2009 was productive and successful for ProCon.org. Our major accomplishments and events for the year were:
1. We added 10 new issue websites (in order of launch): Alternative Energy, Prescription Drug Ads, Drinking Age, Right to Healthcare, Cell Phones, Social Networking, College Football, Social Security, Video Games, and Obesity (I. below).
2. We enhanced our resources for teachers and expanded the list of schools that use ProCon.org from 266 at the end of 2008 to 932 at the end of 2009 (II. below).
Steven C. Markoff, Chairman
3. We celebrated our Five Year Anniversary (III. below).
4. Our traffic increased 20% over 2008 to 6,523,545 sessions in 2009 (IV. below).
5. Bruce McNall replaced A. Searle Field on our Board of Directors (V. below).
6. We were referenced in the mainstream media 76 times in 2009 - compared to 55 times in 2008 (VI. below).
7. We created a Future Topic Survey to get input from our readers on which topics to cover next and received 615 responses (VII. below).
8. We corresponded with hundreds of VIPs who helped improve our content (VIII. below).
9. We received 1,663 reader emails in 2009 (IX. below).
10. We increased the average number of external sites per month that link to ProCon.org sites from 40,036 in 2008 to 105,503 in 2009, a 163% increase (X. below).
11. Our ranking on Alexa.com, a web service that measures the popularity of the 16 million most popular websites, improved from 46,276 overall and 13,339 US in 2008 to 43,638 overall and 12,530 US in 2009 (XI. below).
12. Our organization ended 2009 with a staff of nine in-house employees (XII. below).
13. In 2009 we received total gross income from donations of $660,012, down from $776,297 in 2008 (XIII. 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 2009.
10 New Issue Websites: In 2009 we added 10 new websites and broke our former record of four new websites in one year. Those 10 sites are listed below in the order in which they became publicly available:
On Mar. 2, 2009, ProCon.org launched the website Alternative Energy ProCon.org to explore the question "Can alternative energy effectively replace fossil fuels?" At the time of launch, it was our 17th website and had over 200 pro and con responses from more than 175 sources. The site received 94,253 sessions in 2009 making it the 15th most popular of our 29 websites that year.
On June 8, 2009, we launched our first ever "micro" website Prescription Drug Ads ProCon.org to explore the core question "Should prescription drugs be advertised directly to consumers?" The site received 18,647 sessions in 2009 and was referenced by Business Week.
On July 29, 2009, we launched the website Drinking Age ProCon.org to explore the question "Should the drinking age be lowered from 21 to a younger age?" The site received 75,397 sessions in 2009 and was referenced by WCBI TV in Columbus, MS.
On Sep. 18, 2009, we launched the website Right to Healthcare ProCon.org to explore the question "Should all Americans have the right (be entitled) to health care?" The site received 32,695 sessions in 2009 and was referenced in the media by the Docket. The Los Angeles Times also wrote an online article about the website that was reprinted by the Wall Street Journal.
On Sep. 24, 2009, we launched the website Cell Phones ProCon.org to explore the question "Are cell phones safe?" The press release was reprinted in 207 media outlets including AOL Money News, Forbes, Reuters, Yahoo!, and local news stations around the country. Two publications, Hot Hardware and Wireless Week, ran stories about our new website.
On Oct. 14, 2009, we launched the website Social Networking ProCon.org to explore the question "Are social networking sites good for our society?" The site received 19,432 sessions in 2009.
On Nov. 20, 2009, we launched the website College Football ProCon.org to explore the core question "Should college football replace the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) with a playoff system?" The site received 4,727 sessions in 2009.
On Nov. 24, 2009, we launched the website Social Security ProCon.org to explore the core question "Should Social Security be privatized?" The site received 3,496 sessions in 2009 and received two media references, in the Huffington Post and the News and Tribune.
On Dec. 8, 2009, we launched the website Video Games ProCon.org to explore the core question "Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?" The site received 2,800 sessions in 2009 and was discussed in numerous video game magazines in 2010.
On Dec. 28, 2009, we launched the website Obesity ProCon.org to explore the core question "Is obesity a disease?" The site received 496 sessions in 2009.
ProCon.org for Teachers: ProCon.org enhanced its resources for educators in several ways in 2009.
First, we expanded the list of schools that use ProCon.org from 266 schools at the end of 2008 to 932 at the end of 2009. 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 updated various sections of our Teachers' Corner page including "Lesson Planning with ProCon.org" (added three more lesson plan ideas), "National Teaching Standards Used by Incorporating ProCon.org Content into Lesson Plans" (added four more national educational standards), "Books, Articles, and Studies about Using Controversial Issues to Teach Critical Thinking" (added 13 more), and, of course, more comments in our Teachers' Comments and Students' Comments pages.
Third, we added a new section titled "Why It Is Important to Teach Critical Thinking Using Controversial Issues" that provides the following key statistics proving the value of services like ours:
* 93% of higher education faculty believe critical thinking is an essential learning outcome.
