The Atticus Finch School of Online Business

It’s not that it’s bad advice. If you are someone who is seeking to make money online, many of these methods will probably get you there. There’s lots of talk about transparency and permission marketing and affiliate programs and building products and such…some of it very good.  Lord knows, I’ve taken my share of online courses, joined dozens of email lists and purchased piles of books through affiliate links on websites. 

I don’t mind supporting these folks because I think the ratio of value to cash favors me, and I like them and want to see them succeed. If my purchase is helping to line their pockets so they can produce more value-laden content for me to consume, I’m happy to do it.  But what I don’t want (and I’m betting you don’t either) is to be sold every day.

When someone writes a daily blog and includes at least one affiliate link in every single post, I start to lose a little trust. It cheapens the relationship between me (the reader), and the blogger in question. It’s great to make money, but do you really have to always be closing?  I don’t think so. Not for me, anyway.

I’ve come to the point now where DudeCraft needs to start producing a little bit of revenue, so I’ve been exploring the many ways to do that and choosing the ones that will be the least intrusive but also, the most effective. I’ve written recently about the elimination of the blinky, non-specific ad providers I had previously partnered with in favor of choosing sponsors for the blog, and that has worked out really well so far. In searching for sponsors that I like, I’ve met some incredible people with incredible stories who also happen to produce goods or services that I can really believe in. The cash is not exactly rolling in, but I feel great about the relationships that I’m building with my sponsors and the value I’m offering my readers. Plus, I can sleep at night.

The Weird Way That I Decide What’s Right for Dude Craft

Some of you know that I’m an old movie nut and that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite films of all time. I often find myself thinking about Atticus Finch when I’m in the midst of decision-making that involves the blog or life in general. I think about the scene where he let’s the farmer pay for his services in produce instead of cash, or the scene where he explains to Scout what empathy is and why it’s important, or the scene where he calmly cleans his glasses off after being spit on by Bob Ewell. It may seem silly, but there are plenty of times that the blogosphere mirrors these very situations, and when it does, Atticus is a great comfort to me.

The money question is where I lean on Atticus the most. I am constantly being approached by folks who would like to give me money in exchange for different pieces of my corner of the internet and I am constantly leaving that money on the table because, if I took it, I know that Atticus would be disappointed. So would Juror #8 (Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men). So would Jeff Smith (Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). It sounds ludicrous to take your business cues from movie characters, but it works for me. It lets me avoid feeling slimy. It reminds me that people are the most important and valuable component in what I do and that money should always be secondary. Consequently, I make a lot less money than I could, but more importantly…much more importantly, I keep my readers’ trust and my integrity intact.

"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
- Atticus Finch


  1. Thanks for this post, Paul. It's rare to read about integrity in blogging. Good luck.

  2. I would say that it's rare to read about integrity, period. I don't know a time in my life that finds honesty and integrity so rare. That is one reason that I treasure your posts.

    Kathy in Mukilteo, WA

  3. Aw, Kathy. Thanks for that. Means a lot.

  4. Another great post. In fact, the way you write about having integrity is good marketing in itself -- it makes me want to make your strategy a success by buying from your advertisers!

    I work in the online advertising industry myself and one place we haven't really gone yet is using technology to map and reinforce the social network between advertisers and sites. I think it's an area of great potential (a Facebook for small business?).

  5. Tegan - Yes! More importantly, a social network between small businesses and customers. In a small way, that's what I'm trying to do with my "Meet the Sponsor" posts. I want my readers to know who advertises here and that they are real people who do cool and worthwhile things.

    It would also just be cool for customers to talk directly to small business owners about their experience with their company. How valuable would that be to the business owners? Also, how cool would it be that the customers would feel like they've really been "heard"?

    Great idea! Thanks for the comment.

  6. I LIKED this. Very much.
    Also, I like Gregory Peck, and To Kill a Mockingbird was a memorable reading experience for me (aged eleven) and again last year, when I discovered it was actually a totally different book from what I remembered...
    I don't think it's strange to take cues from fictional characters either. The great thing about good fiction is, after all, that reality is distilled so much, that only the pure truth remains. Real life is never as clear about life as fictional life.
    Keep it coming!

  7. Projektmanagerin - Thanks so much for the comment. You're right about distillation only leaving truths behind.

  8. Paul, the fact that you've made such a connection with the movie is a perfect example, in essence, of what you are promoting in business with your blog: it isn't the product, it's the connection.

    One can get anything they want whenever they want it. So why not choose to purchase from someone who is offering integrity as well as a product? Or support someone you have a connection with? It's too easy to create an "artificial connection" with people nowadays--it sounds like you're taking the time to cull through all that and really promote people/ideas/businesses that have some value, some weight, or some depth...

    And that is incredibly endearing. And a wonderful example.

    And that's also the future of commerce today: consumers want more than a simple business transaction that they can get anywhere--if one is going to spend hard earned money, then spend it somewhere that matters, supporting people who deserve it and create expressive works that have relevance.

    It's becoming all too clear who is authentic and who is simply spinning a marketing scheme. You're setting a good example by putting your money where your mouth is.

    Kudos. Because you care, I take the time to pay attention to who you select to put on your blog. And it's worth my time. Thank you.

  9. RA - Wow. Thanks for taking the time to write such a nice note. I really appreciate that all of the commenters here "get" what I'm trying to do with the blog. Sometimes it feels like uncharted territory and it's nice to hear your voices out here in the wilderness. Thanks.

  10. Instead of the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval (which I always thought seemed a bit too far-reaching and therefore sketchy), I have the Paul Overton Seal of Approval.

    And this here? This is why.

    Thanks Paul.

  11. Kate - Thank YOU! What a beautiful thing to say. I really appreciate it.

  12. I already adored this blog but now i'm feeling adoration for the man behind it.

    I re-read To Kill A Mockingbird almost every year. Atticus' integrity and humanity are characteristics i try to carry along with me. The one thing Atticus' has which i find difficult sometimes is great understanding, even for the ugliness in the world. But yes, he is a comfort to me too. You just know when something is right or fair and there isn't any getting around it when you think about it in his terms.

    Anyway, very nice to hear someone thinking things over in this way Paul.
    Friendly greetings.

  13. Shelley,

    Thanks so much. I try to carry him along as well, and some other cohorts. Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington reminds me not to be so jaded and distrusting, and Henry Fonda in Twelve Angry Men reminds me that nothing is ever as clear cut as it seems.

    Thanks for the touching note. I'm glad to find people that still think living, or at least trying to live, by a code is worthwhile.

    Friendly greetings back to you. Hope the weather is nice in Rotterdam.