Updated on 12.15.11

An Announcement about the Future of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm

Over the past few days, I entered into an agreement to join forces with Cut Media to ensure the long-term future of The Simple Dollar.

What Does This Mean For Readers?
To me, this is the most important question to be asked about this arrangement.

I have signed a long-term agreement with Cut Media with regards to this site. For at minimum the next three years, I will continue writing posts pretty much exactly as I always have. They will appear twice daily (except for holidays), just like they have for the past few years. In terms of content, virtually nothing will change.

Over the next few months, there will be some secondary changes. At some point in the near future, the site will be moved to a different server, which may cause a bit of downtime and might cause a short-term delay in posting. After that, there will likely be a moderate redesign of the website. Aside from that, things should continue pretty much as they always have.

Why Make This Move?
Simply put, at this point, The Simple Dollar is too big for one person to run. There are too many different things going on that need my attention at the same time.

Most people, when they see the site, think first and foremost about the content. That obviously takes time, of course.

What you don’t see is the other things that eat an incredible amount of time and focus.

I read mountains of reader emails.
I deal with thousands of comments.
I have to keep the software that runs The Simple Dollar updated.
I have to regularly tweak the site design, often in really subtle ways.
I have to negotiate and communicate with advertisers.
I have to make sure that the site is up and running and figure out how to fix it when it’s not – and this often requires me to watch The Simple Dollar when I’m on vacation with my family or enjoying a holiday with them.
I’ve also attempted to hire and train assistants to help with this stuff – but none of them have ever worked out and some have actually caused additional problems.

The part about The Simple Dollar I enjoy the most is the writing. I also enjoy contact with readers. Everything else is simply time-consuming gruntwork that I don’t enjoy that takes away time from my family and from things I’d rather be doing (like working on other writing endeavors, such as my long-lamented fantasy novel).

Something had to give, and the end result was my arrangement with Cut Media. They have a large team in place to handle these things.

They will be taking care of the comments, the software that runs The Simple Dollar, the site design, the advertising arrangements, the site’s server(s), and making sure the site is up and running.

Essentially, I’m left with just the pieces that I really enjoy – and I’m being compensated for letting them take on the stuff I don’t want to do.

This is going to be the first Christmas in many years where I’m not stopping several times a day to make sure the site is up. That is an unbelievable relief to me.

What’s Next?
Aside from continuing to write for The Simple Dollar, I’m planning on focusing in 2012 on other projects, which I’ll talk about closer to the new year.

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  1. Sounds great, Trent! Glad you’re able to focus in on the aspects you enjoy most. Have a great Christmas!

  2. Micayla says:

    I’m happy for you, but I hope you mean the technical side of the comments; I’ve always appreciated the fact that you engage in conversation with your readers.

  3. jim says:

    Congratulations Trent. I think this will be a good move for you and the site. You are right it has been way too big for one guy to manage for some time now.

  4. Kai says:

    Trent deals with comments??

  5. Shannon says:

    And what does Cut Media get out of this? Why are they compensating you for taking care of such mundane stuff?

  6. Courtney20 says:

    Shannon – I was curious about that as well…

  7. Nick says:

    So a company is paying you to take over all of the most annoying parts of being a blog owner?

    As a blog owner, where the heck do I sign up?!

    Sounds a bit too good to be true, but right on man.

  8. kc says:

    @Shannon: They must have an interesting business model!

    Looking forward to even higher quality writing and posts in 2012!!

  9. Johanna says:

    @Micayla: “I’ve always appreciated the fact that you engage in conversation with your readers.”

    What blog have you been reading?

  10. Kai says:

    Presumably, they get a big cut of ad revenues. Likely, the way it works is that Cut Media now owns the blog, and all the revenue from it, and they pay him a certain amount to keep generating the content.

  11. kc says:

    @Kai: that sounds like a reasonable explanation. Of course, Trent’s post didn’t do much to really explain the nature of his relationship with Cut Media… but perhaps he’ll comment and clarify things. ;-)

  12. asithi says:

    Maybe Trent sold the site to Cut Media, but get a salary for producing content for the next three years.

    …now I am just starting rumors. :)

  13. Mister E says:

    Dealing with comments?

  14. kc says:

    What’s surprising is that Cut Media is a privately funded start up; why go with a company with no track record whatsoever? Must have been a good offer!

  15. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    They essentially bought the site. Perhaps the best way to look at it is that they bought all of the ad space on the site forever.

  16. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    At this point, I am a contracted writer for Cut Media, where my responsibility is to just keep writing posts for The Simple Dollar.

  17. kc says:

    Thanks for the explanation, and good luck with the new arrangement.

  18. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    @Johanna: I answer 20-25 reader questions per week on the site. I’m not sure how much more I could interact with the readers outside of writing nothing but mailbag posts, but I think that would get old really quick for all involved. I generally stay out of comment threads because comments are there for the readers, not for me to blather. Comments are the space for the readers to talk.

  19. Kacie says:

    You are commenting! Whoa! Keep it up, seriously!

