10 Reasons You Should Read theOatmeal.com
Do you know what the internet is? If so, you have likely heard of The Oatmeal. This is an extremely popular online comic that covers topics from paradoxical dogs and Nikola Tesla to grammar and everything in between. The smart writing and interesting illustrations are equal parts laugh-out-loud funny, grotesque, and sweet. The man behind this website is Matthew Inman, who is 30-years-old, a former website design, and now a comic artist based out of Seattle, Washington.
The online comic was originally launched by Inman in July of 2009 and at the time featured three comics. Within 12 months the site had surged in popularity and had five million visits per month. Today, the site has an approximate annual income of $500,000 thanks to site visitors, visitor sales, and other sources of income.
The content posted on The Oatmeal is fun, unique, and usually, goes viral within days (in some cases hours) of being posted. The site, and creator have attracted a huge following. Today, many people consider it a daily “go-to” read to get their entire day started out right. While there are not new posts daily, new content is posted regularly, which means if you visit the site often, you are bound to find something new.
Are you still unconvinced that The Oatmeal is a site to visit? If so, consider the 10 reasons to read TheOatmeal.com, which are highlighted here. Chances are, you are going to find yourself a regular visitor once you learn a bit more about the site, the creator, and the information found inside.
10The Content is Great
Photo Credit: theOatmeal.
While this is a bit of a generic statement, it is backed up by cold hard facts. Creating viral content is something most people work to do day after day, in many cases with little success. However, for The Oatmeal, creating viral content is a “no-brainer.” Almost everything posted on the site goes viral, leading to even more exposure and followers.
Wonder how this content is created? Wonder how Inman has more than five million people reading the things he posts each month? There is a method behind this madness. The reason you find viral content on The Oatmeal virtually every time you visit is because of the following strategies:
- Inman writes on topics he doesn’t agree with
- He picks topics that everyone can relate to and create a quiz out of the information
- He selects something that gets a reaction – topics that people hate but are popular for no real reason
- He gets attention by being disgusting
- The comics are put in educative formats
The bottom line is that you are going to encounter great content each time you visit The Oatmeal website. It is updated regularly and it covers topics you care about. Rather than just including information you don’t understand, don’t care about, and don’t want to read, The Oatmeal focuses on relevant topics that can garner attention from the millions of visitors that are coming to the site month after month.
9It’s Home to the “Brain Farm”
Don’t worry, when you visit The Oatmeal website you aren’t going to find rows of brains in jars. Brain farming is a term created by Inman that refers to his creative process. According to Inman, brain-farming is when he comes up with an idea that he wants to write about and then starts to think about it.
When it sits down and begins thinking, he has stated that he doesn’t usually come up with anything that is usable, but if he goes for a run, or takes a shower, all the pieces begin to come together.
According to Inman, the entire idea of “brain-farming” came from a scene from the television hit “Mad Men,” which is one of his favorites. On the show, the lead character Don Draper, works as an ad agency creative director. Part of his job is to give advice on how to overcome writer’s block. This advice is to think about it deeply, then completely forget about it. Once you do that, an idea is going to jump into your face.
The entire creative process differs from one person to another. It is a mysterious beast and in many cases, the only way you can come up with an amazing idea is to not even think about it at all. While this may sound a bit counter-intuitive, in the long run, it can help you come up with ideas you may have never discovered otherwise.
8Inman Refuses to Sell Out
You are going to find it is pretty difficult to spend any amount of time on The Oatmeal website without running into a comic about hot sauce – Siracha hot sauce specifically. While you may have a cynical side that assumes this is a paid advertisement, but this simply is not the case. The fact of the matter is that Matthew Inman writes about this hot sauce for one, very simple reason – he loves it.
In fact, Matthew has actually declined a number of lucrative opportunities to make his comics advertisements. He actually stated in an interview with “The Washington Post” that he recently turned away a deodorant company. The reason to turn them down was because he only wants to work with extremely exceptional companies/clients. He stated that he may consider a deal with Comedy Central or an actress or actor he is fond of. However, products such as Diet Coke are never going to get a featured spot on his website. Even though he knows there is a potential for quite a bit of money, he is not willing to accept the detrimental effect it would have on his comic.
Inman has stated and clearly shown with his actions that integrity is a huge part of his brand. It is also one of the main reasons he has such the large, loyal, following he has today. If you want to browse around on a site that has countless ads all over the place, then The Oatmeal is not for you.
