Tea With TBQ: New Features Survey Results
The results of a recent survey on new site features, covering what people want, what we'll be implementing, as well as answering submitted questions and comments.
I was trying to think of a good title to put this under and, well, you know how much I love alliteration. Plus we have the cute logo now so welcome to Tea with TBQ! Where we have a friendly chat to catch up on stuff and overall touch base. I don’t know how often we’ll be doing these, but we’re kicking it off with the results of the survey we did last week about possible new site features.
First up let me thank everybody who participated. I appreciate you taking the time and you giving your feedback. It was very interesting and helpful for me so for real, thanks!
Now that it’s done I figured let’s go over the results. This will include an explanation of why I did it and will also answer some questions and comments people left as well. As a caveat, the survey was anonymous so to continue that level of privacy I’m going to address some of the things said without quoting them directly. Possibly I’m being overly cautious but my thought process is that I don’t want people feeling reluctant to say what they’re thinking, good or bad, because I might then turn around and put their exact words up for everyone to see. I promise I’m addressing everything that got raised. I just may not always be saying it as “So this one person said they wanted information about XYZ.”
Without further ado, let’s get into it.
Why did I do the survey?
As I’m sure all of you know by now - since I can’t imagine anybody is reading a writeup of a feedback survey who isn’t a regular reader of this site - I have anxiety. One of the ways it can manifest is me having obsessive “What if?” kind of thoughts, and not the fun Disney+ animated series kind. With regards to the site, this can result in me having an idea about something to do for the site but having no idea if I should do that thing or not. So then I start spinning my mental wheels over and over as I’m thinking stuff like “Should I be doing merch? Do people want merch? Am I already supposed to be making merch? How would I make merch if I did it? Should I be researching merch?” and on and on and on.
What helps me, then, is if I can touch base with whoever might be involved in what I’m thinking about and ask hey, is this a thing? Hence why even those who answered no to some of the questions were helpful. Continuing with the merch example, if 100% of those who replied said they didn’t want merch I wouldn’t have been sobbing into my tea wondering why nobody wanted merch, I’d genuinely be able to pet my anxious brain and go it’s okay, this isn’t a thing we need to worry about. Conversely, people saying they were interested also helps because then it removes the “Am I on the right track here?” part of the wheel-spinning and lets me know what direction I should be trying to aim myself in.
I’d had a few questions I was kicking around in my head and then there was a confluence of two events. One is that Ko-Fi did a challenge saying hey, ask your audience what they’d like to see. The second was that I was testing out some sites for analytics and one of them offered the option to do surveys. So I figured hey, maybe this is a sign and I should go ahead and do a survey.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make the survey work on the site I was testing but I’d already written up the questions up to try it and I didn’t want to waste them at that point so I copied them over to a Google form and here we are!
What were the big takeaways from the survey?
The biggest is that surveys are really helpful and I need to make them part of the regular rotation around here. Don’t panic, I’m not going to spam you. We’re talking 1-2 times a year tops. But in general I keep on top of how the site is doing via statistics: What articles are popular? Where is the audience coming from? Did the newsletter go up or down in subscribers? And so on. And the numbers are informative! But what I realized is that they don’t fully capture what you all are experiencing. For instance, knowing which article is the most popular (Encanto, by a HUUUUUUUUUUUGE margin) doesn’t tell me if people have questions about Ko-Fi memberships, or wish I was doing more of X instead of Y, and so on. So I’m glad I did it and I’m glad for everyone who filled it out because it showed me there’s things beyond the numbers which are just as important.
Beyond that the takeaways get into the individual parts so I’ll address them in turn.
What possible features are people interested in?
Ability to comment on posts was the most popular choice. Literally twice as popular as what came in second place which was merch with commissions coming in at a close third. But like numbers-wise if I had to sum up y’all’s opinion on this it was “OMG POST COMMENTING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh yeah and this other stuff seems nice too.” So duly noted! On that end...
How should we handle post commenting?
