A modest proposal for the Straight Dope

Is there a big market for golf tees with artwork on them?

Several people have pointed out possible flaws along the lines of “you won’t raise much if you rely on blah blah blah to bring in cash.” Okay, fair enough … IF we know how much money is needed on an annual basis.

In other words, what’s the fundraising goal here? $300/year? $5000/year? $20,000/year? Without having some clue as to the answer, it’s really hard to say whether any of the suggestions in this thread, singly or in combination, have any hope of producing the needed revenue.

What a bunch of goofs.:yum:
A tee as in T-Shirts. A cup as in a mug to drink from.

You can wear tees to golf in, I’m sure.

I first want to say like a lot of people I used to love the Cecil columns, I didn’t find this message board by searching for a message board and then discovering the column. Like I suspect most of us, I used to read the column, found it very interesting and informative, and then one day noticed there was a message board, so decided to check it out.

The thing is, I also loved the leather bound, expensive set of Encyclopædia Britannica I had many years ago. I don’t know a ton about the business model of the column, or the business of writing newspaper columns. Ed did that for most of his life so I’m assuming he knows a lot about it, and I’m assuming at least part of the reason the column quit is the newspaper company wasn’t willing to continue paying Ed a living wage from the writing of the column. I know there have been ancillary Straight Dope products over the years, like the books and I think there was a brief TV series. I don’t want to act like I really know, but unless there’s a lot of money the Straight Dope is generating I suspect it generates less money now than it ever has, and I don’t see a ton of magical ways to change that.

It’s not because of anything, in my opinion, that was “done wrong”, it’s more that a “humor infused and well written column designed to answer obscure trivia questions”, just has a much more limited appeal in 2021 than it did in 1990 or even 2000. The reality is it’s been a really long time since anyone has needed something like a Cecil column to get a question answered. There is exactly zero topics that a Cecil column could research and provide an answer for, that I couldn’t get an answer faster from existing websites, higher quality expert forums in specific topics (ever seen r/AskHistorians ? some forums like that dedicated to a single subject are incredibly high quality.) Like the whole Cecil schtick is there’s a fictional character that knows damn near everything, it was always tongue in cheek and of course everyone knew specific research was done for each column, sometimes with significant assistance. The thing is everyone can be Cecil now, research has never been easier or lower effort than it is now. 25, 35, 40 years ago it just wasn’t like that.

I have remained somewhat deliberately ignorant of the current business structure and legal ownership of this message board. I vaguely remember when the forum software moved and Tuba was still alive there was talk that the board would be allowed to live on as long as it didn’t operate at a deficit, but I think it’s all still owned by the media company that owns the Chicago Sun Times, right? I’m a little confused if the board is having operating money troubles why so little effort has gone into accepting donations / “patronages” or processing membership dues.

I again, know nothing about the legal/ownership situation, but if Ed Zotti personally needs money, I frankly think this idea is questionable from a business perspective. If you want to continue writing Cecil columns and the paper isn’t paying you for them, is it possible to run some sort of Patreon and do an article every X weeks that is Patreon only? Patreon is way better at fundraising, and I’ve seen tons of content creators I follow and support make a lot more from Patreon than I frankly think you’ll ever make from this scheme. A podcast of some sort would get you more $ though most likely, as the article format itself is a little dated in this day and age.

Anyway, I don’t begrudge Ed wanting to write again or wanting to get paid for it, I just am questionable, with my admittedly incomplete picture of the business, as to whether this is a good way to do it. And if the board needs help and is in danger of disconnection we really need to setup a way to pay for it, most of us are willing to pay to keep the board running. If the reason payments aren’t possible is because the Sun Times ownership group makes it legally difficult to do that, and the board is basically on its way out, I think the people running it should consider making a new forum on their own as sort of a life raft, it is not that expensive to host something like that and people would absolutely step up to pay for it. Obviously without any legal ownership to concepts like the “Straight Dope” and “Cecil Adams” it would need to be completely debranded and unassociated in a marketing sense, but there’s people who have posted here for decades, it’d be nice to at least give them some kind of life raft if it’s going away.

Like this?

I don’t know anything, but I’d be interested. I already give some money to some cartoonists to see their work one day in advance. A whole week in advance?? What a bargain!

I have a modest suggestion for the modest proposal. I’m all for donations, however they’re solicited and with any or no perks. However, I think what’s needed is a reliable revenue stream and a means of getting Cecil Adams’ sardonic wit and authoritative answers out to a whole lot more people. And a good way to do both would be…a podcast series.

Cecil Adams used to make the occasional appearance on call-in radio shows, so podcasts shouldn’t be too much of a leap. The questions and answers could still appear here after a podcast’s original air date. Cecil would need a trusty sidekick, but a half-hour podcast once a week or month wouldn’t be that much work, especially if some archived material is used.

Ooh, ooh, ooh,Teacher. My hand is up. I wanna be the trusty sidekick.

