10.11.2003

Got a message from a member of Mentally Incontinent today. Among the coolness that was the message, she asked this question:

Just wondered , do you make any money by having this site in some way ?

I have actually been asked this question a LOT. I never really thought of the financial aspects of running a site until this one - it's amazing how many people think from that perpective. At least, it is to me.

The short answer is no, I do not make one red cent from any of my sites.

The longer answer is merely an explination of why I have chosen one form of 'webmastering' over another. It could very well bore you. A lot. So feel free to quit now. My feelings won't be hurt, seriously.

Oh well... read on if you must! However, don't say I didn't warn you.

The traditional school of running a website teaches in "webmastering 101" that the best way to maximize your potential on the web is to make a few dollars running banner ads and pop-up ads. The typical line goes that websites cost money to run, and since the webmaster is providing the end user with entertainment for free, the end user should be forced to return something to the webmaster in the form of being the audience for advertisements. In some cases, that line is used as an excuse to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible by slamming ads all over the place and hosting a few pictures of naked girls.

Virtually all of my online presence is based around a user reading content on my site. I write these long stories, boring and silly and whatnot. It is my 'call to action' that the reader read through them and at the end of it all determine if the story (or another) belongs in a book, or make some judgement on the story in some way. This means that reading comprehension is a pretty important factor to achieving my goal - entertaining people with my writing.

Placing a red and blue flashing square on my website explaining to the user that if they visit a 'sports-related' message board, they will have the chance to see a large busted woman in a tight t-shirt bending over and smiling at a camera goes a long way toward completely demolishing the user's focus on the material. Likewise, pop-up windows flying all over the place advertising a new DVD release or what-have-you simply drives the user batty before they even get a chance to read what I've asked them to read. I don't want people to start a story in a bad mood. That's just silly.

After all is said and done, the bottom line is that I hope all of my efforts will translate into selling books. Big, thick books that were created, in part, by the people reading them. I hope to create a solid base of people who really like what it is I write, who will tell other people that what I write is worth checking out. Annoying them with banner ads and pop up ads and what have you so that I can make 60 - 100 bucks a month off of them is not worth it to me. 100 or 1000 or 10,000 dollars a month in revenue gained by annoying the very people I intend to entertain is a poor value propisition.

Of course, I want to - and intend to - make money writing one day. I'd love nothing more than for writing to provide me with an income sufficient to cover all of my expenses. However, A writer is nothing if people do not read what they write. Movie and music critics make all kinds of money based on their writing - but honestly, how much entertainment is truly derived from reading what they have to write? Readers are worth much much more than their weight in dollar bills. It is not nearly as important to me to make a buck as it is to gain a new reader - you simply cannot buy a form of advertising more effective than a friendly recommendation about your book / website / magazine article.

I want to sell books. Lots and lots and lots of books. I sincerely feel that advertising on my website would be a huge detriment to this goal. I don't think advertising on a website is, in and of itself, bad - just the opposite. If a links- based or movie-based or music-based site feels that they can make a dollar or 2 by running ads, more power to them. Even writing based sites can do it - It's their site. they can do what they want. I am just of the opinion that asking people to read a story on their computer monitor with a viagra bottle unscrewing itself and dumping its contents on the user's screen is just asking too much.