The runaway winner was only newsletter subscribers, both free and paid, should be able to comment with 75% of the votes. Nobody liked the idea of having a financial barrier to commenting and frankly I agree with that as well. (Also not for nothing but Ko-Fi members can comment on the posts over there and so far nobody’s taken advantage of that so if we limited it to you guys and paid subscribers I think we’d be seeing a lot of tumbleweeds 😀). Only about 8% liked the idea of anybody being able to comment and even then people added some caveats about requiring registration to comment (ie they don’t have to sign up for the newsletter but they do have to have some kind of login so it’s not anonymous) and making sure comments were moderated.
People also expressed concern about how a fully open ended commenting system might affect my mental health, which is valid, and there were suggestions about having moderators to vet comments so I wouldn’t have to put myself at risk by seeing anything shitty. I appreciate all of this and these were some of my own concerns about adding comments to posts as well. I definitely don’t want to put stuff out into the wild and then have people coming in and being obnoxious fanbois on the pop culture posts or have assholes trying to slam my health on the disability posts (the latter of which I have had happen to me elsewhere, including over on Twitter.)
So, respecting and appreciating the concern about how this would be for me, I do think that if it was limited to people who subscribed to the newsletter that would be a big way to control for assholes, frankly. The way it works here on Ghost (the host and back end of this site) is that you can login and either get the newsletter sent to you or, if you don’t want the email, you can turn the email part off but still be registered. I have to imagine that few assholes would go through those steps just to be dicks on a comment section. Like I do legitimately feel like a weight is lifted off my shoulders if we used this as an option compared to something like having comments open to all or even open to anybody who has a Disqus account or something.
The caveat there is that with Ghost there is no free way to set up comments, particularly with this kind of a requirement. You can see the options they offer over here if you’re curious. As of right now the best option for the thing most wanted, which was for subscribers to comment, is Cove, which has the benefit of being able to offer that option as well as having easy integration with Ghost.
However, as you’ll see, the cheapest option for Cove comments is $10 per month. If we signed up for a year there’d be a discount so that would be $90 per year.
As the folks with the paid subscriptions and Ko-Fi memberships know, this is not an unreasonable expense compared to the other things that are being paid for to run this site. But at the same time it’s not ten bucks period either so I don’t feel comfortable making a unilateral decision of taking this on since I’m not the one who’d be paying for it.
The other aspect is that we are still currently working towards the budgeted financial goal for the site for year two (aka the year we’re currently in of operations). That’s being tracked over on Ko-Fi for the curious. Again because it’s not my money I don’t feel comfortable adding to expenses before the first round of expenses is paid off.
That being said, as of me writing this (April 26, 2022) we’re at 83% of the goal and the financial year flips over in March. (We’re so far ahead because we hit the goal for year one so quickly - THANK YOU! - that I was able to apply the subsequent overage to year two before March 2022 arrived.) I don’t want to count chickens before they’re hatched but if we stay on the current course with paid subscriptions and Ko-Fi memberships we’re going to hit that budgeted amount pretty soon and then start having overages again. There’s already one thing I was thinking of adding to a “2022 Goal 2” goal (more on this in a sec) so I’m not against adding Cove in there as well if it looks like we’ll be able to afford it (again, entirely thanks to those of you who support the site financially).
Another thing we could try is signing up for a month of Cove where we give it a shot and if we don’t like it, well, we just don’t sign up for a year and it was a $10 experiment and no more.
So basically the answer here is clearly commenting is a wanted feature, I agree with your concerns and think there’s a way to do it which will address them, but it will cost money so I don’t think we can do it right this second. But maybe in a month or two we could do a trial run?
Paid subscribers and Ko-Fi members, if you have thoughts here let me know. Also if anybody feels like donating to directly pay for the costs for Cove I’m fine for that as well. You can donate via Ko-Fi and just add a note about what you’d like it to be for.
(Please don’t feel pressured to do this. I’m only putting it out there if someone had the thought that they’d want to do it. Hi I have anxiety and my brain obsesses about “Should you mention this? Maybe? What if someone wants to and you didn’t say?” so here we are.)
Since we’re talking about things that cost money lemme jump ahead to the privacy question and then we can jump back to income streams.
How important is privacy to you all?
The reason why I asked this question is that the issue of cookies and privacy had been on my mind already, and then John Oliver did that episode about data brokers which ramped it up even more in my concerns.
