Okay, folks, I want your feedback on something.
And let me dive right into it — here are the reasons why, after ten years, I am seriously considering putting some ads on Whatever:
1. As the last week of inexplicable loading slowness reminds me, Whatever (and by association, all of Scalzi.com) has gotten big enough that the “put the site on a host server and hope things don’t go randomly nutty” theory of being online gets continually less tenable as I go along. I need a hosting solution that’s somewhat more robust, particularly if the site continues its general rate of growth. That costs money.
2. I would also like to finally put the whole site into a single easy-to-access format. Right now, the ten year history of Whatever is broken up into three major chunks: 1998 – 2002, which is accessible only by going to Archive.Org and using the Wayback Machine (and then only sporadically; the archive is patchy); 2002 – August 2007, which is accessible only if you know the direct URLs to whatever you’re looking for (no pun intended), and October 2007 – forward, which is available via the current WordPress installation. And you don’t even want to know what the actual Whatever backend folder looks like.
Putting all that into some sort of order is not necessarily complicated (cut and paste all the content into one blog software package, fix the urls of art/links so they point to the right places, drop in forwarding info so people who follow old URLs can find what they’re looking for in the new places, etc), but it is laborious and time-consuming, and I don’t have time to do it. I would need to hire someone to do it. Again with the money.
2a. While I’m doing all that organizing, I’d really like to give Whatever (and Scalzi.com) a new look and better functionality. The site you’re looking at now expresses the extent of my competence with online design, site architecture and user friendliness. To make it better, I need to hire someone to deal with it. Again: Money.
3. Because I have a strong belief in the concept of “Pay it Forward,” one of the things I do here on Whatever, having been fortunate to have developed a large audience, is give over space to other writers to promote their work. I do that right now with the “Big Idea” entries, and by doing brief write-ups of what comes into the Scalzi Compound; I would like to be able to do more of it. Again, the limiting factor here is time — I’ve basically worked these elements to take up as little time as possible, but they still take a big chunk of time I could be using to do other things (like, er, write posts or even those crazy things called novels).
Additionally, I love having fun with contests and silly stuff here; I’m tremendously awful at doing fulfillment on them, and beyond that there’s a lot of back-end stuff you don’t see, both relating to Whatever and to the rest of my writing career, that I have to deal with which I’m generally bad at dealing with. Krissy, of course, handles some of it (notably financial stuff), but she has her own job and things that she does, and after a long day of dealing with the rest of the world, I don’t think what she really wants to do is deal with my crap.
I don’t know how much more time I can dig out of my own schedule to handle the back-end for all the cool stuff here I like doing with writers and readers — but I do know that if I could hire someone, they would have all sorts of time to handle the back-end of all the cool stuff I like doing with writers and readers, because that would be their job. This would make writers and readers happy, since it would lead to more exposure for the former and less time waiting for me to pull my head out of my ass to send them stuff with the latter. It would make me happy, since I would have more time to focus on writing, and presumably it would make whomever I hired happy, because, you know, this wouldn’t exactly be lifting heavy objects as a job. And you know what it takes to hire someone? If you said “well, money,” you would be correct.
4. I make a very comfortable living writing novels and other books at this point — and here is the point where I bow in deep respect and humility to you, my wonderful readers — but as comfortable as I am, I am not so comfortable that I can easily spend the several thousands of dollars I would need at this point to overhaul and revamp the site and put it on technologically robust footing, or to hire someone even in a part-time capacity to to assist me with stuff I would like to be assisted with.
Where to get additional money? Well, donating blood and plasma only takes one so far, and while I suppose I could try to sell another novel specifically to raise funds for all this, I would then be obliged to write that novel, and as it happens I have quite enough writing on my plate as it is. And in general given all my obligations with work and family, I don’t have any large amount of time to do anything else to raise money. I suppose I could do a fund raiser and hit you folks up for money, but, you know, I really don’t want to do that. It’s one thing to fundraise for a charity here once a year or whatever. It’s another to ask you all for cash for myself.
Whatever does represent a possible resource, however. For September, Whatever is averaging 63,000 page views a day. If it keeps up, that’ll be 1.8 million page views for the month. I’ve looked at what some of the ad networks are asking for sites with traffic similar to mine, and it seems not unreasonable that I could bring in a useful amount of money — enough to pay for reorganizing the site, expand some of the fun stuff that gets done here, and hire someone to help me run the site (and also tell me what the hell I’ve done with my keys, etc). And who knows, I might even having something left over to pay for Athena’s college.
So those are the reasons I am seriously considering putting advertising on Whatever.
Here’s the reason I am resistant: I think it’s ugly and annoying. And I like that I’ve gone ten years without it.
Now, I’ve said before that if it ever got to the point where I was having trouble finding money in other ways and my family needed it that money, I would have no problem putting ads up on the site. I’m definitely not there now, nor does it look likely that I’ll be going that direction anytime soon. On the other hand, as noted above, Whatever is kind of on a pivot point; in one direction there are some opportunities to expand what’s done here and in the other there’s a necessity to pull back, based on time and technological constraints. And, basically, one path has advertising on it, and the other does not.
As you might expect, I’ve been twisting and pulling at this for a while, a condition exacerbated by the access problems in the last week. What I’m interested in knowing is what your opinion might be. To be clear, whatever decision I make will be my own, based on my own calculus of time, ambition, interest and so on. But at the same time, the Whatever is what it is now not just because of what I do here but because there’s a community here. I think it’s only fair to give you your say on the subject.
So: your thoughts, please. Thanks.