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filthy lucre

Post #524 • April 26, 2005, 8:58 AM • 18 Comments

While we're in navel-gazing mode, allow me to take care of a related item of business. I have been following the death of the mainstream media as we know it, and although arguments about the newspapers' inadequacies have fallen a hair short of convincing me that they're going away any time soon, a headline from today's NYT did rather register as a coughing up of blood: Newspapers Find National Ads a Tough Sell.

Many newspapers have been ailing as readers defect to other sources of news and as advertisers seek new ways to attract potential customers. The biggest challenge, by most accounts, comes from Web sites and search engines like Google and Yahoo. ... Newspaper Web sites still benefit from classifieds and other ads that once belonged almost solely to newspapers. But their ad revenue pales in comparison with that of the big Internet search engines and portals.

I am the proud owner of an iMac G4 that has just turned three years old. As of a couple of months ago, it refuses to recognize its own CD drive and all other external disks, including the new camera. That indicates a logic board issue. The last time I had a logic board issue on a Mac, the repair estimate came to 90% of the cost of a new machine. Now that Apple has a new operating system coming out, even if I get lucky on the logic board repair, there's still that upgrade to Tiger to consider.

As I examine the simultaneously exciting and galling possibility of a new machine (a 12-inch Powerbook, about as soon as they start shipping with Tiger installed), the above item reminds me that maybe I ought to consider generating a revenue model for Artblog.net. I do this out of love, pure and simple. So my revenue goals, as much as I can stomach the idea of them, would be targeted at covering groceries for the month. Singing for my supper, as it were. That's $150 a month, or $1800 a year. I want to check in with my readers regarding my options, all of which are dismal in some way.

1. Accept advertising. At the request of my readers, and seeing that it did make the blog a better read when I stayed away from politics, vegetarianism, and juggling, I have a very on-topic site. The above article seems to indicate that such focus makes for a desirable advertising venue. The cons include the fact that Google ads are as ugly as garbage, and I personally have never clicked through one and don't understand the attraction. I could select the advertisers myself, but I'd want to make more money in that case, as I'd then be working to sell ads. Also, consider that advertising creates obligations - if I accept an ad from a gallery, and later give them a positive review, will you believe it?

2. Secure patronage. Craig Robins, are you reading? Cons: see above regarding obligations. Alternately, There's a possibility that 18 of my readers would be willing to pay a hundred bucks a year for this. Or maybe 36 who would pay $50. 72 who would pay $25? (Hey - what do you think the chances are that I could get eight local art poobahs to contribute $5000 a year in return for making this my full-time gig? For that, I'll go write about shows I don't care much about. No problem.)

3. Advertise myself. Visualize a column over on the right of your screen with a sample of my art and a bio, talking up myself in an effort to sell art, writing, or design. Cons: I have to read this site too, and boy, but am I going to get tired of seeing that.

4. Premium content. This was kind of the idea behind Artblog.net/publications - twice a month I put up something that costs 75 cents to download and hope for a hundred people to go for it. Cons: actually, not many. It will be a bear to implement and might not work, but I think it would be cool to try.

Anyway, I may just suck it up and let everything continue as before, so don't panic if all of this looks unacceptably crass. But otherwise, what's your vote?

Comment

1.

alesh

April 26, 2005, 5:03 PM

1. Google text ads pay per click-through. And there's word (wlrn yesterday) that they're going to be rolling out graphic ads, which sounded like they were rolling them out on existing customers.

2. Nice work if you can get it . . . though getting a sallary for blogging is pretty rare (I remember reading that the single Gawker staff writer gets $24K. And as popular as Artblog is, it ain't Gawker)

3. No big problem for me, though I think the present, subtle, arrangement is just as likely to sell you work as a harder sell would. I don't see that big a correlation between casual readers of this blog and buyers of your work (i could be way off on this point?).

4. The downloadable PDF got pretty mixed reviews, and as far as I can tell, compared to writing for the New Times once in awhile, it makes very little money.

I think #1 is by far the best approach on ballance. Who minds a few ugly ads??

2.

that guy in the second to last row

April 26, 2005, 5:27 PM

Now we know how you stay so skinny Franklin. 150$ a month on groceries, although, always so stated on my budget, has never happened in this town. Miami has about a 30% mark up compared to my previous residence, but its not as bad down here as in New York.