Currently I use Google Analytics to track site traffic. The benefit of Google Analytics is that it’s free. The drawbacks of Google Analytics are that over the past year or so they’ve been changing the presentation of the information on what feels like a fucking whim with zero updated documentation to help you and also there’s that thing where they have no concept of privacy. I have no doubt that they’re tracking far more than they need to every time someone visits a site that uses Google Analytics for its data.
I’m a nobody, my little site here is a nobody. I mean we all enjoy it but in comparison to, say, Amazon I’m barely an atom in the vast universe of the interwebs. So to me there isn’t even a need for me to have this level of privacy-violating data (which Google doesn’t share with me anyway, I only get the stuff related to my site which, again, is presented in a shitty manner. Like not for nothing but I ate data analysis for breakfast back when I was working. I could analyze shit down to the number of ice cubes in a drink order on a Wednesday in Tampa where the temperature was over 90 degrees. If I can’t make your data work, you have shitty data organization.)
So yeah, I don’t need it and it’s silly for me to even be involved with stuff that asks for it if there are other options.
But the caveat is the other options cost money.
I’ve been researching various things which could replace Google Analytics and the short version is that the options which have emerged as the best have a cost to them. I’ll get more into what those options were and the thought process behind it for the paid subscribers and Ko-Fi members who get that level of detail as part of the monthly Behind the Scenes (it’s their money so I want to be as open as I can with them about how it’s being spent and why.) But the short version is that Visitor Analytics has emerged as the front runner. It does offer a free to try option, which I have been using to test it but the site gets enough traffic that it can’t live on the free option alone.
This being a thing that would cost money, though, I figured I’d take the temperature of the room to see how important you all felt internet privacy was. Again it’s my anxiety brain: this is important, is it important?, is it important enough to pay for?, should this be an immediate priority?, should this be no priority? and so on and so forth.
To that end absolutely everyone agreed that privacy was some level of important. Nobody picked the “not very important” option, in other words. After that the most popular choice was a preference for no tracking cookies but not if there was a cost involved at 46% with “it’s nice if you can” coming in second at 31%. 15% felt it was important enough to have even if a cost was involved and 8% said it was important enough they’d be willing to pay for it. (I’m rounding the percentages here to the nearest decimal place).
One thing I do regret is that I couldn’t figure out how to word the question better to make it clear that any cost involved would be slated to be covered by paid subscriptions and Ko-Fi donations and memberships. In other words the site itself wouldn’t suddenly have a cost to use. My excuse there is I was trying to set up the survey for a smaller format which didn’t allow for a detailed explanation like “When I say cost this is what I mean” and then when I moved it to a Google form which did have that ability it didn’t occur to me to rewrite it. Blame my brain which gets slow at certain times of day.
That being said, the takeaway still seems to be that privacy does matter and if we can move the site in a direction which uses fewer tracking cookies the better. This is also something that is important to me so I’d like it to be a priority in terms of what new features I’d prefer we add. Definitely something for “2022 Goal 2” in my mind. Like I said, I’ll get more into the various sites I tested and my conclusions about them in this month’s Behind the Scenes but for folks in general I wanted you to know that looks like a direction we’ll be moving in. If people had overwhelmingly said they didn’t care I would’ve gone okay, we’ll stick with Google Analytics and I’ll be wistful about better data presentation but not lose sleep over it, as it were.
Hopefully that makes sense.
All right, back to the questions about merch and stuff!
How about paid commissions?
This question was inspired by a comment I got a while back from someone wondering if I would take TV show requests. TV show requests I definitely cannot do. They’re just too time intensive. I thought about what if I narrowed it down to just the pilot episode or something like that but really that’s not fair to the show. TV shows work in conjunction with the other episodes so you can’t fairly analyze them in a void.
Then you also get into the thing of how, while I enjoy what I do, it is still work. There’s the time to watch and take notes as I watch, there’s research and cross referencing to be done. An episode of Moon Knight doesn’t take me as long as West Side Story did (which is the second most popular article on the site, btw) but it still requires me to be awake, present, ideally not in pain from migraines and so on.