7SEO Isn’t a Driving Force Behind the Sites Success
When you enter the term “oatmeal” in your Google search engine, you are going to discover that The Oatmeal website comes in at the very top. It is even ahead of sites such as Quaker Oats (where oatmeal is their business) and Wikipedia, which is the go-to resource for virtually anything. The fact is, Inman’s comics do exceptionally well on Google, typically always holding one of the coveted top spots.
There is no question that The Oatmeal receives quite a bit of traffic from search results. However, this is not because the website has been optimized for this.
There are quite a few people who wonder how Inman achieves this type of success without focusing on SEO. According to an interview he did in “The Washington Post” he states that his goal is to create content, comics, and topics people are going to like. As a result, SEO has no real bearing on the success – or failure – of the Oatmeal website. Also, Inman knows about SEO since that is what he did prior to running his current website. He also stated that even though SEO is not a huge impacting factor, social media has a lot to do with his success.
The content on The Oatmeal ranks exceptionally well because it is visited heavily and visitors are constantly sharing it. As a result, it is heavily linked to by authority sites, as well as bloggers. When it comes to The Oatmeal, there is no question that content is definitely king.
6The Oatmeal Has a Strong Social Media Presence for Interacting with the Brand
Many websites only offer visitors the ability to read content and then comment below the post. However, The Oatmeal has built an exceptional social media following that deserves credit for the success of the entire site.
Initially, The Oatmeal received traction from sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon, which Inman referred to as “very powerful.” Right now, if you were to jump on Facebook, you are going to discover that the site has more than 700,000 fans on Facebook alone and approximately 315,000 on Twitter.
According to Inman, the ability to build and hang on to an audience or following is the main role of social media. Each time he creates a new comic, he is able to broadcast it to the masses instantly. This is extremely helpful – especially in the first days of The Oatmeal website.
Inman says that he owes some of his success on social media to his dedication to keeping his audience and followers happy and laughing. However, he said that just letting people know that new content was posted on his website through social media was also extremely effective in growing his website and traffic.
He also decided that after the huge success he had with social media, himself, he wanted to help others achieve this, as well. That is why he created his own, comical take on the subject, in “How to get more likes on Facebook.”
5The Oatmeal Raises Money for Great Causes
If you just recently learned about the existence of The Oatmeal, then there is a pretty good chance that you heard of it because it was raising money for a great cause.
This is an effort that originally started in 2012. The reason this began was because Inman got a letter from Charles Carreon, who was a lawyer for FunnyJunk.com. In the letter, FunnyJunk threatened to sue The Oatmeal because they stated that the site defamed FunnyJunk. In the letter, a payment of $20,000 was requested.
Inman had none of this. The entire disagreement began because FunnyJunk began to repost content from The Oatmeal without permission or consent. Rather than giving into the demands in the letter, Inman made the decision to attempt to raise $20,000 for The American Cancer Society and The National Wildlife Federation through Indiegogo, which is a crowd-funding site.
Rather than raising the $20,000 that was the initial goal, the campaign by Inman raised $220,024. There are two main reasons for this success:
- How charity is viral in nature (more people are going to share if it is something for the “greater good”)
- Because it created a firestorm of media coverage (including articles on Ars Technica and Forbes)
Two months after this initial charitable campaign, Inman began a second fundraising campaign. This time it was an effort to help the New York-based Nikola Tesla Museum. During this effort, more than one million dollars was raised.
4The Site Features a Simple, Basic Design
Photo Credit: theOatmeal.
Inman was not always the owner of The Oatmeal. In the past, he was a graphic designer. The majority of the posts on this site are comics, which makes sense when you look at the design, which is mostly visual.
He offers a tile layout with each one featuring a headline. This is an approach that is smart with space. As a result, it allows the homepage to easily showcase 25 different blog posts without appearing cluttered.
This is a design choice that plays a huge role in how “sticky” the site is. (A sticky site is one that holds visitors attention for longer periods of time). At the bottom of each post, after the comment section, there are eight tiles, each one with an invitation for a visitor to click on it and read more.
The header on The Oatmeal is not even 70 pixels tall. While larger headers grab attention, the shorter header featured on The Oatmeal leaves additional room for content above the fold.
