can tolerate it to write an honest review. (If you’re surprised about the monetary aspect, I noted it up front.) I know a lot of other sites sell merchandise, promote themselves incessantly on what passes for their radio network in an effort to fish for advertising, and so forth – we’re all trying to monetize our websites somehow.
It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if they had come to me and offered me a piece of the action, but what SiteMeter forgot is that we don’t have to use their service. So to heck with ‘em.