2017 has now come and, as of tonight, gone. For some of us it has been a very good year, for others a very bad one. Probably for most of us it has been mixed. For the blog, it has been very good indeed.
So here are some of the important results!
First, some background. As many of you know (some of you were actually here back then), we started this blog endeavor in April 2012. So we’ve been going at this for five years and nine months. The original purpose of the blog was to raise money for charity. Rather than using my somewhat limited culinary skills and even more limited time by volunteering for a local soup kitchen, I decided that I could use my scholarly skills more productively by starting a membership-only blog. Everyone thought I was crazy. This is the INTERNET!!! You can’t make people *pay* for it!
I ignored all the advice and scorned all the warnings and tried it anyway. My original thought — fool that I was – was that we could raise something like $20,000 a year. All the money would go to charities dealing with human suffering – principally hunger and homelessness.
I had no idea of the real potential – and now that we are at this advanced point I realize we are still nowhere near the real potential. But here are some of the numbers.
The most gratifying is this: as of this past month we have surpassed $500,000 raised and distributed to charities. That’s half a million. We’re talkin’ some serious money here.
To my surprise (I just added up the numbers) this past year was over 10% better than last year. We raised $134,000 in 2017. That’s $367 per day, each and every day of the year. Many thanks to all of you who pay your hard-earned money to be on the blog, and many, many thanks to those of you who, on top of your membership fees, have made generous and gratifying donations to the blog. I sometimes wonder how I can keep going with this endeavor because of the time (and emotional) commitment. But how can I stop???
In terms of other numbers: I have made just over 270 posts on the blog in 2017; that’s just over 5.2 per week, so still on my 5-6/week ideal, but more toward the 5 than the 6. Altogether since starting the blog I have made 1666 posts. I’m not sure what to do with that 666. Make of it what you will.
Comments have increased, somewhat significantly. This past year there were a total of 15,500 comments made on the various posts (and in response to other comments). That comes to over 42 comments each and every day of the year. The problem (for me) is that I have to look over the comments to make sure they are acceptable (my main criteria: are they related to the blog, polite, and non-political?) and then post them; and (bigger problem) I have to, and am committed to, answering each and every question, so long as I can (i.e. if I know an answer or can look it up). Apologies for those of you who want long interchanges with me. I’m afraid terse but direct answers/replies are all I can do. I wish it were otherwise!
All in all, then, things are going very well indeed, and have the potential of getting better. Here I’ll give just one reflection on the blog from my personal point of view as the kurios blogou (roughly translated: “Lord of the Blog”) and give one possible improvement we are thinking about implementing.
My personal reflection is the same one I have made every time anyone for over five years has asked me about the blog. I enjoy very much making scholarship on the various topics we cover on the blog – the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the life and writings of Paul, the apocryphal books (that did not make it into the New Testament), the history of the early church, the formation of the canon, the manuscripts of the early Christian writings, and on and on – available to a wider public, so that this information doesn’t just stay with the scholars who do the hard work in researching it all. At the same time, it’s a lot of work and the more the blog grows (which is the *point*, after all, to make it grow) the more work there is: more comments to approve, more questions to answer, and so on). It takes a good bit of time out of my already hectic schedule. My guess is that I spend probably 8-9 hours a week on blog-related issues, all told.
On one hand, that’s not *that* much time. It’s not like it’s my full time job. On the other hand, I do have other things to do with my life. And 8 hours a week, say, translates into well over 400 hours a year, which translates into ten, count them, ten, 40-hour weeks of work that I could be spending on research for my next book or reading in fields I’m interested in (from the history of English literature to the mind-body problem to astronomy to…. I’m interested in lots of things.) or doing other things, like watching soaps and eating bon-bons.
OK, I would never, ever watch soaps and eat bon-bons. But I *would* watch a lot more football and drink beer…..
I have heard numerous solutions to this problem: hire an assistant to review comments; get a grad student to do it; have guests write some of the posts; etc.. These are all very good ideas, but for various reasons are not practicable. So for now we plow ahead, happily doing the work and raking in the cash.
Which brings me to the idea we’re exploring. The only reason I keep doing this is because of the charities. I don’t keep a dime myself and, in fact, pay almost all the expenses of the blog out of my own pocket. But I’m always interested (keenly interested) in figuring out how to raise more money with the blog.
I often am told we should raise prices. That’s obviously an option. A year’s membership for $24.95 is a bargain – and is the same price as in 2012! But for some people $2/month is a lot, and I don’t want to turn off people who can’t afford more than that.
SO, a blog member recently made a suggestion that struck me as unusually brilliant. We already have an option of a one-month trial membership for $3.95 and a three-month for $7.95. How about, for people who want to be year-long members, have the option of being a “sustaining member” at various levels, where a certain amount is paid each *month*, which, looked at from one point of view, is actually not much money, but over the course of the year actually *is*?
I’m thinking about it. For example, we could have a bronze-level sustaining membership at $5/month; a silver-level at $10; and a gold-level at $20. That would translate into some serious revenue for the blog, and for some members of the blog who really, really like what they’re getting here, it would (a) not be a burden and (b) be something they would be willing, possibly even eager, to participate in.
What do you think?
The ultimate objectives of the blog remain intact, here at the end of our sixth calendar year: to disseminate scholarly knowledge of the New Testament and the writings and history of early Christianity to a broad reading public, and in doing so to raise money for charities. We are willing go do anything we can do in order to promote both objectives even better. If you do have any suggestions, let me know.
Let me close by making two public expressions of thanks. First, to my assistant from the beginning, Steven Ray, who deals with every single technical aspect of the blog, which are so mind-numbingly complicated at times that I cannot begin to explain. He is an extremely hard-working computer genius and all of us owe him our deep-felt thanks. And second, to all of you, who participate in the blog, paying your fees, reading the posts, sometimes making comments, and generally interacting, either as a silent observer or an active participant: Many, many thanks for making this happen.
Finally, please accept all best wishes for a happy and fulfilling 2018!!