2008 was a productive and successful year for ProCon.org. The following are our major accomplishments:
1. We modified our mission statement to make it more pronounced that the basic job of ProCon.org is to promote critical thinking (I. below).
2. We met our four primary goals for the year (launch four new websites, increase the number of schools using ProCon.org to 250, maintain our existing websites, and increase the number of our visitors - see section II. below).
Steven C. Markoff, Chairman
3. We added four new issue websites: Insider Trading, Death Penalty, Big Three Auto, and Sports and Drugs (III. below).
4. We increased the number of schools that have either referenced ProCon.org in their educational materials or that have developed entire lessons around our content from 113 at the end of 2007 to 266--our goal was 250--at the end of 2008 (IV. below).
5. We developed our first political election website, 2008 Election ProCon.org, which became our most successful website ever with 914,622 sessions in 2008 and which was selected by the Library of Congress for permanent archival as one of "the nation's cultural artifacts" and "of historical importance to the Congress and to the American people." (V. below).
6. Our traffic increased 53% over 2007 to 5,447,287 in 2008 (VI. below).
7. We added one director, A. Searle Field, to our Board of Directors (VII. below).
8. We were referenced in the mainstream media 44 times in 2008 - compared to 16 times in 2007 (VIII. below).
9. We revamped our sites on June 30, 2008 and simplified their navigation (IX. below).
10. We created a User Survey to learn more about our readers and gauge our success - the result with 2,217 responses by Dec. 31, 2008, was overwhelmingly positive (X. below).
11. We corresponded with hundreds of VIPs who helped improve our content (XI. below).
12. We received 2,400 reader emails and posted 640 reader comments on our websites in 2008 (XII. below).
13. We increased the average number of external sites per month that link to ProCon.org sites from 29,255 in 2007 to 40,036 in 2008 (XIII. below).
14. Our ranking on Alexa.com, a web service that measures online popularity, improved from 263,167 overall and 63,907 US in 2007 to 46,276 overall and 13,339 US (XIV. below).
15. Our financial and fundraising information for the year ending Dec. 31, 2008, will be added upon receipt of our audited financial statements (XVI. below).
Thanks to our visitors for their continued interest in the information we supply, and thanks to our talented researchers, IT Manager, Managing Editor, Board Members, and volunteers. Thanks as well to our expert sources, the media who referenced us, the hundreds of teachers who used our content in the classroom, and to the millions of ProCon.org readers who helped our organization become so successful.
My thanks again to everyone who helped us achieve so much in 2008.
P.S. If you like our sites, please tell your friends and make a tax-deductible contribution of $5, $10, $100, or $1,000 or more to help us continue our work.
Mission Statement: We made a slight modification to our mission statement to make it clear that the basic job of ProCon.org is to promote critical thinking.
Old:"Promoting education and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format."
New: "Promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format."
Goals: ProCon.org had four main goals in 2008 and we accomplished all of them. Those goals were:
"To launch four new websites."
DONE. In 2008, we made four new websites available: Insider Trading ProCon.org (launched on May 30, 2008), Death Penalty ProCon.org (launched on July 31, 2008), Big Three Auto (launched on Dec. 3, 2008), and Sports and Drugs (launched on Dec. 29, 2008).
"To maintain and provide regular critical information updates to all 15 specific issue sites -- 13 current sites, two archived sites and the four sites scheduled to launch in 2008"
DONE. All of our websites remained actively online and all but the the two archived websites were regularly updated (some much more frequently than others).
"To increase school participation from 113 to 250 schools"
DONE. We expanded the list of schools that use ProCon.org from 113 schools at the end of 2007 to 266 at the end of 2008.
"To increase the number of visitors to ProCon.org websites; inclusive of students, the general public, policy makers, and the media"
DONE. From 2007 to 2008, we increased the total number of visitor sessions to ProCon.org websites by 1,892,712 (a 53% increase) to reach 5,447,287 sessions by the end of 2008.
Four New Issue Websites: During 2008 our goal was to add four more "issue" websites and we did just that while tying our record for most new sites in a year.
On May 30, 2008, ProCon.org launched the website Insider Trading ProCon.org to explore the question "Should insider trading by Congress be allowed?" Although this subject had a higher learning curve than most due to its complexity, we were able to build something so unique and so helpful that we received kudos from several current and former Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) officials. At the time of launch, the website had 11 questions, over 50 bios, and four left column resources. The site received 25,960 sessions in 2008 making it the 16th most popular of our 20 websites that year.