As for adds, I think it would turn away some visitors but on the whole might work. Just promise you wont have those super annoying flash ads which follow the page as you scroll down. See the onion.com on how not to run your ads. Keep it simple and it ought to work.

3.

oldpro

April 26, 2005, 5:51 PM

I would contribute if others would. It would be like a subscription. The only subscription I keep after all these years is Consumer Reports, which is cheap enough. I could afford another. It would be a lot cheaper than keeping up all the useless domains I own.

I don't mind ads personally, but I might have some concern that it would compromise the site, especially if art-related.

Adverttising yourself? That is not a dependable revenue source, is it? (Depending what you are advertising, that is)

Premium content has always annoyed me but it might work.

4.

alesh

April 26, 2005, 6:11 PM

Regarding the powerbook, I also feel obliged to point out that Apple has been a bunch of assholes lately. There's all the DRM issues, where you really would think they would be on the side of their customers. And they've filed suit against three fan blogs, at least one of whom is being run by a teenager. They're suing him for damages, AND trying to get him to reveal the sources of his information. As the article in this month's Wired put it - for Apple, "think different" is a marketing slogan, not a way of life.

As someone who thinks blogs have a role in replacing traditional news organizations, is this a company you want to support?

5.

Links

April 26, 2005, 6:22 PM

re the above:

http://www.powerpage.org/cgi-bin/WebObjects/powerpage.woa/wa/story?newsID=14501

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=mozclient&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&q=site:boingboing.net+apple

6.

jake

April 26, 2005, 6:24 PM

sell it. get as much as possible from it. Make it famous......weigh all of them and make a purely financial decision. pretty or not, it will be different and hey, that was what we awere talking about.




just be true to yourself

7.

George

April 26, 2005, 7:16 PM

Regardless, the real issue will always be content, which ultimately is what increases the reader base (and the ad revenue). Somewhere in here lies the issue of what you expect from the blog. Are you expecting it to generate revenue, like a job? That's another can of worms because you will be a slave to it. If you just need to defray some of the overhead, put up a paypal donation link (like Good Reads does)

Re questions:
1. Ads are ok, well let's just say they are a fact of life.
2. Patronage is an option
3. By all means advertise yourself, but a lower key than you described.
4. I dislike the idea of "premium content"

Finally, I can totally identify with "posting burnout" and the desire to get back to work in the studio. Somewhere in the mix there is probably a way to continue without feeling like you are a blog slave.

8.

Jack

April 26, 2005, 9:27 PM

I would resist the paid advertising option as much as possible, or at least I'd try the others for a while to see if it could be avoided. There's certainly nothing wrong with promoting your own work on your own site, however, especially if it's done tastefully, as I expect you would. The patronage idea sounds good, but there is a clear potential for conflict of interests depending on the patrons in question.

9.

Franklin

April 26, 2005, 10:16 PM

Daring Fireball analyzed the hell out of the lawsuits and came down on the side of Apple. Regarding the iTunes issues - do I think Microsoft would handle this sitch with any more finesse? I'm going to go ahead and get a Powerbook.

10.

James W. Bailey

April 26, 2005, 11:55 PM

Dear Franklin,

Well, here's my radical proposal:

Incorporate Artblog as a not for profit business in the state of Florida and apply to the IRS for recognition as a 501(c) 3 tax exempt organization.

Artblog clearly has an educational thrust, which is a requirement for 501(c) 3 tax exempt status. Quite frankly, you are already providing more art education than many not for profit art centers and art museums in this country - which is ironic because that is what they are legally mandated to do in the first place in order to preserve their 501(c)3 credentials. But thats another subject for another day.

In most states (I assume Florida as well) one can incorporate a not for profit as either a member or non-member organization. Members of an incorporated member not for profit may or may not have voting rights, including the right to elect the Board of Directors. Most non-member not for profits are initially controlled by their incorporating board, with the members of the board being in effect the members of the organization.

You would need to form a group of incorporators to initiate the process in Florida. Usually, it would be the future Board of Directors. You might serve on the Board of Artblog as Chairman/President & CEO. That means you get to call the shots; but at the end of the day, you would in fact answer to your Board.

By incorporating as a not for profit and by securing 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status, Artblog would be in an advantageous position to solicit for tax deductible contributions to support its mission.

A print model exists for the above: Art Papers.

