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What I learned by switching to Bitcoin donations instead of traditional ads
48 points by astrowilliam on Mar 17, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 41 comments
6 days ago I posted http://www.reddit.com/r/Bitcoin/comments/202pts/im_taking_the_ads_off_my_popular_website_and/ ) about taking all the ads off my website ( http://www.spaceindustrynews.com ) and replacing them with donation links for BTC. I plan on doing this for 6 months and at that time if I'm not making enough money to keep the servers up I'll have to switch back to a traditional model.

Here's a recap of what has happened and what I've learned so far from my experience.

I've received some very positive feedback about my move away from traditional advertising to a donation based format. I've been contacted by numerous people in the industry ( NASA, etc. ) about this. They are truly intrigued and didn't really understand how I was going to keep the lights on.

The BTC community has been overwhelmingly supportive through this transition as well. I've gotten so many PMs from people that have built systems for easier BTC integration and I'm truly grateful for that.

How much BTC has been donated so far? Day 1: I received 0.0125 BTC which equals ~ $8.00 USD. Day 2: 0.0015 BTC = ~ $0.95 USD Day 3: 0.00 BTC = $0.00USD Day 4: 0.00 BTC = $0.00USD Day 5: 0.00 BTC = $0.00USD Day 6: 0.00 BTC = $0.00USD

There are probably a few reasons for this. One is that after the initial post moved down the page less BTC influencers were coming to the site. My normal audience comes from links and Google so who knows if they user BTC at all.

This news doesn't halt me one bit. I'm in this for a while and will continue doing what is right and what is good. Like I said before, this is still only a few days old so there will be design changes, traffic changes. I'm still 100% behind BTC!

Thank you for the donations, I really do appreciate it.

You should strongly consider making a product and selling it, then using spaceindustrynews.com as a friendcatcher for that product. This lets you have a virtually ad-free experience for that site (with the exception of a few plugs for the house product every once in a while), and would probably be substantially more lucrative than donations or webmaster welfare (AdWords in a non-commercial niche). It will likely sell to a fraction of a percent of your audience, but given that rather more than that is people with high-paying jobs in e.g. engineering or the space industry, amounts of money which are lifechanging for you (when aggregated) are still pretty small beer for them.

I've thought of this a million times over but really can't think of something that would be worthwhile to my readers that they can't get elsewhere. Of course I could do the normal swag, tshirts, etc. , but that's pretty boring and doesn't add to the user experience.

Charge $0.99-$1.99 for an iOS app that pulls content from your website and presents it in a mobile-friendly view. Advertise this app on your website as both a way to read your site on a phone and a way to support your website monetarily.

Great idea. I can probably whip up an iOS app for that. Sounds like a weekend project :)Thanks!

How about a job board for people that want to work in the space industry?

Sounds like the trend, starting on day 3, is quite clear. It's not surprising, donations usually don't work.

There's a way. I will find it. The content is worth not having ads.

I really appreciate your attitude! Hope it goes well for you, mate. =)

Thanks for the encouragement, it means a lot :)

The content is worth not having ads.

I'm having trouble parsing that sentence. What do you mean?

Do you mean that the content is so important that you are happy to subsidise the publication? Or the content isn't worth bothering with ads for?

I think he means that he values the content so highly that he'd rather not tarnish it with advertisement.

Exactly. Thank you

Perhaps subscriptions would be a better way to get reliable revenue?

congrats on reaching this far.

many successful projects on kickstarter or indiegogo began with inviting a small strong userbase to support them for a "new xyz", donation drive with a big vision or ...something else you've always wanted for your community.

i recommend starting with a mailing list if you don't have one already, then saving to get a nice video done with your vision/crowded funded project.


One thing, it's impossible to see the footer on your website with the infinite scrolling.

It looks like the infinite scroll only loads two times and then has a button to "load more" on the third time. Infinite scroll with a footer is generally a bad idea though. I would suggest either using a sticky footer so it's always at the bottom or moving the information to someplace that wont be moved by the infinite scroll.

That being said this will definitely be an interesting experiment and I look forward to seeing the results in 6 months.

I'm working on this. As this is my side project it takes a bit of time for me to get around to fixing things. But, it will be fixed.

What did the site look like with ads?

Have you considered making ads less intrusive? There are networks like this http://decknetwork.net that stipulate one small jpg ad per page.

Where do you get the content? Do you write any yourself? This looks like an aggregator/content farm. Why should I support that?

Coinbase allows recurring payments, you can ask people to subscribe essentially.

Ultimately I don't think it's very convenient for a large number of visitors, but you can probably get your $20 a day. Flattr was supposed to be micropayments for likes and it didn't work. With Bitcoin/DOGE there is a more passionate crowd that will donate if only to promote bitcoin and increase transaction volume.

I'm not any the wiser, as you don't mention what your average ad revenue is like.

