Madison on the Cheap is offically on a hiatus

May 2, 2013

Update (1/19/2016): Left town for a while (found a cheap flight to Montreal on AirCanada). Ate Chinese food for Christmas. Started taking more photographs. Confirmed that I am an incorrigible collector of useful information about free and cheap events. Decided I can’t throw in the towel when it comes to Madison on the Cheap. Contemplated changing this Facebook page to a group so people would receive more updates (but discovered some problems with this idea and abandoned that plan). Decided to redesign, reinvigorate, and reinvent the main Madison on the Cheap website during 2016 (and re-installed the seasonal snowflakes — longtime readers may remember them). More about plans and process later. Right now, I’m declaring AN END TO TO THE FACEBOOK HIATUS and will resume posting there.

Update (11/4/2015): Effective immediately, we are no longer going to be posting to Facebook. The reasons are quite similar to those that convinced me to put the Madison on the Cheap website on hiatus in 2013.

Update (9/22/2013): Izzy the Intern (and his long-suffering boss) still post to Facebook. Follow the Madison on the Cheap Facebook page.

Things change

After almost four years and 4,300+ posts, it’s time for a hiatus. My career is moving in a different direction: I need to re-focus my time, energy , and attention on other projects, including creating websites for clients, writing feature stories, and tackling a book proposal that has languished too long on the sidelines.

Although I will not be posting new items to Madison on the Cheap, it will, for now, continue to have a presence on the Internet so that people can still access some of the “evergreen” material that includes some of our most popular pages – including lists of Madison-area cooking classes and thrift shops; and our annual list of lutefisk dinners in Wisconsin. I also want people to have access to the excellent and very popular “Change from a Twenty” restaurant reviews written by Deb Nies, whose energy and enthusiasm – and contributions to organizing a wide variety of events for good causes in our community – are inspirational.

In the beginning, many of us who started “On the Cheap” blogs believed that creating a special online niche for cheapsters focusing on local discounts, deals, and freebies – plus a lot of hard work – would create financial success. Alas, things don’t always work out the way you plan them: Predicting the future is difficult, if not impossible.

Changes in the way we live, work, shop, relax, and have fun are occurring at an increasingly rapid pace. As I wrote elsewhere, “During his 91 years on Earth, my maternal grandfather [who spent almost 40 years in the newspaper business] lived through several economic depressions and two world wars; he was witness to extraordinary changes in science and technology and usually embraced them. He watched hundreds of individual newspapers dissolve and merge, but he would never have imagined that the newspaper as an institution would find itself in the throes of death. He could never have imagined a world without newsprint and ink.”

When I started writing for the Wisconsin State Journal in 1992, the World Wide Web had not yet been born. When I left a decade later, newspapers were floundering and trying to reinvent themselves. They were losing revenue as subscribers and advertisers flocked to the Internet; downsizing their staffs; and cutting back on local coverage.

Madison on the Cheap seemed like a brilliant way to focus on local opportunities to save money on dining, entertainment, and educational opportunities AND make money from banner ads and affiliate advertising and click-through links. Yes, indeed, this was going to be a successful business!

In less than four years, however, we’ve seen a huge shift to mobile. Readers might see a deal on Madison on the Cheap, but instead of using our link, you tap an app on your mobile phone. No commission for us. Additionally, most commissions have been drastically reduced in the past several years. Some are less than 1% of the sale price.

One way is to survive would be to diversify: Many bloggers teach classes about blogging or coupon clipping or some other subject related to their online work and interests. Others become big-time endorsers of specific products. Some become featured commentators on local and national television shows. A few pen best-selling cookbooks. Unfortunately, I’m more comfortable teaching literature or history to high school students; the last time I appeared on a local television program, my eyebrows looked like agitated caterpillars; and I think the cookbook market is near saturation.

FREE. Most people expect Internet content (news, features, blog posts) to be free, but the individuals and organizations that create and provide that “free” content need to pay their bills, too. As I learned while writing for the newspaper, too many people have expectations that cannot be met. They demand attention; they act as if coverage of their event is a birthright, and they can get nasty when you say there’s neither time nor space to cover everything and suggest they run an ad or find additional ways to promote their special interests.

As revenues decreased and incivility increased, I became weary and wary of opening the daily deluge of e-mails. Incivility was a small symptom of a bigger problem, but most definitely another sign that it was time to change course.

Izzy the Intern, the man behind many of Madison on the Cheap’s innovations (including the animated falling snow that falls across the site during winter months), is not altogether pleased with this “hiatus thing,” but he understands the impetus for change and my hunger to do more writing, to tell more stories. After all, that’s how we met: He sent me an e-mail about how much he’d enjoyed reading something I’d written.

The Madison area offers a rich array of free and cheap opportunities to enjoy the arts, sports, and nature; to learn new things and enjoy new activities; and to dine out and still get change from a $20 bill. We hope that when you read posts on Madison on the Cheap you learned about some new things to see and do, and, perhaps, re-discovered some hidden gems.

Even though Madison on the Cheap is on hiatus, we’ll still be out there enjoying what Madison has to offer and we hope you will too.

1 Suzanne Faris May 3, 2013 at 11:43 am

I want to wish you the best in your new endeavors and thank you for your past helpful posts.

2 Lauri Roman May 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks for doing this. It’s been a great resource and fun to read. Wishing you the best in wherever life takes you next.

3 Beth May 3, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Aw, agitated caterpillars.
Thanks so very much for the way you’ve helped me stay connected to all things local. I will continue to be eternally indebted to you for the annual Lutefisk dinner compendium. Best of luck!

4 Carol May 3, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Best wishes to you – thank you and Izzy too.

5 Elsa May 4, 2013 at 2:05 pm

While I thank you for all the free/cheap things you’ve shown me these past many months, and wish you great success in your future endeavors,….I have to say I’m very sorry to see you go and will miss you! Any chance that somebody (Izzy?) could take over operations? In any event, thanks!

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