The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

‘Notification of Donation Received’

Posted on | July 24, 2011 | 19 Comments

One of the great joys of blogging is when people hit the tip jar and, when I send them a thank-you e-mail, they write back. A certain tip-jar hitter wrote back today to say he would have given me more, except he’s saving up to buy that 7-carat diamond ring from Amazon.

That there’s funny, I don’t care who you are.

As of 2 p.m., Pete Da Tech Guy’s bleg-a-thon was within $200 of his goal, so if you haven’t hit his tip jar yet, go hit it now. Frankly, I feel guilty having a dime in my pocket so long as Pete’s in need.

You’ll excuse my return to meta-blogging — i.e., blogging about blogging — but this goes to the very heart of what our Underpants Gnomes business plan is all about. Every time somebody hits the tip, I get a message with the subject line “Notification of Donation Received.” And today, in response to my thank-you, one of the regulars wrote back a brief note, saying that he was also going to hit Pete’s tip jar. He paid me a compliment, and so I replied:

I appreciate your willingness to hit Pete’s tip jar when he needs it. My occasional bouts of depression — quite rare, really, as I am habitually optimistic — stem from situations like this: Here I was, feeling bad enough about my own financial straits that I took the unusual step of directly soliciting you and a few others, and then I discovered that Pete was hurting even worse than I am!
This should not be happening. Pete certainly has a level of traffic by now where he ought to be able to pay the bills. When I started blogging, it was commonly said that 1,500 visits daily was the point at which you could begin expecting to see advertising revenue. I haven’t seen Pete’s numbers, but he’s got to be averaging 3,000+ daily. And by all logic, there should be a certain number of his regular readers who could afford to chip in $10 or $20 a month.
The core readership of any particular small-to-medium blog — people who visit a site on an almost daily basis — may only be 50 or 100 or 200 people. And $10 is the cost of two Happy Meals at McDonald’s. Despite the Obama recession, I’m absolutely certain that a core blog readership of 100 people could support any site to the tune of $1,500-$2,000 per month just $10 or $20 at a time.
Furthermore, I know that most habitual blog-readers surf around to different sites — AOSHQ, Protein Wisdom, Legal Insurrection, etc. — and see those PayPal “donate” buttons all the time. But most of them, for whatever reason, never pause to think, “Hey, that ‘donate’ button is talking to me.” They might read a post and say, “Wow, that was really [informative, funny, helpful],” but it never occurs to them: “Hey, I’m gonna lay a $20 on Ace just to say thanks.”
Why don’t they think that? Well, because Ace is conscious of his dignity, and therefore reluctant to remind his regulars that he could use an extra $20 now and again. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen Ace rattle his tip jar, and always for some special occasion like travel expenses. But with his vast readership, Ace should never have to do even that much. By all rights, his tip jar should just be overflowing every day due to the spontaneous generosity of readers who appreciate his unique value to the blogosphere.
And you know something else? There’s a PayPal “donate” button at Instapundit, too. Professor Reynolds reserves his tip-jar receipts to help out fellow bloggers when they run into the kind of situation that Pete ran into. You might ask yourself: “What? Who would ever think to donate to Instapundit, the biggest badass traffic machine in the ‘sphere?” But obviously some people are that thoughtful, and those who have been the recipients of Insty’s occasional gifts not only owe gratitude to the professor, but also to the professor’s tip-jar hitters.
Your praise of me as “the master of getting people to hit the flippin’ tip jar” is high praise indeed. But if I am the master, why is that so? Because there’s no shame in my game, that’s why.
Bloggers who do good work ought not to think that they’re begging for charity when they rattle the tip jar. It’s fee-for-service, a direct contract between writer and reader, eliminating the middleman of a corporate publisher. There have been times when I’ve had an idea and thought to myself, “Should I write this column freelance for someone else, or should I publish it on my own blog?” Well, (a) where will it be seen the most and have the greatest impact? and (b) which will pay me more? As a shameless capitalist, (b) is always a heavy factor in such decisions and, so far as (a) is concerned, we know that Rush Limbaugh reads Instapundit, right?
So if I decide to save something really good for my blog, and it then gets the Instalanche, this is an optimal result in terms of readership. The only way it could be more widely read is if it were linked by Drudge and, quite honestly, a Drudge link would instantly melt our servers. Ah, but what if my post gets Instalanched — which can sometimes drive an extra 15,000 hits in a day — but none of those people hit the tip jar? If my actual income from that is zero, exactly what is the rationale of writing my best stuff here on the blog? Why shouldn’t I send all my “A” stuff somewhere that will pay me, and just put the “B” stuff on the blog? And if what I write on the blog is just a bunch of “B” stuff that nobody’s willing to spend a dime for, exactly what the hell is the point of blogging at all?
Such are the thoughts that occur to me when the Dark Mood descends, when I’m flat broke and I feel like this whole thing has been a complete failure. And the one thing that can help lift the Dark Mood is when I check my e-mail inbox and see that cherished message — as welcome as the laughter of my own children — “Notification of Donation Received.”
Therefore again I thank you, sir, and hope you won’t mind if I share this brief note on the blog, so that all the other tip-jar hitters (the Good People) can see it, too. And maybe those Ungrateful Bastards Who Never Hit a Blogger’s Tip Jar will feel a twinge of guilty remorse, even if they aren’t inspired to join the blessed congregation of Good People, to which you so obviously belong.
Robert Stacy McCain

Thanks to all the Good People whom I haven’t yet thanked directly, and as for the rest of you . . .

Well, it occurs to me that perhaps you aren’t really Ungrateful Bastards after all. Maybe you just need to have your optical prescription checked. And I’m here to help . . .

UPDATE: Doggone it, almost forgot . . . the theme song!


19 Responses to “‘Notification of Donation Received’”

  1. Zilla of the Resistance
    July 28th, 2011 @ 2:24 am

    I recently added your lovely blog to my blogroll, Miriam.
    Of course I am just a wee little blogger, but I think your blog is very nice.

  2. July 2011: Best. Month. EVAH! : The Other McCain
    July 31st, 2011 @ 11:46 pm

    […] and tip-jar hitters are the Good People. You’re invited to join their ranks, “Notification of Donation Received” being the world’s best e-mail subject line. I’ve just booked a flight to Des […]