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Mailing list and website monetization (adverts)

In this article, I’ll write down my thoughts about the BikeGremlin mailing list (“newsletter” as the marketing people say), and website monetization (i.e. website adverts). Thinking out loud.

Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):

  1. Mailing list (newsletter)
  2. Website monetization (adverts)
  3. Third-party cookie ban
    3.1. What are these cookies?
    3.2. What does the third-party cookie ban bring us?
    3.3. Solution A – Mediavine Grow platform
    3.4. Plan B – Patreon donations
  4. Conclusion

1. Mailing list (newsletter)

What is that?

Generally, mailing lists boil down to your applying (subscribing) with your email address, in order to receive email notifications (news, offers and similar).

Now, I hate mailing lists. 🙂 They are usually just used to send some nonsense news, or try to sell me something. Then why am I thinking about creating a mailing list? That’s a good question.

Relatively recently, all my websites were erased entirely from the Bing search engine (my article on that). Without any reason or justification (Bing admitted it was their fault). Who uses Bing? It appears, fortunately, only about 10% of people. But what would happen if Google ran into a similar “technical problem?”

That’s why I thought it’s a good idea to consider creating a BikeGremlin mailing list, so all you following my work can have an alternative communication channel in case of any website hiccups.

How exactly would this BikeGremlin mailing list work?

  • Should I send you notifications for every new article?
  • Should I notify you if I run into a discount sale on Amazon or and the likes?

I’m not sure – I’d love to hear your thoughts on that in the comment section below.

I think it makes sense to use a mailing list for what I consider to be really important notifications. Such as a “dead man’s switch,” so you get notified if I finally get run over by a car, 🙂 or a notification that I’ve finally published “The Power of Negative Thinking,” a book on such life philosophy. 🙂

But I’m not planning to sell anything, nor make any sort of news portal.

Regardless of how it is used, a mailing list must be fair:

  • You must always be able to unsubscribe with one click (available in every mail you receive).
  • In order to subscribe, you should have to click on a confirmation link sent to your email.
    This prevents anyone from adding you to the list without your confirmation (and it’s called a “double opt-in” subscription).
    It also assures that you’ve entered your email correctly (instead of “[email protected]” or similar typos).
  • You needn’t enter your real name or any other info, except a valid email address. Your privacy is important.
  • Ideally, your email addresses should be stored encrypted (so any hack/breach doesn’t put your data at risk).
  • The system must be scalable, and capable of supporting an exponential growth in the number of email addresses (and sent emails). This basically narrows down the scope of available solutions to Amazon SES, so we are again dependent on the goodwill of one huge corporation. 🙁
  • Last, but not the least important: automated, regular backups.

Implementing and maintaining such a mailing list is complicated and expensive. Over the past years (and a few days ago, recently), I have tried creating a mailing list, but I wasn’t happy with the results. It couldn’t satisfy all the above-listed criteria without taking a lot of my time and energy (at the expense of writing more great articles).

The final nail in the coffin is the European GDPR law. What is that? Very simply and briefly put, I’m not allowed to store any data of EU citizens on servers that are not located in the EU and owned by an EU company. I like doing business with people and companies that I trust and respect. As it turns out, most of such companies I like working with are US-based (for example, this site runs on MDDHosting). European bureaucrats would rather force me to do business with (for me) less reliable EU companies. Well, bureaucrats: “I fart in your general direction!”

Besides all that, I’m not sure if anyone would have any use for it. Well, unless Google and/or Cloudflare remove my site from their platforms for any reason (or without any reason). But, in that case, I’m not sure how a mailing list could really help.

So, for now, despite all the marketing experts’ advice, I’m running only a news page, without a real mailing list. With all the pros and cons of that choice.

Update, October 21st, 2022:
Thanks to the help of companies Mediavine and MailChimp (from a monkey, for a monkey 🙂 ), I am now able to make a mailing list as I think it should be made, without taking much of my time and energy (so I can concentrate on making more articles and YouTube videos). When it costs nothing, I guess it’s cool to be able to notify people of any discount sales or important news I run into, if nothing smarter. 🙂

Update, December 2023:
Mediavine’s Grow email subscription format still doesn’t support double-opt in (i.e. subscriber’s email confirmation). That is ridiculous, spammy, and I had to resort to some manual “hacking” in order to make my mailing lists be truly double opt-in.

