Meanwhile, Back in Reality…

Forgive me for hijacking my own website, but please bear with me for just a few moments as I get kind of serious for once…

As most of you know, I’ve been in Japan for a while (about a year) and while the experience has been beyond my wildest expectations in many ways, it’s undeniably altered my financial situation for the worse.  As I scramble to make ends meet, it becomes harder and harder for me to justify my commitment to LiA without at least making the effort to recoup something for the time I put into it.

How much time is that?  Well, I know it’s too much – but that’s not really the point, because no one has a gun to my head forcing me to do it.  It’s nice to be able to express yourself on a topic about which you’re passionate, but I don’t think it’s wrong to want to try and support oneself in some tiny measure in the process.  I take a great deal of pride in the content of this site – agree or disagree with it, I can pretty much guarantee that it’s timely and it sincerely reflects what I believe.  It seems – at least based on my stats – that there are those who find that I’m providing a useful and/or enjoyable service. That in and of itself is a great reward for me, and if I never recoup a penny I’ll still consider it worthwhile based on that fact.

That brings us to this post – which I did consider doing as a poll, but rejected because I don’t want multiple-choice answers, I want honest and detailed opinions.  In short, I’m considering trying to use LiA for financial support in a very limited way, and justify the hours I put into it.  I do use Adsense, but that’s a pretty minimal return.  That’s fine, because I think it also impacts the user experience minimally.  But I have several other options in mind and I’d like your feedback.

First off, the top priority is not to tarnish the user experience.  I’m never going to win any awards for site design but I refuse to use eyesores like pop-up ads or to plaster so many ads all over the site that they become intrusive.  That leaves me with a few possibilities:

  • A Web Store.  Amazon is the most common partner in this, but there are also others (such as ebay).  If I were to create a Web Store through Amazon (or another vendor you might suggest) that featured anime, manga and Japan-related items for material and places discussed on LiA, would people be interested in using that as a resource?
  • Selected banner ads from relevant companies (obviously anime/manga related material being the main candidate).  I’ve been approached a few times and while this isn’t going to be a major factor, it does feel at least consistent with the theme of the site.
  • LiA-themed items.  T-shirts, mugs, iPhone covers – whatever.
  • A Donations button.  Honestly not very appealing, and it somehow feels
    very dated.  But it has the benefit of being small and unobtrusive, and
    if there are a few readers who view this site as something like a
    useful subscription service, it’s an easy way to let them show their
    appreciation.

The fact is, I may never implement any of this – as I say, the main thing I’m concerned with is not trashing the user experience.  But given that maintaining this site is something I want to be able to keep doing and that the demands of real-life are what they are, I really couldn’t put off this conversation any longer.  So feel free to comment and let me know your thoughts – that’s why I wrote the post in the first place.  And as always, my sincere thanks for supporting LiA and helping it continue to grow.

Enzo

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51 comments

  1. C

    As long as the quality of your posts doesn't change, I'm not going to stop coming here. I don't really mind the ads on 4chan/nyaa, either. Unfortunately, as a NEET, I don't have a lot of cash to offer you. I guess those are my thoughts, thanks for what you do.

  2. k

    I think you should do whatever you think is the best. I can't say how successful a donation button or merchandise would be, but as for ads, I don't think anyone should have a problem with this blog displaying ads, even if you were swimming in money. (Some very popular blogs are packed to the brim with ads, the maintainers clearly make a nice profit off of them, and nobody seems to mind.) Personally I'd prefer Amazon simply because I'm used to seeing at their ads on other websites, but I'm fine with whatever you think fits the blog best and has the best chances of helping you financially.

  3. Well, I appreciate it. Though part of the purpose of the post is to try and determine not just what would annoy readers the least, but what they might actually find useful or interesting. And that, of course, means potentially more support for the blog. Amazon at least has the benefit of being a chance to be relevant with the themes of the blog.

    Falcon, don't worry – this is never going to be a toll road, it'll always be a freeway. I'm just happy to have you here – anything else I do is going to be strictly on a volunteer basis. If people are interested in something, great. There isn't going to be any solicitation or such on my part.

    And I would certainly hope the post quality won't change, though whether that's a good thing or not is for others to decide. The one has nothing to do with the other.

  4. R

    I would't mind at all the ads as long as they don't play sounds.
    I don't know if its possible with blogspot to implement some sort of "VIP member" subscription, which would add a star or something next to your name in the comment section.

