I write a blog that provides some income, and I’m going to use that blog as a platform to publish a book this Fall (mailing list). This page lists details about the different kinds of support I accept.
Transparency is good. So here is a list of my revenue from 2016, broken down by type. Snapshot was taken 2017–01–07 at 10:00 AM UTC.
tldr; Patreon wins, WordAds loses, and I can do better with Amazon referrals.
Total funding in 2016: $2,209.91
Total page hits in 2016: 675,930 (350K unique visitors)
Total page hits since 2011: 3.3M (1.5M unique visitors)
A slight decline in traffic from last year, which I attribute to the complications of finishing my thesis and moving across the country and starting a new job. I’m also trying to prioritize writing my book. Nevertheless, 2016 had some posts I’m really proud of, including my series on zero-knowledge proofs, and a pair of posts on singular value decomposition.
Total for 2016: $1,894.84
Total since 2015: $2,258.05
Patreon is by far the best source of income (beats all others combined by a factor of 6). And this is with only 30-ish patrons at any given time! It’s clear that the math and programming resources I provide on my blog are worth money to my readers. I imagine reading the blog has also given some concrete business value to a small number of readers, and I imagine a recurring monthly donation is peanuts by comparison.
I have been slacking on the rewards for patrons, but after doing this review I will start looking for ways to improve that. The obvious one is to send a signed copy of my book, when it’s published, to any patrons who have given over a certain amount. I’m open to ideas.
Total for 2016: $236.03*
Total since 2013: $1,935.42
*Includes Dec 2015 since Dec 2016 hasn’t yet been processed. Slight overestimate (see trendlines below)
Since 2013 I have used Wordpress’s ad network WordAds to serve ads. Here’s charts for revenue and ad impressions by month, since 2013.
As you can see, ad impressions have fluctuated, but overall stayed mostly flat, while ad income has gone steadily down (though the two do correlate weakly, see below). The average of the last 6 months is just under $14 per month.
For 2016 only, the trend is far more dismal. If I were to exclude one data point (top right), the graph would be entirely flat.
Is this the writing on the wall for a dying ad industry? Maybe. On the other hand, WordAds tends to serve ads for paper towels and cereal. I don’t think a single user of mine would click on such an ad, so from my perspective I’ve been swindling WordAds out of $2k over the course of four years at the expense of distracting my readers.
Revenue-wise, WordAds is trash compared to Patreon. I even think if I did a better job promoting Amazon referrals (see below), those would outshine WordAds. Though obviously that requires some additional effort, I think it would be worth it because those promotions are at least relevant to the content.
I previously posted a stretch goal on Patreon, that if I received $200/month of recurring patronage, I would eliminate ads. I’d like to keep to this goal (almost reached it this year), and there was a time at which $200/month was only a factor of 2 improvement over WordAds. But if the revenue from WordAds keeps declining, it just won’t be worth the cost to my users.
Perhaps finding long-term sponsors for ads on the sidebar would be better. Ideally it would be something relevant to math and programming, as my readership is an extremely targeted audience of students, autodidacts, and hobbyists who want to be better at math and programming. If you’re in a position to make such an ad deal, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com
Total for 2016: $75.43
The bump in November is due to the link at the end of this post (so roughly $40 for a short post with a link). I’m bad at remembering to use referral links in blog posts, but also I made the effort to “advertise” this particular book because I like it and because it’s more casual than a textbook. Not sure what a bounty is, or why I made money off one.
Paypal one-time donations
Total since 2016: $2.61
Total since 2014: $360.43*
*For some reason, Paypal limits queries for activity to three years!
I asked for one-time donations once in 2012 (ish?), and got a surge of around $800. I don’t like asking for donations regularly, since it puts too much noise in the way of the math, so I haven’t done this since.
Square cash one time donations
Total since 2016: $1
Total since inception: $1
Probably will discontinue this one.
Bitcoin one-time donations
To my knowledge, nobody has donated in Bitcoin.
Should I file the paperwork for an LLC? (Who would ever sue a math blog?)
How do these numbers compare to other math bloggers? Other non-math bloggers? In my head I imagine that even a mildly successful lifestyle blog would make a lot more from ads, but I don’t have any data on that.