– T.O.C. –

2. Website monetization (adverts)

I don’t really like ads. Do you?

However, running a website (backups, security, optimization) costs. I use my computer-related knowledge and experience to keep these costs to a minimum, but as my sites grow, along with the number of visitors, so do the running costs.
At the time of writing, there is a global inflation running wild, which my employer (and their accountants) is apparently unaware of. 🙂

Also, writing high-quality articles takes a lot of time (my average needed time per article is well over 10 work hours, and there are articles that take 40 to 60 hours for testing, taking photos, and writing).

There are many advantages of writing expert articles. I enjoy doing it and I love sharing my knowledge – for free. But, I don’t like the idea of paying out of my own pocket to do so. I think the time and effort I invest are enough of a contribution on my part.

Based on my calculation, if every BikeGremlin website visitor paid one cent per month ($0.01), I could earn enough to support my family (and could spend 8 hours each day fixing bikes, and making articles and videos on that).

BikeGremlin websites' monthly visitor statistics
BikeGremlin websites’ monthly visitor statistics
Picture 1

Of course, I’m not expecting, nor asking for that. If we all paid even one cent to every cool website, the expenses would stack rather quickly. Yes, in a perfect world, we’d all be working for free and sharing everything. But that’s not how the world runs. We’re living in capitalism.

That’s why I ran Google AdSense website adverts for years, and since September 2022, started working with the Mediavine monetization platform. Compared to AdSense, Mediavine ads don’t slow down page loading as much, and I can limit the number of ads between article paragraphs (I set a maximum of 10% of the article’s area on desktop).

It could be said these ads are a “necessary evil,” and they are placed so they don’t prevent you from using the articles to learn something or solve a problem.

I believe in the freedom of choice, so BikeGremlin runs perfectly fine even if you activate an AdBlocker.
Of course, I’d appreciate your disabling the AdBlocker for BikeGremlin – but that decision is up to you.

I think that’s fair.

– T.O.C. –

3. Third-party cookie ban

3.1. What are these cookies?

First, I’ll briefly explain what third-party cookies are:

When you visited this site, if you clicked the “Accept cookies” on that annoying pop-up banner (that is now obligatory because of the GDPR), a small file was created on your computer where it is written that you’ve visited this place. This site uses Google Analytics and Mediavine third-party cookies.

These cookies are anonymous. Google/Mediavine doesn’t know you are John Doe, but it knows that your computer/phone has visited BikeGremlin. When you visit other websites (if you also accept cookies), over time, Google/Mediavine will learn what interests the person(s) using your computer/smartphone. When you log into your Gmail or YouTube account, then Google knows exactly who you are (Mediavine is still clueless).

– T.O.C. –

3.2. What does the third-party cookie ban bring us?

During the year 2023, we can expect an effective global ban on serving personalized ads. What does that mean?

  • Companies like Google and Mediavine will no longer be able to “track” you on independent websites (more on this in a bit) using your browser’s cookies.
  • Websites will show you ads that have nothing to do with your interests.
  • Per-ad revenue will drop drastically, so you can expect to see a lot more ads on average.

Google, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Linkedin and other corporations will still have a ton of data about you, because you’ll still be using those platforms (you usually must be logged in to use them). They don’t really have to use third-party cookies, basically. OK, they won’t know that you visited BikeGremlin, but they will still be able to figure out your interests and know who you are, just by your use of their platforms.

Less than a month after I wrote the passage above, Google announced their solution(Google support website link), which boils down to what I’ve just explained (and expected).

Independent websites, like this one, are in trouble! You can’t earn from showing personalized ads, if there’s no third-party cookie tracking.

How can one solve this problem?

  • I probably could find sponsors, but then I couldn’t publish anything the sponsor doesn’t like, could I?
  • I’ve already made a webshop, but that’s just for the hard-core fans. I don’t want to spend time and energy doing sales, marketing etc. I wish to remain independent and concentrate on making high-quality articles and videos.

