After the enormous mushroom cloud rising from our recent discussion of the multipage format, and after consulting with my editors and the SEO gurus who put us up to this unpopular move, we’ve stopped splitting our blog posts into two.
To recap, the act of “jumping” a story to the next page allowed us to display more advertising, which helped us earn enough money to keep the site published.
If you know me personally, then you know that I hate advertising. I would operate this site and advocacy service without displaying a single sponsored message if I could afford to.
And that’s where you come in.
Our abandonment of multipage raises a big, and obvious, question: How will we pay for all of this?
As soon as we quietly dropped multipage last week, our ad revenues were cut in half. Let me say that again: Because we displayed all of our posts on a single page, we lost about 50 percent of our ad revenue.
I’m not complaining — that’s just how the advertising world works. The more ads you display, the more you get paid.
But what do we do now?
We’re about 10 days into our holiday fundraiser. As always, I’m giving away some amazing premiums, including cutting-edge luggage from Barracuda, travel attire from Clothing Arts, annual subscriptions to Boingo and Pomchies POM IDs for your luggage. So far, we’ve raised a little more than $4,000.
If you want to help make up the the lost advertising revenue — money we would have used to keep this site operating — then this is your opportunity. The fundraiser is winding down, and we need to reach our goal of $10,000 soon. That’s a lot of ground to cover.
But beyond that, I’m left with a really difficult decision. What’s our next step?
Here are some of the things we’ve tried:
Affiliating ourselves with an ad network that specializes in travel blogging.
It wasn’t a good content fit, and in the final analysis, the revenue didn’t meet our expectations. Oh, why am I trying to sugarcoat this? It ended so badly that we had to block traffic from the entire network. Talk about a bad divorce!
Native content and dishonest affiliate links.
Ewwww. When I think of this dark period in the site’s life, I want to run to the shower. On a site like this, native advertising is lying. Affiliate links — at least the kind that are cleverly woven into the stories to encourage a purchase — are for ethics-free shills. No two ways about it. Never going back there. Never. Ever. (Per my update, I have no problem sharing my Amazon affiliate link that I use for tracking book sales, but I will never blog about Amazon’s wonderful products. Please shoot me if I do!)
Becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
I’m feeling a little dizzy. I should probably sit down for this. At the end of an almost one-year process of trying to become a nonprofit organization, I found myself on the phone with a lawyer who informed me that my website had “no value” and that I should sign it all over to someone I had known for only a few months and a board I didn’t know. Yeah, right.
There’s one model we haven’t explored yet, and that’s closing down part of the site with a paywall. You know, like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. We could sell annual memberships, giving you access to “exclusive” content.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see a paywall, I move on. There’s too much “free” content online, and the folks who do paywalled sites seem to have too high an opinion of themselves and the value of their content. Besides, our site is here for everyone, especially the people who can’t afford an annual subscription.
So here we are, back at square one. In the short term, I really hope you’ll participate in our holiday fundraiser, because now more than ever, we need your support. But I also sincerely welcome your ideas for making this a self-sustaining organization that will live on to help your children and grandchildren with their consumer problems.
Together, we can do it.
Update (12/12): Thanks for the great responses. Many of you have asked about an Amazon affiliate link. I have one — here it is. I’ve used it mostly to track my book sales. If you click on the link and do your holiday shopping, it will support this site. But I can’t actively endorse any Amazon products or promote them, as some bloggers or media personalities do. That would run contrary to the mission of this organization.