On July 31, 2008, we launched the website Death Penalty ProCon.org to explore the question 'Should the death penalty be allowed?' The press release received 162 clips - more clips than any of our former releases (former record was 42 set by Felon Voting), but those media references did not result in massive direct traffic to our site. We did retain the #2 position in Yahoo! for death penalty news for two days. The site received 41,596 sessions making it the 15th most popular of our 20 websites in 2008.
On Dec. 3, 2008, we launched Big Three Auto ProCon.org, our first ever mini site, to explore the question "Should the Big Three automakers be bailed out by the US government?" The press release was picked up by over 200 media outlets, and we received 8,927 sessions in one day - a new launch day record. The website received 18,708 sessions in 2008 making it the 19th most popular of our 20 websites.
On Dec. 29, 2008, we launched Sports and Drugs ProCon.org to explore the question "Should performance enhancing drugs (such as steroids) be allowed in sports?" The website launched with over 250 statements from more than 200 experts on about 30 questions. It received 460 sessions in three days, and was written up by Popular Science magazine on January 7, 2009 where it was described as "well worth a read."
ProCon.org for Teachers: ProCon.org enhanced its resources for educators in several ways in 2008.
First, we expanded the list of schools that use ProCon.org from 113 schools at the end of 2007 to 266 at the end of 2008. We add schools to this list when we see that an educator (not a student) from that school has referenced ProCon.org online, usually in a lesson plan or suggested resources list. We include a PDF of the lesson plan so that other educators can get ideas and draw inspiration from each other.
Second, we developed a section titled "Lesson Planning with ProCon.org" where we present lesson plan using ProCon.org content and show how those lessons comply with specific national teaching standards.
Third, we posted several articles about the benefits of teaching controversial issues, and we included teacher comments and student comments about their experiences using ProCon.org in school.
In 2009, we will continue to make our extensive resources available at no charge to teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, and students. We believe that the 100,000+ schools in America would love ProCon.org if only they knew about it.
Notable Achievements on Existing Websites:
A. Although not a new website the 2008 Election ProCon.org website broke many traffic records in 2008. It received the most sessions in a day with 32,317 (on Nov. 4, 2008), sessions in a month with 210,006 sessions (in Oct. 2008), and sessions in a year with 914,622 (in 2008). The website was referenced in 10 media outlets, including the San Jose Mercury News, the National Catholic Reporter, and Free Beer and Hot Wings, a nationally syndicated radio program. We were ranked third in Google for the term 2008 election - only CNN and Wikipedia were ahead us. For our first foray into election politics, we did phenomenally well and will likely tackle the next presidential election since we have a winning layout and programming already set up.
B. On April 30, 2008 ProCon.org was selected by the Library of Congress (LOC) for "inclusion in its historic collections of Internet materials related to Election 2008."
According to the LOC website (http://www.loc.gov/webcapture/) the materials they want (including ours) are considered part of "the nation's cultural artifacts" and "materials of historical importance to the Congress and the American people." 4,000 sites in 2002 and nearly 800 sites in 2000 were added to the LOC section on elections. Those sites were related to elections involving Presidential, House, Senate, gubernatorial, and major mayoral elections.
We gave the LOC permission to make our research available to "researchers onsite at Library facilities" and "available to offsite researchers by hosting the collection on the Library's public access Web site." They may also include our site in "future collections related to national elections."
C. Some of our other accomplishments: Responded to 2,400 emails from our readers, improved all our "Link to Us" buttons, added SSL encryption to make our admin system more secure, acquired our own dedicated server, acquired a ProCon.org credit card with 4% cash back on all purchases, launched an RSS feed so readers can receive free ongoing updates about ProCon.org's new content, enabled online donations from every page of every ProCon.org website, added "How to Cite ProCon.org" resource, added "Our ProCon.org (Internal) White Board" resource, and reduced spam received through our sites by 99%.
Traffic: ProCon.org websites received 5,447,287 sessions in 2008 compared to 3,554,575 sessions in 2007 - a 53% increase. Our websites have received a total number of 13,537,211 sessions since the organization's formal inception in 2004.
The ProCon.org parent website increased its traffic from 347,241 in 2007 to a new annual record of 799,756 sessions in 2008 - a 130% increase! The detailed traffic chart appears below.
(Alphabetical order with parent
site first and archived sites last)
*A session is any 30-minute or less period of time in which an individual IP address accesses one or more files from one ProCon.org website. This definition of a "session" comes from Urchin (now owned by Google) - the software program used to track our website traffic.
