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A Reader’s Note and the Paypal Buttons

Some of you have already noticed that we put a widget on our side bar a couple months ago with Paypal buttons for you to contribute to Freethought Blogs if you’d like to do so (and thank you so much to those who have contributed). And the other day someone sent in a donation along with a note saying that reading FTB helped him through a very difficult transition from belief to non-belief. He said that he had struggled with the idea that there was something wrong with him because everyone around him could believe in God and he couldn’t, but reading the blogs here made him feel that he wasn’t alone and he has a community that supports him.

I’m not going to give the cliche and say that this “makes it all worthwhile.” It’s worthwhile anyway. I do this because I love it, because I get to write every day about issues that I’m passionate about, that animate me and get me fired up. And I’m still amazed that thousands of people find it worthwhile to read, respond and, sometimes, to correct me too (which is necessary more often than I’d like to admit). But it did remind me to remind you all that there’s a way for you to contribute to the network if you’d like to. Why might you do that?

To put it bluntly, putting together and maintaining a blog network with as much traffic as FTB gets is expensive. I spent several thousand dollars to get the network up and running and still spend many hundreds of dollars every month on server expenses, technical help and other expenses. And ad revenue is a pretty dicey proposition — it bounces all over the place and is much less profitable than it was in years past. And I don’t want to overwhelm the readers with too much advertising that distracts from the content.

I’ve tried very hard to balance the need for revenue with the need to keep your experience a pleasant one, though I’m sure at times I’ve missed the mark. We’ve occasionally run a pop under ad, for example, but I have turned down many offers to run ads that had auto-play audio or video (nothing makes me click off a site faster, and I’m sure that’s true for you too). I’ve made sure that all pop under ads were small, easy to click off and only appeared once per day. I’ve also turned down lots of other well-paying types of ads, like those expanding ads (where it covers half the page if you put your mouse over it) and auto-redirecting pop ups. I’ve even turned down in-line text ads from a huge porn company. Those kinds of ads pay a lot better — I mean a lot better — than the banner ads that we use. But they’d make your experience at FTB (and mine too) a lot worse, so they’re ultimately not worth it.

We are working on an ad-free option, where those who pay a small fee each month will be able to see a site with no ads at all. And we’ve continued to include the full posts in the RSS feeds, even after Google discontinued their ads in those feeds, costing us a considerable amount of money each month. Those who access the site through a newsreader already have an entirely ad-free experience, so this is a way for you to show your appreciation for all that content if you feel like it.

In fact, I’m really intrigued by what Andrew Sullivan is doing right now, making his blog totally independent and ad-free, relying solely on readers buying yearly memberships for $19.99. I don’t know if we quite have enough readers to make that work, but I’d like to explore it. I’d love to be able to dump all the ads and just be entirely reader-supported. I imagine a lot of you would like it too. Let me know in the comments if that’s something you would be willing to do.

None of this is intended to make you feel pressured to contribute at all. If you feel like doing so, please do. And if you don’t feel like doing so or can’t afford to, we certainly understand. Times are tough and a lot of people are living hand to mouth. Our readers have been incredibly generous not only to our bloggers but to a host of charities that we have asked you to help out from time to time. It’s been one of the most incredible things about blogging over the last, for me, almost ten years — the community that builds up around a place and how people jump in and help each other out.

For instance, one of the longtime readers and commenters at my blog and many others has graciously offered to pay the entire cost of sending someone who can’t afford it to Women in Secularism 2 this year. So many of you showed your generosity and kindness after my health scare a few weeks ago, and after Greta Christina’s cancer surgery a few weeks before that, and to those in need in so many ways. I’ve even been sent a box of great BBQ from Texas. You guys have consistently amazed me with your generosity.

So thank you — to those who’ve contributed financially, and those who continue to contribute your thoughts and ideas, and those who spread the word of posts you like on Twitter and Facebook and other places, and those who just read and enjoy as well. Even in the midst of Deep Rifts and all that drama, being able to share my ideas with all of you and even make a living at it is pretty fucking incredible.