  20. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    @Kacie: I read, but rarely jump in. In fact, I’m not going to jump in to this thread any more.

  21. Kai says:

    ‘Comments are the space for the readers to talk’ sounds a bit like a convenient excuse. My favourite sites are those on which the authors engage people in the comments, reply to comments, and have the comment section be a continuing discussion, rather than just one-way replies to the post. I can’t think of ever, on any site, having seen someone dislike an author’s comments in the Comments. Not replying to comments seems like a time-saving measure, not a genuine regard for commenters who would be happy to see comments. Thus the incredulity expressed here.

    This blog has attracted a group of readers who tend to engage each other, but it’s not just haters who write their comments deliberately to other readers, having given up on engaging the author in any kind of conversation.

  22. Trent Hamm Trent says:

    @Kai: One last comment. Every time I see an author in a comment thread – including myself – it feels like blatant self-serving self-promotion by the blogger. Instead of letting the readers have their say, it feels to me like the blog author is just trampling in there yelling “LOOK AT ME!!!” and steering the conversation toward them. I already heard from the blogger in the original post. If I’m looking at the comments, then I’m looking for what readers have to say, not more of what the blogger has to say.

  23. Johanna says:

    @Trent: So you’ve been reading when people have told you over and over that you’ve been giving the wrong answer to, say, the Roth versus 401(k) question? Then why do you keep giving the wrong answer over and over? Or, if you’re not buying our argument, why have you never explained why you think we’re wrong?

    That’s an example of something more you could do to interact with the readers without writing more mailbag posts.

    (Also, if you wanted to write nothing but mailbag posts, that would be fine with me.)

  24. Kai says:

    Let’s have a vote!
    When an author answers a blog comment in the comments below the blog, do you feel:
    A) engaged in a two-way conversation
    B) stifled by the blogger controlling the conversation

    or C) something else?

    one ‘A’ here.

  25. Ash says:

    Well done on your decision. I have always marvelled at how prolific and productive you are!!

  26. Kai says:

    I found it also telling that for weeks people commented that there was an issue with the font size, yet it went unaddressed until someone mentioned it on facebook.

  27. Steven says:

    “In terms of content, virtually nothing will change.”

    ^Made me LOL…I read this as Trent will continue to rehash the same old advice he has been…

  28. Steven says:

    So…if the site isn’t generating enough revenue for it to be worth their time, now that they “essentially bought the site” they can shut it down at will. I’m not sure I’d like that arrangement.

  29. valleycat1 says:

    Sheesh, people. Trent’s made a busines decision that will meet his needs. And given more details when everyone started speculating. I, for one, hope this works out well for him as he tweaks his business model.

  30. Johanna says:

    @Kai: How about D – it depends? When the blogger feels the need to reply to every single comment, or just keeps rehashing what he already said in the post, that’s annoying. But posting to answer a question or respond to or clarify a point – that’s the definition of a two-way conversation, isn’t it?

    And if it’s done well, “the blogger controlling the conversation” isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some of the best comment spaces I’ve seen are heavily moderated according to a clear and consistent set of rules.

  31. AnnJo says:

    I’m hoping this will give Trent some breathing room so he can devote his efforts to quality content without the distractions that took so much of his time and energy.

  32. Kai says:

    ‘it depends’ is a form of ‘something else’.
    Or did you just really want your own letter? :D

  33. jim says:

    I agree with Johanna regarding comments. It depends.

  34. Gretchen says:

    “This blog has attracted a group of readers who tend to engage each other, but it’s not just haters who write their comments deliberately to other readers, having given up on engaging the author in any kind of conversation.”


    I’m cautiously optomistic this will lead to better quality posts, with the writing as the focus.

  35. Gretchen says:

    Although if most of the reader emails you select are from the top of that mountain, I would hate to see the rest.

  36. Des says:

    No, the real reason Trent doesn’t comment (as I’m sure long time readers are aware) is that he can’t keep his cool and have a calm two-way discussion with people who disagree or question him. I think given that, he is wise to simply stay out of the comments.

  37. Jane says:

    I actually agree with Trent about comments and having the author remain more or less silent there. The author has already had his or her say in the post. It does annoy me when a blogger feels the need to respond or defend himself or herself constantly. I’ve noticed that many of the GRS guest posters do this, and frankly it diminishes the quality of the comments and the post as a whole.

    Having said that, rare comments from the author are certainly nice and give the readers a sense that they are being heard. If it makes you uncomfortable to do this in the comments, perhaps you could do it in a future post, or in your opening to reader questions.

  38. Kacie says:

    I think when the author jumps in, it can help clarify something that was misunderstood within the post. Or expand on an example. Or otherwise continue the conversation. It doesn’t have to be self-serving.

  39. Kate says:

    Good luck, Trent. I hope that all goes well with the arrangement.
    I don’t blame Trent a bit for not commenting anymore. I have read several cases where the wolves were hungry. It was ugly and made me realize, yet again, that some people live to be negative (and have way too much time on their hands).

