Monetizing FBTB is something I’ve wrestled with ever since we relaunched with the new theme. It was, until now, an ad-free experience aside from the occasional sales posts. But it’s finally time to address this issue head on and I’m changing the way I do things from before. The reason this is coming up now is because of the reality of the situation and how much it is impacting my wallet. Aside from the Shop@Home samples, FBTB no longer receives samples direct from LEGO anymore. All of our review sets, prizes, and giveaways comes out of my own pocket. Affiliate fees are not as lucrative as they once were, so I need to start finding ways to make FBTB more self-sufficient.
A Necessary Evil
I’m sure all blog owners have tackled the same monetization issues and will always look for new ways to make money. Running a website isn’t free, so we do what we can with affiliate sales, advertising, and anything else that will earn a little extra scratch. I have no problem with a site doing that because they need to keep the lights on. That is the main reason I don’t use AdBlock; I let the ads run so the site owners can earn some money.
There is a line, however, when ads get to be too much, like my recent run-in with Brickset. That is something I don’t want visitors to this site to experience so we’re going to keep things simple, clean, and unobtrusive as possible. So here is our four-pronged approach:
Method 1: Just One Advertisement
If you haven’t noticed yet, I am now running a single leaderboard ad at the top. It’s not enough to pay the bills, but it will also be a potential spot to sell for direct advertising. For those of you viewing on mobile devices, the leaderboard will be a different size. Again, this will be the one and only ad spot. I can’t make any promises that more ads won’t appear in the future elsewhere on the page, but I can promise you that it will be as unobtrusive as possible. We will try this single ad-approach for as long as it makes sense.
And as God is my witness, they will NOT autoplay with sound (and if they do just let me know and I’ll flag the ad).
Method 2: Affiliate Fees and Sales Posts
This was our bread and butter for the longest time, but affiliate fees are dwindling. They don’t earn as much as they used to. I’ll still post sales I think are relevant to the site content and interesting enough for site visitors. If you want to support this site or any other LEGO blog you follow, simply copy their affiliate link to Amazon and LEGO Shop@Home and try and remember to click through every time you buy something. It costs nothing extra; you’ll still enjoy the same great prices and services from those companies. And the blog owner(s) get a small percentage of the sales back for the referral. Also, all of your purchases are 100% anonymous. While we can see what was bought, we cannot see who bought it. I’ll list FBTB’s affiliate links here for all of the retailers we have a relationship with. Please consider bookmarking these links:
If there is another blog or two you like more, consider bookmarking their affiliate links.
Method 3: Paid Content
This is something we’ve done a total of one time in the past. Remember my Waze posts? Yeah that was paid content but still relevant since it was Star Wars-related. This may happen every once in a blue moon, but I’ll try and make it obvious that a paid post is a paid post. I’ll also make sure that the post is relevant and interesting; LEGO Kickstarter shirts be damned.
Method 4: Donations/Subscriptions
I am going to try something radically different: PayPal Donations and Subscriptions. There is a link in the header that says “Donate/Subscribe”. It will take you to a page that explains what the concept is. Basically, if you want, you can donate any amount of money to the site or become a subscriber. That’s it. There is no obligation to do either. The content will still be available to read whether you donate/subscribe or not. Nothing will be behind a paid firewall. I’m not going to drown the front page with posts begging for donations. If anything, I may drop a note at the very end of a review, and that’s it. Otherwise, I will not ask nor drop hints; I will not post any reminders and I will not beg. Consider this next sentence the one and only time I ask you to support our site through donations and subscriptions. Please visit our donations and subscriptions page and consider making a contribution. There. Done.
I’ll Still Keep The Lights On
If the site gets $0 in donations, I will continue to pay the difference for all the costs associated with running it out of my own pocket that the other three methods can’t make up. My goal is to make FBTB enjoyable, easy to use/read, and as ad-free as possible. This might be the only way to do it.
I decided to try the donations idea because there are donation/subscription based revenue streams out there. Patreon, twitch, NPR, and probably a bunch of others sites and services, all operate and/or support subscription-based revenue. So I thought why not give it a try for my blog.
There are no guarantees this approach will work, but let’s give it a shot how it goes.