Should I Go Public?
Something been on my mind that I need to talk about. It’s been on my mind for awhile now. The question has been bugging me for over a year — Should I “go public” with this blog and reveal our true identities for the world to see?
Or, should I remain completely anonymous and protect our true identities?
Why Go Public At All?
The first big question is why — Why bother going public at all? There’s several reasons — the biggest might be the increased traffic the blog would receive. Increased blog traffic means more add revenue. Perhaps this blog could finally make more than $30 a month!
$60 a month would be pretty sweet! 😉
I’ve spoken with other bloggers who’ve gone public and released their real names to the world (like Tawcan). These bloggers tell me that web traffic definitely does increase once you “go public”. I guess people are more interested in blogs when the blogger is willing to share his or her full name.
Does that make the blogger seem more trustworthy? Perhaps they become more relatable to the average Joe or Jane?
I’m just speculating here, but there’s pretty good evidence to suggest that web traffic would increase if I told people my real name. After-all, nearly every single one of the “big” bloggers has their name out in public.
Another reason (and perhaps even more important than the first), is that reporters and newspapers are more willing to talk to you if you’re not anonymous. Sharing your story with the public is a big part of being a blogger, and large news outlets are a very good way to get big exposure.
Not long ago, I actually had to turn down an interview with the Wall Street Journal because I wanted to remain anonymous. They insisted that I provide my full name, but I couldn’t do it. What a bummer!
Most big personal finance websites and news publications like Yahoo Finance, The Wall Street Journal, and Marketwatch are like this. They want “sources” that are completely non-anonymous. I’m not entirely certain why this is necessary, but I suppose it gives more credibility to the newspaper if the source is verifiable. At the end of the day, if you’re not “public”, they won’t feature you on their website.
On top of those reasons there’s also the fact that I’m keeping a big secret from my friends and family. Besides my wife, none of my friends and family are aware of our financial status.
I’m not exactly living a lie here, but I am keeping a big secret!
Why Stay Anonymous?
I’ve written about stealth wealth a little in the past, but the reasons to keep wealth quiet are many and varied. First and foremost is the fact that friends and family won’t relentlessly pressure me to spend money.
“Hey, you’re pretty wealthy — why don’t you buy us dinner tonight?”
“We’d like to do some renovations on the house — could you loan us the money? We’ll pay you back of course.”
Yep, if friends and family knew we had money they might start treating us like some kind of personal piggy bank to raid (Never mind the fact that we didn’t get wealthy by spending money).
Then there’s local schools, churches, and charity groups. If our name was public, they might look to us more often for donations and fundraisers. Or maybe pressure us more. We don’t mind donating to good causes (we do so every year), but we prefer to do it without outside pressure or influence involved.
There’s also the matter of personal safety — In Washington State, it’s relatively simple to look-up where someone lives if you know their full name. If I went public, random weirdos could suddenly start showing-up at our front door asking for money, or a free lunch.
It’s possible that my personal safety, or that of my family could become an issue.
In the past I’ve always decided to keep our real name a secret… and it’s worked out OK. We haven’t been harassed into paying more than our fair share, we survived a lawsuit relatively unscathed, nobody is creeping around our property, and we’re still on good speaking terms with all of our friends and family.
If we go public, all of that could change. Money can really change personal relationships if you’re not careful.
Do we dare open pandora’s box?
Isn’t Your Family Already Non-Anonymous?
When I was writing this post, it reminded me of a recent question from a reader:
“If you want to keep your identity secret, why do you frequently post pictures of your kids? Aren’t they already recognized at school?”
It’s true, I do post pictures of my kids all the time. You’d think someone would recognize the kids at school, but they really don’t. Not one single person has recognized our kids despite me regularly posting pictures of them. Why is that?
I think part of this is because kids grow so fast and change so fast they’re never the same. Take a picture today, and they’ll look completely different next week. It makes it hard for anyone to identify them.
That, and I think adults ignore children unless they happen to be the child’s parents. We only start to remember other people’s faces when we build relationships with them. Everyone else’s face becomes a blur that’s quickly forgotten.
So my kids are safely anonymous, despite the fact that I post pictures of them all the time.
Questions And Final Thoughts
What do you guy think? Should I go public with this blog? Or, are the risks too great?
Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here — after-all there are hundreds of other personal finance bloggers that have names in the public that no-one is harassing. Why would I be any different?
Maybe I’m creating a problem here where none exists. It’s hard to say what might happen if I actually go public. Both good things and bad are possible. I’m still contemplating the move, and would love to hear feedback from readers and other bloggers. Do you think it’s worth it?
Like the Wizard of Oz, I going to stay safely hidden behind the curtain for now…
[Image Credit: Flickr]
63 thoughts on “Should I Go Public?”
I think there is no reason to try to make a little more money out of this blog with publishing your name or using it to be interviewed by some newspaper. Not revealing your name will keep you and your children safe!
I would respect you so much more for staying anonymous and nor caving in on this apparent peer pressure.
Thanks for your input Jasmin! Indeed a little extra money probably wouldn’t change much for me. 🙂
I think you have to go public. Already, people can find out who you are if they really want to based on ownership of domain/host/site.
You have a huge potential but only with credibility which comes by coming out public.
Hope this helps.
Appreciate the feedback Cesar. I’ll take it under consideration.
You know I went public with my identity once I retired from my job last year. I didn’t make a big deal out of it – I just slowly started showing photos in my posts and linked everything to my real accounts in social media.
In my case, it didn’t make a big difference overall. Yes, traffic has continued to increase, but I’ve been on an uphill trend regardless. I also didn’t have any problems with anyone asking me for any money. That said, when you move out of the country like I did, that convenience factor goes away.
For me, it was a weight off my chest. I felt a sense of relief not having to worry about concealing my identity anymore. And it made it easier to talk to others (friends, family, and people I met) about my site. That’s been very positive.
I don’t know if I’d make an increase in traffic the sole reason for revealing your identity. But if you’re comfortable with it otherwise, I say go for it! Either way, I already got to meet you so I know the masked man!! 😉
Haha…you got to meet the man behind the octopus and lived! Seriously though, you’re a good example of a blogger that went public and it seems like you’re doing quite well with the increased blog traffic.
How much would you say your site grows every month (%-wise is fine)?
The months jump up and down, but I really haven’t seen a major spike in traffic if you zoom out – just a natural growth that I was getting anyway. Here’s the year over year that might explain it better…
2016 over 2015 (first 8 mpnths of bloggin) was a 204.82% increase
2017 over 2106 was a 147.37% increase
2018 over 2107 was a 145.3% increase
9 months of 2019 has been a 17.48% increase over the entire 2018 year
I didn’t really start revealing our identities until the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019. So when all’s said and done, 2019 will end up having a decent increase over 2018, but I don’t think I would attribute it too much to going public.
Do what makes you feel most comfortable, but I wouldn’t focus too much on the traffic.
I think it depends more on what you want your site to become long-term. If you want to grow it into a big business, then going public makes the most sense. Interviews, books, business – all are a lot easier with your name out there.
If you don’t want to change that, no reason to go public. Do you have any major change in mind?
No, nothing major planned. Just trying to think about steps to get things to the next level. It’s a move I’ve been considering for awhile.
Stay anonymous! You mentioned all the arguments. If you go public you can’t go back and it seems to me, that it was a personal decision not to go public. You certainly thought about it when you created this blog and you still are convinced it’s the right decision.
Moreover, I would stay anonymous, too 😉
Good blog btw! I’m reading it for approx. a year now (maybe 2) and you have a good balance of the amount of posts and keep a high quality content! Continue like that!
Wow, thanks for being a long time reader JJ! I totally appreciate your feedback on the topic too!
Well said JJ. Why complicate your life if you don’t have to?
It really depends on how you view your own blog. Is it for garner more traffic and likes/ as a means of passive income. Or as a personal diary, as a means of self-reflection to pen down your thoughts (whereby others can peep in).
If it is for the latter, then remaining anonymous is fine. After all, personal freedom is precious to many. Having said that, you are right that it adds a personal touch when people know who you are.
I kind of see it as both — a personal “diary” AND a source of passive income (albeit a very tiny amount).
The passive income isn’t really a big deal though, it’s hardly anything. Sure, I wouldn’t mind if it was more, but it’s not going to break the bank either way.
The importnat point is safety, everything else is optional.