  40. lurker carl says:

    Best of luck with the new partnership. I hope it exceeds your expectations.

  41. em says:

    Good luck Trent! Hope the transition is smooth and I’m looking forward to future posts.

  42. graytham says:

    #40 Kate put it perfectly. I completely understand why Trent would rather not jump into this often hostile comment pool. Some of these people really need to GET SOME SORT OF A LIFE instead of spending so much time nitpicking over the content- which happens to be free, and available for you to read only if you choose to, with no one pointing a gun at your head.
    Good luck Trent- hope it all works out for you.

  43. Riki says:

    I don’t agree with the “it’s free so you can’t demand quality” argument. I call baloney (or bologna). Pointing out faulty logic or down-right incorrect information is absolutely a valid comment; the real world is not an echo chamber where everybody follows Trent around nodding, smiling, and waiting for yet another nugget of wisdom.

    Trent, good luck with this new venture. I really do hope it allows you to focus on writing and generating quality content. I completely recognize how demanding the technical and business aspects can be when a blog is a business and what you’ve done certainly can’t have been easy. Like others have said, I’m cautiously optimistic that more time will allow you to not only improve your writing (as you say you want to) but also to do more research and generate better, more detailed content.

  44. Luke G. says:

    @Trent: I wish you all the best with your new venture. :)

    I don’t have a problem with Trent not posting comments: that’s his own personal choice, and I respect that and his stated reason.

    @Johanna: As you mentioned, from time to time issues do come up in the comments that challenge Trent’s reasoning or suggestions. Why not legitimize those challenges (and make them more search-engine friendly) by emailing them to Trent directly for use in a reader mailbag entry? Since that seems to be the selected format in use here, why not make use of it?

    BTW, heavy moderation in comments =/= conversation in comments.

  45. Johanna says:

    @Luke: “Why not legitimize those challenges (and make them more search-engine friendly) by emailing them to Trent directly for use in a reader mailbag entry? Since that seems to be the selected format in use here, why not make use of it?”

    Actually, if other commenters’ reports of their experiences emailing Trent are to be believed, the way to get in touch with Trent is not by email but via Facebook (and maybe twitter?) I don’t use Facebook or twitter, and I’m not about to start just for this.

    Also, the comments here are just as search-engine friendly as the original posts.

  46. Terri T says:

    Congratulations on the blog management changes! I hope that will work out well, and allow for the freedom and family time required. I will continue to look forward to each issue.

    I wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours!

  47. Patricia says:

    Congratulations, I will shift when you do. I enjoy reading this blog

  48. Tom says:

    I like an author to have mild involvement in the comments. I’m not a fan of authors who respond to every single comment for the sake of commenting back… only address legitimate followup questions or clarifications that can be answered in a comment style (a few sentences)

  49. Tom says:

    Johana, I’m a small sample size, but I contacted Trent via email twice and received one answer. Not a bad response rate given the size of his readership.
    And, if I recall correctly, one email was more of an idea for a post rather than a direct question I expected a response to. So there’s that.

  50. valleycat1 says:

    Re blogger entering the comments discussion. I agree that if a blogger expresses a personal opinion, then it’s the blogger’s prerogative whether to enter the discussion.

    But, when a blogger is stating something as fact but is totally incorrect or has missed the point of the question, and that is commented on, it would be nice to see the blogger:
    A. enter the comment stream & admit the error;
    B. add an edit to the post based on the comments (as many bloggers do) in this case to avoid the questioner leaping on incorrect advice;
    C. at a minimum do a follow-up blog post crediting the commenters with pointing out an error of fact (as some bloggers do).

  51. Gretchen says:

    I do think guest posters tend to over comment on GRS, but there’s a long way between commenting on every comment and totally ignoring.

    In this case, though, The point of contention isn’t if Trent should comment it’s that he says he “deal(s) with thousands of comments.”

    Big difference.

  52. Gretchen says:

    And if “dealing with” means checking things in moderation, I get the impression that’s not even happening.

  53. Michael says:

    Congratulations, Trent.

  54. Amy K says:

    Yay! I think you will be so much happier, I’m glad you’ve made this jump and can focus on the things you love.

    Have a great Christmas!

  55. TLS says:

    Good luck, Trent. I hope the new venture works out for you.

  56. Michael says:

    Not that it matters now, but there are services like Pingdom and New Relic that can monitor your site for you during Christmas.

  57. Mary says:

    Trent, congratulations on your well-deserved success. I hope everything goes smoothly with this transition. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  58. Jason says:

    Congrats Trent. I am impressed at how involved and dedicated you’ve been to your blog. Having seen so many go by the wayside over the years, I say kudos to you and keep up the great work!

  59. J. Money says:

    Wow, can’t believe I’m just now seeing this! CONGRATS BRO! That’s incredible. 100% the right move for sure – I hope you’re more at peace now and can focus and live a more stress-free blogging life :) You’ve earned it all, my man.

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