A modest proposal for the Straight Dope

Got to love it, not a single word about the problem that people that want to be paying members, right here right now, can’t. But somehow this new scheme is gonna have the ‘pay problem’ solved right at the start . . . riiggghhhtttt.
And the multiple requests for ‘merch’ dismissed because Ed knows what we want better than we do.

Good Ed, just keep being Ed and ignore what the people that actually provide the content here want. How’s that worked out in the past?

Well. I gotta quit being silly now.

Seems to me @Ed_Zotti was successful in his endeavors long before the SDMB was a thing.
And the message board hasn’t been exactly unsuccessful.

I suggest we keep an open mind and try to work together.
Throwing someone under the bus isn’t helpful at all.

I can only judge from my own board experience. I am way off charter-member age. But I’m alive, today because of a charter member.
No one will ever make believe this little message board is not a small miracle.

We have to pull together, folks.
I’ll do my part. Just tell me what to do, @Cecil_Adams

Obviously this is a rhetorical question. :slight_smile: Here we go again. Ed dropping out of the sky with no real knowledge of how things go here with a new “proposal” (actually edict) on how to fix things. I sincerely hope that it works this time and I will provide support but this definitely looks that the famous definition of insanity.

Sure, but I’ve always paid since it started, and would continue to pay now to keep the board going. What I don’t want to pay for is a column that so few people read three years ago, it was cancelled. Especially one that has no business plan other than milking money out of board members.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t matter how many people read the board without paying, we could have five million of those. We’ve been told they need X number of paying posters at Y $ each for the board to keep running. Thing is, they won’t tell us what this number is and how they came up with it. And they won’t consider any ideas except bringing back a defunct column.

I must be misunderstanding either you or Martin. What I’m getting from Martin is that anyone can do a Cecil column today. He also questions whether there is even a need for a column like Cecil had 30 years ago.

Is he? From what I can see, almost his whole body of work is the Dope columns. I can’t get into LinkedIn, maybe he’s done tons of other stuff over the years. But if a column that ran mostly in free newspapers makes one an expert, I guess you are right.

What evidence can you give us that this is even remotely true? His column ended 3 years ago and I don’t think I’ve seen tons of threads on the board asking for him to return. And that’s from a place where people actually knew who he was. 99.99% of the general public doesn’t have any idea who Cecil is. There are no Bring Cecil Back movements. There are no We Want Cecil website getting signatures. Tell you what, do a survey in Chicago and ask random people who Cecil is. I think you are going to be really disappointed.

Nonsense, there are more of these freebies than ever, all with some kind of local experts talking about everything from food to travel. He wasn’t too quirky, he just wasn’t needed anymore.

No, you’re not wrong. Either you are not explaining your business plan very well or I’m drunker than I thought. You’ve given us no clue as to how this plan was researched or formed. The whole plan seems to be Revive Cecil -? -Profit! A plan to save a small message board that starts with rehiring you to write new columns, when you can’t show there is a desire for new columns from anywhere outside the board. You either can’t or won’t explain how your columns are even going to get an audience. If your plan involves waiting for you to build up an audience by word of mouth until the money flows in, we may as well just close the board now. The whole plan reminds me of Bush asking Cheney to find him the best vice president and Cheney picking himself. You are the Cheney in this business plan.

Hey! You know what could build up an audience by word of mouth? Folks having a SDMB coffee cup on their desks!

But we know no one actually wants SDMB branded merch 'cause Ed said so!

I don’t know, seems kind of risky. Don’t want to rush into anything.

I think it’s a little unfair to call the column a “failure” when its mode of distribution - hardcopy free weekly newspapers - is what has actually “failed” (more like, been superseded).

I think the column could still work, but not in its prior form. Snarky answering of questions is still out there, I follow a couple YouTube channels that do that and I’m not the only one. That’s why I mentioned a podcast, as it seems to be a modern form of that sort of thing.

I do agree that merch can have its place, but I don’t think we can rely on it for keeping the lights on around here. If we go for merch it would be good to be able to offer the books in e-format, but I assume if that’s not already possible there would be a cost to converting them to that format. Also, I have no idea who owns the rights to them and possible issues around that.

I think re-issuing old columns in podcast form could help pad out the question supply as this ramps up, and it might attract new fans, people for whom reading for pleasure isn’t appealing or who like the audio format for other reasons.

Those “freebies” are by and large on line these days. They aren’t print columns. Moving the format to blog/vlog/podcast/YouTube/TikTok would be a necessary step. This may pose issues aside from “find a question for Cecil”. If there’s a video format that requires a camera and learning to present oneself on video, and I have no idea if the people involved have any skills in that area. If it’s podcast then there’s a need for professional level recording and learning/knowing how to present oneself in that format. The professionals make it look easy but it’s not - like anything else you do for money there is work involved, and in this case there could well be a learning curve.

There needs to be a social media presence - Facebook, Twitter, whatever else the young and hip are doing to promote their “influencer” stuff. It might be possible to delegate some of this.

Yes. This is a problem. I’ve been a member of several other internet forums that are very up front about costs and they’ve had multiple-decades runs as well. Why the big secret? There don’t have to be details, just a target would be good. Are we looking for $5,000? $50,000? $500,000? Not even broken down by line items, just an overall target we’re shooting for.

If you need $5,000 you can have a spaghetti dinner fundraiser. If you need $50,000 you might be able to pull that off with donations along with a spaghetti dinner. If you’re looking $500k that’s a different proposition altogether and it’s going to take serious marketing and PR.