On any given day my ad revenue is around $20.00USD. It pays the bills and then some at the end of the month. Sorry about not mentioning that.

I would suggest adding a Paypal (or similar) donation button as well, so non-bitcoin people, or those who wish to hold theirs, can donate too.

Thank you for your suggestion. I've added PayPal to the mix. Though I feel that BTC is the future of currency I'm not sure everyone will feel the same way.

Thank you for the follow up. I will check out the site and I hope donations flow, though I'm not a Bitcoin user myself.

Whilst a interesting move I would suggest offering donations via alternative means, PAYPAL, postal cheque even being two that spring to mind. Have a donate button that links to the options. Then you will get a better feel of how the donation model works instead of limiting to bitcoins. Which in some countries would be illegal I believe. Not sure what the geographic distrabution of bitcoins is, or if that information is mineable in any way beyond maybe memberlists from mining pools.

This is the first thing I thought. Given the mild but noticeable hassle of converting USD to BTC, and the position of BTC in the eyes of many ("hang on to all of it, the value will keep going up!"), there may be potential impulse donators who just won't do it in Bitcoin.

Actually, I wonder what sort of income there'd be with a "joke money" cryptocurrency with an associated tipping culture, like Dogecoin.

This is a marketing plan, not a business plan.

Accept other forms of payment. If you feel strongly about Bitcoin, that's great. Accept it as a payment form. Advertise to all bitcoin savvy users. But you are destining yourself to fail by only accepting Bitcoin.

Also, not sure your readership. But it probably makes more sense to do a subscription, cause someone that sends you a few dollars won't likely send you more. And your regulars are the ones who will pay. Not the random-google-passer-by.

I'm developing a new service (Bitcoin related). At first I was considering BTC donations being the only form of income, but I've noticed every time I look up a BTC donation address there's little to no money transferred to it, even for popular websites. I think I'm going to use a percentage of each transaction as payment instead...

The game 2048 which was on the front page a few days ago got a lot of donations.

Was on the front page for a while, and yet, only 0.47 BTC donated: (unless they used more than one address since then)


That's no more than a day of income for a so-so developer (in the US, at least), so I'd hardly call that "a lot of donations". You could earn more on a low-grade task on Freelancer.com or eLance, and I consider 2048 a quality piece of work. The popularity has probably peaked, so I doubt it'll ever even get to 1.0 BTC.

Yeah... that's one of the things I was referencing. I wouldn't consider 0.5 BTC a whole lot for something that got that much attention. I made more off of a little domain search tool I posted on here that only got 67 points.

Thanks for sharing the results so far. The problem with accepting bitcoin on a site that doesn't have anything to do with bitcoin, is that you're limiting your audience.

I would venture that only 1 - 5% of your visitors even have bitcoin. So basically, you're trying to get donations from only 10 to 50 users for every 1,000 visitors you get. If we then assume that 1% of those visitors will donate $1, you are looking at only $1 to $5 for every 10,000 visitors.

This just doesn't make sense from a business perspective. I would include other ways to make donations.

I hope this works out for you. I'd really like to see micro-transactions replace advertizing as the primary revenue source of the web. I'm afraid your experience so far shows that we haven't reached that tipping point yet. What percentage of your audience even has any bitcoin to donate? It has to be 1000 times more frictionless before I see this working outside of a niche (that you don't seem to be in).

Good luck.

While way too many websites have turned advertising into something 'bad', it doesn't have to be that way. Sites like Smashing Magazine and such offer non-intrusive advertising that displays services people might want to use.

Advertising in and of itself is not evil, it's how people have chosen to utilize it that's given it a bad rap.

I do consider advertising in and of itself to be distasteful. But of course some implementations are better than others, and yes many people are ok with some types/amounts.

Have you considered adding dogecoin and/or litecoin? The inflationary nature of dogecoin lends itself to a higher transaction volume than bitcoin, whereas bitcoin inherently encourages hoarding, not to mention the overwhelmingly generous nature of the dogecoin community in general.

Doge seems like a good idea. I have reached out to that community on Reddit to see what they think and they seem very enthusiastic.

The problem with Dogecoin is that I can't find anything relatively close to coinbase.com as a wallet.

Makes me really hopeful for Tidbit to succeed and become more widely adopted and accepted...I know that I plan to implement it on my sites (default off with opt in of course).


I recommend supporting other cryptocurrencies, particularly dogecoin.

Good luck. Thank you for sharing!

Thanks Josh!

This is one of the primary purposes for developing valME.io - to give quality content providers a better way to make money from doing exactly what they already do, and without advertising. You can read about the details here: http://valme.io/c/gettingstarted/faq/kqqqs/how-valme-works/ and the genesis of the idea here: http://valme.io/c/gettingstarted/faq/pkqqs/the-genesis-of-va.... We would welcome your content and be happy to give you a free community called /SpaceIndustryNews (or whatever you want to call it). If you're interested, when you register, just indicate it's you.

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