ART PAPERS is a non-profit arts organization dedicated to the examination and development of contemporary art and culture. Its mission is to provide a forum for the exchange of diverse and independent perspectives on the role of art in relation to cultural, social, and philosophical issues. Through the publication of ART PAPERS Magazine and the presentation of public programs, the organization serves diverse art communities and presents opportunities for the ongoing definition and representation of contemporary art and culture.

According to Art Papers 2003 IRS Form 990 (which is available for public inspection on Guidestar.org), it took in $411,000 in revenue.

I respectfully submit to you and your readers that Artblog is pretty much doing what Art Papers is doing - only Art Papers enjoys all the benefits associated with their 501(c)3 status.

I would gladly donate to Artblog, Inc., a not for profit 501 (c) 3 arts organization - especially if Mr. Old Pro is on the Board safeguarding the mission of Artblog to educate the public on the state of modern art with unvarnished truth!

Plus, if I were asked by the Chairman/President & CEO of Artblog to serve on a special committee (say The Social Construct Committee to Facilitate Postmodernist Deconstructed Dialogue Between Artists in Washington, D.C. and Miami), I could deduct my travel expenses to Miami for meetings!

Sincerely,

James W. Bailey

P.S. Obviously, Franklin, I dont have a lot going on today to throw this idea out. But I seriously think you should look into it. Im not aware of any art blog that has gone this route, yet. You might be the first should you do it.

P.P.S. Imagine having Mr. Old Pro (Artblogs Treasurer and Director of Aesthetic Philosophy) provide insightful, yet brutal criticism of the design and layout of Arblogs Annual Report on CNNs Lou Dobbs Tonight? Donations of financial support to Artblog would skyrocket!

11.

Hovig

April 27, 2005, 12:32 AM

Another 501(c)(3) organization is Texas's GlassTire online journal.

12.

James W. Bailey

April 27, 2005, 1:05 AM

Mr. Hovig,

Thanks for this tip. I looked at their site and it's interesting. I'm also impressed by their listing of contributors.

I have a friend from New Orleans who periodically contributes art reviews to Art Papers. He's able to deduct misc research and travel expenses associated with his written and published reviews as an in-kind donation.

I also took a quick look at their IRS Form 990 and see they took in over $32,000 in 2003.

Franklin, do you think Arblog could make it on $32,000 a year? I think we've found a solution here!

The downside? Yes, there is one...paperwork...the IRS loves paperwork!

James

13.

necee

April 27, 2005, 1:06 AM

ha. funny this should be the topic today, as it's also the topic (more or less) of one of my favorite columnists at the boston globe. i'd cut and paste the link, but i'm afraid the globe now wants you to register to read their articles, and i know how people abhor this idea on this site. (with good reason...)

anyway, i'm going to paste the whole shabang in here. franklin, if you think it's too long just take it out and add the link. by the way, PLEASE don't think i'm at all insnuating you are "on the take" or a "huckster" or any of that. i just find it interesting that the idea of branding pops up in so many areas of our lives.

ALEX BEAM


It's time for a new brand of journalism


By Alex Beam, Globe Columnist  |  April 26, 2005


Of course you have noticed that everyone is on the take. And you are thinking: Why not me?


Last week The Wall Street Journal revealed that (1) consumer product ''experts" like Corey Greenberg and the improbably named Katlean de Monchy receive payments from companies whose wares they praise on TV, and (2) many top-of-the-line chefs accept freebie food and cookware as part of sponsorship deals that are not disclosed to clients. Here is a lovely quote about Wellesley's own Blue Ginger, run by superchef Ming Tsai: ''Mr. Tsai's kitchen is filled with ingredients and tools from his sponsors."


Around the same time, The New York Times heralded the arrival of paid product placements, now ubiquitous in movies and television, on Broadway. A line from the original production of ''Sweet Charity" -- ''A double Scotch, again, sir?" -- has been changed to ''Gran Centenario, the tequila?" for the musical's current revival.


First ''Sweet Charity"; can Shakespeare be far behind? In ''A Midsummer Night's Dream" we can look forward to hearing: ''I know a bank where the wild thyme blows -- Citizens Bank!" When ABC-TV next stages ''Hamlet" we can anticipate: ''To be, or not to be? Is that your final question?"


You get the point. So the challenge remains: How to get in on the action.