  5. e

    Whatever the results are I'm on board and you know it already Enzo.
    One feedback I agree with is about the ads: they'd be ok, just shoot down the ones with sounds and burn them in a fire. They're an immersion breaker at best, an ear-buster at worst (and in that case even with headphones they can be supremely annoying for the people around you too. It happens way too often in my campus and city library…).

  6. No, ads with sound are just as out of the question as pop-ups – I would never go there.

  7. e

    *radiant Onoda smile*

    On the gadget side I wouldn't mind tote fabric bags and shoppers myself :p .
    I'd love t-shirts too but with my body frame any logo on the upper front gets stretched so I'd rather opt with shirt with logo or whatever on the back if available X,D.
    And if I was an Apple girl (ack! budget) I wouldn't mind smartphone and ipad cases either – customizable and affordable non-Apple cases are either beyong my Google-fu or plain nonexistent it seems. Boohoo :,) – .
    Basically stuff that it's easy to ship ( weight, size, breakability, shiping cost, not too much of a customs check bait [from past experiences in my country the smaller/flatter/lighter the better ) like well packaged mugs, keychains, pins, pendants (!) and doesn't cost me an organ would fit the bill – literally – . I'm poor.
    Amazon ads are also fine. Especially for titles you recommend(ed?) and that are less mainstream if that's possible… time to promote the Moribito anime once more 8D

  8. e

    Mousepads too could be handy…

  9. n

    I don't mind any of the measures you mentioned as long as sudden pop-ads are excluded. I appreciate that you consider the user experience as top priority, but honestly if I were you, I wouldn't have been able to maintain the spirit that you seem to have held for years without any financial payback. Life can be hard for anyone but I really hope that your situations allow you to keep your enthusiasm as a writer and continue this blog.

  10. R

    i would go with the web store and LiA items for you. after all, many of us would also want to know where we can buy stuff for our otaku fix. you will be doing all of us a favor. byt of course, the biggest question is will you be able to sell your goods at a reasonable price?

  11. No T-shirts for more than $100, and mugs more than $40. I take my cue from the pricing policy for anime Blu-rays.

  12. e

    dude does that T-shirt come laminated with gold? X,D

  13. m

    Banner ads and a web store seem like your best choices, I'm not sure about the LiA themed goods. And a donation button may be dated, but it's always useful to have as an option kept to the side. Don't feel too bad about broaching this subject, it can happen to the best of bloggers. I'm mostly a lurker but I'll support whatever decision you end up making. I happen to enjoy reading about your views on anime and the additional background info on anime companies and staff.

  14. c

    I would be more than happy to make a monthly donation of a few pounds through paypal, which may not be much, but i'm sure will add up with all the other regulars making small donations. You could even make an incentive to donate i.e. additional posts, an emailing list (where you send updates), naked photos, shoutout posts (where you list and thank donators). The best implementation of this method would be to make a monthly target and stick the progress upto that target on the front of the site.
    Have you thought of using Patreon? I have followed a couple of startup sites that can make ends-meat through that service.

  15. So the idea is that if people donate, I won't send them naked photos of myself?

    I haven't heard of Patreon – thanks very much for the link, it looks very interesting indeed. Any other suggestions from anyone on what sort of premium content might be nice for those who decided to pitch in?

    And yes, tiny monthly donations would make a huge difference.

  16. e

    Enzo are you sending naked photos of other people then? :p No Enzo's nekkid fingernails closeups then. Woe.
    Or the naked beauty of a winter landscape shot. Or…
    Haiku. <– this one is serious in case you're wondering.

  17. c

    Depending upon the gender and sexual preference of the donor, naked photos is a easy way to make money. Just do a few sit-ups and pull-ups a day, then you'll be in the money!

  18. S

    never heard of Patreon, but it sounds like a more complex version of Flattr. I don't know which one is largest/best though

  19. Flattr, another one I didn't know about… There's also Gittip. Which way to go, I wonder?

  20. H

    I probably wouldn't buy anything from an affiliated store, my budget is stretched thin to start with, but I have no problems with a few more ads on the site. Heck, been meaning to add that to my own as well but haven't really had the time to mess around with it.

  21. P

    Most internet users are well-trained into ignoring ads, so I would say go ahead with more ads if that would help your situations. I really enjoy reading your opinions. We all live on money, so don't feel bad to use your assets to improve your financial well-being.

    I doubt the donation will work though, but a web store might be good especially if it features interesting stuff that outsiders might not know of otherwise. I know that it is a bit cheesy, but you can even do a 'hi light of the month' or 'LiA recommended' item list and feature those in your store.

    Best of luck with your situation.