It’s as if someone said “I need to raise funds to get something to the Moon” but the person won’t tell you if it’s a 3 kilo rover, 3 men in a tin can, or the supplies for 3 long term colonies. It’s all the same destination but those are three very different projects.

There’s a guy named Simon Whistler who’s shtick is answering questions on line and is, I assume, making some sort of income from it. He’s up to nine “channels” , records in a minimal setting that is nonetheless tasteful, his channels have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and in a couple instance millions - not views, subscribers.

Producing these videos, though, does take a team - check out the credits at the end and there’s always a half dozen names. Today I Found Out which bills itself as “Brain Food for Hungry Minds”, for example, answers questions I find vaguely sort of like what Cecil did and is an example of the sort of thing I’m watching these days. There are others out there as well, like Answers with Joe (Joe Scott) and Kyle Hill (Science, pop culture, not-villainy). None of these people are Cecil, but they are doing similar work in their own unique styles.

Could anyone do a “Cecil column”? Well… sort of. In the same sense that anyone could learn to fly an airplane. They could - but they don’t have the ambition, or don’t want to put in the work, or they’re doing something else instead.

Since I “consumed” this sort of content - humorously related facts and questions answered - long before I found Cecil through the present day, going to other sources when The Straight Dope column dried up, going to new formats, I know there is SOME audience out there. You can build a business out of it.

Hell, there is a guy out there doing videos on trimming cow feet. Seriously, how to trim cow hooves, that’s what he does. He’s got 750,000+ subscribers from all over the world. And some of you saying this can’t possibly work? If you can get that kind of following giving mani-pedis to bovines you sure as hell can build up a following for the answering of snarky questions.

It will, however, require some changes in delivery from 40+ years ago.

BTW, regarding the column that appeared in free weekly newspapers, what about Dan Savage’s column? That’s where it started, but I read it on the website of the AV Club and it’s available elsewhere. It’s successful enough that it’s a full-time job for him and he even goes on the college lecture circuit.

So certainly a weekly column can work, if you have an interesting subject and work at promoting it.

I’m not social media expert but it’s very obvious that this is the only way to get SDMB subscribers from a younger set.

Get a young, attractive influencer to help do it and so much the better.

Oh, dear. Clearly, mordecaiB, you find this a vexatious proposition. I say to you: put your mind at ease. it’s voluntary. That means you don’t have do anything. Pay no further attention to these notions that trouble you so, and all will be as before.

The violent opposition to a purely voluntary situation is rather… odd.

Oh, dear, Cecil. I thought you wanted input. Apparently all you really want is people to say oh wow, great. Never mind.

Violent? Um, what? And it’s not opposition. It’s giving an opinion when specifically asked for advice and maybe some mild frustration over watching another of Ed’s train wrecks after advice was ignored and him not being forthcoming when information was requested.

Yes, Simon makes his living from his growing list of YouTube channels. And I watch a lot of his stuff.

His “Business Blaze” channel would be the closest to what a similar Straight Dope-type operation could be… lots of snark and humour. That is devoted mostly to business-related information (business fails, poorly thought out PR stunts, etc). But Simon is just the face and voice; the shows are actually written by others. Danny (the writer for business blaze) is hilarious; Callum (the writer for his true crime channel, The Casual Criminalist) is also funny; those are the two channels I watch every time a video drops. They are educational and entertaining; Today I Found Out is mostly just educational (and rather bland).

I think the hardest thing about a column has been mentioned in the thread; younger folks just don’t READ much nowadays. Hell, I offered my kids $100 each just to read a book series; they didn’t do it. But they consume educational YouTube every day; especially any that is humourous in nature (if you haven’t ever seen it, watch Sam O’Nella Academy… short videos on diverse subjects, some of it very funny- or check out Oversimplified… also great).

I wish more people read; but they just don’t.

I’m on board, and also like the idea of a gift shop sort of thing mentioned upthread where we could get SD-branded swag. I’ve wanted a t-shirt and coffee mug for years.

I remember many years ago when cartoonist Dan Perkins aka Tom Tomorrow was selling plush "Sparky the Penguin"s on his This Modern World website. I think there is definitely a market out there for Cecil-as-a-Turkey plushies!

I agree with all of this.

Whistler is more than just the voice on some of his output but yes, as I noted, it’s a team effort and Whistler is the face/voice. He’s very good at it.

Could we do a revived Straight Dope with Cecil and/or Little Ed still doing the writing but fronted by someone younger who has, for lack of a better word, stage presence?

And yeah, Sam O’Nella Academy is great. I’m not overly sold on the animation style, but it’s minor quibble compared to the overall content.

There are lots of sites on the web where a company can have swag created on-demand, such as Cafe Press. A company uploads logos and then the users can have the logos applied to stuff like cups, notepads, shirts, etc. There’s no cost to the company to get this started. The company gets a cut of the revenue from the swag. If no one buys anything, the company isn’t out any money. Something like that would be a good way to gauge the market before the SDMB put any of their own money into creating custom swag.

I don’t think that little Ed will appreciate being locked up in the basement.

Since people keep forgetting what’s already been, apparently, decided,

And allow me to add my voice to those criticizing such a decision; merch (through cafe press or similar merch-on-demand providers) should be a no-brainer in today’s internet culture. There is literally no downside.

ETA: One of the constants on any content provider’s feedback I see is “Where can I buy merch?” People like to display the brand of what they are into. Just part of human nature. Hell, Simon Whistler sells merchandise that is just a cartoon picture of his face, no words whatsoever!