Slate published an article this past June about how their referrals from Facebook had basically fallen off a cliff. They had built up a presence on there that allowed their traffic to blossom for a while… until, gradually, fewer fans were seeing Slate’s articles on their News Feed. That meant fewer people were sharing those articles. That meant fewer people were visiting Slate’s website.
I could relate. Facebook was easily the biggest source of traffic to this site for years — and we worked hard to build up our presence there (Thanks, Tracey!) — but it’s easy for me, as a moderator, to see how our posts only reach a tiny fraction of our own “fans.” That means fewer shares, which means fewer pageviews… and that’s especially problematic when any payments I get are tied to web traffic.
This isn’t a unique case by any means. The same thing has happened to virtually every news and commentary outlet out there. I know I personally feel like I’m always climbing up a mountain that keeps getting steeper. The question is: What should I do now?
Let me just say that this isn’t a complaint (nor am I starving). Readers have been generous with their eyeballs, and I’ve been able to make this my full-time job for the past several years. Seriously. If you read this site and share the articles on it, it makes a huge difference whether or not you give anything.
Also, because many of you have contributed on Patreon, here’s what I’ve been able to do over the past few years:
- I began the Friendly Atheist Podcast with my co-host Jessica. We went from interviewing interesting people all over the religious spectrum to discussing the news on a weekly basis. Since 2014, we’ve posted a new episode every week without fail. There are people who listen to that podcast who never visit this site, and I think it’s found a niche in the world of atheist podcasts.
- I’ve been able to bring on more contributors to this site who offer fresh perspectives and help me cover a wider range of stories. They always get paid for their work. If anything, I’d love to bring on additional writers.
- I’ve published more guest posts from people who had something interesting to say but who may not have had a good outlet for it.
- Videos on the Atheist Voice YouTube channel reached a wider, newer audience. They also were filmed in higher quality. (The videos will resume soon, hopefully more consistently, in a few months.)
- I proposed, edited, and published a book called Queer Disbelief, written by Camille Beredjick, a former contributor to this site. I’m incredibly proud of what we made — especially because we did it ourselves without a traditional publisher. In time, I hope to publish more using this approach.
- Publish a weekly newsletter for people who can’t keep up with the articles here, highlighting the most important stories/threads and putting the news in context. This is also an important tool as people move away from Facebook as a source of content.
- Establish a presence on other kinds of social media, reaching people who don’t usually include sites like these in their media diets.
- Track legislation and lawsuits more thoroughly instead of relying on outside news reports or tips.
- Bring on another editor who can help manage the site, edit pieces, and cover stories when I’m working on other projects.
- Cover more topics. For all the things we post, there are many more that we have to pass up. That requires more contributors.
There are other pipe dreams, but those are some of the immediate within-reach goals.
That’s why I’m asking for your help. The less I have to rely on web traffic, the better quality I can provide. It’s also a more reliable way to budget out for bigger projects and a safety net in case traffic plummets even more.
If everyone who reads this site regularly gave $1 or $5 a month — regularly — it would make a huge difference. And for people who care about atheism and the intersection of religion and politics, I hope you feel it’s a worthy investment.
So I’m asking readers to contribute whatever you can, no matter how much. (If you can give more than $1/month, I salute you.) If you don’t give… well, I won’t stop doing this. I’ll keep posting as long as I can. (It’s been more than a decade. I can keep going.) It just gets harder with fewer resources.
If Patreon isn’t preferable for you, you can use a credit card through Venmo (My address: Mpromptu at gmail) or send donations to P.O. Box 9734 Naperville, IL 60567. And for those who prefer to make a one-time donation only, since Patreon doesn’t allow those right now, you can always give via PayPal:
Thanks as always for your support and readership.