How to Make It Clear That You're Joking (rerun)

This comic is another rerun, but there’ll be fresh comics on Fridays starting next week.

This seems like a good time to discuss the ugly, businessy side of things. Anybody who gets into web comics in hopes of making tons of money is an idiot. My only goal for Basic Instructions when I started was that it would be a good creative outlet. It has been, and still is, that.

That said, it would be nice to make a living off of this thing.

Ad revenues are down. Way, down, and not just for me. My understanding is that across the web ad revenues are dropping at a dizzying rate. There are ways to get more money from ads, most of which are pretty distasteful.

As an experiment, for the next month I’m going to include a brief text message and an Amazon Affiliate link at the bottom of every comic I post. If you go to that link and buy ANYTHING on Amazon, I get a small percentage at no cost to you. I like this idea because it is voluntary, doesn’t slow down the site, will display in the RSS feed*, and as a customer I feel comfortable endorsing

Thanks for your time, thanks for your patience, and thanks in advance for clicking this link and buying pretty much whatever you want at


*The few of you who are still using my original RSS feed do see a small ad. It doesn’t actually make any noticeable amount of money. If it bothers you, I apologize and invite you to subscribe to my newer RSS feed that does not have that ad.

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Reader Comments (62)

That's a good idea, and I shall use that link in future to assuage any vestigial guilt I might feel for reading your excellent comic from behind an ad-blocker.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteralyxandr

Please keep the RSS feed with the ads running. Occasionally I do see something that interests me pop up; can't remember who originally said it, but relevant ads are like the tip jar for the Internet.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShackleford Hurtmore

Sorry to hear about the low ad revenue. I love your work. Speaking for myself, I'd gladly pay a reasonable monthly or yearly fee. When I signed up for the basic instructions app, I assumed I'd have to renew from time to time. However you decide to set things up, l'm on board. I am pretty confident that there are many others out there like me who'd be willing to pay too. Keep up the good work! -- Best, Riley Holzberlein

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRiley Holzberlein

I agree about the ads on the RSS, I think you should keep them/put them back.

Your rss shows the full comic so there's not much of a reason to click and go to the full site and possibly click an ad there.

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterljdarten

Hmm... Is there any way to bookmark the Amazon affiliate link? So I can use it as my default go-to for buying stuff from Amazon.
ON A RELATED NOTE: Do you see what people are buying when you get your small percentage? Because that'd be pretty wierd. (Scott Meyer: You just got $0.50 because Steve McJerbajerb bought a pregnancy test. O_O)

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWaladil

I might send some money your way through the Amazon thing, but it would need to be linked to rather than .com. Are there enough visitors from Canada to your site to make .ca (and maybe Amazon links worthwhile? Just an idea...

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEsn

I'd love to support the comic, and I certainly have/will do so in future, but sadly I don't buy very much from Amazon. The selection/shipping speed/price for obscure books is better from Chapters in Canada, and that's pretty much all I order online.
That said, I'll make double sure the next time I buy something from Amazon I link from here. May have to find something to buy come next pay day...

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I don't notice any ads in my RSS feed, so I assume I have the new one. That said, I'd rather have the old one if it makes you money. My browser setup automatically blocks most ads, though, so I'm not sure it'd help. :-/

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZak

There's no doubt that ads can be a downer when they're one of the few methods of income yet their benefit plummets. It's a good opportunity to mention that people should take a moment to turn off their ad-blocking software for your domain. Mine was on -- as it is on almost every site I visit. I realized this and turned it off. I definitely don't mind ads for a site like BI !

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKozz

Total ad-blocker here. It's not you, it's them. (Malware, slow page load times, privacy concerns, bad ad behavior...)

I will happily buy merch or simply donate. In fact... now that I check, I see that the infini-tees are back! And the custom avatar thing looks really cool.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim McCormack


Regarding the RSS feed, an alternative option would be to stop the comics being exported to the feed entirely and just have them link back to the site. This should increase your site visits. I make a habit of trying to go to the original site for the web comic feeds I follow in order to increase their hits, and often wondered why publishers don't force this behaviour more often. For reference, Penny Arcade don't publish their comics to the feed, just a link to the comic.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTarragon

Have you considered switching to an RSS feed that doesn't contain the comic? I read via RSS, which means I rarely visit the site - but I don't think I've got any intrinsic right to get the comic inline. I'd be perfectly happy to visit every time a new strip's out.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNick Johnson

"How to shill for a large corporation"

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeff

As a UK (Or jolly old Englande for those not aware) reader could you put an link so we poorly teethed, tea drinkers can support you?


March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Since I own a site that sells ads, too, I make it a habit to click on ads from sites I visit and like. If it's a text link, it's right click & open in new background tab, ie fire & forget. Flash links often open in a new tab anyway, you can tell your browser to open them in a background tab. I'm overseas, so I'm constantly asked to apply for a green card here, could be worse.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM. Möhling

Will this be limited to Amazon USA or does it work with all Amazon branches?

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael W.

I would rather use an RSS feed that made you a nearly-unnoticable amount of money than an RSS feed that made you no money. By all means put an ad or two in it!

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hall

A few money making ideas -

Why not have a Donate option on the site? Every few months do a special editon comic that is emailed to readers if they donate a few dollars.

Offer signed copies of readers favourite strips.

