2018: Year in Review

A path through a snow-covered woodland.
What it is supposed to look like in northeast Ohio during this time of year. Photo taken on November 27, 2018.

Tis the season for “Happy New Year” and “Year in Review” blog posts. Since nothing makes me happier than going along with the crowd, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. I’ll now reflect on how 2018 went for this blog and myself, and then look towards the future.

2018 was a difficult year for me. Never before have I worked so hard to make such little progress, constantly slowed by institutional structures and my own obsession with detail. I also began to feel the financial strain of graduate school more keenly than before, which did not elevate my mood. All-in-all, 2018 was an exhausting and frustrating year.

On the plus side, 2018 was the best year for The Jaguar and its Allies. As of this writing (December 30, 2018), this site had received 24,226 yearly views, which constitutes a 51% increase over 2017. This was largely thanks to my trip to Belize during the summer of 2017, which gave me ample writing material well into the following year. A few high-profile Q&A’s also directed more traffic to this blog than normal, including those with Survivorman – Les Stroud and Dr. Silvio Marchini. It was truly an honor to be able to collaborate with such extraordinary people on those posts.

Survivorman – Les Stroud crouching down in a desert cave whilst looking at the camera.
It made me downright giddy to be able to do a Q&A with Survivorman – Les Stroud. Photo © Laura Bombier.

Despite The Jaguar and Allies’ success, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not doing enough to promote wildlife conservation. I’ll need to attract far more than ~14,400 annual visitors if I want to make any sort of difference for wild cats, and regurgitating old news stories will not be sufficient. I need to invest more time into going out into the field and exploring conservation issues directly, through the lenses of the true experts, and then sharing what I learn with all of you. I’ll also need to incorporate more forms of media than just writing.

Unfortunately, I’ll never be able to grow this site as much as I want while dividing my time between working and blogging: the two activities must become one. In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of monetizing this blog, but I’ve firmly ruled out that option; I have too many Creative Commons images in my posts, many of them containing non-commercial licenses, to allow me to do so. I also did not intend to make money from this site when I launched it, and I’m reluctant to “sell out.”

A puma (mountain lion) lying down and looking towards the camera.
While I am truly grateful to be able to use beautiful, Creative Commons images like this one, the non-commercial licenses that accompany many of them prevent me from monetizing this blog. I also do not feel right about turning this into a money-making venture. DSC00799 by muzina_shanghai. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’m therefore at a bit of a loss for how to move forward with this blog. It may be that I’ll need to shift my outreach efforts away from this site at some point in the future, so that I can reach a bigger audience while also supporting myself. For now, however, I’ll continue doing as much as I can with the limited time and resources at my disposal.

35 Thoughts

        1. Oh really? That sounds like something that I should look into. Is there a way I could potentially speak with the people you know who use Patreon? It’d be good to get a sense of how much they earn from it, and what sorts of strategies they’ve found to be helpful.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. I appreciate your dilemma, and I commend you for striving to not ‘sell out’, though you most certainly need and deserve monetary reward for the conservation work you are doing. But mostly, the world needs The Jaguar, there’s few conservationists that are truly at the grassroots level working for the protection of species. I often wonder just how effective the global-level orgs like WWF and Greenpeace can really be at ‘move’ individuals. I think it’s people like you who can garner more support because many people, like myself, can actually see, hear and read exactly what you are doing to raise awareness of the plight of Big Cats around the world. I wish I had the answer for you (and my blog as well) as to monetizing without seeming to sell out. I look forward to watching you grow your blog and audience in 2019 – and you will!! With Trump, Bolsonaro, and others of the same ilk at the ready to destroy the natural world and some of the world’s most precious wildlife resources, we need many more blogs like The Jaguar as every day, wildlife is being destroyed and displaced at heartless, horrible rates.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I appreciate your kind words, and your encouragement for me to keep this blog going. Unfortunately, I may have reached a dead end with this site; I cannot continue to grow this blog without being able to devote more time and resources to it, and I can’t do that without earning enough money to support myself. However, the only way I can ethically monetize this site is if I go through and remove all of the images with non-commercial licenses, which I estimate is nearly half of the photos on this blog. Doing so would seriously reduce the quality of my content, and hence my viewership would suffer as well.

      I’m not sure how I’m going to solve this problem. But rest assured that if I do ever retire this blog, it will be for something bigger and better.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t believe you have to all that though. You can monetize, just have to give credit to the original people or say you dont own specific one. But you should make work and blogging one. And you help viewership and images help, got o instagram and interview people who talk in the field photos and care as much as you and that’s content and image with the right of the owner and more awareness via the interview will live on your blog.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Jixi; some photos I could use even if I monetized my blog as long as I gave proper credit, but there are others that have licenses which specifically state the photos can’t be used for commercial purposes. Here’s an example:

          https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

          If I used the non-commercial photos on a monetized site, even if I gave proper credit to the photographer, I’d potentially be opening myself up for lawsuits. In order for me to safely use the non-commercial photos, I’d have to get explicit permission from the photographers. Definitely not impossible, but it’d take a long time to go back and contact all the photographers whose work I’ve featured on this site.