The piggy bank risk can get real, but is of course very dependent on personal behavior and the individual family & friends situation. Jason, “Mr free@33” has written extensively about his experience in that field.
Another point apart from personal threats may arise from legal issues with the website.
I´m not a specialist about that, but most bloggers in the US only have a very basic GDPRS / cookie disclaimer on their website. It seems that this is OK or at least tolerated under US law.
For the European market they are more and more enforcing their DSVGO (“GDPRS on steroids”) regulation, where you have to give a full disclaimer close to the Apple EULA, containing your full name and adress. That way it is easy to fall prey to lawyer groups who´s only job it is to search for mistakes in your disclaimer and sue you.
So as long as you have the privilege to stay anonymous – I´d do it.
Regarding GDPRS and law issues: i’m from Europe and “lawyer groups who´s only job it is to search for mistakes in your disclaimer and sue you” are more or less inexistent. Here, lawyers aren’t allowed to do advertising and it’s not in their culture to badger normal people. Additionally, DSVGO/GDPRS defines a few levels of severity of the infraction, where normal people with a blog will never be able to hit a level where you can be sued.
I agree that if the website is clearly for non commercial use, the risk to get sued is low.
But there is a tendency especially in Germany to bother people with regulations. I know of a local small restaurant which has been sued , because their website was not compliant with DSVGO. We also hear about websites of civil organizations like firedepartments who got sued ( how crazy is that….).
And then of course there are the big cases: Marriot hotels for example, was attacked by a hacker group. But instead of going after the hackers some lawyers had the great idea to sue Marriot themselves, because their website might be uncompliant to the DSVGO privacy codex.
It iś an absolute nightmare, but politicians like Axel Voss believe it is to protect consumers and to to regulate the evil big corporations. But Apple and google only laugh at it – they have even better lawyers and lobbyists. 🙂
If nobody with a private website in the US has been sued yet, that is really good news. Maybe I think if reopening mine then 🙂
Thanks for the input Senior Crown. Totally agree, safety is extremely important! 🙂
Unless you want to start doing media interviews or something, why bother? Seems like a lot of hassle (and potential danger) for no payoff.
I don’t see you as any less credible because you’re anonymous. I would however like it if you provided more details about your investments.
Thanks Eli! I’m really glad to hear that people like you exist! I try to share as much as I can and give TONS of detail, but it’s hard to build credibility when you’re anonymous.
People challenge my numbers all the time even though I take them directly from my bank statements every month. They don’t believe the numbers or real or something…
I don’t know how I could get more real!!
Anyway, thanks for the input Eli! 🙂
In some countries, kidnapping for ransom is common. We’re not talking about Warren Buffett wealthy either. You don’t see it much in the US but I always thought financial bloggers who reveal their identity and net worth put themselves at significant risk. There have been numerous cases in the US where people’s houses have been robbed because they posted on social media their travel plans and thieves knew they would be out of town.
I recall a quote from a former Stasi official saying (paraphrasing) “In the 1970s, we tortured people for less information than many people voluntarily share on social media today.”
Yeah, I’m aware of the flash-kidnappings common in some parts of the world. It’s not common here yet, but the thought has certainly crossed my mind.
I’d vote for staying anonymous. Doesn’t seem worth it when you consider the risks.
Of course, you could “go public” with a completely made up name and not disclose that it’s a nom de plume. That seems a little dodgy, but it’s the strategy being used by one of the biggest / most successful names in the space…
Yep, I’ve certainly thought of doing that… but it kind of seems like lying to my audience too.
That breaks the mental contract I have in my head with my readers. I give them the gods-honest-truth and they keep reading.
Thanks for the input Paul!
It’s up to you and what you’re comfortable with. A few bloggers like Carl @ 1500 didn’t put his name on the blog but you can find his real name somewhat easily. He was quite worried when his name got out but said it hasn’t created that much problem for the most part. I think Carl went back and deleted a few posts that he talked about his family.
I haven’t had any problems with going public but I have made rules on what I’d and what I wouldn’t share on the blog, so maybe that makes it a bit easier. For you, you have shared a lot of stuff on this blog already (net worth, for example) so that maybe a little bit problematic.