Board of Directors: ProCon.org added one new member to its Board in 2008. We welcomed A. Searle Field, JD, as our newest Board member on Oct. 15, 2008.
Mr. Field has a degree in economics from Princeton University and graduated at the top of his class from Georgetown Law Center. He served in the U.S. Senate Watergate investigation, and as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the Intelligence Committee in the United States Congress.
In the 1980s, Mr. Field was the CEO of Field Industries, Inc., a leading regional construction materials business, and later served as President of the quasi-public Connecticut Development Authority, overseeing a significant economic response to the severe economic and banking crisis in the early 1990s.
Mr. Field was Chief of Staff to Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker, and Chief of Staff to the Mashantucket Pequots, owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino. He has also been Chief of Strategic Planning and Enterprise Management for the highly successful Mashantucket ventures.
As a Principal of Sportscorp Ltd. based in Chicago he has been involved with professional sports teams, primarily in the NFL and Major League Baseball, here and abroad, during which he has made extensive use of his career-long passion for leadership and personal effectiveness behaviors.
The remaining Board members remained the same during 2008: Jadwiga Markoff, MD, PhD, John Kurtz, JD, and Stan Shimohara, JD, CPA, MBA. I continued as Chairman.
In the News: ProCon.org received 44 media references in 2008 compared to 16 in 2007 and 17 in 2006. The references started on January 2, 2008 with the Charlotte Observer, the largest daily newspaper in North and South Carolina, which mentioned our election website. Throughout the year we participated in one radio interview (102.3 WGOW in Chattanooga, TN) and one television interview (Bridges-TV cable station in Port Orchard, NY). Some of our numerous print and online media references included the BBC website, MobLogic.tv, the Oregonian, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate magazine, Huffington Post, Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden), Lenta.ru (Russia), San Jose Mercury News, and Discover Magazine.
ProCon.org Revamp: On Monday June 30, 2008,ProCon.org unveiled new design for all ProCon.org websites with over 10 new features including search function on all pages, email this page function on all pages, scrolling news, faster server, time and date stamp on all pages, and more. Also upgraded was the content management system which made adding and editing content more efficient.
Given the substantial amounts of data on our websites, the redesign project required a tremendous effort. We had over 25 people from six companies in five cities spend over 9,000 cumulative hours to (among other things):
* Transfer over 5,500 pro and con arguments
* Rewrite over 6,000 introductory statements
* Transfer about 1,500 resource pages
* Transfer over 2,500 source biographies
* Relink nearly 47,000 links
* Reupload over 1,400 files
* Clean up over 2,000 images
* Research and update content on thousands of pages
ProCon.org User Survey: We started a ProCon.org User Survey on April 14, 2008 to learn more about our readers and gauge our success. The result, with 2,217 responses by Dec. 31, 2008, was overwhelmingly positive. The survey results follow:
1. Your Age
11 or under
65 or older
2. Your Gender
3. Your Ethnicity
American Indian or Alaskan Native
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic or Latino
Other (please specify)
4. Did ProCon.org help you to think more critically, to make better judgments on the subject matter, and/or to see issues in a new light?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
5. Did you learn any new facts or information and come away with a deeper understanding of the issue or subject matter?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
6. Based on what you learned at ProCon.org, did you change any of your perceptions, feelings, or opinions on an issue?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
7. Did you learn any information from ProCon.org that you will probably use in the future?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
8. Did your experience at ProCon.org make you want to learn more about any of the subject matter?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