  22. Thanks, yes – definitely thinking of an "LiA Selections" store or some such, kind of a one-stop shop for all the stuff that's a favorite on the site.

  23. Y

    I'd say do it all. As long as you don't expect too much… There's no reason not to have a donation button, but keep in mind probably not too many people will use it.

    As far as LiA stuff, I'd say get a brand in place first. To get a real branding in place, ideally you'd hire someone like me… but if the idea is to save money, you might want to try and do it yourself 😉 The first thing I would do is pick between "America" and "Anime". I'd recommend you go with "Anime" because it's more universal, makes more sense, and it's in your URL. If you don't have a brand in place, it's going to make it hard to motivate people to buy.

    Another aspect you might want to work on is SEO. There's some serious competition but it should be possible to get you up higher in search results for a few targeted searches.

    I can't promise anything at this point, but I might be able to help. If you're interested, let me know where I can email you…

  24. D

    Keep in mind that dealing with merchandise (inventory, invoicing, shipping – even if you outsource it) can be a distraction and maybe even an up-front investment that might only show returns in the long run. Also, it seems most of your readership is stretched tight for cash, so how realistic is it for you to expect them to buy "frivolous" items? A virtual LiA store would be a good option, as long as it doesn't require you to put any money down or take up too much of your time in its upkeep.
    Ads require no time investment on your part, we can ignore/follow them as we will, and if they feature merchandise related to manga/anime, then there's a good chance some of us will click and buy.
    You could try donations as well, but perhaps – as suggested above – with a token of appreciation attached. Surely there are anime-related (small, lightweight) that you could send to your supporters. That always encourages people a bit, if they feel they'll get something in exchange.

  25. K

    I think donations and ads would be the best choices. I am kind of hurting financially myself (school loans) but when I can I will definitely donate to help out.

    Don't get me wrong I love your writing and this blog but Lost in America doesn't scream brand to me that I think merchandise would really fit.

  26. S

    Ads would probably be the best scenario, and something I wouldn't mind. But remember to put a banner that appears if Adblock is installed, otherwise I'd forget to turn it off for your site. (with Adblock I rarely ever encounter ads on any page, and wouldn't generate any income for you).

    You can try donations, but that usually works best for a short term rally of funds (money for a new server, or whatever blogging equipment you need… tablet? trip to Chihayafuru Script writer interview? lol)

    The Webstore is a whole different commitment, and I don't think it should be made without proper investiment (money + time) and not as an afterthought. But I wouldn't want you to commit to that anyways. Focus on your written content, it's great!

  27. W

    A huge thanks to your strong dedication to your blog and to your readers! I'll echo and say that the ads probably would be the best bet–most of us already know how to ignore such things. As for the store, I'd recommend against it because it doesn't seem like it would make much profit and could actually end up taking more of your time to maintain. People are good at finding anime/Japanese related stuff through really cheap websites, so I'm not sure that there's enough incentive there for us to buy things directly from your store (and there are only so many LiA branded things a person can own).

    I would definitely add a donate button–there's really no hurt in doing that. I would add an incentive to donate, maybe a weekly (or whatever time period you'd prefer) "auction" type of thing where you have things that you can give away to the highest donor etc. Like say, if you take a lot of pictures, you could print a picture out and maybe write a personal message and then send it to that person via post. I don't know how that financial win/loss ratio would go for you, but there are other things you can do. Maybe you could "auction" off a topic for a post that the winner could get to choose the topic for, or maybe something like 20 questions that the highest bidder could ask you, etc. Small things like that might increase incentive to donate, without costing you a fortune. And I bet a lot of us would get to know you better that way (and you could always limit what kinds of questions asked in your "auction" rules, so as to not get grilled too personally). :)

  28. S

    I agree with Damizelle, Stöt and Windaerie, there is always a big uncertainty involved with setting up merchandise.

    Since I am enjoying your blog posts very much, ads or a donation button won't prevent me from wanting to read your well written thoughts about the latest episodes. However personally, as an university student myself, I would definitely not spend any money for merchandise from this blog.

    Personally I would first implement the measures that do not require a lot of effort and money to set up and observe how much income I am able to generate from them. With this you gain more experience generating revenue from blogging, while avoiding any upfront investments for things with an outcome you can not predict at this moment.

    I find it quite charming that you cherish the reader's experience setting up this discussion and I hope that you get a reasonable value back for blogging.

