Transparency Report: 2022 (And Goals for 2023)

“What a year.” My annual catchphrase. I always say that this project has exploded in ways I never expected, and that never stops being true. So where are we now?

Looking Back: What Worked (And Didn't)

I had a lot of “didn’t works” this year. For example, I mentioned that I wanted to both translate the site and launch a new podcast series. I have done neither. I started the site translation into Spanish several times, but each time I started I would get busy, the site would get some updates, and then I would lose track of where I was and have to start over. This year we should be pushing out some new changes to the site that will make this process a lot faster, so maybe this time I can actually get around to it. As for the podcast, I don’t really have a good excuse. Editing is tedious, my free time is limited, so more often than not when I found myself with a few spare hours I thought it’d be more fun to spend it playing video games. Sorry. I’ll outline some possible solutions later.

On what did work, the big goal I set was to grow and monetize ethically. That was a resounding success. As I will discuss shortly, The New Oil made significantly more money this year than last year.

Another big goal – which was redacted last year out of caution – was to legally register the company as a legal entity. Ladies and gentlemen (and enbys and whatever else you may identify as), I’m proud to be writing you as the owner of The New Oil Media, LLC. We are a single-member LLC registered in New Mexico. This protects me as a person legally, provides a few privacy perks (like being able to put the company’s EIN on payment platforms rather than my personal SSN), and also allows me to do things like set up a separate account to more easily and accurately manage funds (and somehow I still suck at keeping Open Collective updated, more on that shortly).

My three other smaller goals were to dig into TikTok, open a merch store, and buy a shotgun mic. I managed all three of these. TikTok is small but growing, and my goal there is to reach people who need to hear about privacy and security. The merch store is alive and kicking and you can support us with a merch store purchase, and the shotgun mic can be heard in all my new videos.

Site, Community, and Channel Growths

This year I want to formalize things and make them a bit easier to skim and digest by incorporating tables. Some of these numbers will be slightly off as I didn’t keep exact numbers in 2021 (to be honest, some of these numbers still aren’t 100% exact but should be 99% or so), and some of them weren’t kept at all.

Service 2021 2022 Growth
Mastodon 1800 7282 305%
Twitter 1100 5020 356 %
Matrix (Main room only) 400 765 91%
Discord NA 38 NA
Reddit NA 205 NA
Blog (followers) 25 35 40%
Blog (subscribers) 36 63 75%
YouTube 332 3898 1074%
Odysee Not Recorded 1058 NA
PeerTube Not Recorded 34 NA
TikTok NA 183
Website (peak) 7,400 18,726 153%
Website (total) 72,000 109,839 53%

Growth is always my favorite part to talk about. I’m not sure why. It’s just exciting to talk about. Maybe because it’s great to see new people getting interested in privacy, joining the communities, or just generally being part of the conversation. I digress.

Of particular note is the site statistics. We had a slight internal error in March that nuked our stats from January, February, and part of March, so we can’t give accurate numbers for any of that time period. From April onward though, it was mostly uphill. We first broke 10k visitors in July, then 15k in November. I know I say this a lot (for the regulars) but I can’t believe so many people care about this project so much. When I started this project I really, really didn’t expect it to gain any traction whatsoever. I can’t believe what it’s grown into.

As far as notable community updates, we added a new mod for a total of 3, and a Mjolnir bot to help us manage the community more rapidly. In addition to Matrix, we founded a subreddit and Discord (Matrix and Discord are not bridged at this time and we have no plans to bridge them). We also started a TikTok channel that’s starting to get some traction, and our YouTube subscriber count saw a huge jump, primarily thanks to an impromptu shout-out from Henry on Surveillance Report. It’s been a good year for the The New Oil community, I think.

Surveillance Report continues to go strong. We’ve continued to be mostly consistent, and this year we spun it off into its own channel – mostly to make it easier for both of us to split the workload and also to split the pay (for the record, this was not the result of a dispute as some have suggested. It was 100% Henry just being a genuinely Good Dude™ and going “hey, I want to make sure you get paid more fairly, let’s split this off into its own thing so that I’m not guessing which funds came from SR and which ones didn’t”). At this time, we have over 11,000 subscribers between YouTube, Odysee, and PeerTube and 59 patrons contributing just under $440/month at the time of this writing. Not huge money, but it helps The New Oil a lot, to be honest. We also get some steady Monero contributions, which I will disclose in the next section.

Financial Transparency

Category 2021 2022 Growth
Income: Sponsorships NA $3,012.10 NA
Income: Surveillance Report NA $2,316.93 NA
Income: Consulting NA $1,161.90 NA
Income: Contributions NA $978.10 NA
Total $1,963.07 $9,395.09 379%
Expenses: Operations & Infrastructure NA 2,505.49 NA
Expenses: Conferences & Travel NA 646.67 NA
Expenses: Production NA 1,214.20 NA
Expenses: Content & Reviews NA $253.20 NA
Total 211.99 $6,295.65 2,870%
Monero (income) NA 8.112535981137 NA
Monero (expenses) NA .919076354966 NA
Bitcoin (income) NA .00829333 NA
Bitcoin (expenses) NA 0 NA
BAT (income) NA 231.825 NA
BAT (expenses) NA 0 NA

Before I jump in: holy crap. I was 2/3 of the way toward federal minimum wage this year (before taxes). That’s incredible. Of course, living wage and minimum wage are two different things and it’ll still be a financial long ways off before I can do The New Oil full time, but milestones are still worth celebrating and this is a huge leap from last year. Hopefully I can switch to part time in the near future. I am so humbled, excited, and awed at all the growth we saw this year.

