As long as I've been running this website, I've said that it's a partnership between my readers and I. I go out every day to manufacture spend, book award travel, and exploit mistake fares, and you write in with questions and suggestions, support the site, and subscribe through PayPal or Amazon Payments.
Since I treat this project as partnership, I want to share the internal financials of the site so you know not just what you're getting out of it (my original reporting and help) but also what I'm getting out of it.
PayPal subscribers are my heroes
Since January of this year, readers have had the opportunity to support the site directly by making monthly or weekly contributions through PayPal. There are 5 contribution levels, which you can see by clicking on the pull-down menu on any page of the site.
What I've been most amazed by are readers who initially sign up for a $2 per month subscription and then after a few weeks or months decide to increase their commitment to $5 or $10 per month. That's real, direct feedback from my readers that I'm doing something right here.
With all that being said, I currently have 109 active PayPal subscribers, plus 6 subscribers who have contributed through Amazon Payments or other means. The overwhelming number of those subscriptions are at the $2 per month level, and my subscription revenue (after PayPal transaction fees) is currently between $200 and $300 per month ($275.40 in June).
Besides the knowledge that they're essential to the continuation of this project, my subscribers also receive my occasional subscribers-only newsletters.
Amazon Associates links are a new revenue stream
Since I moved from a state where Amazon Associates was not allowed, readers are now able to support the site by clicking through to Amazon using my Amazon Associates link. That's an easy and free way to support the site, and many readers have taken advantage of it. Here's my current Amazon Associates balance:
Still no affiliate revenue
I have still never received a dollar from any credit card affiliate program, and I will never receive a dollar from any credit card affiliate program as long as this site exists (see here for my previous experience trying the affiliate game and here for the inevitable denouement).
I do carry a large number of credit cards, and occasionally those credit cards offer referral credit to me just as they do to any cardholder. I won't promote that on the blog, but you can see the current cards I can refer readers to on my "Support the Site!" page (currently only the US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards Visa Signature card).
Books sales are no longer a significant revenue stream
Longtime readers know this site started as a companion to my path-breaking book, The Free-quent Flyer's Manifesto. It's sorely out of date and it's largely been replaced by the content on this site, but there's a lot of great content there and I'm glad to see folks occasionally buy or borrow it (I make the same, roughly $2, either way). I now make $5 to $10 per month on book sales and rentals.
Meanwhile, I'm working on putting together a new book proposal which my PayPal subscribers will be the first to hear about. It has a slightly different subject matter, but one that I think is of more importance than ever in our current, hyper-financialized economy.
Costs are high and steady
Here are some of the costs that reader support covers:
- Website hosting and support (through the hated Squarespace): $192 per year;
- Google Apps support: $5 per month;
- Travel to conferences (so you don't have to, and so you wish you did): varies, but I'd call it $500 per conference including registration and travel;
- Signing up for prepaid debit card scams.
I know from the tremendous feedback I get from my readers that they're grateful this site exists. Unfortunately, it's not yet self-sufficient, and my goal for the rest of this year is to convince more readers that it's worth contributing $2, $5, or $10 per month to the ongoing existence of this project. Naturally, I'll report on my success meeting that goal at the end of the year in my next shareholder report, when I'll have to make a decision about whether to continue or not.