Please, @Cecil_Adams. Pick
me, pick me. I’ll bring treats.

Dear Cecil;
Please be careful with assigning overly enthusiastic volunteers as trusty sidekicks,
They are best assigned to the (invaluable) roles as groupies and morale officers.


That works, as well.

I’m not sure where I got this idea, and I could be wrong here, but I think maybe @Beckdawrek might be willing to help out. You might want to ask her.

This is basically what I said. Let the board members pay for the board, and let Ed drum up his own business if he wants to write a column. Patreon is suited just for that purpose. Writers are one of it’s main customer streams.

Whatever the reason the column stopped being published, it certainly wasn’t because it was a money maker. Most people don’t have any idea who Cecil Adams was. The last info I remember from a mod or admin was that you couldn’t even sell his books anymore, and that was years ago. Why you think it is going to be a big money draw now is beyond me. If it seems like such a good business idea, why can’t it supply it’s own revenue stream? Why do you have to at least double membership fees, and then ask for more money from posters for the privilege of searching for questions for Ed to answer?

Also, there is the fact that nether Ed or his alter ego have even spent any significant time reading/ interacting with actual board members over the last 20 years. I would be willing to bet the vast majority of Ed’s posting was when he was dragged into some dilemma the mods didn’t think they could deal with. While he may know/have known some of the SDSAB, he knows practically nothing about the day to day conversations on the board, and doesn’t seem to know any posters either. No problem, that was not his job then.

Now that, in an attempt to start his column up again, posters are being asked to foot the bill for the whole thing, it’s completely different. Let’s have a look at a few board stats for the last 20 years.

3 topics viewed
277 posts read
3 topics created
136 posts created

538 topics viewed
8,600 posts read
184 topics created
1,700 posts created

Not exactly a community member is he? I’d be willing to bet that 95% of Ed’s posts were moderation/rule postings, not chatting with his good friends on the Dope. If you really want to restart the column, pick someone who actually participates on the board and knows something about the people here to write the column. Preferably someone younger who doesn’t still use the same tired jokes they used years ago. Ed clearly gave up participating on the board decades ago. And, whether he was let go or left, he left Cecil behind also.

And, Crom forgive me for this, but this is the second time I’ve agreed with @Martin_Hyde in the last few months. The end of times may truly be upon us! :scream:

I’m ready to start paying again in fact I’d pay more the first year since we haven’t paid for a while and the board was modernized just last year.

If it comes with extras like bringing Cecil back with new columns then that’s a good thing, a very good thing.

As always, I have no problem paying for membership as long as the money shields me from ads.

With the amount of time I spend on the boards, $30/year is criminally underpriced. The rest of the proposal sounds great to me… Sounds like the board remains unchanged, just an additional forum for subscribers… I’ll be happy you are just taking my money again.

How about setting up a 501(c)3 for the purpose of fighting ignorance? Allow for tax-deductible donations, while also allowing for memberships. A not-for-profit to fund the mission of the Straight Dope as a media entity. A kick-ass, entertaining, educational, multi-media, non-profit online magazine.

People want to throw money at this place, but it’s always been beholden to corporate overlords-- why not set it up to function on its own as a non-profit? Open things up to members to write columns and articles. Expand the scope, and move forward instead of trying to squeeze another year out of the old way of doing things.

Yeah, no …I have no shame.

I’ve been stalki…ummm … I mean following Cecil for years.


Ed, I know you don’t like announcing details for your plans or doing marketing to expand viewership. Those approaches failed spectacularly before. You really, really need to adapt to modern times, much as that may hurt. Believe me, I know.

Please explain exactly how much money you need, what the money is bankrolling, who gets the money, how ongoing the fundraising has to be, the various ways that the money can be delivered, the obstacles to other approaches, and, especially, exactly what people will get for their money that the non-donors don’t, besides a warm glow.

You see how much people want to help. You have to contribute just as much back, details rather than fog. BTW, charging people to give you ideas that you can write up and make money off of, without doing anything to further market the product is, politely, a no go. Listen to what people here are saying. They want a regular Cecil presence, someone to be the face of the site rather than an appendage.

Thank you for putting this in words better than I did. These are exactly the answers we need. As of now, all we know is Ed wants to write a column again and he wants the board to pay his salary, and I’m sure it’s not minimum wage, to do so. Plus the whole idea of having people pay even more money to do half of his job for him. Meanwhile, the board gets nothing back after having their membership fees doubled.

Have you even done any market research on this? Why do you think there is a market now for a column that failed two years ago? Your business plan at this point seems to be give Ed a job, make Dopers pay for the whole thing, profit for Ed.

I also have to say that I think this is probably an already done deal. This thread isn’t to see what we think about the idea, it’s just the first step in getting us used to a doubling in membership fees for nothing in return.

Frankly, setting up a podcast, even of old columns, might be a better approach. I’m not a podcast person myself, but they do seem very popular these days.