[This is the third part of My 2015 Financial Year in Review. You can read more of my financial picture at that link as I publish more articles.]
I’ve had a lot of challenging years in blogging, but 2015 was my most challenging. Like the other reviews of my financial life, this is going to sound really negative. If you stick with it until the end, you’ll see the positive though.
I’ll start by getting some of the nasty stuff out the way.
Legally, my LifeVantage/Protandim Statement is all that I can say. There’s a reason why bolded the following, “I simply could not afford the cost of defending the lawsuit any further. Because of the personal expense that further litigation would have entailed, and for no other reason, I have reached a settlement with LifeVantage.”
Freedom of speech is expensive. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a legal defense. I learned that wealthy people and companies can dictate individual’s freedom of speech simply because of this reality. I’m not sure the creators of the 1st amendment really intended this to be the case with the judicial system, but in my experience that’s where we are today.
I suppose I could have represented myself at my own cost. I don’t think the legal system is designed to make that a fair method of dispute resolution. After all, here’s a real life 7-minute conversation of two sides trying to figure out if someone knows what a photocopier is.
Imagine if you got in an argument with Lebron James and the way to resolve it was by playing him one-on-one and winning. That path isn’t likely to lead to success. That’s what I feel like it would be representing myself in an environment that is devoid of anything approaching common sense.
As I was finishing up with that settlement, I got word that I was being sued again.
This time a water purification company is suing me for writing what amounted to a Yelp review. You can make your own assessment if there is anything in there that would even seem illegal, but I felt like I was simply telling a personal story of what happened when I tried to get purified water when our county alerted us to a possible issue. The additional information I found was as accurate as I could find.
I had communicated with the company VP soon after I wrote the article and they didn’t express any concerns about the content. Eighteen months later they seem to have changed their opinion. The only thing that I can think of that has changed is that Google has decided it is a very good article about that company. If that’s really the reason for the lawsuit (as I suspect), I can understand why they’d be unhappy. In this case, I didn’t like the sales method, but I did praise the company’s products.
I asked my lawyer what the difference is and he said that typically companies don’t sue over bad Yelp reviews. If someone is sued over a bad Yelp review, they typically would simply delete the review and eat at a different restaurant in the future. As a consumer advocate, I feel that I have to meet a higher standard to not delete helpful information. I owe it to readers like you.
Unfortunately, the company didn’t attempt to express any concerns to me before filing the lawsuit. That’s not what I would I have expected from a responsible company, especially since the lines of communication were already open. In our last conversation, I had told them that I’d love to help them do better with consumers in the future. My guess is that they saw that this can be effective way to remove undesirable information from the internet.
The gravamen* of their complaint is that the presentation I received was from an independent distributor and that my article shouldn’t have been about the company itself. After I saw a 3-hour specifically-branded presentation on an iPad that only covered the company’s products, I considered it to be about that company. As I did more research, I found that people on the internet generally did the same. I offered to offer to clarify the corporate structure, but I haven’t gotten their approval to go forward with it. For now it is up to the lawyers and courts to figure it out.
There’s a lot more about this that I wish I could write. I can probably write most of them, but I’d want to clear it with my lawyer first and that’s a process that I’d like to avoid.
* These are the cool words you learn when you get sued.
Like my previous articles on investing and real estate, there’s a happy note to end on. In 2015, I had nearly 2.5 million page views. I don’t think I had come close to a million page views in any other year. That’s huge, huge growth. It warms my heart that people are coming here to get great information and, if they disagree, can use the comments to help make it better. That’s why I continue to respond to just about every reader who leaves a comment.
I expect a major publication to publish a story about my consumer advocacy within the next few weeks. I can’t give you much more information, but if you follow the articles here I’ll be sure to let you know.
You’d think that with all those page views and all that growth, I’d be printing money. If I were a casual reader seeing all the advertisements and those numbers I’d think that as well. The reality is that advertisers are putting more and more money into other platforms such as Facebook advertising. One telling article that I’ve read recently is Get Rich or Die Vlogging: The Sad Economics of Internet Fame. That article is about video blogging, but it could be about blogging in general too.
I am making more money than I did in 2014, which is almost like saying that I performed better than the Bengals in a playoff game (sorry Cincinnati, I was rooting for you). That’s how bad 2014 was.
I’m trying to diversify my income. My dog sitting business is going well. I’ve been able to make another $350 a month on average with it thus far. I’m optimistic that will go up with repeat customers. It’s more responsibility, a little more work, a lot more fun, and an extra $4000-$5000 a year. That said, the dogs definitely bring some wear and tear with them.
I’ve got a lot of other ideas to look into in 2016, but I’m going to leave those goals, projections, etc. for another post.