Ideas to make the SDMB profitable

So, how about we put our heads together and figure out a way to make some money off this thing! I have a few ideas just off the top of my head that I’d like some input on. Also, feel free to add your own suggestions.

Note: This thread hasn’t been in any way endorsed by the SDMB administration, and I have no idea if they’ll be particularly interested in these suggestions. But it can’t hurt.

Also note: The point of this thread is to suggest specific ways the Straight Dope site could be used as a source of revenue. If you just want to complain about the board administration, start a Pit thread.

Idea 1: Soliciting contributions

It seems to work for Wikipedia. My question is: If the board admins told us “We need to make $X to keep the board going” how much would you personally be willing to contribute? I could see myself donating $50 a year or so to keep the board afloat. (Maybe more when I have a better paying job.) Also, would your level of donation depend on whether the money were designated for a specific purpose (e.g., new server)?

Idea 2: More merchandise

This seems to be a big source of income for webcomics. Right now, the Dope only appears to be selling books, plus one t-shirt and one coffee mug. What if they added a bunch of different t-shirt options, maybe sweatshirts too. They could feature Slug cartoons, SDMB catchphrases and inside jokes, the “Fighting Ignorance” motto, etc. What kind of designs would you want to see, and how much would you be willing to pay for them? For a good quality t-shirt with a slogan I find funny, I could see myself paying up to $20 or so. For a nice hooded sweatshirt, maybe closer to $40.

Idea 3: Free Advertising for the Dope

Would you be willing to provide free advertising for the Straight Dope on your website, blog, etc. as away to attract new members and presumably increase ad revenue? Or to design a flyer or something promoting the dope that people could print off and post in at their local library or community center or whatever? Would you be willing to post such a flyer? What about turing some of the more popular or interesting columns into youtube videos (i.e., you film yourself answering the question in a reasonably engaging way), and then a tag at the end saying “For more answers on whatever it is you want to know, go to” Depending on the question, the video could include animated diagrams, cool chemistry-lab style demos, whatever.

Of course, any member-created ads ought to get official approval from the Straight Dope before you post them, since you’re using their trademark and all.

Idea 4: Straight Dope Marketplace

If there were a forum for SDMB members to sell their artistic and literary creations, cool inventions, whatever, would you shop there? Would you have things you’d be interested in selling? (Presumably you’d either have to pay a fee to advertise or a commission on every sale, so the board could make some money off of it.)
Got any ideas you want to add?

Others have suggested that the SDMB explore getting click-through fees for book recommendations that link to and which result in a purchase. I don’t know how much that might generate, but I know that I’ve bought about a dozen books in the last year via thread links. Dopers excel at recommending good books.

I guess I’ll try bumping this once.

Unless some sort of click through ad scheme comes up as a possibly there is no way to make the dope “profitable”. The core around which the dope is centered is free advice. I’ve bought dozens of books, DVDs, music and merchandise recommended by dopers but that’s all incidental to surveying the dope for juicy info bits like the post about silos & silage yesterday morning.

How are you going to monetize an electronic conversation mainly consisting of personal opinions? They tried making the cost almost laughable at $8-$15 annually and people bucked and bellyached even at that trivial amount. At it’s root the dope is a charity case supported by Ed Zotti and a small army of volunteers. It is the ultimate expression of good faith in the notion that information can make a difference, but it is no more viable a profit center than a public library.

The day it must be profitable will be the day it dies. If Ed & CL bows out the only way it can survive is to be moved to a host large enough to maintain it. While net BBS hosting isn’t cheap for a large board like the dope isn’t wildy expensive either so maybe someone will take in an orphan community.

I’d go with the merchandise and click-through. I know nothing about web design, so I don’t know how feasible the latter is, though. There’s got to be a ton of people buying a ton of junk via suggestions by Dopers. Perhaps if there were a forum called “The Bazaar” that was just for threads like “Recommend a good…” and people would buy via a Dope link?

Personally, I want a T-Shirt with a 1920s style death ray or a hoodie with “Hi, Opal!” in a list. Even better would be some sort of superhero picture of Ed going into a phone booth and Cecil coming out the other side.

Organize dopefests with a cover charge. Potentially contact Mensa or other local intelligent conversation groups and see about become the preeminent RL intelligent conversation event organizers.

None of which would stop them from at least offering some better t-shirt options. Chessic Sense’s suggestions all sound pretty great to me.

I also suspect that even people who object to being “forced” to pay a nominal fee for something that used to be free might nevertheless be willing to make a non-mandatory donation if one was asked for. I’m not saying it’s logical but that’s the way people’s minds work. I remember my high school band would always do a “free carwash” as a fundraiser, since we found we made more money in donations when it was free than we ever made by charging people.