It is important to think like the hucksters, I mean the entrepreneurs. Look at your everyday life as a potential branding or sponsorship opportunity. Ask the auto dealer for a $1,000 price break in return for leaving the ''Toyota" or ''Herb Chambers" logos on your car. If he wants you to display his ads, let him pay for them! If your office buys its supplies from Staples, make them your ''official supplier" -- put it on your letterhead -- in return for 30 percent off at the cash register.


Send Phil Knight a letter. He pays Tiger Woods to fly the Nike ''swoosh." Make him pay you.


Perhaps you are a schoolteacher. Not much scope for selling out, you think. Wrong! Suppose you are teaching the Hundred Years' War, which no one remembers. Write a letter to the French Embassy and offer to teach the whole bloody epoch as a series of resounding French military triumphs. (Agincourt? Never heard of it!) In return, you get a week in Paris, all expenses paid. Why not? The French could use the favorable PR, and you could use the break.


If you teach science, even better. Don't let the timeservers on the school board decide whether God made the universe or whether we evolved from the monkeys. Let the market decide. If the right-wing crackpots -- sorry, ''people of faith" -- can spend megabucks to promote knuckle-dragging judges, they can surely finance some creationist teaching in local schools. See how much they will pay, then go across the street to the National Science Foundation, and shake it down for a ''donation." You want play? You have to pay! That's what I call economic Darwinism.


Churches aren't normally thought of as profit centers. OK, the vestry has rented out the steeple for a Verizon cellphone tower; that's a good start. Now think outdoor signage. Change that dippy message facing the street, ''God Is Your Best Friend" to ''God Is Your Best 'Friends' Every Night at 7 on WLVI-56!" Do you have an after-service ''coffee hour"? Call it ''Starbucks Hour," for the right price. They can print catchy Bible quotes (''Be not rash with thy mouth") on the sides of the cups.


Sadly for me, newspaper journalism affords few opportunities for effective sponsorship and placements. Advertisements tend to be clearly marked and segregated graphically from the news. The notion that any large advertiser DUNKIN' DONUTS could slip its company name or logo into the sacrosanct DUNKIN' DONUTS columns of DUNKIN' DONUTS news reporting and dispassionate DUNKIN' DONUTS opinion could never be considered. It's the most sacred tenet of journalism.


My friend Joseph Finder once suggested that I charge people $1,000 a year to keep their names or company names out of my column. I guess he never anted up. Did I mention that his new novel, ''Company Man," has just been published? Maybe he did ante up, after all.


Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.

14.

Anna L. Conti

April 27, 2005, 1:08 AM

I've had similar thoughts over the last year (my iMac is in the same shape, as well) and my current thinking on this matter is:

Turning a creative pursuit into a revenue stream generally degrades the experience. It's a constant struggle to keep my painting experience from degrading past a point that's acceptable to me. A realistic look at the probable income from a blog (even a great one like yours) is not particularly encouraging. So I figured, why ask for more aggravation? Right now my blog is whatever I want to make of it and it's made me notice the ways and times that my painting experience is bent, spindled or mutilated by the need to make a living at it.

So I decided to leave well enough alone.

Good luck with your decision.

15.

oldpro

April 27, 2005, 2:21 AM

How about heavy fines for breaking the guidlines? Or perhaps we can buy indulgences, so we can break the guidelines with impunity.

Which makes me think, If I contribute, does my bitching allowance go up with the amount of my donation?

How much money do you need, anyway? $5000 per annum, as you indicated?

16.

Dan

April 27, 2005, 7:11 PM

> How about heavy fines for breaking the guidlines?

The problem here, as I see it, is that this would doubtless incur an offsetting cost when Franklin is forced to hire out a goon squad for fine enforcement.

And if my time spent watching Scarface and Miami Vice has taught me anything (and it has), it's that Miami muscle can be a bit avaricious.

So let's be realistic, oldpro.

17.

oldpro

April 27, 2005, 7:42 PM

Sorry, Dan. I guess I lost my head there for a minute.

18.

eduardo

May 10, 2005, 1:23 PM

no veo ningun tipo de problema en vender un poco de espacio en el "site". El comerciante que quiere pagar pues que pague. Al igual que nos usan hay que usarlos. NPR se ha dado cuenta que es posible vender espacio durante la programacion sin sacrificar la calidad de sus reportajes.

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