Through the work of millions of writers and creators, the internet has become the biggest knowledge-sharing repository the world has ever known. But you know that saying - “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?” Our free and open access to information isn’t really free. We’re paying for it every day and it’s time to ask whether our money could be put to better use.
When Free Isn’t Free
Most online content is free. But there’s a catch. Let’s explore with an example.
Up until recently, I had a few affiliate links on this site. I only linked to products or services I’ve used and would recommend to a close friend.
Most of these links were a part of the Amazon Affiliate program. All told, I made a whopping $75 from these over the last year and a half. I know - impressive.
The way Amazon affiliate links work is that the linking blogger gets a portion of anything you buy on Amazon after clicking on that link.
As I looked back at the stats, I noticed something unsettling. Most of the purchases people made after clicking on my links didn’t even include the item I had recommended.
Amazon wasn’t paying me to recommend a product so much as they were paying me to get people back on their site. Some might argue that I was benefitting from purchases people would already make, but the concept doesn’t sit well with me.
I know just enough about the psychology of advertising to be a wee bit uncomfortable.
If advertising were solely about features and costs, it’d be different. But advertising today is mostly about emotion - convincing you to buy things because of how they’ll make you feel.
Will getting your kid a new backpack make you feel like a better parent? Will those skinny jeans make you feel sexy? Will that new car make you feel like you’ve finally made it?
Our purchases are driven more by feelings than facts, which blur the lines between wants and needs
So I can totally imagine this depressing situation:
A bright Keep Thrifty reader clicks on a link on my site for an awesome book and ends up on Amazon. They responsibly decide to get that book from the library but then notice that their shopping cart has an item in it from a prior visit.
“Oh yeah, it’s that espresso machine I was debating getting. Man, I’m feeling tired - espresso would be nice right now. I bet I’m going to feel this way tomorrow too. I know I don’t really need it, but I deserve to treat myself, right? It’s in stock and they’ve got same-day delivery. I’m just going to get it.
That scenario is the exact opposite of what I want for you.
If You’re Not a Paying Customer, You’re Probably the Product
In a world of content supported by advertising, there’s something we all have to recognize: we aren’t the customers.
For years, this has been true of broadcast TV and radio and now it’s true of blogs. Websites cost money to run; and if you’re not paying the creator directly, you’re paying their advertisers.
You may have the steely self-discipline to avoid clicking on those display ads, but the messages they have are chipping away at your resolve every day.
What’s more, they’re distracting you from what you actually came to the site for - its ideas.
You’re not the customer, the advertisers are. The advertisers are looking for people like you to sell their stuff to.
So in the world of online advertisements, you’re not the customer - you’re the product.
Bloggers with advertising on their sites have to balance the competing interests of providing value to their readers with providing paying customers to the advertisers.
For personal finance blogging, this can be an especially fine line to walk. Some bloggers are great at managing this, but there’s another way to do things that feels more my style and a whole lot cleaner.
After all, we have enough ads in this world already.
You’re Not a Product Here
Let me be blunt.
I really dislike ads and if I know you, I’m pretty sure you do too. So, I’m not doing them - including sponsored posts and affiliate links.
None. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
You’re not a product here - you’re a part of a community of people looking to live more awesome lives by being smarter with their time and money.
This site is about helping you be smarter with your money and you really didn’t need that espresso machine, did you?
So here’s the deal - I’ll keep providing all the articles and calculators here for free.
I’m going to ask you for something in return though.
When you feel that Keep Thrifty has provided some real, measurable value in your life, consider supporting the costs of running this site through a contribution on Patreon.
Contributors are known as ‘Patrons’ and get access to some cool extras - like getting to vote on future post topics and chatting with me live in a video hangout.
Plus, if you contribute, you can call yourself a “Patron”. You’ll finally be able to live out your lifelong dream of sounding like a powerful renaissance aristocrat. I’m all about helping you make your dreams come true
Contributing to Keep Thrifty on Patreon is a lot like contributing to public television or public radio (except you can’t deduct this - I’m not a charity). The content keeps going thanks to support from listeners/viewers/readers.
Becoming a patron is 100% optional and helps fund future content and spread the ideas and tools on Keep Thrifty to even more people.
Patron contributions start as low as $1 a month. You can certainly choose more, but every bit helps.
You might not be ready to become a patron yet and that is 100% OK. Keep coming back and enjoying the site!
A few of us personal finance bloggers have moved this direction and I think it’s a really clean way to make our blogs sustainable and focused on providing the best stuff for you, our readers.
If you think contributing to Keep Thrifty makes more sense than buying an espresso machine, head on over to my Patreon page and submit a contribution.
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