Comments

  1. says

    And the other day someone sent in a donation along with a note saying that reading FTB helped him through a very difficult transition from belief to non-belief. He said that he had struggled with the idea that there was something wrong with him because everyone around him could believe in God and he couldn’t, but reading the blogs here made him feel that he wasn’t alone and he has a community that supports him.

    That’s not a struggle from “belief to non-belief”. That’s a struggle from not being able (for whatever reason) to proclaim one’s non-believe to be being able to embrace it openly. Very different–and good for everyone.

  2. says

    I have turned down many offers to run ads that had auto-play audio or video (nothing makes me click off a site faster, and I’m sure that’s true for you too).

    Very much so. Even worse, some unscrupulous webmasters will put multiple auto-play video ads on their site, so that when you click on a link several videos, spread out over the page, all start playing at once. Why would anyone want to include ads that directly interfere with your audience’s ability to enjoy the content you’re providing (and why the hell does Rovio insist on having ads that pop on screen when my bird is in mid-air)? People suck.

  3. says

    schmeer

    Why don’t you accept that this anonymous person did believe at one point?

    I have no problem with that. But I am basing my comment on what Ed wrote, that he [the contributor] said that everyone around him believed in god and he couldn’t.

  4. says

    Well gee, I would have interpreted that as “The reader said that FTB helped him through a difficult transition from belief to non-belief and reading the blogs here made him feel like he has a community of fellow non-believers to feel comfortable with.”

    Maybe I’m just too charitable in that regard.

  5. Sastra says

    heddle #1 wrote:

    That’s not a struggle from “belief to non-belief”. That’s a struggle from not being able (for whatever reason) to proclaim one’s non-believe to be being able to embrace it openly. Very different–and good for everyone.

    The positions aren’t that different when you consider that one of the most popular apologetic techniques is to point to the commonality of belief and infer that there MUST be something there. How can an atheist explain why virtually everyone — all cultures, all nations, all wise people throughout history — have believed in God unless there really is a God, presumably one who formed people with the inner knowledge that He exists? The uniformity makes no sense otherwise. It’s a reason to believe.

    And look at all the good, smart, wise people who surround you. How could everyone be wrong? It has to be a problem with you. Another reason to believe.

    Having faith is not supposed to mean that you have no doubts. On the contrary, many versions of Christianity encourage the believer to value uncertainty both as a check against extremism and arrogance — and as a test to make sure that your faith is a true faith which was thoughtfully chosen after a struggle. A person who is trying very hard to believe in God would be counted as a believer as long as they consider the fight a good and noble one in which they don’t want to “lose” their faith.

    The transition from belief to non-belief usually goes through stages. The sudden light and drastic change is much more common when atheists convert.

  6. pyschopenguin says

    FTB has been a big help to me in understanding Social Justice and making me think outside of the box.

    As a well-off white male, how the justice system provides me a certain level of protection that others do not have the luxury of receiving. I know that if I get into legal troubles, I can afford decent representation over a court-appointed lawyer. How criminal evidence is handled, not handled, and that minorities are continuously screwed. I use to be a staunch supporter of the death penalty, but after reading about the many issues with dealth penalty cases, I am much less a supporter. I still think that there should be the death penalty, but the bar must be set so high – video evidence coupled with DNA and witnessess plus a track record of violence – that it is rarely obtained. We are talking 100% guilty without a shread of doubt and prosecutors that withhold evidence are guilty of “tampering with justice” and subject to a minimum of 25 years to life in prision

    Also, the views of women in secularism, atheism and the concept of gender have been eye-opening and enlightening. I have been a more aware person of priveledge due to FTB that I am more then willing to contribute to a yearly membership. Hell, I am totally “investing” in FTB, if I ever win the lottery (which I hardly ever play because I know that I will never, ever win the lottery but it is a fun fantasy). I would love to invest a couple hunderd grand a year into FTB in order to hire full time bloggers and suport initiatives like A+.

  7. Johnny Vector says

    I heartily approve of the no-ads paid subscription option. Mainly as that’s what I already have, via AdBlock and the Subscribe button.

