Ways To Improve Going Forward: Your thoughts on the matter.

As I stated in a previous thread, we’re in interesting times here at The Straight Dope.

It’s obvious we can’t continue as we have; that’s not profitable for the owner of this site.

While they look at the situation and work out what they’re going to do next, we can’t just be sitting on our hands.

While some would argue (and probably rightfully so) that anything involving publishing in today’s crazy world is on a par with arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, I don’t hear the band tuning up yet and the fat lady is not singing at this time, so what the hell, might as well dance anyway.

Which is where you come in.

Since the tried and true isn’t cutting it nowadays, what do YOU think would?

We’re looking for ways to make this site – both the column content and the message board – a bigger, better deal. Since we’re serving you, that means what you think is meaningful here. What would make you more likely to spend time here? What would you find enjoyable, interesting, worthwhile? What would you contribute to? What would you throw money at?

Not expecting home runs here, but want to do more than look for change under the sofa cushions.

To strain the metaphor to the ridiculous place, with your help I believe we can turn this boat around and make this site profitable. It’s either that or go bowling, pretty much.

Looking forward to reading your suggestions.

**ADDENDUM: The Straight Dope site is not for sale at this time and so suggestions to buy the Dope by campaign of any kind are not likely to be useful now. We are still here and still owned by the Sun-Times so we’re looking for ways to improve with the situation as it currently stands. If the situation changes, that’s another discussion for that day. But not now. **


your humble TubaDiva


I once tried to buy a gift membership for another poster, but it was impossible to accomplish. A small thing in the big picture profit-wise, but it would have been something. Can we fix that?

  1. To revive interest in what started this in the first place, dig through Cecil’s archives and give us a shot at some unanswered questions(perhaps one a week or so).
  2. Merchandise-People want cups, glasses, tees etc.
  3. An active, official Facebook page.

Tuba, can you clearly state the problem?

You say this place isn’t profitable. Can we at least have a ballpark figure of the Dope’s operating expenses? And are we talking about just the message board, or the whole shebang? (If the latter, how much each one costs would be helpful.)

And also, for the message board, how much income we have from paid memberships, personalized sigs, and ads? What sort of gap are we trying to fill here?

If the site is losing money, would the owners be OK with transferring ownership of the SDMB to a nonprofit created for the purpose of running the board?

I’ve been hanging around this place far too long to let it die without a fight, but I want to know what the battle looks like!

I’m really not sure how to respond… the board has changed so much since I’ve been here that, in some ways, it’s a different message board. Part of it is, I think, the fact that the Pit and Elections have turned into one big anti-Trump screed. I like bitching about him as much as the next guy, but at this point it’s just getting old. I love reading older threads because the tone is usually different. There was lots of snark, to be sure, but less bitching and actual conversation. I’d like to see a return to that. (And yes, I realize the irony of bitching about too much bitching. :slight_smile: )

The culture of this board is rather unique in a way that’s hard for me to describe. I’ve never been able to deal with Reddit or similar boards, and have always considered the Dope my internet “home” even though I don’t post much. I check it daily, sometimes more than once. However, when it comes to changes that need to be made… I’m at a loss.

One thing I will suggest regarding finances is this: allow us to purchase gift memberships again. I’ve only been a member once, and that was when Quasimodem bought me a membership years ago. I’m going to take the plunge and purchase a membership for myself pretty soon, but I’d also like the ability to purchase a gift membership—there’s a poster or two that I’s like to honor that way. —On edit, I see bobot is awake early today, so consider this a +1 to their suggestion.

Just a thought.

A big fat YES to this. (Stuff **not **designed by Slug Signorino, if at all possible!) I’d have bought SDMB merchandise ages ago, if there’d been any to buy.

Since it’s too late to edit again, another vote for merchandise. Keychains, coffee mugs, shot glasses, t-shits… I’d buy them all.

The wrapping and sealing is cost-prohibitive.

A photo forum. A forum for people to post pictures (No NSFW stuff of course.).

Enable avatars.

…for members.

I don’t think a kickstarter campaign to buy the right to the Dope is feasible, but why not do campaign to just fund it for a year? Or six months, or whatever? If it’s good enough for NPR, why not the Dope? Just crowdfund it. I think there are people who would be willing to throw some scratch to keep the lights on here, and if you guys throw in some special goodies for different levels of sponsorship-- Dope tchotchkes, special privileges on the Board, name in lights on the front page, maybe even open up a presenting sponsor level (THE STRAIGHT DOPE brought to you in February by HAPPY LENDERVEDDER!).

Then either do away with the actual memberships and ads, or keep them around and consider the money made from those things to be the icing on the cake, so to speak.

Also, since you’re taking suggestions, why doesn’t Cecil post more now that he’s retired? Might be nice for him to knock around GQ and answer some questions in his classic style. Or just putz around the other fora and make someone’s day once in a while with a snarky reply or his opinion on the Cubs’ bullpen.

AIUI, he’s a bit of a Luddite and getting him to post here at all took some doing. :slight_smile:

Here are my suggestions.

Fighting Ignorance. This is the brand, please promote it. Stay away from politics and café society stuff.

Message board. Let’s leverage the message board to generate new “columns”. Cecil used the board as a source of questions; let’s use it as a source for answers. Once a General Questions thread has run its course, gather the best replies and combine into a single “answer”. Let a member of the SDSAB oversee the process (or even invite an answering poster to be a SDSAB guest star). Once an answer has been drafted, post it to the thread and invite public comment. Iterate until a consensus is reached. Then you have a new “column”.

I think General Questions needs to be the focus here. Well, updates to Cecil columns and Staff reports, too. We have a really diverse bunch of people here with a wide range of expertise. Make use of it. And by making use of it, you’ll attract more smart people.

Facebook. Highlight a column each day. If possible, find a column relevant to something in the news. Highlight a SDMB thread each day. Again, something relevant is great, but stick to Comments… and GQ threads.

Twitter. An official Twitter feed. Best use would be snarky replies to current news items that were addressed by old columns. Promote these if you have the budget. Next best is bringing attention to Facebook posts.

You could also do a donations rally once a year to keep this place in the black.

I know I’d be willing to chip in to keep this place running. I know others would too. Hell, you might even make enough to get rid of the ads.

Hire Vinyl Turnip to portray Cecil on Twitter and other social media.

I doubt sincerely that the corporation will release this data, which after all is critical private data structuring their business development.

I would contribute to some sort of equivalent to a pledge drive. If there was a clearly stated goal, and it wasn’t astronomical, I think it’s very likely that Dopers could meet it.

How do you figure the column content is something to make bigger and better? Isn’t it dead? Pretty hard to make reruns exciting. If you want to go that route, obviously you need volunteers in the SDSAB to write columns. If you do that, I would advise giving them blogs or something along those lines so you can develop fan bases around their topic niche. And don’t hard sell the SDMB from those. Trust that they can be popular in their own right and can spin off some users to the main site.

For the forum, just give up already and modernize a little bit. We don’t need every flashy toy but for Pete’s sake, unless your goal is to corner the crudgy old fashioned netizen market, there’s no need to disallow avatars. Or posting pics in the majority of forums.

Allow people to donate to the board’s costs. Straight up donate. Ed had some completely unsubstantiated objection to this whenever it was suggested. Realize that a lot of people who aren’t 99ers care more about the board than the column. Let them buy a Cafe Press SDMB mug, not complain that you’ve got a warehouse full of SD books to sell first.

Never mind. I see it’s been addressed.