Let’s Talk About BitCoin (and Why We’ve Gone Ad Free)

If you’re a regular visitor to the site you may have noticed that along with The Lost Hominids Podcast coming to ZXH that all the ads have gone away too. Instead there are BitCoin and PayPal donation buttons. This is because ads are ultimately a terrible, messy, and inelegant way to run a website that I never really liked in the first place. I’m not too thrilled with PayPal either, but I understand a lot of people are still nervous about BitCoin. I’d like to try and bring you around to it though and explain why these changes have been made.

With ads the only metric that matters is eyeballs, targeted eyeballs. Ads take what is supposed to be a direct exchange of ideas and entertainment with patrons, and turns it into a forced relationship of demographic pandering to common denominators. This is is why for over a decade the ad-based model has lead to a web that runs on porn and cat pictures.

Either way, advertisers have come to the conclusion all we want to see is pussy.
Either way, advertisers have come to the conclusion all we want to see is pussy.

Advertising dollars go to the sites with the most views, and even those sites need a whole lot of views to be profitable, so everything gravitates to quick, instantly gratifying images that keep you clicking (which is also why a lot of sites have one article split over 3-5 pages with a ‘next’ button…as if a website has a page length limit).

The other alternative, of course, is to produce a product to sell. Some great webcomic sites like Zen Pencils and The Oatmeal can pull this sort of thing off, and it clearly works for any of the handful of tee-shirt sites that specialize in being ironically hip and cheap enough to appeal to hipsters. Even here we’ve offered something to keep the lights on like the Miskatonic University Yoga Association Book, which we think is a much better way to have a relationship with our audience. But of course the problem with hard goods is that profitability is more a function of volume than anything else, and that can (but not always) work for comic artists and tee-shirt makers. Not so much for podcasts though.

I have long been a fan of the pay what you want model, but now that BitCoin is gaining ground as a payment method this is the first time it really makes sense for us here at ZXH. You’re more than welcome to use the PayPal link and we really appreciate it when people like what we do enough to toss some coins in our cup, but BitCoin has a lot of advantages.

Let’s say you want to give us a $1.00 tip and decide to use the PayPal button in the sidebar:

1) PayPal doesn’t officially have a minimum amount on the donation, but honestly, if it’s less than $1.oo you’re really only mostly giving money to PayPal, and $1.00 might be more than you think what you’re tipping us for is really worth. Maybe you just want to toss us $0.50 for a joke that caught you just right, but didn’t really care for the rest of the show. Maybe you’d like to give us a dollar but it seems like filling out a payment form is a big pain in the ass to go through for such a small sum. I hate filling out payment forms too, I feel ya.

2) If you want to use your balance but don’t have any money in your PayPal you need to transfer money into it. A transfer can take days, but if you use your credit card, you get dinged with interest charges if you don’t pay it off. And let’s face it, if you do need to transfer money into your paypal, you’ll have long forgotten what you were going to do with it by the time it gets there. That’s just how our primate brains are wired.

3) They also take a 2.9%+$0.30 processing fee taken out of the dollar on our end.

So all in all you had to pay $1.00 just to give us $0.67, in order to actually give us a dollar you’d have to send $1.34! That doesn’t seem like much, but you have to admit that’s a pretty big slice of a small amount that PayPal gets to keep.

“But Jack”, you say, “the BitCoin market is super volatile”.

That’s true, it is. (… for now, and to be fair the price has settled down a lot lately and has been pretty reasonably bouncing between ~$320/BTC and ~$310/BTC for the last couple weeks with some occasional drifting.) The new leveling off (which I think is a good sign) notwithstanding, let’s actually look at recent high/lows and how that volatility effects the kind of micro-payments we’re concerned with here.

If you gave us a dollar’s worth of BitCoin just as it reached it’s closing price on November 12th (the highest close in the last few months) of $420. You would have given us .002375BTC. If we held on to it until the closing price of the lowest recent day, that .002375BTC would only have been worth $0.74, which sounds horrible. BUT $0.74 is STILL more than the $0.67 we would get if you gave us a dollar with PayPal. And either way, your dollar is far and away more than we would have gotten from google ads even if you clicked around the site all afternoon.

So that’s why we’ve decided to take BitCoin, and (because BitCoin isn’t a mainstream thing yet) PayPal. Now as it is we’ve got probably upwards of 50 hours of podcast and some ebook excerpts here. Over the next year we’ll be rolling out some new ideas, new episodes, and new .. things … for you to hopefully enjoy. All of it, every byte will be totally free. But if you’re so inclined, we’d really appreciate it if you put some Satoshi in our cup.

Happy New Years all! We’ll see you in 2015!

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