So I had to mark TV show requests as a no. I mean there’s stuff I like that I’m still going back and forth on writing about, like Our Flag Means Death. (Which if I did would be a single summary article, not ep by ep, but still.) I can take recommendations on stuff people would like to see all day long but definitely couldn’t guarantee coverage.
But one of the things I see out there as I research how to run blogs and what people expect of blogs these days, especially once like mine which rely on paid subscribers and membership tiers, is that some sort of commission offering is appreciated. For instance stuff like pay X amount and we’ll move your request to the front of the line, or add the request into the queue, or do your request in the first place, and so on.
So, given that this seemed to be something that was both expected and popular with people who did things similar to what I do, I sat and asked myself what could I offer if I offered something? And I figured okay, I could do a movie. A movie is 2-3 hours long, it’s a one and done, god willing nothing will take as much work to put together as West Side Story did, it’s not that bad. It could also provide some extra content during the leaner months when I’m not doing a TV show every week.
Uh - to that end it occurs to me I should add the side note here that the Pop Culture stuff is the most popular stuff on this site by a long shot. Even if you take Encanto out of the equation, because for real that thing is so popular it’s like adding Jeff Bezos’s wealth into the average income of every American in terms of how it skews the numbers, Pop Culture still leads the pack by a significant margin. The Disability Life stuff is still out there and gets views, but that is more like the little engine that could. Those articles go out there and slowly pick up an audience over the course of months. Pop Culture goes out and immediately kicks the traffic lines higher on those analysis graphs we were just talking about.
Obviously the timeliness of those articles is a factor. Analysis of Moon Knight episode 4 is most interesting to people right after episode 4 comes out. Advice on how to get a psychiatric service dog is relevant at whatever time someone googles the topic. But point being Pop Culture is what gets the name of the site out there, Pop Culture drives the most traffic here, Pop Culture keeps the lights on so that I can put out the Disability stuff. So if you’re wondering why I’m keeping the focus on Pop Culture with this, that’s why.
Anyway, going back to the thought process as it relates to commissions, that’s part of why I was thinking movies. Also, frankly, there’s some stuff I wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to do but if you paid me extra heck yeah. I’ll happily sit through all of Endgame again with detailed notes on all the parts that suck (and legit compliments for the few parts which don’t) if you pay me!
But question one was would people even want this? So, again to appease anxiety brain, I asked.
The statistics here were spread out over a few questions so I’ll summarize by saying the overall vibe was that people were intrigued but, as already mentioned, not chomping at the bit like they were on an option like being able to comment on posts. I also agree with those who expressed concerns about my health - for instance not overtaxing myself by offering something on a deadline and then I get a week of migraines and either have to work through pain or not make the deadline.
I will say to that end if I did offer commissions I think it would be during down times - again like when I’ve got a month or so of no TV shows every week - and as a limited offering. Ko-Fi does allow for this where you can say yeah I’m taking commissions but there’s only two slots so grab ‘em now if you want ‘em. I’d also want to put in explanations of stuff like it’s not going to be a tight turnaround and it’s got to be something that’s going to have an end product that’s good for both of us. Like if somebody asked me to review Doctor Strange they’d need to know I am not going to be doing it from the POV of a Doctor Strange fan. Likewise if you want a more detailed review of Into the Spider-Verse it’d be entirely about how awesome that movie is with very few critical comments because there isn’t much to criticize. Also there’d be acknowledgement that at any point if it doesn’t work out for either of us you get your money back. (Personally I’d prefer a method where we could have the conversation first and then do the official commission if we’re in agreement but I’m not sure how to set that up.)
After that was the question of price. I wanted to ask because while doing my research I saw numbers all over the place. To me at bare minimum the cost should reflect the time. I won’t mention any names but one blogger I saw who does movie commissions charged $8 for them and I’m like honey that’s not even minimum wage to watch the movie, let alone spend your time talking about it. In general it adds about 20% of time for me to take notes as I watch something and then the actual writeup, again when it’s not something like West Side Story, is 2-6 hours of work depending on how detailed I’m getting and how long the original piece of media is.
So yeah, not charging $8 for that but wasn’t going to charge $8000 either. So I figured I’d ask what y’all thought was far.