Also, there is an opt-in form on the page. Instead, the Oatmeal offers a pair of “Email” text links that take you to a page where you can input your email address. While Inman may acquire more email subscribers when he uses an opt-in box that was obvious on the page, doing it the other way is much less pushy and it helps to ensure that anyone who really wants to get on his list is going to search it out and enter their information.
3The Oatmeal Made its First Money with Donations
After The Oatmeal began to receive large amounts of traffic, the site, which was image-heavy, started to cost Inman a few thousand dollars each month in hosting fees alone. At this point, he did not have any monetization plan in place, which is why he installed a simple donation button through Paypal. Along with this button, he added a statement that read something similar to “If you like The Oatmeal, it is a one man operation, so buy me a cup of Joe.” This was reported in an interview with the Chicagoist.
After this donation button was put into effect, Inman thought he would begin to receive a few bucks each day. However, he was getting quite a bit of traffic, and as a result, he got much more than he ever thought he would. In one interview he even stated that he felt a little guilty and felt like he needed to give something back. That is when he had the idea to sell merchandise, such as posters and other items.
At the very beginning, Inman earned hundreds of dollars each day. It was more than what he needed to pay the recurring hosting fees but nowhere close to the current profits of the website which are over half a million dollars. These are the funds that were derived from his monetization strategy that is coming up next. The bottom line is that Inman isn’t greedy and never wanted more money than he needed – but he also knew he could do good with the money donated.
2You Can Purchase Posters and Other Stuff when You Visit the Site
Photo Credit: theOatmeal.
Approximately 75 percent of the profit The Oatmeal earns today is from the merchandise sold on the website. Some of the items you can buy include badges, magnets, stickers, signed prints, coffee cups, clothing, calendars, greeting cards, and informational wall posters. Inman has also written two books, which he promoted during two national book tours.
The products you are going to find in the store are not priced outrageously. In fact, you can find items that range in price with $5 being the least expensive and $45 being the highest priced item. The average cost of merchandise sold by The Oatmeal is $20. Each year, to reach the profits the site is earning, a total of 18,750 products are sold. This is 1,530 items each month, and about 51 products a day. Since the site has a reader base of approximately seven million, Inman only needs a conversion rate of about 0.02 percent of all visitors to purchase something.
The tab that reads “Shop” is where you can find all the products Inman has for sale. However, from time to time, he also includes a plug for the items in his content. The top selling products are the posters, the ones that are educational such as the ones that highlight grammar rules. These are funny but also informative.
1You can Find Great Discounts on the Merchandise Being Sold
There is no question that making something limited, such as a limited offer or a limit to the number of products available, can make sales skyrocket. This is why a great bargain is a huge part of the monetization strategy used by The Oatmeal.
During the first anniversary of The Oatmeal, Inman held a sale offering half off all the products in the store. He expected to receive two or three times the normal orders he received. However, for that one day, the store did $25,000 in business. This was 10 times what was usually made. To process all the orders, he wound up having to call his cousins. It took him weeks to get caught up with all the orders that were made.
Inman values his customers and he shows this by offering great content that is fun to read. He also offers great deals on the merchandise that are offered in his store. If you are a loyal reader, and visit the site each day, chances are you are going to run into one of these great sales from time to time. Also, signing up for the email list provides you even more of a chance to get these great deals.
Loyal readers are rewarded with great discounts. This is yet another reason to become an avid fan of The Oatmeal. You are going to enjoy the content, love the merchandise, and find it exciting to see what is coming next.
At the very heart of the success of The Oatmeal is the creative, genuinely funny, and unique content that is created by Inman each week. The bottom line is that he is great at what he does and he loves it. It is not luck that has led to his success. He had the courage to take a chance on the one thing that he desired more than anything.
However, Inman is finding success in a manner that other spectacular comic writers are unable to because he has created a great, personal connection with his followers and readers. When posting on his site, he lets it all “hang out.” He doesn’t censor himself online, even as he moves more and more into the spotlight. The result of this honesty is a huge following of loyal people who trust Inman and who feel as though they actually know him personally.
The majority of people don’t run an entertainment website. As a result, they are not able to create such comical and crass content like The Oatmeal does. However, you can attempt to emulate the commitment to excellence, integrity, and candor that is evident in every piece published on the website. These are the factors that really set this website apart and something that makes him one of the most successful and entertaining bloggers out there. If you have yet to experience The Oatmeal, you can see why it is so popular. It is a great blog, with informative information that you are actually going to enjoy reading.