9. Did you enjoy your overall experience at ProCon.org?
A. Pro (yes)
B. Not sure
C. Con (no)
10. What are the reasons for your visit to ProCon.org? (check all that apply)
to gain or improve general knowledge on specific controversial issues
to work on a school assignment
to validate or confirm my beliefs on an issue
to challenge my beliefs on an issue or to be my own devil's advocate
to help me take a position on an issue
to help me to decide how to vote on an issue or candidate
to help me win a debate
Other (please specify)
VIP Correspondence: We've received beneficial feedback and/or content from many VIPs. Here's a random sample (in alphabetical order):
Virginia Deane Abernethy (Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Anthropology at Vanderbilt University)
Dr. Imad-ad-dean Ahmad (President of the Minaret of Freedom Institute)
Dr. Cherie Bagley (President, Ohio Women in Psychology)
Stephen M. Bainbridge (William D. Warren Professor of Law at UCLA Law School)
Gina Bombardieri (Reports for the Boston Globe)
Dr. Jack Britt (Vice President for Agriculture of The University of Tennessee)
Dr. J. Budzizweski (Professor of Government and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin)
Dr. Arthur Caplan(Professor of Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania)
Richard C. Dieter (Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center)
Peter-Jan Engelen (Assistant Professor of Finance at Utrecht University)
Dr. Paul Finkelman, JD (President William McKinley Distinguished Professor of Law and Public Policy Albany Law School)
Stephen Fox(Managing Editor, Santa Fe Sun News)
Heather Gonzales (Association Director, National Association of Evangelicals)
Danielle Gordon (Editor, ChicagoTribune.com)
Stuart Green (Louis B. Porterie Professor of Law at Louisiana State University Law Center)
Matthew Hawes (Press Spokesperson for Ron Paul)
Thomas Lee Hazen (Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law)
Peter Henning (Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School)
Kimberly Hill (Reporter, ECT News Network)
Gina Jones (Digital Media Project Coordinator, Library of Congress)
John Judge (Press Secretary for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney)
Ryan King (Policy Analyst, The Sentencing Project)
Loralynne Krobetzky (Communications/Media/Policy Director, Nader for President)
Andre Krouwel (President, Electoral Compass)
Jessica Lamos (Policy Advisor for Congressman Brian Baird)
Dr. Luc Van Leidekirke (Professor of Business Ethics at the universities of Leuven and Antwerp)
Carol Leigh (Co-Founder of the Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network)
Henry G. Manne (Dean Emeritus at George Mason University and Adjunct Scholar at the Cato Institute)
Joshua Marquis (District Attorney for Clatsop County Oregon)
John Massaro, JD (Author of No Guarantee of a Gun: How and Why the Second Amendment Means Exactly What It Says)
John J. McMahon (Pro Bono Program Director at University of Iowa Law School)
Skyler McKinley (National Press Secretary for Mike Gravel)
Toshihiko Murata (Food and Agriculture Organization Liaison Office with the United Nations)
Thomas Newkirk (former Associate Director, Division of Enforcement, US Securities Exchange Commission)
Dr.Holona LeAnn Ochs (Professor of Political Science at Howard University Graduate School)
Jaline Quinto (Communications Manager, DC Vote)
Jonathan Salant (Political Reporter for Bloomberg News)
Hilary Shelton (Director, NAACP Washington Bureau)
Nancy Slonim (Deputy Director for Policy Communications Division for Media Relations & Communication Services for the American Bar Association)
DeAnne Stone (Director of Correspondence for Alan Keyes)
Dr. Gerald Steinberg (Professor of Political Studies at Bar Ilan University, Israel)
Mary Starrett (Press Secretary for Constitutional presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin)
DeAnn Stone (Press Secretary for Independent presidential candidate Alan Keyes)
Dr. Roman Tomasic (Chair of Company Law at Durham University)
Carol Watts (Webmaster, League of Women Voters)
Dr. Dov Waxman (Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Baruch College, City University of New York)
Reader Comments Pro & Con: We received 2,400 reader emails and posted 640 reader comments to our websites in 2008. Over 99% of the emails we received were favorable or neutral to our overall efforts. Below you'll find a sample of comments from some of our more enthusiastic supporters and detractors.
"I am the librarian in a grade 7-8 middle school in northern New Jersey. I put together an information pathfinder for an 8th grade English class doing a persuasive writing unit. The kids whose issues are covered on ProCon.org are finding it very useful in their research. As their teacher-librarian, I am always happy to find current, authoritative and, in the case of these hot issues, balanced information for my students. This is an excellent resource for our students. Thanks!" Mary Kay Risi, Teacher-Librarian at River Dell Middle School (River Edge, NJ), Nov. 13, 2008
"I believe what you are doing is INCREDIBILY important in an age of Rush Limbaugh and pre-spun, impressionistic, image-driven decision-making. It takes time (lots of it, as you know) to ferret out the truth. And most everyone is too busy (or lazy) to do the digging. You're doing God's work! I'm glad to promote your website, and I'll be back for my own reference later. Thanks again and keep up the good work!"