As far as that went $50 was the most popular choice with everything else getting a fairly even spread of the votes. Though I do want to give a shout out to the person who suggested a sliding scale which included things like a higher price if I was being asked to go over something I hated, because ha!
But ultimately the vibe here seemed to be people didn’t hate the idea but neither were they screaming with glee at the possibility, so I’d say this one isn’t a high priority. I may float it out sometime during a lean content period just to see if there’s any nibbles but otherwise this goes in the “Not losing sleep over this” pile.
How about some merch?
Merch was another thing where, as I research what people like me offer, is treated as “Oh well of course you have merch, right?” And then I’m sitting here like somebody who showed up at a party and is starting to suspect they greatly misinterpreted the dress code all “Merch? Was I... the invitation said ‘blog’ nobody mentioned... was I supposed to bring t-shirts?? Oh my god have people been upset there’s no t-shirts??????”
Cue anxiety brain, cue me asking y’all.
Admittedly another part of why I asked is because before I couldn’t possibly imagine what I’d put on merch. But now we have the OH MY GOD SO FUCKING CUTE logos from MadisonOliviaArt and frankly I’d want that shit on a mug or something even if it wasn’t depicting me and my pets specifically. So that had me kind of like well... maybe?
If we did stuff with Madison’s art, though, Madison would obviously be compensated accordingly. I’ll spare you the details on that but part of that would involve figuring out the best way to compensate her based on how the art was being used, how much money was expected to be made, and so on. I am completely making this up so please don’t think I’m sharing anything from our conversations or her preferences, but as a concept any artist might want a different arrangement for, say, a single piece of art of theirs put on a mug and offered as a benefit to members when they join at a certain tier vs multiple pieces of their art over stickers, shirts, bags, masks, etc in a storefront for anybody to buy from.
To that end, though I’m not putting anything in stone, I feel like if we did do merch probably the wiser thing would be to do something that we could easily test in house? For instance I see some content creators who have their merch focus on things they say a lot as opposed to graphics or drawings. That’d be something I could whip up on my own and we could test out, and then based on people’s reactions that could inform what, if anything, was a next step.
As far as what y’all want merch was actually fairly popular. It came in second to the commenting option and, under that, stickers were the most popular pick. After that, in terms of stuff that would have a logo or saying on it, the choices were then Mugs, then T-shirts, then phone wallpapers, and one write in vote for pet bandanas which I’m ashamed I never thought of myself so thank you.
The thing with that, though, is that to only offer stickers would mean I personally would need to mail them out. Basically the way that works for folks like me is I get the sticker design, I order like a pack of 100 of them, then I’m responsible for mailing them out to people individually when the orders come in. I can tell you right now I can’t do that. That’s not feasible with my physical health and definitely not with my anxiety.
So the next option is something like the site I just linked to where the site takes care of everything and at the same time you get sticker options, T-shirts, and more.
(My ideal 3rd option would be for Ko-Fi to offer an in house way of doing this like Patreon does but Ko-Fi doesn’t have that kind of infrastructure yet and even Patreon’s like “If you’re not making thousands a month don’t even bother with this level.” But point being if Ko-Fi offered it where all I needed to do was flip a switch I’d flip the switch immediately because why not?)
I’ve got nothing against trying a storefront but I’d need help figuring out what to offer. Do I have a catchphrase? Do people actually want “I skipped Ancient Greece, YOU’RE WELCOME” on a t-shirt? Seriously, let me know! Hit me up in Ko-Fi messages or on social media or there’s always the handy dandy contact form if that works better for you. But seriously I’d love to know.
(Huh, guess this would be one of those times when a comment section on a post would come in handy...)
The other thing that emerged as a popular choice for merch was a downloadable, such as a worksheet for tracking medical stuff. It actually came in second to stickers with stickers only being in the lead by one vote! (Never say your vote doesn’t matter.)
I was honestly surprised by this one because I thought for sure that would be the least interesting thing, so lesson learned for me to never assume. (This is also why I’m offering a lot of options here on things because, well, who am I to assume y’all might not want those options?)