Do a strip that is intentionally inflammatory about something such as Women’s Rights then ask Scott Adams to link to it in his blog. The backlash will get you tonnes of publicity and traffic on your site will explode. Have an Amazon add beside the offending strip for some sort Women-are-great-men are-feckers book.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoosemonster

I live in the UK, so buy my Amazon stuff through their UK website. I don't know how I can use your link to do this sine it goes to their US site, although I would use it if I could. Any ideas?

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIan

does the affiliate link work if you go on and buy from

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhodgy

So, it's a profit thing,. I get i now..(from The Jerk)

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Yeamans

I'm in the UK and have to buy stuff from rather than How can I help with this? :)
Thanks for your excellent comics by the way!
Rob Morton

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob Morton

Does that affiliate link work internationally? I'm in the UK so usually buy from (on the admittedly rare occasions that I do so) so I was wondering if the cookie that makes the affiliate scheme work (I think) would be registered by the UK site and give you a few pennies rather than a few cents...

Note from Scott: I'm working on those UK and Canada links. I should have them soon. Thanks for asking.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLoz

I was on tour with a metal band last year and they described themselves as "travelling T-shirt salesmen".

You got merch?

Note from Scott: Oh, there is merch. It would be more profitable if I had a large run of shirts silk screened then shipped them out myself, but time is an even scarcer resource for me than money, so I've had to strike a balance.

I should point out that I'm not complaining, just explaining. I am most likely the luckiest person you'll hear from today.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDave Hodgkinson

An excellent comic as always. I've gone through the archives and I don't remember this one (or maybe I blocked it out of my mind).
I have no problem with ads that don't slow down the web page loading. And if I do buy anything from Amazon i will certainly click through your site.
I thought there used to be a type of ad that generated revenue simply by clicking through to the site. Is that still around?

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

And can I remind folks that the best way to support Scott is to buy his books?

We often forget that the best way to support an artist is to buy their art.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Boban

You should add affiliate links for other country's amazons. I would use the link for if you had one.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

Cool. You're my Amazon portal from now on. And, by the way, thanks for all the laffs through the years.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSue Dunham

As a handicapped person who shops Amazon ALOT and reads your every comic... put that button where I can defiinitely see it! Happy to help!

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBiscus

What are the distasteful options? Perhaps laying then out and allowing your readers to opt-in if they're interested. If you mean things like customized ads that spy on me and give me ads it thinks I want, I actually prefer those even though Iknow many people hate them.

If you're talking about trojans or Loyd ads our pop up ads our the annoying flash ads that move everything aroun, I hate those

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSean

Can I suggest you get your products on the front page as well? Didn't realise you did a T-Shirt until I went into your store.

Great work, keep it up.


March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

I clicked your link and bought a your first book, new from the publisher :)

Thank you for being upfront and honest with us. I do want to see you get paid for your work.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterisiah

I love your comic. I'll try to support it via the amazon link.

And thanks, by the way for dashing my hopes of becoming a web comic. Now, I see little point in my long-term goals of learning how to draw and developing a sense of humor.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDrowlord

You should add a Tip Cup (ala Paypal) It would allow us (the fans) to throw unneeded monies your way in exchange and goods and services. That's how the economy works.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeremyjb

Sorry, but AdBlock Plus has been continuously enabled since my laptop got slammed by a drive-by download from a site (not this one) with decidedly poor security.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEaglesQuestions

I am all about people who do great work, such as yourself, profiting from their efforts.

Scott, how about just a straight up "donate" link in addition to the merch and ads, etc? True, not many will give to something just to be generous, but some of us will.

I am not at all offended by websites that offer free services/content and have a link where users can support them.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

For the sake of clarification, do you make money every time someone loads a page on that contains an ad, or only when someone actually CLICKS on one of those ads? If you making money requires people to click on the ads, please let us know so we can better support your work.
Note from Scott: I go the pay-per-impression route, so in theory it would help more to hit reload than to click the link, but either way it's likely statistically insignificant.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered Commentera fan

I don't need more stuff. Would be glad to donate.

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMukhya Khalsa

Just wanted to say that I too am one of those add-blocker types (I became one after a site I frequented decided that adding animated @#$% that followed your cursor around was a great idea) but also that:

A) I think the Amazon link is a great idea & like another poster already asked I would love to know if it's possible to make it my permanent link (or you a permanent affiliate) so you could get a piece of whatever I decide to blow $$$ on there,


B) I too would have no qualms about a reasonable "subscription" fee. I already support some other beloved comics/sites this way (via a monthly PayPal contribution) & would gleefully add Basic Instructions to the list!

(Also wanted to say that this comic is still as awesome as it was the first time I read it!)

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZirconia Wolf

If you have a reasonable number from non US visitors it's certainly a good idea to switch the amazon affiliate ad to their countries. You could do that with a script (I suppose it would be PHP?) that either sniffs for geolocation or the browser language. The latter is less precise but should be good enough. Else, you might offer a drop box with urls to chose from containing links to the countries most of the visitors come from. Drop me a line if you want me do write the script.

Also, ad a donate button, as suggested. Maybe make it appear only once a month for a couple of days with some funny caption.* Else, visitors might become accustomed to its sight and ignore it.

> google ads
Why not try a competitor, eg Use one of their ads for some time to see if it makes a difference. Google doesn't ban other ad networks.

* hey guys, it's payday again, the cat needs fresh catnip, don't let me down

* you, yes you! you got adblocker on, don't you? So you know what to do, buster.

* spare some change, guv'nor? be a love. (should sucker in the limeys)

March 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM. Möhling
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