Reveal identity isn’t about making money, I certainly don’t make that much money from the blog. But once you reveal your identity, it is easier to get more media coverage and also connect with your readers. It’s easier to build that “trust” because people know what you look like. 🙂
Remember, once you go public you can’t go back. 🙂
Another thing is to create a “pen name” and just use that reveal that name. In fact, A number of bloggers are doing that.
Yeah, it’s that opening of Pandora’s box that scares me. Once it’s out, it’s out. Good or bad.
A pen name isn’t a terrible idea though. Book authors sometimes use them, but I have to decide if that’s lying to my audience or not.
Appreciate the feedback Tawcan! 🙂
First of all, absolutely love your blog. Your content is unique, insightful and WOW. This is my first time posting and I have followed your work for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and experiences. Gratitude for all that you share; please know, it is meaningful and greatly appreciated.
Personally, I rather enjoy the cephalopod mystery…who need to know the details of all the sea creatures, many mysteries lie under the sea. I wonder if there are other ways to increase your internet presence. Anonymity does not change the amazing and accurate content you post.
There are pros and cons to a big reveal, and in my humble estimation, the mystery behind your cloak makes this blog even more interesting. You have my respect, admiration, and support. Looking forward to your future decisions…waiting with bated breath. It’s your blog, you choose…Pandora’s Box is hard to close. 🙂 Either way, you will make the best decision for you and your family.
Thank you so much Nursepkj! Your kind words are extremely uplifting! I’ve been in kind of a slump recently, so this kind of thing is good to hear. It’s good to know all the effort I put in actually means something!
I could care less. Its the ideas and content im interested in. Dont take that the wrong way. I enjoy the site ,stories , you way of looking things , your thoughts , i dnt care what your names is or what you look like, Unless your a real good looking women , I’m guesing your not. Keep helping my manage my money and finances and ill keep visiting. And if your going public with anything id rather see your profile
Dave , Long time fan
Nope, last I checked I wasn’t a good looking woman. However, if you’re into tentacles….
Err, anyway… thanks for your feedback. Seems like some people care and other’s don’t. It’s good to get a feel for what my longtime readers think! 🙂
Hi Mr Tako,
Normally I would recommend outing yourself but your personality is a big consideration- it may merit staying hidden as in balance I think you wouldn’t be happy with being in the spotlight.
Either way, best wishes to you and your family.
It’s true Mike, I’m not really a “show off” kind of person that’s trying to get attention all the time. Living a little under the radar isn’t a bad thing. 😉
Physician on Fire’s blog got huge while he was still anonymous, as well as a few others. He eventually went public but you can still make more money staying anonymous if you want. Sounds to me like you don’t want to do it, so I think you should stay anonymous and keep writing the great content. As witnessed by the comments here, you have fans. Including me 🙂
Just curious — If he got huge and was anonymous, why do you think PoF went public? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that story before and he doesn’t comment here anymore.
Thanks for being a fan Dave! 🙂
I don’t really know, but it might have been with getting his story in some of the bigger websites like you mentioned. Even though his blog was already huge those stories just made it bigger.
As another anonymous blogger I’ll weigh in. It depends on your situation. I’m anonymous but not overly so. Some folks I work with know of the site and from time to time I wear a shirt advertising the site or attend something like fincon.
But, I do try to stay generally anonymous due to several major risks. My works policies are ambiguous on whether I can have a blog. Some of what I write about would be more limiting depending on whom reads it (I can tell you very few of my friends in real life ever visit the site). And finally some of the things I’m engaged in like foster care require some level of anonymity.
So for my own situation I’m more anonymous to a level of someone would really need to want to find out who I am. If that means I lose a few page views so be it. Doubling my blog income is still a lot less money then fixing one of the risks above.
Solid points Full Time Finance! I appreciate your input!
I am in negotiations with a big publishing house to create a subscription product fashioned after my blog content. We haven’t gotten to the point of discussing whether or not I can remain “Lizard King”.
I’d prefer to stay anonymous. I might split the difference and keep the free content anonymous. People who are paying for my advice aren’t likely to be doing it so they can harass me.
I would very much like to have your free content hang around Financial Velociraptor! 🙂
Stay anonymous. ‘Mr Tako’ sounds like it could be your real name anyway, so why bother?
