Blog Insider – So, Where Will the Money Go? [$2 Challenge]

by Latoya Peterson

paperwork

Totaling up the bills, I felt my eyes roll back into my head from shock. How could a cashless blog be so freaking expensive?

But hey, no one said expansion would be cheap. After the crew checked out the plan, we had to figure out how to make things happen. Carmen and I were both more inclined toward self-funding projects, so the original business plan I developed didn’t have a fundraising component. However, commenter @Buchanda urged me to reconsider sometime last May, noting people were inclined to help, and providing the initial idea for the drive.

“What if everyone gave $2,” BuChanda asked, “then how much would you have?”

Good question.

I looked at our traffic and the blog numbers, and filed the idea away for later. Soon, we found out about the Online Media Legal Network, and filled out their application. Then they requested a budget for the year. End total, before all the “oh this would be nice” extras? About $13,000.

Now, as much as I loved seeing Brandon’s comment…

I don’t think I’ve ever felt better about making an online contribution.

Keep up the great work. While I don’t know exactly how my contribution will be used, I know that it’s money well spent.

…most folks are probably wondering what we need the money for and how we are spending it all.

Expenses (Estimated)

Site Redesign

* WordPress upgrade and redesign of front page, graphics, logo, addition of back end donation system – $7,000
* Mobile App Development – $1,000

Incorporation Expenses

* General Business license in DC – $324.50
* Trademarking – $375
* Miscellaneous expenses – $300*

General Operating Expenses

* Hosting – $400 (yearly)
* Tech Support – $500 (yearly)
* Domain Renewals – $100 (yearly – 7 total domains)

Needed Equipment

* Business Phone, iPhone 4G, minimal talk plan, podcast coordinated apps- $300.00
o $50 per month plan x 12 = $600
* Podcasting Pro Kit- $315
* Adobe Creative Suite – $1899

Total

$13, 113.50

Now, some of these are wide and outside estimates. For example, I don’t expect the website to be more than $5,000 – finding a new backend and skin is fairly cheap, the expense comes from the accessibility upgrades, like making sure we work in multiple and specific browsers, and trying to marry all the multimedia upgrades with keeping a clean interface, which is more design than tech. But the app will probably run higher than $1,000, even with friends volunteering – since we don’t want a simple RSS app, it’s going to take a little doing.

Incorporation expenses are a bit hazy. OMLN has two different lawyers working with us. The quote I received for the trademarking is $350, which is a handy thing to do for your blog or business to keep things easy. Twanna talked about going through this at SXSW 2008, in her panel “How To Protect Your Brand Without Being a Jerk:”

You’ve already created content and a brand. Now, a copycat is making money pushing a product ridiculously similar to yours. Congratulations! Imitation is flattery. So, why are you pissed off? You’re upset because it’s unfair and, possibly, infringes on your rights. Learn how to protect your creative projects without going overboard…or broke!
Questions
Answered

1. I attended SXSWi 08, and I learned about creating a brand. What’s the next step? How do I protect it?
2. What is intellectual property law?
3. Help! Someone’s stealing content from my site. What should I do?
4. I’m a digital filmmaker. How does piracy relate to all of this stuff?
5. When should I file a trademark to protect my online content?
6. What’s the difference between a trademark, patent and copyright?
7. I know about Creative Commons, but I don’t get how it works. Can you explain it?
8. Where are the legal resources in my region (or country) that provide assistance with these matters?
9. You saw “Coming to America,” right? Someone isn’t copying me, but they’re the McDowell’s to my McDonald’s. Is that even legal?
10. Why does this stuff matter to my film / blog / website / music site?

Panelists Oren Bitan (Morrison & Foerster), Twanna A Hines, moderator (funkybrownchick.com), Corynne McSherry (EFF), Elena M. Paul, Esq (Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts)

Interestingly, I later met Funky Black Chick (now fungkeblakchik) at a happy hour, and heard her side of the story.

Lesson I took? Check it, protect it. The last thing we want is this kind of drama.

Business license is a little weird. Other awesome lawyer is researching the process for L3C’s, which is a specific kind of LLC devoted to social justice ends, where profit is a secondary motive. However, it’s a sub-classification, only a few states have it, and the Federal Government/IRS have not yet made a ruling on it. After reading Matt Doeringer’s paper for Duke University, “Reevaluating the L3C: Mistaken Assumptions and Potential Solutions,” we will probably stick to LLC status. (Why not a non profit? Will explain that a little later.) So then it’s those expenses and the DC website is very clear about one charge but unclear about others.

After we have a business license, I can actually move this money. All of your awesome donations have been hanging in the Paypal account (less paypal fees, which dropped the total to about $1600), and so after opening a business account I can move those assets over and stop paying Racialicious bills out of my freelancer account. Mixing this money is going to be a huge pain if it keeps up for much longer, plus it delays the equipment purchases we need to make.

Tech expenses are self-explanatory, though after watching what Afrobella is going through, I feel like I should probably quadruple that and keep it in reserve for a just in case moment. After all, if it happened to Afrobella, and it happened to SOHH.com, it could happen to us.

The equipment needs are on the outside of the estimate. Then there are wants, which are a different beast.

Of the needs, the business phone serves a couple of purposes. Initially, I was going to go with a Google Voice number that routes to my cell. But then I took a few courses on technology and journalism, and realized that the apps available for the iPhone have made it possible to hold a mobile podcast studio, video editor, image creator, and teleprompter, all in one device. We don’t get a lot of phone calls (though that may change), so it would function in some ways as a portable studio.

The podcasting equipment I have is passable, as is Arturo’s – but I talked to Carmen and some other folks in radio, and they strongly encouraged a few equipment upgrades, so here we are. And since Art is on the West Coast and I am on the East Coast, we need a set of two, hence the inflated price.

Adobe Creative Suite…let’s just say I’m amazed that I have found a need for it. My friends in real life would crack up, knowing how artistically challenged I am. However, the last few years have definitely shown the value of knowing one’s way around InDesign, Flash, Photoshop, and Illustrator, and would allow us to increase our content offerings. Also, if we learn it, we don’t have to outsource it. And while I’ve found some excellent open-source software and paid here and there for programs to make my life easier (Comic Life, Keynote/iLife, and Vimeo/Flickr premium to name the most useful), looking at our vision, it’s becoming a necessity.

There are also some wants. They are not immediate needs, but it would be nice to have:

  • An extra flip cam.  When I got an HD one issued to me for the Public Media Corps, I mailed Arturo my other one, which he used to record video at Comic Con.
  • A Canon 5D.  It’s a powerhouse of a little machine, and would go a long way toward the video/photo projects I have planned. I missed out on a project where I wanted to photograph the changing face of U street, but the experience of using a point and shoot just didn’t (for me) compare to holding an SLR and having that type of control over the image.

But those aren’t on the master list.  I’ll put this list up as a graphic a little later – your generosity has allowed us to cover all our legal fees and start work a little early on the new sites.  Hopefully, we make our goal of the 10,000 pledges of support.  If not, things will move more slowly.  But the possibilities are fresh and endless, and we have a huge boost in making it over the hurdles.