is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Some readers will have noticed that, starting several weeks ago, I began running job posts from Cameron Moll’s Authentic Jobs. This evening, for the first time, I’ve also started running ads from The Deck, Jim Coudal’s design-focused advertising network.
Truth be told, with the first move, I tried to sneak it through, without acknowledging it in any blog posts. Aside from the fact that they’re advertising, I figured that those job postings, being in black and white and being styled in such a way as to be very similar to the rest of the site, were visually innocuous. The ads from The Deck, however, are in color, and not so easily ignored.
I’m bracing for some scathing feedback from readers, so please, let me know how you feel if you find these changes to be offensive. We’ve been living with advertising on the Internet for over a decade now, but it’s still a topic that can inflame passions among reasonable people, and I respect that.
How to Get Ahead in Advertising Without Really Trying
To be clear, I have no quarrel with online advertising as a concept. I’ve come to recognize it as a reality of life in digital spaces, and I’m willing to bet that, among Web designers, I’m generally one more supportive of the needs of advertisers and the salespeople who book advertising than you’re likely to come across in your average design organization. It’s a dubious distinction, I know, but I think it’s true.
However, I always did like the idea that Subtraction.com, my little corner of the Internet, was blissfully free of it. For a long, long while, I’ve tried to maintain this site as a place free of advertising, adhering to the idea that, in an age where anything can be advertised anywhere, it’s nice to have one place in my life, at least, that’s free of commercial shouts for your attention.
Clearly, if that was idealism, then I’ve abandoned the principle. Authentic Jobs and The Deck are two of the most elegant, least intrusive and highly respectful advertising networks available anywhere, and I’m proud as hell to have been invited to join their respective coteries, to be sure. But joining these smart, talented people still means running advertising — and entering into commercial arrangements — and I won’t insult anyone reading this by pretending to some higher-minded purpose for introducing them here, other than I wanted to make some money.
That’s Why They Call It Money
I’ve been blogging for nearly seven years now, and aside from the few hundred dollars that I made from my Hel-Fucking-Vetica tee-shirts last fall (thanks again to those who bought them and yes, reprints coming soon!), I’ve earned very little from this Web site.
That’s hundreds if not thousands of man hours devoted to this concern. As this blog has grown modestly more popular, it’s become more work too, between fixing bugs, combating comment spam, adding new features and just generally keeping things in order. All of this is compounded by the ever increasing duties at my day job, where time is scarcer and scarcer.
All of which is okay. I do this not because I want to earn money or because I have free time to burn, but because I genuinely enjoy the process of writing, editing and designing this content — and then reaping the reward of people’s feedback and opinions, good or bad.
Earning money from advertising helps in that equation, for sure. It makes all the extra effort required to maintain this site feel a little less burdensome. But while helpful and very nice (I won’t deny it!), money is not the reason that I blog. Without the money, I would blog the very same amount, I think. Without readers, though, I would blog much, much less. Were my audience to abandon me, I’m not sure I would stop blogging altogether, but I would have considerably less incentive to spend my evening hours writing these posts, and Subtraction.com would be a much, much poorer experience for everyone, me most of all.
I could go on and on here, but let me sum it up: I work hard on this site, and I would like to earn a little bit of cash for my troubles. Authentic Jobs and The Deck are the least offensive ways I’ve come up with to do that. If you hate it, if you find yourself in vehement opposition to this change, if you consider this an instance of me crossing some line of taste or jumping some shark of propriety, let me know. I’ll respond, and if the feedback is clear and uniform, I’ll take action on it. In any event — and I don’t say this nearly enough — thanks for reading.+