Help Me Help a Great Science Blog Become Self-Sustaining
This is a post about a problem that I am hoping you, dear readers, will help solve. Namely, how can a creative, dynamic blog that started as a pet project evolve into an entity that is self-supporting? (And no, I’m not talking about myself.)
One of the science blogs I fell in love with last year was Buzz Hoot Roar, which marries short blog posts with wonderful art to tell people about science. The blog is a labor of love, launched by four science writers/graphic/web designers who collaborate with a variety of artists who are willing to work for the low, low price of a free t-shirt. (If you haven’t seen the blog, here’s one my favorite posts there. It’s great.)
The blog’s founders don’t make any money from the blog. In fact, they pay for the t-shirts that they give to the participating artists. And the artists only get the t-shirts, or similar small prizes. That’s clearly not sustainable.
One of the blog founders, Eleanor Spicer Rice (or “Roar”) explained to me how the blog came into being: “We started doing this because we know things and are excited about things that we want other people to know and be excited about, and because of that we were turned off by the idea of monetizing [the blog] – and we also were expecting that we would probably be the only ones looking at it, which wasn’t the case. The fact that it wasn’t monetized also seemed to give us a little intellectual and creative leeway. We felt that we could post whatever we wanted because we weren’t trying to meet some sort of financial quota or attract visitors to our site in part so we could profit off of them. We just wanted to put fun stuff up there.
“Now we realize (like every mature adult probably already knows before starting something like this) that we are paying for stuff – t-shirts and prizes for the artists, time for writing and designing, etc. We also realize that finding a way to make money from the blog would improve the site by compensating the people who contribute their creativity, which may encourage talented people who can’t necessarily contribute without financial compensation to share their art with us.”
I love the Buzz Hoot Roar blog, and I want to be able to read new posts there for a long time to come. But in order to thrive it needs to be financially self-sustaining. Unfortunately, I know very little about how to make money from blogging. This is where you come in, dear reader.
My one idea was for Buzz Hoot Roar to work with its artist collaborators to make the art and text in their posts available as prints, mugs or t-shirts. The writers and artists could then split the proceeds (with artists presumably getting a larger share). But I’m guessing there are business, legal and logistical issues at play there that I haven’t thought of. Does my idea even make sense? What would need to be done to make it viable? What other ideas do you have about how Buzz Hoot Roar can become financially self-sustaining (and help provide more compensation for its artist collaborators)?
I eagerly await your feedback in the comments section!
Full disclosure: I had this conversation with Spicer Rice because she’s a friend of mine. Even more full disclosure: I also had this conversation with Spicer Rice because I’ve written a couple of things for Buzz Hoot Roar (which have not run yet). Yes, I got a free t-shirt.