  29. J

    Go with the ads, I suppose. I won't worry about them. If it's a pay per click thing though… There could be trouble. In my ignorant opinion, I think you could be very successful if you carried your professional writing skills and knowledgeable opinions to a journal/magazine/ect… that could use them. Of course, I say ignorant because I have no idea how you live your life or what your job prospects are… So forgive me for that. You definitely have something going, though.

  30. That's an ongoing and totally separate enterprise, but I do appreciate the thought.

  31. J

    Well, I hope ends end up meeting for you anyways.

  32. T

    I agree with others – ads and a donation tab are the way to go. I would be happy to donate some money (10-15 bucks). This site has provided me some great reading, especially through some hard times I had a while back.

  33. l

    I think ads would be your most profitable investment with the least amount of work on your end. A Donate button would probably require even less work than ads, but I doubt it would pull in as much money as ads. The web store and / or the LiA-themed items are the suggestions that excite me the most, but they would require the most work on your part. Your return on investment would likely be lower for those options. So while I like the idea of the web store or the LiA-themed items best, I think the ads are your best first choice. You can always do the other options at a later time.

  34. K

    I'd be perfectly fine if you charged subscription rates. If you charged something small like $9.99 for a one year subscription, and got even a few hundred people to subscribe, that would help your problems right there. You post so much that this site is basically like a magazine, and people don't walk into stores expecting free magazines.

  35. R

    Seriously, it's really your writing, thoughts, dedication, and passion that draw me in, and I trust that you will look after the experience with LiA, so I'm not worried about increasing ad displays here.

    About the options that you mentioned, I love the Amazon idea, and perhaps we can have a LiA Store or a LiA Classified that people can pay you for posting their for-sale items. How about a LiA Swap Shop?

    I don't mind donations either, and I feel it right to help organizations like the Red Cross or the World Vision raise fund for their efforts in the Typhoon Haiyan relief. I would also be open to crowd funding if you may also consider.

    Enzo, hope that all is well, and thanks for sharing your thoughts here. All the best.

  36. K

    As many have said, ads would be the most efficient solution.
    With regards to a Donate button, some incentives could be changing the background/ banner temporarily at the donor's request, or the chance to feature guest posts/ plugs from prospective anime bloggers.

    As always, thank you for the great work you put into LiA. Your passion and dedication to analyzing and critiquing anime is truly admirable

  37. R

    Enzou, in my personal opinion (just me mind you), you could fill up your site with every ad thinkable and as long as I could still get to your posts, I would keep coming here. It's not an understatement to saw that you are my absolute favorite anime/manga blogger in the world.

    And for the exact same reason, if there was a donation button I'd be throwing money at you faster than you could blink.

  38. Close to tears reading that Rita – thank you (and to everyone who's opining here).

  39. s

    Its really hard to say, because unlike myself, you spend a lot more time on this blog of yours than I think is humanly possible. It takes me about an hour and a half to compose a review together for my own blog, and that's only the first draft and the screenshots. I don't proof read my posts, or do anything fancy. I only cover about 3-4 series too, and that in itself is unmaintable. I'm also late, and sometimes fall behind 2 episodes or so.

    Its extremely hard to do this. and being a web designer and web developer and being fairly familiar with advertising, there isn't a specific way I know of how to monetize your blog.

    Its a fantastic blog, the writing and timelyness of the posts make up for any design or layout issues.

    The problem is, blogs in general are hard to monetize.

    My personal suggestion? You're a good enough writer to get a job over at AnimeNewsNetwork or Japanator or one of those more "in it for the money" services. You also live in japan, which is a big plus.

    I would suggest applying to one of those places, and making money that way. As long as they're cool with you working on another blog on the side I don't see it being a problem.

    Handling a web business by yourself? I think its tough. Even with all the technical skills I have, its hard to really get to a point where you could make money.

    I wish you the best though, and as I offered before, I'm here to help with setting up technical related stuff that I can.

    Good luck Sir! I hope you figure this out! =D

  40. s

    Also joining a blog that actually makes money and survives off advertising might give you some experience or ideas about how the game actually works, and how you can best do what you love (write about anime) and support yourself while doing it.

  41. K

    I've been accustomed to a number of sites utilizing both the ads and the donations button. The ads won't be much of a detrimental constituent as long as they're not bombarded with peskily frenetic visuals and cacophonous audio. And for the latter, donations have always profited quite the considerable amounts.

    I'm absolutely fine with whatever choice you'll take, Enzo. It's your earnest passion to write and the profundity in your writing that keep me adhered in LiA. 😀

  42. N

    Probably, ads will be your best option since it will be easiest to do. If you have donations, I would be glad to support you. Any way, I will be back here to read your thoughtful and insightful articles no matter what. Thanks as always for your dedication!