    Please please please never go to that “Take over the whole page to tell you to subscribe when you first come to the site” thingy that every one else is doing. I hate that with a fiery passion.

    Seriously. Fiery.

  8. carlie says

    I am the kind of terrible person who is too lazy to click the donate button. However, a yearly subscription at around $20 would be just about doable without too much effort.

    Caveats:

    I would like it if we could do gift subscriptions for others based on their username with login, which the site admin would then know who to direct it to.

    And I wouldn’t want the experience for anyone without a subscription to become ridiculously ad-laden. Targeted ads would be a lot better than the keyword based ones we have now. The ads that creep down the side of the page as one scrolls need to be banished to the netherworld of horrible advertising.

  9. DonDueed says

    Like Johnny Vector, I’m not in the hand-to-mouth situation. To me, $20.00 a year sounds like an incredible bargain for ad-free access. Heck, five bucks a month would still be a steal.

    I am concerned when I read about the dire financial situations some other commenters describe, though. Would it be possible to provide some sponsored subscriptions for those who truly can’t afford to pay? Maybe something like PZ’s Order of Molly would be workable.

  10. keith says

    Have you considered incorporating FTB as a 501(c)3 so that donations would be tax deductible?

    $20/year seems quite reasonable to me.

  11. mildlymagnificent says

    501(c)3? So a portion of the donated funds would then be devoted to additional legal and other filing expenses?

    You’d need to be sure you’d get enough donations to make it worthwhile. Presumably donations like mine from outside the US would also have to be separately identified or could make other difficulties. Easier to get the money, pay the costs, distribute the surplus (if any) to the bloggers and everybody involved does their tax returns accordingly.

  12. Karen Locke says

    Count me in for a paid subscription, even one with some ads as long as they’re not obnoxious.

  13. says

    Long time RSS reader, first time commenter. And as of today, first time donor. Even though I read through RSS for many of the FTB contributors, I would pay for a subscription to the whole network.

  14. reinderdijkhuis says

    I would take a paid subscription to both support Freethoughtblogs and get rid of the often sleezy ads that get shown in popunders – or indeed all irrelevant ads anywhere on the site. I would also happily pay a lot more than $20, just to give a giant middle finger to the slymers.

  15. stumble says

    I specifically switched to a RSS reader that does full page views just so google adds would get counted. But I would be happy to also pay a coup,e bucks a month. For me at least a once a month is easier than a once a year subscription.

    I would also suggest having different levels. Nothing regarding access to content, but perhaps different levels could get a free hat or something. Just so I can justify paying more. :D

  16. Julie says

    It’s a site I visit every weekday so I am certainly enjoying and using the content.

    I have been considering subscribing. I was never sure if clicking went to the whole network or just the individual blogger? I couldn’t pick which blog was my favourite so being a wimp I never chose any. Let me know if I have this right now and subscribing is an entire network thing and not singling any one blogger out.

  17. says

    I have read you for years and really love the network you’ve built. I’ve come to enjoy lots of the bloggers here and read this site daily. I would be happy to pay for a subscription whether it cost 20 or more. Finding ways to support the activity here would certainly be something I’d be happy to be a part of.

  18. says

    I’d absolutely pony up $20 or similar for a year’s subscription. I already follow FTB through the RSS feed, so I’m happy to justify my ad-free viewing with a token payment. ^_^

  19. thebookofdave says

    I visit FtB more frequently than I check my mail. Although they are both important to me, only one of them has no substitute. Though you keep the free version remarkably uncluttered, I still wouldn’t hesitate to subscribe to an ad-free version for $20. Even at a few bucks more, I wouldn’t call for a mutiny.

  20. Andrew G. says

    I’ve made sure that all pop under ads were small, easy to click off and only appeared once per day.

    My browser has a setting to allow pop-up windows; I have it turned off.

    If an advert uses some clever coding to get around that and pop up a new window anyway, a line has been crossed.

    (And how do you expect “once per day” to be enforced against sane people who refuse to allow cookies from advertising or other cross-site data collection networks?)

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