The history behind that is one of the Disability Life articles I’ve got in the works is staying organized when you have chronic health issues. And one of the things which helps me is a sheet I made up where I track stuff like my doctors and medications. That got me wondering if people would be interested in actually getting their hands on a blank copy of that worksheet which they could use.
Anxiety brain had me going back and forth on whether anybody would be interested and since I was doing the survey I figured I may as well ask. Never expected it to be as popular a choice as it was so again, thank you because the concept that feedback was just as informative to me as the specific feedback itself.
I will say that if I do offer it it wouldn’t be for very much. To me the beauty of something like that is in its simplicity, so it’s not the same level of design work as a pretty “My dreams and goals for 2022” type workbook would need to be. What I’d do is put it up on Ko-Fi, because Ko-Fi does allow you to make digital downloads automatically available, and then set the price very low. Like the only reason why I’m not fully committing to a “pay what you want” price is I’m too lazy to double check if Ko-Fi offers that option right now. But yeah, heard you loud and clear that you’re interested and I’m glad I asked!
Finally one person mentioned TBQ Funko Pops and while I can’t offer those I will say that everyone who’s met me in person says the new logo looks exactly like me so if you want to customize one for yourself, there’s your template. 😀
With that, we can now get to people’s questions and comments. Like I said I’m not going to do direct quotes to respect privacy so instead I’m going to tackle things by broad topics.
There was very useful feedback about Ko-Fi notifications not being ideal in terms of frequency. I will say I checked the survey responses each day the survey was active so as soon as I saw that feedback come in I immediately sent it to Ko-Fi’s support team so that they were aware of it.
Unfortunately I have no control over Ko-Fi notifications. Believe me I wish I did.
For those who aren’t familiar, basically if you follow a creator over on their Ko-Fi site the default is that you get a notification whenever they post anything to the site. To prevent spamming people’s inboxes, Ko-Fi looks at all the creators a person follows and, if all those creators post something around the same time, Ko-Fi will send an email that basically goes “Hey stuff’s happening with the people you follow! You should go to the site and check it out!” but doesn’t get more specific than that. It’s then on you to go to Ko-Fi and tap the Notifications icon at the top of the page or the Newsfeed option to see what’s new.
And on the one hand yeah, I get it. If somebody’s following like 10 creators and they’re active every day it probably would be a pain in the butt to get repeated notices about it. On the other hand this makes it super easy to miss something and if I’m paying a monthly membership fee I’d be annoyed if I missed some of my perks because I didn’t get a notice about it.
On my end as a creator what I try to do is space out what I post to Ko-Fi so that it’s typically no more than one thing per day or at least no more than one type of thing per day. So I might do a Media Rec one day, a Short Review the day after, and post all the pet photos in one go on day three. Me spacing it out increases the odds that people will get specific notices saying “TBQ just posted a Media Rec” and thus the people for whom that’s a benefit they’re paying for don’t miss out.
Unfortunately the downside is that if you’re following me but not a member, or if you’re a member of, say, Krewe des Chats you’re still getting notices for stuff of Krewe of Best Tea even though you don’t have access to it.
So yeah, I get the logic Ko-Fi’s using but I don’t agree with it and I agree with those of you who said it’s a pain. I gave the feedback to Ko-Fi so that will hopefully help, but here’s what you can do on your end:
- Tell Ko-Fi what you think. That’s the link to their general feedback system and this is the one for membership tiers specifically (ie if your issue is only with membership related notifications, use the second link. If it’s notifications in general, use the first.) The person I spoke with in support also said to be sure to include a mention in your feedback if you are a follower or a member (ie if you’re in one of my membership tiers - you don’t have to mention me specifically, just say that you’re using the membership system) as that will help them know where the feedback is coming from. Please please please do this if nothing else because the more of us who bug them about this the more likely it is that they’ll make changes.
- Change your notification settings. For those of you who felt you were getting too many notifications, this might help. You can’t narrow it down to be as specific as only a certain membership tier, or only a certain creator, but at least you can lower the overall frequency.
- If you are in the Krewe of Newses specifically what you may want to do, if you’re able, is switch from Ko-Fi over to the paid subscription option here on the site. Basically you would cancel your Ko-Fi membership and then start a paid subscription here. The price is the same on your end. The only difference is that you would have to use Stripe because that’s the only payment option Ghost accepts, and you’d see the Behind the Scenes articles in your inbox and here on the website instead of over on Ko-Fi. But if you do that you wouldn’t have to worry about all the other Ko-Fi notifications so that might help.
