Cost of doing business

A great deal of time each day is spent on two websites that I own and operate. At one time, I tried to operate both without accepting ads but use of such revenue generators became necessary to keep both running.

Ads: A fact of life in the web business. Sadly, they can — and most often do — become a nuisance that angers visitors and readers. To make matters worse, they help but seldom do not cover the increasing costs of maintaining websites.

One of my websites — Capitol Hill Blue — is a political news operation that is considered the oldest continually published site of its kind on the web. It began on October 1, 1994, and hopes to celebrate its 26th year on the Internet less than two months.

The other is this one — Blue Ridge Muse — which began in 2004 when we left the Washington, DC, area after 23 years and moved to Floyd. Our home, a condo in Arlington County, became the longest place that either Amy or me had lived in any one place.

That record could be broken if we are still here in 2027.

During its early years, Capitol Hill Blue not only made a profit, it also provided income that helped us maintain a lucrative lifestyle. It had a staff, a collection of young and retired journalists, and enjoyed a reputation helped by articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The National Journal and other news outlets.

Now it is mostly a one-man operation, helped by wire service stories, and occasional column by me.

After this year’s presidential election, I may need to decide whether to keep publishing it.

If I shut it down, it will leave a hole in our lives. Blue has been part of us for more than a quarter century. That’s longer than any other job I’ve held.

Muse is more of a personal project. I’ve had help from some writers who contributed articles during its 17 years on the web but mostly it is a place where the articles, photos and videos are mine. Some readers say they use Muse as a new source, which makes an old newspaperman smile.

According to our stats programs, Muse has published 6,010 articles, displayed 7,931 photographs. Readers have watched eight hours and 28 minutes of videos.

Capitol Hill Blue has published 39,470 articles. Readers posted more than 87,225 comments. So that’s why my fingers cramp so often.

The syndicates that handle the ads tell me that I could generate more income if I would allow ads to appear in the articles, between paragraphs. Most news sites do so and I find it irritating to have to keep skipping over them to keep reading. I don’t want to have readers of my websites to have the same irritations.

The crashing economy, driven by the Coronavirus pandemic, has left us struggling to pay bills and keep food on the table. Others have worse problems than us. Photographing high school sports was a big part of my job with The Floyd Press. So was coverage of music events like FloydFest, the Galax Fiddlers’ Convention, the Chantilly BBQ and Bluegrass Festival and others.

High school sports was cancelled early in Spring and for the Fall and early Winter. They may resume, partially, on Dec. 28, but nothing is certain at this point.

Will our lives ever return to normal? That’s difficult to say.

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