  43. f

    ads are prob the easiest way to go. I can't speak for everybody, but I certainly don't mind ads as long as I could still read your posts. If that isn't sufficient, I wouldn't mind pitching in a couple bucks here or there to support this blog.

  44. f

    i forgot to mention that you are without a doubt, my favorite anime blogger, probably the only one i frequent on a regular basis. I really appreciate the quality of the writing and the depth with which you provide.

  45. s

    honestly im not surprised at all that this post came up as i have wondered once in a blue moon how the hell you you were getting through the day while blogging this much and going to school. My suggestion to you is to do a synergy of all those ideas you listed above. Selling t-shirts and mugs would give you a profit while at the same time give your blog more publicity so that more people gravitate to it. By having the donations feauture added to your blog, the more profit you get from selling merchandise, the more people will gravitate to your website, the more likely people will give you donations for the incredibly stupendous effort you bleed into your writing, the more people will see the ads on your website, the more profit you get for monetirizing your blog, and the more incentive people will have to shop on your amazon store. Really, if you can afford to do all the four ideas you listed in your post, you will be golden. But if you cant, definitely go with the merchandising (or ads; your choice between the merchandising and ads) and donations.

    I have a couple of policies that i succinctly live by: one of them being that if someone is working hard as hell, pouring their passion into doing something, whether they succeed or fail, they deserve to be rewarded for their troubles, and you sir deserve to be rewarded from your troubles. I can tell how awkward it probably was for you to even openly discuss this topic with your readers and i commend the courage that it probably took for you to do this. I come to this site not because we share similar taste (although we do for a fair share of things); I come here because you are an exquisite writer, brimming to the seems with eloquence and poignant analysis on whatever matter you write about; as a fellow writer, it would be shame to see that service not provided any longer. If you set up a donation system, i would have no problem banging out ten dollars a week for your troubles; that would be an estimated 40 dollars a month and 480 dollars a year…and that's only one person (its pretty obvious that you have plenty of readers who are more than happy to donate monthly). Good luck with whatever you do, keep up with your studies, and most importantly….keep doing what makes you happy and fulfilled.

  46. Incredibly generous of you, Sonic – thank you! Stay tuned as I mull over some ideas on how to make all this work.

  47. i

    I think your best bet would be a mix actually. Putting up some ads, say underneath the banner, on the side bar, just under the post portion and a few other places wouldn't really detract from the viewing as most people are used to seeing a 5:1 ad to content ration in most sites anyway. Bringing amazon on board is quite a good idea as I think I first clicked on an amazon link on you side bar to find S&W novels. A donate button would be pretty simple to use and would bring in some extra cash from generous readers.

    I don't think a subscription button would be quite a good idea though. Main point is that if most people won't pay Crunchyroll to watch anime online, preferring free subs duh, why would they pay for a review from an aniblog when there are another hundred or so around for free. It also makes it likely that you won't get new followers as people who don't know your strong writing skills won't give it a chance. Also should some followers not be comfortable financially with a subscription investment so your current following would fall and decrease the rate ad money brings.

    Maybe you could join hands with ANN for a while and do some reviewing or blogging for them (don't know if they pay though but they might). It's your own choice and I suppose you have to pick what's best for you and dare I say it but if it's creating a problem in your life limit or end aniblogging. I'd rather you were in a healthy financial situation and off the blogsphere than broke and blogging anime.

  48. P

    Add all of them! This is such a great site and I think that you should be getting paid for it. Regardless of how many adds you put up I will still visit this site regularly.

  49. B

    This site provide rich and interesting content you obviously pour your heart into, so if I'll be able to support it by donations or ignoring a few extra ads I'll gladly do so! You're also responsible for improving my English and a few successful tests so I feel even more obligated now 😀

  50. Z

    Advertisements, amazon store, and a donation button are my suggestion.

  51. S

    As someone who has a bit of experience with web design, I perfectly understand your concern with banners… I think that your best and easiest course would be the "chosen ads" road. It's the one that can provide you with the relatively safer income with the least effort on your part. The following idea would be the webstore – you could both sell LiA themed items (if you find the time to design and make someone produce those) and import anime-related items that you can only buy in Japan and pipeline to your readers (not sure about how the laws work in this respect though).
    Donations can't hurt I guess, but I see your points about it. Still, minimum effort to implement, and basically no downsides (no one's going to think you "sold out" or such stuff for a mere button that pretty much everyone has these days). So why not?

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