Michael Greer, Webmaster of www.bestfreetraining.net, Nov. 11, 2008
"Thank you for your in-depth research on the presidential candidates' stances on the various issues. Up until this morning, I was still undecided on who to vote for. I was actually leaning towards one candidate based on hearsay. After taking time to go through each candidate's profile, I was surprised to find the other candidate was the one whom I felt best represented my beliefs and interests. I appreciated knowing if either candidate changed their stance on an issue and what it was before. So, thank you ProCon.org for the great work! I will definitely look you up next time around." Carla, Nov. 4, 2008
"During the summer session, my humanities class met every day. Because of that, I was able to use pro-con subject material two to three times a week; your service was invaluable in helping students understand various issues in much more depth than that to which they are accustomed. Usually students know (or think they know) whether they are "for" or "against" something, but they are clueless as to solid reasons relative to each position. Pro-con brings subjects to life for them, making for a much more meaningful learning experience.
I also plan to use your service later in the current semester." Steve Clark, Adjunct Instructor of Humanities at Wayne Community College, Sep. 18, 2008
"The ProCon site is excellent: balanced, reasoned and not packed with the useless nonsense that choke most political web sites. Love it. And you can quote me on that!"
Doug Brooks, Founder and President of International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), June 3, 2008
"I looked at your Procon.org website, and I found it interesting that people on both sides of an issue argued that the Procon was biased against them. To me, that's a good indication that you are in the middle." Alexander, Apr. 8, 2008
"Thank you to ProCon.org for putting together this excellent educational site. There is so much to know and you've organized the information in a way that is easy to navigate and understand.
I stumbled upon ProCon.org via google search in my quest to gain a better understanding of the election process and who the candidates are for 2008. By far procon.org had the most indept and valuable information that I found. And I spent many hours searching the internet. I wanted to understand each candidate, their issues to make sure my vote goes to the most qualified candidate. I've shared this site with my community a while back as there are many in my community may benefit from this site. Especially our youths.
As I say, there is so much information out on the internet and it is difficult determining which is credible and which is not. I can not imagine how much time and effort is put into a site like procon.org. And best of all, it is FREE to the public. I am enlightened and it did not cost me a dime. How beautiful is that. Thank you again." Chanly Bob, Board Chairman of Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, Apr. 3, 2008
"I just want to say this site is amazing. I wish I knew about it when I was in high school it would have helped me out a lot. I'm in college now and I have to write about a controversial issue of my profession im entering which is the medical profession. I have to compare 3 websites and without a doubt this one was the best and displayed the most information and was unbiased." Amanda, Feb. 19, 2008
"I am requiring that my speech and debate students use your websites for the final exam. We are doing debates for the final, and you guys have websites for three of the four topics. Brilliant! You should market your website to speech teachers." Carl Rogers, Teacher at Redondo Union High School, Redondo Beach, CA, Jan. 16, 2008
"Finally! Something easy and concise for selecting a candidate [2008 Election ProCon.org]. I feel people are too lazy to vote or confused on issues and candidates, but if they realize there is a vehicle that will streamline the confusion or bias, maybe they would be more inclined to vote. Thanks SO MUCH!"" Christi, Jan. 6, 2008
"The entire Clinton administration advised for regime change in Iraq and passed their intelligence and 'on the record' statements that Iraq had WMD, planned to use them. Because you are not upfront about this...you are a partisan unpatriotic libtard jerk.
Oh...not to mention, you make no mention of General Tommy Frank, the leader of CENTCOM under Clinton and through both the starts of both wars.
It is HE that advised we go to war...Bush and Cheney did not do this in a vacuum.
You are stupid, foolish and unpatriotic to say otherwise and libtards like you embolden the enemy and cost this country, TIME - MONEY and Soldiers lives." Jeff, May 10, 2008
Linked Sites: The number of 3rd party websites that linked to ProCon.org in 2007 was 29,255 per month. In 2008, that average increased 40,036 - a 37% increase!
Alexa Rankings: Our ranking on Alexa.com, a web service that measures online popularity, improved from 263,167 overall and 63,907 US in 2007 to 46,276 overall and 13,339 US in 2008.
Staff: Our organization ended 2008 with a full-time staff of ten in-house employees. Our end-of-year staff included seven researchers, one IT Manager, one Managing Editor, and me, our Chairman (unpaid).
ProCon.org held its 194th weekly staff meeting on Dec. 30, 2008. These weekly staff meetings remain excellent forums for our staff to exchange ideas, news, site progress, and statistics.
Financials: 2004-2008 Financial Information for ProCon.org:
Our accounting department expects the audited report to show that in 2008, we were slightly under our budget of $717K.