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How We’re Doing

Jonathan Clements

WHEN WRITERS SUBMIT their latest article or blog post, I often thank them for “feeding the beast.” While tiny by internet standards, HumbleDollar has indeed become something of a beast, larger and more time-consuming than I ever imagined, but also—I like to think—occupying a unique place in the financial world’s ongoing conversation. This, I tell people, is the place where money grows up.

Here’s a look at what happened at HumbleDollar in 2021, as well as a glimpse of what lies ahead in 2022:

  • Last year, the site garnered 4.4 million pageviews, up from 3.6 million in 2020, 2.6 million in 2019, 1.7 million in 2018 and 900,000 in 2017, which was our first year. Our free weekly newsletter now goes out to more than 16,000 readers, up from 12,000 a year ago, and has an open rate of over 70%, more than triple the average for business and finance newsletters.
  • We made five notable website enhancements in 2021. The biggest was the introduction of shorter blog posts in July. These let the site tackle topics that don’t warrant a full-length article, while also allowing the site to be a little nimbler, covering recent developments in the economy and financial markets. The addition of blog posts has meant more editing than I could handle on my own. To help with the crush of copy, Greg Spears—onetime journalist and a longtime Vanguard Group employee until his mid-2020 retirement—has taken on the role of deputy editor.

Earlier in the year, we introduced the Voices section. It’s garnered a healthy number of comments, though not as many as I’d hoped. If you have a few minutes to spare, please check out the 118 questions, and perhaps share your financial wisdom and experiences with your fellow readers. Not sure how to comment? Click here.

What were the three other enhancements? We categorized all articles by financial topic, so readers can more easily find what they’re looking for. We introduced writer’s pages, so you can check out all the articles and blog posts by your favorite author. Finally, we introduced a ticker that scrolls across the top of the homepage. In good HumbleDollar fashion, it focuses on 12 exchange-traded index funds rather than individual stocks, giving you a quick read on what’s happening each trading day in a dozen key market sectors.

  • Some 50 writers contributed to the site in 2021. Atop the leaderboard sits Adam Grossman, the Cal Ripken of HumbleDollar, who continues to churn out great pieces every week and has now penned more than 200 articles. Dick Quinn and Dennis Friedman come next, with over 100 articles and blog posts each, while Rick Connor, Kristine Hayes, John Lim and Mike Zaccardi are at more than 50, and Jim Wasserman is almost there. Some of these folks work for free, some accept payment. But even the payments are just token amounts—though, bowing to inflation, I’m increasing them in 2022 to $60 per article and $30 per blog post.
  • Many of the site’s contributors have committed to writing essays for a new book titled My Money Journey: 25 Stories About Striving for Financial Freedom. Each essay will get an initial airing on HumbleDollar. Look for the first one next Saturday. I hope to have the book available for purchase by late November.
  • As I noted in last year’s report to readers, most online forums are a contentious cesspool, but discussions on HumbleDollar are almost always fairly civil—and I intend to keep them that way. I look at every comment and I occasionally delete one. When do I decide something has crossed the line? In the words of Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it,” though he—of course—was referring to hardcore pornography, not unnecessary internet snark and political buffoonery.
  • These days, half of HumbleDollar’s revenue comes from donations and half from advertising. Many, many thanks to those readers who support us financially. The revenue we garnered in 2021 just about covered our costs. I’ve been trying to figure out how I can put HumbleDollar on a more solid financial footing, so it could endure without my minimally paid labor.

Early in 2021, I explored turning HumbleDollar into a nonprofit, but soon realized that I had no appetite—and not nearly enough spare time—for the fundraising and administrative work that would be involved. As an alternative, I’ve been pondering whether HumbleDollar could partner with a larger website, which could then drive enough traffic in our direction to make the site a viable business. But that’s tricky.

As things stand, we eschew many of the revenue “opportunities” exploited by other financial sites, including sponsored articles, sponsored links and affiliate marketing relationships. But if we’re to survive long term, we may need to bend a little. I’ll keep you posted.

Jonathan Clements is the founder and editor of HumbleDollar. Follow him on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook, and check out his earlier articles.

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