So that covers too many notifications. For too few that gets into another issue raised so let’s hit that on its own.
Do I advertise and/or try to push people into higher paying tiers?
This is combining a few things so if some of you are sitting there like “Wait, I didn’t say - “ it’s again that privacy thing while me still trying to address everything that people brought up.
The short answer is yes, I do push awareness of my site and my Ko-Fi but no, my intention is never to indicate that people should pay more nor that those who do are more valuable to me.
I’ll hit the last bit first since it involves money. As a concept the advice is yes, absolutely, upsell! Gatekeep stuff! Only post maybe a paragraph in public then make them pay for the rest by forcing them to sign up for your newsletter or pay the membership fee or whatever!
Like this is best practice recommendations, up there with “do this for Search Engine Optimization” and “hey people like stickers” as far as the advice you find for running a blog or being any other kind of content creator these days. So I both get told this when I research and sometimes people ask this when they wonder about the site.
But here’s the thing: this isn’t my job. I do this because I enjoy it and because you guys like reading it. I also have a goal of getting the disability information out there as well but like I mentioned before the Pop Culture stuff is the most popular so I feel like it’d be disingenuous to try to claim that everything I do here has some higher meaning. Sometimes I just wanna rag on a shitty movie or rave about an amazing one, yanno?
If this was my job and I was trying to be Ms Content Creator Bloggess Extraordinaire, then yeah I might have more of a five year financial plan complete with dedicated social media campaigns for the specific goal of upselling everyone to the - whatever - $1000 per month Uber Supporter Tier with its Ultra Exclusive Content!!!!!!! But, yanno, nah?
This isn’t my job both because I don’t want it to be and also because it can’t be. First up because if I could work a full time job right now I’d be working a full time job right now. I don’t want to be on disability! I want to be back in the land of spreadsheets and databases and making onboarding classes for new employees and... sigh.
But these days I can’t even count change so here we are. I can’t work. Literally.
Also legally. Because I’m on disability there’s a maximum amount of money I’m allowed to take in per month before the government goes “Ahem?” and removes my benefits. Currently the paid subscriptions and Ko-Fi memberships don’t come anywhere near that amount so we’re in the clear. But I say this just so people have extra understanding of why I don’t do it. I love the financial support. I’m thrilled for the financial support. This site literally could not run without financial support because I couldn’t afford to do it. But the whole “Hustle hustle! Side gig! Girl boss!” part of it is not a factor here.
But I also cannot stress enough that all forms of support are helpful. Someone RTing a link to an article or signing up for a free newsletter subscription is as valuable to me as someone who signs up for the most expensive tier on Ko-Fi because both of those actions tangibly help the site. Yeah the latter involves money but if you look at any information about website growth you’ll see that it’s only in very rare and specific circumstances that a site can live by money alone. Even sites that offer things like classes people have to pay for in order to see still need word of mouth to help people know they exist.
(Related, but this is why, when I was coming up with membership tier names, I didn’t do a classic “Bronze/Silver/Gold” type convention because I didn’t want any name which implied that the more expensive tiers were somehow “better” than the lower ones. The names are descriptive of what you’re getting for the monthly donation and my love of puns, but that’s it.)
So yeah, whatever people can do is amazing to me. (Maybe this is one of our slogan ideas: “If you can’t pay, that’s okay!”) Seriously, the stuff I’m tracking in google analytics doesn’t involve money, it involves visits and growth and getting the word out. That’s all stuff people do for free and the site needs it just as much as it needs the paid supporters.
But to that end, yes I do advertise the site. Sorta. I don’t pay for ads (much though Facebook keeps begging me to). Again, maybe if this was my fulltime job or I was trying to, I dunno, displace Entertainment Weekly or something then yeah paid ads would be a thing. But I’m not so the only thing I’m trying to do is get the word out.