Guess we have to start making porn.

sighs and starts setting up the tripod


  • Choose a random Doper to supply the Book/Movie/CD/Video Game of the Day.
  • Write up a small paragraph on why it’s great with an Amazon link at the end.
  • Include a little box highlighting this feature right below the “Fighting Ignorance” masthead.
  • Link it to a thread where Dopers could suggest further reading/playing/listening complete with more Amazon links.
  • Keep an archive of all previous …of the Day articles for maximum money.
  • Profit! Massive profit! Creative Loafing is saved!

Every time this comes up, the request is made for a T-shirt – any T-shirt – that does not have Slug’s artwork. Apparently I’m not the only person who finds it not only ugly but repulsive.

I would definitely buy a nice non-Slug T-shirt – even (or maybe particularly) a simple one – perhaps a blue T with a small version the masthead logo over the heart.

I buy thousands of dollars worth of Amazon goods annually and would be happy to support the Dope with click-thru. :slight_smile:

I also would not want anything to do with any Slug cartoon. :frowning:

Make more content specific forums moderated by experts in that field. The Dope seems to be highly against this concept, though. TPTB insist on context based forums instead of content based. But I think if they made some more contacts at enteresting plaes/organizations, they could have a website that rivals sorry-ass
Basically start by assigning a forum to every SDSAB member. That way, visitors can also see what fields we have experts in. Posters who have expertise in other fields that are not represented could talk with Ed about getting a forum assigned to them.
Keep the present forums, and keep the General Questions forum as well. But I think having Colibri’s aviary forum and Rick’s mechanic forum, and QED’s wikipedia/google forum, etc would bring in some more traffic.
Then those forum heads could try to network with more experts in their field and bring in some more registered members who have relevant expertise and knowledge in interesting and intelligent fields.
I’m sure theres plenty of physicists and such that could put together another interesting forum as well. There’s no reason that the Fight Against Ignorance can’t be more organized.

I’d like to have a military and firearms forum and could get some more people (besides the plethora of knowledgable posters) to join and keep an eye on the forum. Professional armorers and instructors and such. Plus, I’d be way better at answering questions that that sorry ass myth-spreading retard over at, Rod Powers!!

Let’s attack ignorance on all fronts. Let’s get some more NASA and JPL people registered. More vets and animal experts, more knowlegable people to answer questions.

I mean, the site says they are dedicated to fighting ignorance, but it’s mostly all about anecdotes, silly stories, abridged blogs and Fark-style links to news articles.

I also like the idea of a SWAP MEET forum. Anyone with more than, say 100 posts, can advertise things for sale in that forum. That way you dont have people registering just to sell crap. But I know there are things (besides personally made crafts and stuff) that people would like to offer For Sale to other dopers before putting it up on ebay or whatever.

Charge the libertarians every time they post.

A book: Threadspotting: The Best Threads from the Straight Dope Message Board.

Copyright isn’t an issue (read the user’s agreement), and there are plenty to choose from.

I’ve hung out on several large forums that did a fundraising drive once a year that brought in about 5K without a lot of effort. A lot of older and more financially stable posters think nothing of tossing in a few hundred bucks considering how much time they spend there. It was pretty easy.

Here, I’ll even expand on this, totally for free.

  • Create a moderated forum called “The SDMB Suggestion Machine” or something.
  • A moderated forum allows SDMB users to submit as many threads as they want for Suggestion of the Day suggestions but they won’t be posted until SDMB administrators check them for the correct format and Amazon links.
  • It also allows the administrators to approve individual posts to the thread so that all the followup Amazon links are correct (and to keep out the spam).
  • A bit of text would be inserted under the masthead with a PHP or iframe call to a small text file that could be edited whenever changes need to be made to the Suggestion of the Day advertisement at the top of the page.
  • If this sounds like too much for the administrators, you could hire someone cheap to handle all the updates if you don’t want to give this responsibility to moderators.

All told, this would take an hour to set up, at most.

Bake sale?

I have been a member on other boards that solicit by an annual donation fund drive as much as $10,000.00. How much do they need? I would be more than willing to send in a donation similar to the PBS pledge week.

With you on this. The SD cartoons are hideous. And yes I’m sure they give the Straight Dope main page it’s unique musky flavor, but they are still extraordinarily grotesque.

First of all, Ed has said that it’s CL that needs the money, and he would like the SD to help to generate some; so that implies that it isn’t necessarily the SD that’s losing money. Is the SD actually profitable?

It has been suggested that donations might work. (I would be happy to contribute something.) But would a lump sum help? Are the CL’s problems long term cash flow/operating loss problems? If so, of what size? Would donations even dent the problem?

I can’t see huge amounts of revenue being generated by T shirts and mugs. Though, obviously, every little helps.

Increasing foot fall would surely only benefit CL financially if those extra numbers spent something here. At the moment, apart from membership subscriptions, are adverts the only revenue generator? How successful are adverts? Otherwise, in terms of server overload, might they even not be a drawback? I’m obviously speaking from ignorance, but is it not the case that increased visitor numbers on their own, without methods of extracting cash from them don’t help?