– T.O.C. –

3.3. Solution A – Mediavine Grow platform

One way to avoid this problem, at least for the BikeGremlin websites, is to click on the icon in the bottom-left corner and create your Grow platform account:

Mediavine Grow platform subscription button
Mediavine Grow platform subscription button
Picture 2

Creating your Grow account will allow you to bookmark and share BikeGremlin articles easily. It will also allow Mediavine to track your interests and serve you adverts that will likely be useful to you.

Grow will use your IP address and hashed email address (so your real email won’t be given to anyone). Here’s what that looks like:

Hashed email address
Hashed email address
Picture 3

In a separate article, I explained what the hash function is (and why no one can “get/retrieve” your email address from its hash).

The way I see it, this is not worse than what we have at the time I’m writing this, but it’s not perfect in terms of privacy (has pros and cons). I can neither recommend it, nor say it’s a bad idea. That is, if you carry and use a smartphone, and pay using a card, your privacy is gone already. In that case, getting personalized ads could be useful. If you pay in cash and don’t have a smartphone, then it makes more sense to avoid this kind of tracking as well.

– T.O.C. –

3.4. Plan B – Patreon donations

An even better solution, if you wish and are in a position to do so, is to support my work with a $3 monthly donation via Patreon.
Many thanks to the good people supporting my work. 🙂

Become a patron - Support BikeGremlin on Patreon
Become a patron – Support BikeGremlin on Patreon
Picture 4

If not, I would surely appreciate it if you disabled your AdBlocker for BikeGremlin websites, while creating a Grow platform account is up to you (there are both pros and cons).

What does Patreon support mean – in my opinion (Patreon post link).

– T.O.C. –

4. Conclusion

Thank you for understanding and for the time taken to read this.

I tried to put all the cards on the table as they say. That’s how I like doing things.

It seems to me that governments and corporations are trying to squash the small and independent. Using the care for privacy (and similar) as a very good justification.

I intend to continue making good content, and I’m sure that a way to cover all the costs will be found one way or another – without sacrificing quality or objectivity.

I wish to say thanks again to all of you who follow and support my work, as well as to companies MDDHosting, VeeroTech, Porkbun, Cloudflare, MXroute, Hetzner, Patreon, Google, and Mediavine, without whose service, running BikeGremlin sites would have been a lot more difficult (it’s not a paid advert, I wish it were 🙂 ).

Relja The Marketing Genius Novović

– T.O.C. –

2 thoughts on “Mailing list and website monetization (adverts)”

  1. Hi, I really appreciate you being so transparent. Your site is of immense worth to me as a new bike workshop owner. They don’t teach you all this stuff in a 3 month course.. I love the searchability and quality. Thanks for sharing your knowhow and what you do. I am happy to pay a small monthly fee. And yes, I use an add blocker – it is just essential for my work account / browser.

    • Hi Robert,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this feedback. It’s always great to hear that my work helps other cyclists and mechanics. Whenever I was considering giving it a rest, the positive vibes and urges from the cycling community would get me to keep going, even if it’s not perfect (based on my standards – this goes especially for my YouTube videos’ technical quality) or easy (though I do thoroughly enjoy writing articles and making videos, and consider myself to be very fortunate to be able to do only the things I love).

      I’m very glad to hear you find the serch option to be usable. Since I often use this website as a reminder & reference, I went to some lenghths to make the website search be smart.

      With an IT-related day job, I too often use a VPN + an AdBlocker. Also, I think that making money should never come before sharing knowledge, so I made sure (did some thorough testing) my websites work well for visitors with adblockers and VPNs (not all the VPN users are “shady hackers” 🙂 ).

      I see your website is under construction at the moment. If you need any help or advice, feel free to shoot a comment on the BikeGremlin I/O website (it uses the same search engine). There, I explained everything that was needed to make this website run well (most of the time at least – had a one-hour long hiccup last night during a migration to a more powerful hosting server 🙂 ).

      I can’t promise any swift responses, but I’m always happy to help.

      Best of luck with your bike shop. May the taxes be low, and the customers reasonable. 🙂

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