* Critical thinking is considered the second most important life skill after interpersonal skill. * Learning and discussing controversial issues in school helps students become more informed and more active citizens.
* Learning about controversial topics in school increases students’ political participation.
* Students who debate controversial issues in school are more likely to be engaged and active citizens.
In 2010, we will continue to make our extensive resources available at no charge to teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, students, and others. We believe that most of the approximate 100,000 schools in America would love ProCon.org if only they knew about it. We would appreciate it if you would tell all the teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, and students you know about us and our work.
Sources: Ian J. Quitadamo and Martha J. Kurts, "Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology,” CBE Life Sciences Education, Feb. 2007.
Cooperative Institutional Research Program, "1994 Nine Year Follow-Up Survey (of 1985 Freshmen),” Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, 1995.
Keith Barton and Alan McCully, "Teaching Controversial Issues...Where Controversial Issues Really Matter," Teaching History, June 2007.
Lee Ehman, "Social Studies Instructional Factors Causing Change in High School Students' Sociopolitical Attitudes over a Two-Year Period,” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Apr. 1977.
Molly Andolina, et al. "Habits from Home, Lessons from School: Influences on Youth Civic Engagement,” PS: Political Science and Politics, Apr. 2001.
ProCon.org 2009 Highlights:
Nov. 2, 2009
ProCon.org needed one more state, North Dakota, to have its content referenced by schools in all 50 US states. On Nov. 2, 2009, we learned that the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) included a link to ProCon.org from its library page to "help students in Writing and Communications classes at NDSCS, with links to useful resources related to class assignments.” ProCon.org is now used by schools in all 50 states and at least 17 countries.
Guidestar, one of the largest information services about nonprofits in the US, declared ProCon.org a "Valued Partner” and one of its "Partners in Trust” because of the amount of information about ProCon.org that we had made publicly available.
ProCon.org celebrated its 5-year anniversary with a party for supporters and friends from 4-7 pm in our Santa Monica office. We also held five anniversary contests and awarded winners over $500 in cash and prizes. See photos and video from the party, find out who won the contests, and read highlights and reflections from our first five years on ProCon.org's Five Year Anniversary page.
July 14, 2009
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell met with ProCon.org’s founder Steve Markoff. After the meeting, California’s highest elected education official Tweeted:
"Just met with the founder of procon.org. It's a great resource that breaks down hot button issues with quality, sourced info… The best part about procon.org is the entire web site is free to use... no registration necessary. If you’re in ed, check it out... a quality resource for controversial issues...”
July 8, 2009
On July 8, 2009 ProCon.org content was referenced in an animated video for the first time.
Apr. 7, 2009
ProCon.org began using Facebook and Twitter to interact with our readers. We ended the year with 1,065 Facebook fans and 5,916 Twitter followers.
Mar. 20, 2009
Released the first ProCon.org email update newsletter for free to over 1,200 opt-in recipients.
ProCon.org passes the 100 mark for number of times our sites have been referenced in the media.
Feb. 9, 2009
ProCon.org created a volunteer program. We had three Senior Interns (200+ hours in one year), 5 Interns (50+ hours in one year) and 16 Volunteers (20+ hours in one month).
Feb. 2, 2009
ProCon.org was honored to receive the "Best Non-Profit to Work For" award in a national competition. ProCon.org was one of five winners in its class of "non-profits with an operating budget of under $2.5 million." There were 15 winners total. There are roughly 1,000,000 nonprofit organizations in the United States.
Traffic: ProCon.org websites received 6,523,545 sessions in 2009 compared to 5,447,287 sessions in 2008 - a 20% increase. Our websites have received a total number of 19,729,398 sessions since the organization's formal inception in 2004.
The ProCon.org parent website increased its traffic from 799,756 in 2008 to a new annual record of 1,123,591 sessions in 2008 - a 41% increase! The detailed traffic chart appears below.
(Alphabetical order with parent site first)
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.
* These websites existed prior to the formal creation of ProCon.org in July 12, 2004. Read more about the origins of these websites and how they relate to ProCon.org by clicking here.
Board of Directors: ProCon.org replaced one Board member in 2009. We welcomed Bruce McNall as our newest Board member on Sep. 29, 2009 - the same day A. Searle Field left the Board.
Mr. McNall has had a long and storied career in professional sports, business, and motion picture entertainment.
In professional sports, he is the former owner of the Los Angeles Kings hockey team where he famously signed Wayne Gretzky to play for the Kings. He was elected Chairman of the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors – hockey’s second highest post. In 1989, he received the Sporting News Executive of the Year award, and in 1993 he won the NHL’s Lester Patrick Award for contributions to hockey in America. He co-owned, along with actor John Candy and hockey star Wayne Gretzky, the Toronto Argonauts team of the Canadian Football League. He also owned thoroughbred racehorses, one of which (Saumarez) won France's most prestigious race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
He did business as a coin and antiquity dealer for several years. As a film producer, he was responsible for the following motion pictures: War Games (1983), Mr. Mom (1983), and Weekend at Bernie's (1989) among many others. He was awarded the Key to the City of Los Angeles, the Key to the City of Toronto, Man of the Year at City of Hope, and numerous other civil honors.
