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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

Serial Scrounger

Another experiment! I wanted to test my own theories/judgement about sites asking for donations (putting other people’s money where my mouth is, I suppose?), so I added the following text to the Programming Language Inventor or Serial Killer? quiz:

Like the quiz? Please consider supporting its hosting & the huuuge new malevole redesign due later this year

A ‘Make A Donation’ button led through to PayPal (no account required, as they accept immediate credit/debit payments nowadays). No payment amount was suggested, leaving it up to each person to decide what they felt was appropriate.

It was left up for a few weeks, and here are the stats:

  • 1.1 million page views
  • $15 donated
  • 4 donors

Surprisingly feeble? Nope. You see, the majority of people viewing that page come straight to it from an email or link, it’s their first encounter with the site, and after trying out the quiz they’re off. There’s no ongoing relationship or affinity, no build-up of trust, not even a clear person or urgent need behind the request. Why hand over cash to a stranger who probably doesn’t need or deserve it?

So sponging off casual visitors to a site, no matter how high the traffic, doesn’t work; you have to earn deeper gratitude or offer a compelling plea before you can expect any significant financial generosity. Similar issues apply to e-commerce sites, where many are led astray by back-of-an-envelope statistical calculations and forget they’re dealing with real people with real concerns.

(Oh, and I’ll be putting the $15 towards a malevole prize/giveaway.)


A second experiment might be to try the same page with a column of Google ads. I'd be interested in seeing how much money a million hits would yield.

— Dr Detroit, 10th Apr, 7:28am

Yeah, the stats would be interesting, but it'd be even more intrusive, and that page wouldn't be particularly good for targeting commercial products/services (maybe quiz sites and stuff about serial killers?).

Matt Round, 10th Apr, 8:01am

It'd be interesting to see whether a differently worded message would gain more donations, for instance "Like the quiz? Please consider supporting its hosting & the creation of more stuff like this" (or maybe "quizzes like this" or "silly stuff") Which would have a more direct relation to the content the person has liked, as they've got to the end of the quiz.

Paul Silver, 23rd Apr, 9:04pm

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