Having just sent my shekels to the Z Man, I got to thinking about monetizing blogs. Which got me thinking about weaponizing blogs.
First, let’s discuss the money (undoubtedly the Clinton Foundation’s unofficial motto). I’ve always wondered why blogs don’t get into the merchandising business. I know, I know, liberals only like to spend other people’s money, but still, you’d think a site like Daily Kos could make a killing on merch. What better way to virtue-signal that you’re one of The Smart Ones than by wearing a Kos t-shirt around? So long as you put in some bullshit about how the shirts are made by the Hopi Indians of Kazakhstan using only locally-sourced, free-trade, shade-grown polyester, you could clean up. I clicked on one of the many, many, many “design your own t-shirt” sites out there, and got a basic one-off for about $30. Which is a lot, but I bet a bulk order from a real screen-printing house could cut that at least in half. Your only problem then is storage, but since the folks involved pretty much by definition live in basements…
From there, the branding ideas kinda write themselves. Speaking of writing themselves, most of Kos is (or was; for obvious reasons I don’t visit much) “diaries” written by members of their “community.” Sticking with the t-shirt thing, if I were Kos, I’d give out a free t-shirt to diarists in the “silver circle” (wrote 50 diaries), “gold circle” (100 diaries, or got 100 links, or whatever), etc. I know, I know, the thing about only giving away other people’s money still applies, but so skilled a self-promoter as Kos could be brought to see the need to spend a little money to make more money. Or, hell, make it a bumper sticker — god knows the Left love them some bumper stickers, and those are way cheaper. Big picture, his net outlay is close to zero (or actually zero, if it can be written off as a business expense), so the marginal rate of return is very high — if one t-shirt (bumper sticker, whatever) gets even five sets of eyeballs to the site….
The odd conservatism of the Internet might be in play here. I do seem to vaguely recall websites trying to aggressively brand themselves with merchandise back in the late 90s, and failing miserably. But most of those branding attempts seemed to be product sites, not blogs — Pets.com, not Salon.com, or slathering Danica Patrick in GoDaddy.com stuff — and the infrastructure wasn’t there yet. Nowadays you can get custom anything off the Internet for a reasonable price — see e.g. Snapfish, with which parents plaster their kids’ faces on scrapbooks, coffee mugs, pretty much everything. But Internet People seem to assume that if an idea was tried once and failed, it could never possibly work….
But whatever, the point is, selling blog merch seems like an obvious idea that nobody’s doing. Admittedly I’m the furthest thing from an Internet Person (who still somehow has a blog), but the only site I’ve seen that even kinda sorta tries it is Vox Day’s, and even there only as an adjunct to all his other hustles. Just for fun I checked Salon.com, a site that’s both desperate for revenue, and whose readership consists of nothing but Wall-adjacent Millennial cat ladies who confuse “reading some bint going on about her herpes infection for 1,000 words” with “political activism.” You’d think they could sell t-shirts if anyone could. And yet, their “marketplace” is entirely parasitic off Amazon.
Take a page from the shoe companies’ playbook. For them, the brand doesn’t sell the product; the brand IS the product.
Which brings us to the second point: Weaponization. One of Our Thing’s biggest problems, I think we all agree, is that we have no idea who “we” actually are. We all naturally assume that any “official” gathering — in the increasingly unlikely event it’s permitted at all — would be instantly infiltrated, so that the ever-tolerant apostles of peace love and understanding could have us all fired from our jobs. An “unofficial” gathering faces the same problem, since it can’t be organized without social media and social media is the natural habitat of the Junior Volunteer Thought Police (JVTP).* So we all wonder if maybe “we” aren’t just the same five or ten or fifty lunatics, using several different handles, jerking each other off on the same handful of “dissident” sites.
Which is exactly where They want us, brothers!!
The solution would be some kind of recognizable signal. I suggested the white Hugo Boss cap (and I still wear mine whenever I go out!), but as this is a tiny group blog with 14 readers, it can’t work. Branded logo gear could, though. Just wear your “Z Blog” t-shirt out in public and see what happens. It’s got a big “Z” on the front and the web address on the back, and… that’s it. Every day you reach 100 eyeballs, and if even five of them check, and if even one of those can be brought over to the White Side of the Force, that’s a massive win. And even if nobody clicks, there’s always a decent chance of spotting a fellow thoughtcriminal in a crowd… throw in a countersign of some kind, and boom! Instant battle buddy.
Combine the two, and you’ve got a revenue stream for the bigger blogs. Of course, that opens up the possibility of the standard Leftist deplatforming tactics, so alas, a direct “Z Blog Store” is probably out. BUT: Since all those t-shirt printing places are out there, both online and in real life, why not simply ask readers to make their own? Hell, you don’t even have to get it printed. Go buy a five-pack of plain white tees from Wal-Mart, get a sharpie, make a big “Z” on the front, and write “thezman.com” on the back. So long as that’s not the only stuff you buy on that shopping trip, there’s no way the algorithms could get you.
Which, alas, means that the Z Blog can’t monetize directly by selling merch, but that’s the beauty of advertising. The Z Man already asks for donations. Anyone sufficiently motivated to buy, or make, their own Z Blog t-shirt will surely be motivated enough to fork over some dough, and since you can send cash money to a PO Box, it’s Fed-and-JVTP-free. Best of all, since it’s just a t-shirt, there’s plenty of plausible deniability. “Oh, what, this thing? They were throwing these into the crowd at a minor league hockey game. I have no idea what it means; I just wear it to work out in.” Build the brand, and they will come.