I’ve been blogging under this name since 2007 on my personal blog. I began using it because I didn’t want my ex-husband or students to find the blog, but now after so many years, Frogdancer Jones is an integral part of who I am. I’m not considering changing and neither should you, unless you want to.
It doesn’t seem as if you have a hugely compelling reason to, though.
Maybe it *is* my real name… did anyone think that? 🙂
Dont go public.
As you have said the only ‘pro’ reason is for a few extra bucks. Those extra bucks you dont need.
The saying that ‘locks only keep honest people honest’ applies here. You have some privacy although there are plenty of digital ways for others to find you but those would have to be motivated and technical folks. Going public opens the flood gates for every tom, dick, and hairy.
Do you really crave the attention?
Nah, I don’t need more attention, and you’re right a couple extra bucks doesn’t matter much.
Right, you just need a last name to make it complete.
Like Mr. Tako Smith or Mr. Tako Okonomiyaki. Something like that.
You don’t need to put your real name out there if you don’t want to.
The media just need consistency. I’m pretty sure they don’t run a background check or anything like that.
Good idea. I suggest Mr. Tako Yaki, Mr. Tako Bell or Mr. Tako Boutit. If I were you, I would also publish a CV telling people you are Satoshi Nakamoto’s cousin and the great great grandson of Momotaro.
Solid points Joe! Really appreciate the feedback from someone who’s already stepped outside the curtain. 🙂
Mr. Tako, I usually dont respond but this is a really good question. My wife and I are on the FI path, we dont have a blog but we have discussed the same Cons of sharing information with our families for the very same reasons you listed. If you really want to increase your revenue from this site then you know what you need to do. If not and it is a like to have then keep yourself private, there is something really special about not having all of your info out there =) safety being #1
Thanks Nadeem! My safety and the safety of my family are hugely important. If my kids were somehow impacted in a negative way I would be very unhappy about that.
Solid points Nadeem!
I wouldn’t go public unless you plan to do coaching or turn it into a business where people would contact you for investment advice— you’ve shared your net worth etc. This is why I keep anonymous. You can still do well with a blog as anonymous.
Coaching is something I’ve considered as a future possibility.. That’s something I think might fit with my MO.
Thanks Gen-Y Money!
Wait, you are not an English-Speaking Octopus, who likes to dabble in investments? Consider me shocked!
And why would you want to go public – the IPO market is so tough right now..
In all seriousness, I see no reason to paste your name and picture all over the net for all eternity. You are opening up yourself for some extra trouble, just so you can have more fame and potentially higher fortune. I think that people who find your content helpful will keep liking it whether your name is John Smith or Mr Tako. You can always connect with like-minded individuals if you choose to, on a one-to-one basis.
I am biased from personal experience of course 😉
Yeah, the IPO market right now…. *shakes head*
I’m not sure the rewards are worth the cost. It’s great to get feedback from experienced bloggers like yourself of course!
Stay anonymous due to all the reasons some commenters have already give and also because your kid is still young. Give him a chance to grow up with the intrusiveness of the internet plus it’s just safer for the whole family.
That’s a good point. I don’t really want him to get harassed at school. Most schools have a no-bullying policy these days but I never see the teachers enforcing it.
Too bad. 🙁
Wait, you mean you are NOT an intelligent Octopus? I had no idea you were a person. I need to think about this.
I agree with the naysayers and say “Nay”.
Your financial transparency is more than enough to establish your
credibility with me, and the recipes only enhance it.
Being risk averse as I am, I vote for you to remain anonymous.
As someone who recently came to you for advice, I found your anonymity refreshing because I felt that you would give me advice based on the facts of my case rather than on your need to get your brand out there via my story. (I don’t believe that you would use my request for advice in that way, but I can see how it could be a motivator for other less scrupulous bloggers.)
I am of view that it will be more prudent to remain anonymous.
My two cents worth of views.
Why do you think that by going public, your website visits would increase?
Don’t do it. You stated all the cons yourself. I think you are credible regardless. Coming from Asia, I know how Asian families are when it comes to money. Once you are out, they will want you to “help them out” with their financial problems. I never understood how the richer family member becomes responsible for their lack of discipline with their own money.
The same reason why I told my husband, I want to stay anonymous forever if I win the lottery. lol.