I feel that most of these categories are self-explanatory, but I’ll give a quick summary just in case: Sponsorships includes all my sponsorships (site, video, and blog). Surveillance Report is the income I split with Techlore from Patreon (Monero disclosed separately). Consulting is the money I make from consulting (Monero and Bitcoin also separate), and Contributions includes everything else that comes directly from readers/viewers (cryptocurrency also separate). In the future I may breakdown cryptocurrencies by category in the future, but for now they don’t make up enough significant income to really warrant such effort. For the expenses, Operations & Infrastructure refers to things like hosting, email subscriptions for the business account, test merch, and services that support our existing projects (like Postmark for sending emails from Apertatube). Conferences & Travel includes things like Monerotopia or any other travel I have to do for TNO-related business. Production refers to anything that is done with to maintain or improve video or audio quality for the videos: better microphones, plugin subscriptions, etc. Finally, Content & Reviews is anything I get with the intention of reviewing it, like a SoloKey or Mullvad subscription.

There’s a few things to note right off the bat. For example, the totals don’t match. This is because I’ve only listed a few of the top, most notable categories. I haven’t included the merch store – which operated at a loss due to user error on my end (I forgot to include shipping initially), for example. I’m also not giving a line-by-line breakdown this year like I did in past years, but you can see them listed more clearly on Open Collective (which I will make a conscious effort to keep updated better in 2023) if you care. (Note: at the time of this publication I still need to update Open Collective. I will try to make sure that gets done no later than end of this month.)

I also want to address one big thing: I did not pay myself at all via The New Oil in 2022. My goal is to save up a reserve of funds before I start allocating money to myself. I have no idea if this was even legal. I assume my accountant will tell me when I start prepping for taxes. At any rate, right now funds are being entirely spent on the company and our projects aimed at giving back to the community.

We also experimented with cryptocurrency this year, adding a slew of common ones like Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, and Zcash. We got absolutely nothing from any of those outlets (except for like, $1 of Litecoin), and therefore those will not be options going forward. Most of our BAT was also converted to Bitcoin, we don’t really mess with that much. We spent relatively little Monero, mostly at Monerotopia. Either way, none of our crypto was cashed out or converted to fiat, and next year we hope to use both Monero and Bitcoin more to pay for services we use that accept it. We do not pay any attention to LBRY. That may be something I look more into next year, but I doubt it.

Goals for 2023

My biggest goal for 2023 is a personal commitment to manage my time better. I want to try being more intentional with my scheduling, and also to set myself “off hours.” I’ve mentioned in the past that I spend entirely too much time on The New Oil. This is primarily because I have day job, so I have to cram in hours worth of work into just a few hours after said day job. That said, this is quickly becoming unsustainable. It is not uncommon for me to come home from the day job, shower, eat, and then do The New Oil work until I go straight to bed. I no longer want to do this. I want to free up more time to read, play games, and spend time with my wife. The real issue here will be intentionality. I lose a lot of time to distractions and trying to figure out what to do next. I need to be better with defining my workload and saying “I will do X on This Day.” I expect that’ll be tough at first, I’ve never needed to actually schedule my life so heavily before, but clearly something needs to change.

Beyond that, I don’t really have any specific goals for 2023. I would – of course – like to continue to grow the project. I’ve stated many times before how much I would love to do The New Oil full time. It is, of course, imperative that we continue to operate in an ethical and transparent manner: no sponsorships we don’t agree with, no affiliate links for products we don’t endorse, etc. One minor goal for 2023 is to stay more on top of Open Collective so that you all can have a much more real-time look at our expenses and income. I’d also like to make a more personal commitment to actually use our cryptocurrency more where possible. We’re sitting on a pretty healthy stash of it, and I would love to contribute more to the parallel economy and make actual use of those funds in a more direct fashion. I’m also interested in things like creating a companion workbook for the site, possibly operating a Tor exit node, and maybe even opening up a public Session group. And of course, I need to get back on blogging. I was pretty hit or miss – especially toward the 2nd half of the year there – not because of a lack of ideas, but simply because of poor time management and simply not “doing the damn thing.” I want to work on that going forward. Fortunately it seems like all – or most – of my goals for 2023 really revolve around time management and self discipline. If I can stick with those two things, the rest should fall into place fairly easily.

As always, I’m excited for the future. I’m happy that I’m able to make a difference in the world and help spread the message of privacy. While there are no major changes on the horizon in 2023, continue to expect small improvements from us. I’m always looking for room to improve – and for the record, if you have any (respectful) ideas, please feel free to shoot them my way. Thank you for making 2022 a monumental year for me. Here’s to 2023!

You can find more recommended services and programs at TheNewOil.org. You can also get daily privacy news updates on Mastodon or support my work in a variety of ways here.