          Your idea about contacting people on Instagram about doing interviews is a great idea though. I could start a ‘featured artist’ section where I highlight a specific photographer/artist once a month, so that they get publicity and I get content. Thanks a lot for that suggestions!

          Like

  2. You seem to have had a year focused on very specific things and that’s good. At least you knew what the end goal was and what you were working towards.

    As far as monetizing your blog, you can just change out the pictures to ones from Pexel or other websites that allow you to use their pictures for commercial purposes. It will take a while, but it may be worth it. As someone who owns a monetized blog though, until you start bringing in 100k or more per month in views, it won’t make much of a difference.

    If you ever decide to go shopping for PR and marketing help, I’m still here! Would definitely have to give you a special Josh discount. 😄

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Alexis, your comment really helped to put things in perspective. I have been intensely focused on a narrow set of goals for the past year, and I suppose that most of my frustration stems from the fact that not everyone has the luxury of being as single-minded as I am; I tend to pick one or two tasks that are important to me and attack them ferociously, whereas nearly everyone I work with has to juggle many projects at once. Hence, it seems to me like others are moving too slow, when in reality they just have more to do.

      I could go through and switch out my non-commercial images, but like you said that’d be tedious and time-consuming. I also never anticipate bringing in 100k monthly views ever, so monetizing my blog probably wouldn’t help me at all. It looks like I’m going to have to retire this blog in the near future then, because I can no longer afford to “good” (if indeed I am contributing positively, which I don’t think I am) for free. Perhaps 2019 will be the last year for this blog.

      I’ll let you know about the PR and marketing stuff when I have a better idea of which direction I’ll be going in. I truly appreciate your offer of a discount, but right now I’m not sure what’s going to happen in a month or two.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Josh, I wish I had a similarly good reason for why everyone around ME seemed to be going slowly. I don’t keep friends for long in Atlanta. Eventually, I start hearing backhanded comments about my travels or my writing or my life in general, and then next thing you know, people are being bitter. The funny thing is, these people make way more than I do and have lived here all their lives, but gods forbid I have something to show for my 3 years here. 👀

        As for your blog, there is one other way to monetise it and that’s to accept sponsored posts or ads that aren’t automated like WordPress. Some companies might ask for a link or a social media post or want to share one of their own articles on your website. I think the big cats need your blog to keep going, so I hope you don’t retire it.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. What?? Why would anyone have anything negative to say about your travels or writing (I don’t know anything about your life)? Unless those people are stuck in jobs that they don’t like, and are jealous of the fact that you actually enjoy what you’re doing. As far as I’m concerned, keep going! Who knows how high you can fly?

          I have actually gotten a few offers to allow sponsored posts on my blog, but they’ve all been too far off topic for me to even consider them. As for the ads, normally I don’t like them, but if they’re from organizations that I ACTUALLY support then perhaps it would be a win-win solution: they get a little more traffic and I get a little bit of money. We’ll see…

          As I told Takami in another comment, while I’d rather not retire my blog, I need to set aside more time to get my life in order. Since I’m not likely to be able to support myself through this blog anytime soon, it’s becoming increasingly hard to justify spending so much time on it. Hopefully some sort of opportunity will present itself, or maybe I’ll just take an extended break instead of formally retiring the blog. Once again, we’ll see…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy New Year, Josh.
    I think I can feel/understand your dilemma in many aspects. From a selfish perspective, I hope you don’t retire this site, although I do appreciate it’s a lot of work for little (monetary) “reward.” I too, have often asked myself if I should close my photo blog (and focus more on my photo ‘career’) but repeat visits from wonderful WP friends such as yourself, and the sincere feedback have encouraged me to keep at it for just a while longer.
    Whatever decision you make, hope you know your work is much appreciated, and that we continue to wish you all the best!

    Here’s to a great 2019,
    Takami :)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Takami, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

      I certainly don’t want to retire this blog, but I NEED to get my life in order. At this point my blog has become a part-time job for which I receive no compensation, which represents significant opportunity costs. So, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll find a way to earn money through similar work as what I’m doing on this blog, but at this point I just don’t know.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. If you stop writing, me (and all of your other followers) are going to go on strike. Ads are annoying and ultimately not worth the ~v small~ payback. Keep on keeping on, cut back on posts if you need to, or even switch to a different platform like wix if you feel limited by this one. I agree with you on the need to get out there and do stuff though.I feel a constant pull to do more for the environment as well. Now that you have your degree you have SO many options! The odds ARE ever in your favor.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, if I’m not writing anything for you to read then why would a strike matter? But no worries, I’m never going to stop writing completely; I might just switch to a platform like Patreon that would allow me to earn some money. But I doubt I’d much enough from Patreon to support myself entirely, at least not right away. So for now I’ll keep posting here and see what options come up.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I wouldn’t want to see you retire this blog, heck no
    I would also love to thrown in some ideas but my mind is wiped out ( it’s 4 in the morning over here ) & I tend to say strange things after 1 am 😐, but I do wish you all the best in figuring it all out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I hope you got some sleep! I appreciate the encouragement; I’ll only ever retire this blog if a much better opportunity presents itself. Even then, I probably won’t get rid of this site completely – I’ll just use it to promote whatever the bigger endeavor is.

      Liked by 1 person

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