Are we doomed? Will the SDMB die under the new ownership?

So now there’s a new owner of the StraightDope.
And in the thread about it most of the posts are light-hearted and optimistic.

But me, well…I’m wondering about the potential for disaster.
From older threads, it seems like this site is in danger of being cancelled.

There has always been a huge amount of secrecy about who owns this site,who manages it, who pays for it, who profits from it, and why they still let it operate. But from reading between the lines in those older threads, I got the impression that the main reason these boards still exist is because of a weird situation: the highest level of management simply did not know we are here.

The guys in suits are managing a business worth tens of millions of dollars, and the SDMB message board’s total budget seems to be a hundred dollars a month for using the software at Discourse. That’s such a small amount that it apparently doesn’t show up anywhere where the suits notice. .

But now there’s a new boardroom full of suits. As they take ownership, they will presumably also make a detailed inventory of what they just bought.
They have bean-counters and lawyers. The bean counters might tell them that there’s no profit here; and the lawyers might tell them that there’s a danger here. (from lawsuits and liabilities…say, from some idiot who posts, I dunno, a death wish for a politician.)
So why would they want to keep a tiny, useless old website like the SDMB?
I’m afraid that any extra attention to ourselves could be fatal.
Let’s hope I’m wrong!

I don’t know… there may not be much profit here, but I have the sneaking suspicion from the old pre-Discourse server/software travails that there’s not really much cost here either.

I would think that being owned by a NPR affiliate could be a great thing- I suspect NPR listenership aligns fairly closely in many ways with the same people who would enjoy a board like this, and it’s possible that some additional publicity could raise the game around here a lot.

The danger that I can foresee would be if the NPR affiliate already has a message board, or decides they need one, and the SDMB would either get rolled into that, or lose its independence in some sort of expansion into being the WBEZ message board, not just the SDMB.

But I don’t necessarily see that happening; it doesn’t make a lot of sense to change things, unless perhaps it’s a cost-saving thing, and at the scale of IT that the SDMB operates on, I don’t see it being worth the trouble.

Hey! That’s a violation of the Internet’s Prime Directive, which says that pointless or even damaging change is infinitely preferable to the stodgy old status quo!

Yeah, but we were talking about accountants! They’re all about the stodgy old status quo.

Yeah, I’m not really on board with the “Yay NPR!” optimism. We’re owned by a struggling newspaper which hasn’t figured out what to do with us. If this acquisition happens, we’ll still be owned by a struggling newspaper, but there will be another layer of executives whose radar screens we need to stay off of.

Media corporations have been deciding that they don’t want to do message boards anymore, even when those boards are thriving and popular. Cases in point: IMDb, Discovery, Television Without Pity. There’s no reason to assume we’ll be exempt from this trend. I’d be more optimistic about this board’s long-term survival if it was independent, and not owned by a company that could nuke us on a whim.

I’m not worried until/unless shit falls apart because there sure isn’t anything I can do about it.

If they start asking for money I’ll be happy to give them some. I think many of us would be. Aside from that we are just powerless guests here,

This sums up my feelings too. When they let us help support I will and in the meantime I’ll hope we just keep chugging along somehow. If it is too small a budget item to bother anyone or someone takes an active interest and wants to leverage the existence of a 20+ year old message board.

Oh, and remember, all of us mods are just unpaid volunteers, we rarely know more than any other member.

It seems like they could make SDMB membership a perk of some donation level in an annual pledge drive. Per person, we have to be cheaper to run than giving us coffee mugs.

Having an incentivized donation scheme already in place seems optimal

It’s not that the Powers that Be don’t know about us. It’s more that they don’t care about us. As I understand it, the attitude is “Well, it’s not profitable right now, but it’s only costing us a tiny amount, and there’s a chance we will find a way to make it profitable, so let’s spend a tiny amount to keep it around just in case”.

Also note that we’ve gone through quite a few changes of ownership already, and those changes in ownership have never shut down the boards yet. Could a new set of suits make different decisions and shut us down? Sure, that’s a thing that is possible. But it doesn’t look like the probability is all that high.

That would only attract public radio listeners, and only public radio listeners in the Chicagoland area.

But it would be a way for those of us already here to pay our way. I don’t thing Chicagoland wants to join.

Possibly because you won’t take my money! :laughing:

“Let us give you money - About This Message Board”


I’m sure Chronos will take your money, see if there’s a PayPal situation.

A pledge drive where? NPR?
(Cause it’s pretty much certain, in that case, that folks would say ‘What the fuck is a SDMB? I want something valuable like that coffee cup! Hell, I’ll take a broken one, at least I can glue it and put pens in it.’)

I pay my annual membership fees.

No, it could be here. Like, we’ve been told for years the “donation” model doesn’t work when part of a company. But as part of an organization with an existing robust platform with the “donate and get this token of appreciation” structure, it seems pretty simple to just make “SBDM Memebership” a reward option only offered here.

I remember those “older threads”, from the Early Oughts to the Roarin’ Twenties, and they all had plenty of “We’re dooooomed!” posts.

And yet, we’re all still here (well, those of us who’ve dodged the cornfield so far).

But I’d love to find out if we were mentioned in the negotiations between Sun Times Media and Chicago Public Media (WBEZ). Was this board presented as a liability, a harmless hobby, a potential for income/world domination, or… utterly forgotten about.

My hopes are pinned on the latter, of course…

Since we know membership fees can be done here, just make it so people can buy as many memberships as they want. I see no reason a membership fee needs to be tied to a separate user name.

Yeah, I’m pretty jaded about those pleas. Even the last one from Ed that said we needed cash pronto and he was already in talks with Discourse to set it up. Strangely, that just faded away when he got pushback on his Cecil funding. It’s been months since then and not a mention of needing money. IIRC, codinghorror said Discourse is already able to take either subscriptions or donations and does so on other message boards. All that’s needed is an OK from Sun-Times and they don’t seem to be in any hurry.

Discourse tells me we have 382 Charter Members and 368 Members, though that counts people that no longer post here. So even if we cut that in half, we could still pay in over $5000 at $15 a pop. And that’s not counting new members that would join in.

I have been wearing my google-fu down trying to find any listing of what the Sun-Times Media Group currently owns - pretty much everything they used to own (like the Southtown newspapers, or the one in Gary) except the Chicago Sun-Times itself has already been sold off.

I’m afraid the situation will be like when the Reader was sold, and the new owners didn’t want the SDMB, leaving the STMG stuck with it. Now I fear WBEZ (assuming the deal goes through) won’t want the SDMB either, and it will simply disappear.

OTOIH, maybe we can form a private equity group, take over the SDMB ourselves, and watch while it doesn’t make any money under our ownership, either.

Can I be involved? I have a lot of experience with small privately owned businesses that lose money.