And, if you research this stuff, you’ll find that one of the things you’re told is that you can’t one and done telling people you’ve created something. People are busy and the algorithm takes no prisoners. You have to put the word out there multiple times or else you may as well not bother saying anything at all. There’s a service I use which does this which is entirely thanks to the paid supporters and BLESS YOU because it is such a huge help for me to have this be automated. But when I look at the website stats I can see that this is one of our biggest drivers of traffic to the site. It’s Google search (which ties to our buddy Search Engine Optimization) then all the social media posts.
On top of that this addresses the flip side of the Ko-Fi notifications which is people who feel they miss out. I don’t push the Ko-Fi stuff as much as the website stuff, but yeah if I post something on Ko-Fi I tend to at least mention it on Twitter once, on Facebook once, and sometimes on Instagram depending on what it is.
When there’s stuff about the articles the intent is purely “Hey, I wrote something, go read it if it interests you.” When I post about Ko-Fi it’s in part to help those who I know - because they’ve told me - that it helps to see the notification outside of Ko-Fi but also to remind people that Ko-Fi is there and active. If people want to support me and the site on Ko-Fi, there’s their proof that they will actually get stuff in exchange for it. Sometimes you’ll follow somebody’s Ko-Fi link and then see they haven’t posted an update since 2019 so you’re like uhh, is this still a thing or did you just forget to take the link out of your bio?
I do tend to favor linking to posts for the Krewe of Best Tea but that’s because I can’t imagine anybody caring about the Personal Blog posts who doesn’t already know me. I used to link to the Media Recs but then I realized that since I put the name of who or what I’m recommending in the title that kinda gives away a key piece of information to people not paying that monthly fee. So I stopped doing that so I wouldn’t be accidentally undercutting that benefit.
I did try linking to the Behind the Scenes stuff but as it became more and more about the site specifically instead of running a website in general that also didn’t seem like it would be of interest to anybody not already here so I stopped doing that too. That left the Short Reviews and Essays where I figure the titles are interesting enough that people might at least read the tweet about them and, having read it, possibly go huh, lemme check the Ko-Fi out.
But I one and done those and otherwise don’t push them. Much like with all the other stuff there is advice out there to girl boss your Ko-Fi and constantly talk about it and yadda yadda but eeeehhh. I mean maybe I should be talking about it more than I do? Certainly every time I post I get a new follower or member or something, so clearly the mention helps. But I don’t feel comfortable constantly pushing it, especially because I don’t want to give the impression money and financial support is the only thing or even the most valuable thing.
Hopefully all that makes sense? Man I’m really starting to see the benefit of a comment section. Anyway....
Stuff that didn’t fit in anywhere else
My health came up a few times so I want to thank people who mentioned it. Some of you said you found me because you deal with similar stuff, so my sympathies. Some of you stressed you wanted to be sure I’m not pushing myself by offering things that are too much for me to handle, so hopefully all my explanations helped assuage those concerns.
I will say it means so much that you all are understanding and supportive. I do set my own deadlines for myself on things - like I try to get episode articles out by the day after the episode airs - but even when I do that I know you all will understand if something comes up and I have to post later than usual. I promise if you see me saying stuff like “I wrote this with a migraine” it’s not me pushing myself through pain because I feel like you’re demanding it of me or I’m forcing it out of myself. It’s more that some weeks I just have to do everything with a migraine and if it’s the choice between sitting and staring at a wall or distracting myself with an article, may as well do the article.
But I do promise I never push myself with this site because I know that’s something that matters to you all. Like literally I will tell myself nope, they said one of the biggest concerns is that I need to take care of myself so I have to make that a priority.
(Did I just use some careful wording there by saying “with this site”? Ahem. Only my therapist knows for sure...)
So yeah thank you, I appreciate it, and it does factor in there. You’re not saying it into a void, I promise.
The last thing I didn’t touch on was those of you who said I am awesome and thank you! I try to be! I’m glad for everybody who finds enjoyment here and sticks around!
So yeah, I think that’s it! Thank you again to everybody who responded. Hopefully you can see now why it was so helpful for me, since you gave me so much stuff to think about and talk about! Don’t forget to hit me up with your merch ideas if you have them since I’d love to hear them. Otherwise further bulletins as events warrant. Bye for now!