Existential Blog Questions

January 3rd, 2021 by Potato

As we approach another Potatomas [or just pass, if it takes me two weeks to post this], Blessed by the Potato has another anniversary, turning 22 this time.

Perhaps it’s time for a little refresh. Perhaps it’s long past time for a major refresh — sidebars and fixed-width columns are so 2006. And have you heard about SSL certificates? But we can’t just grab a new WordPress template, upload it, and hope it works.

No, we must start with some existential questions to better understand the purpose of the blog and why I do what I do so that we can better decide how to move forward together.

Why does BbtP exist? Why do I still blog after 22 years? I don’t really know, I’ve just always kind of done this. Ok those are too hard, let’s try something else.

Why do I have some ads, but don’t accept paid posts/native advertising? Do I even want to make money?

So hosting a blog costs money, usually (I suppose there are platforms that let you do it for free). But I do it with WordPress and an account at a web server company and a domain name and all that, and it costs money. I had a grand vision of not having to pay for my hobby of blogging and maybe even making some side income back when I started this. Hosting costs let’s say $150-200 CAD/yr for some round numbers. Google Ads has a $100 minimum threshold to hit before getting paid out, and IIRC it took me over 5 years to hit that the first time. I now make an average of $160/yr in advertising (not including affiliate income). Not a whole lot of side income, and indeed over the whole lifecyle of the blog I’m still in the red.

In addition to display ads, I have those referrals in the sidebar. The thing is, all but one of those don’t just round to zero — they are zero. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a single payment from Passiv or the robo-advisors. Questrade is the most beneficial to users signing up (free money!) and also the only one actually earning its keep — I make roughly $200-250/yr from that program being featured there (though I don’t track the source and its also printed on the bookmarks I give out at talks). Which kind of raises a question: why have them there at all? I am very picky about which referral programs I put up, and think that they do benefit users as well as myself, but still I keep them explicitly over there in the zone where users immediately understand that it is advertising and not content. Even then, people occasionally question whether that affects my impartiality. Is $250/yr worth that? Eh, I’ll leave Questrade and Passiv for now, but now that I’m thinking about it I’ve taken down all the robo-advisor affiliate links.

Clearly, I’m not in this for the money. Should I be? I mean, that was the whole problem with grad school too, right?

If I was, one thing that we have to circle back to is why BbtP exists. More to the point, why that branding exists. It’s from an inside joke from when I was a teenager. I’m sure that the silly name and address (and possibly my silly writing style) is holding me back. That stuff shouldn’t matter — only the content should — but I’m pretty sure that it does anyway.

I really wanted to take some time in 2020 to sit down and re-think the whole site — whether (and how) to rebrand it, whether to split it into a more professional personal finance type site and a separate personal rant/update site. Whether to just mirror the PF content to the VoS site. Whether to delete a bunch of old posts and only keep a few of the tools and explainers. And of course to get a new theme. But the year was a massive dumpster fire. I’ll put up a separate post on that, but despite being locked at home in front of the computer with no day job for much of the year, I accomplished basically nothing.

Anyway, I’ve done nothing to the site (not even getting that SSL certificate going or changing the URL structure to include post titles in the permalinks), and now that I’m back working I may have missed my window to do anything major with it. So for now, it remains trapped in 2006. But the comments are open (even if it takes me two days on average to clear out what the spam filter catches), so by all means tell me how you think it should be revamped/rebranded/abandoned. Should I ditch the ads and get a Patreon pitch? (I am not liking that the previously unobtrusive banner ads have started including pop-ups) Or is that trend passe, and the thing to do now is to turn the site into a subscription newsletter on substack? Or are blogs themselves relics of another age, and I should shut it down entirely and just put 35-part rants on Twitter when I have something to say?

2 Responses to “Existential Blog Questions”

  1. Michael James Says:

    Wow. I went through some eerily similar soul-searching about my blog. I ultimately ditched the ads because they seemed annoying and because they generated trivial income for me. I figure that if my readership magically increases 100-fold, I can always put some ads back in, but it’s unlikely I’ll change my style and choice of topics sufficiently to increase readership that much. I figure the value of my blog (beyond what I get out of it personally) is mainly to sometimes change the thinking of those bloggers/writers/journalists whose reach is much wider than mine. Maybe your blog’s purposes are similar.

  2. Potato Says:

    The purpose never seemed to rise beyond “the demons tell me to write and make spreadsheets and it has to go somewhere.”

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