He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he received the Regent’s Award – the highest award given in the University of California system. He was also an instructor of ancient history at UCLA.
In 2003 he published a book about the highs and lows of his life titled Fun While It Lasted: My Rise and Fall in the Land of Fame and Fortune. The remaining Board members stayed the same during 2009: John Kurtz, JD, Jadwiga Markoff, MD, PhD, and Stan Shimohara, JD, CPA, MBA. I continued as Chairman.
In the News: ProCon.org received 76 media references in 2009 compared to 55 in 2008 and 16 in 2007. The references started on Jan. 1, 2009 with the Real News Network, a television news and documentary network in Toronto, Canada. Popular Science magazine wrote an article about our Sports and Drugs ProCon.org website, saying that it is "better than much of the so-called science available elsewhere on the Web and well worth a read." Other notable media references included the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CBS News, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and USA Today.
ProCon.org Future Topic Survey: We started a ProCon.org User Survey on Jan. 8, 2009 to get input from our readers on which topics to cover next. The survey received 615 responses by Mar. 30, 2009. The survey results follow:
Which topic do you think ProCon.org should cover in 2009?
Cell Phones - Are they safe?
Cuba - Should the US continue its embargo?
Dieting - Do diets work?
Drinking Age - Should it be lowered to age 18 (the legal voting age and minimum age for military service)?
Genetic Engineering - Does it have a net benefit for the US?
Health Care - Should we have a national system?
International Criminal Court - Should the US join this independent court that tries persons accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes?
Monogamy - Is it natural?
National Service - Should the US require some type of military or civil service?
Social Networking - Are sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc. good for America?
We agreed with our survey respondents, and we built new websites about the four most popular topics (those with a double digit - 10% or more - level of interest). Thank you to our readers for your terrific feedback.
VIP Correspondence: We've received beneficial feedback and/or content from many VIPs. Here's a random sample (in alphabetical order):
Matthew James Barbabella, Editor of the Yale Law Journal and JD Candidate at Yale Law School
Joe Barnes, Bonner Means Baker Fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University
Brian Black, PhD, Professor of History and Environmental Studies at Pennsylvania State University at Altoona
H. Sterling Burnett, PhD, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA)
Helen Caldicott, MBBS, Former President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute
Michael C. Campbell, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Northern Illinois University
Alfred W. Crosby, PhD, Professor Emeritus of History, Geography, and American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin
Tami Denis, Health Editor, Los Angeles Times
Martin Donohoe, MD, FACP, Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Community Health at Portland State University
Susie Dugan, Director of Drug Watch's Communications Office
John Gallagher, Director of Public Relations at the American Academy of Ophthalmology
Tom Farrey, Senior Writer for ESPN.com
Gary J. Gates, Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute in the UCLA School of Law
Eugene Gholz, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin
Carissa A. Gilman, MA, Managing Editor of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians
David N. Glesne, DMin, Senior Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Fridley, MN
Bobby Gravitz, Director of Speechwriting and Research at the USDA Office of Communications
Caroline K. Hatton, PhD, Consultant for Sports Anti-Doping Science
Charles C. Haynes, PhD, Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center
Jane Hellinghausen, MA, MS, CFLE, Department Chair of Psychology/Sociology/Substance Abuse Program at Odessa College
James Hitchcock, PhD, Professor of History at Saint Louis University
Jane Elizabeth Hughes, MA, MBA, Professor at the Neil D. Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce at the State University of New York
Derek Humphry, President of the Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)
Eleni X. Karageorge, Economist for the Bureau of Labor Statistics Division of Information Services
Kelly King, Vice President of Pacific Biodiesel Inc.
Ryan S. King, Policy Analyst for The Sentencing Project
David Jaeger, PhD, Professor of Economics at the City University of New York Graduate Center
Paul A. Lombardo, PhD, JD, Professor of Law at Georgia State University's College of Law
Jeff Manza, PhD, Professor of Sociology at New York University (NYU)
Michael Newdow, JD, MD, famous for filing lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance
Mark J. Perry, PhD, Professor of Finance and Business Economics in the School of Management at the University of Michigan-Flint
Jeffrey S. Passel, PhD, Senior Demographer at the Pew Research Center
Robert W. Righter, PhD, Research Professor of History at Southern Methodist University
Ramona Ripston, Executive Director of the ACLU of Southern California
Ethan Russo, MD, Senior Medical Advisor at the Cannabinoid Research Institute
Alan R. Sanders, MD, Director of the Behavioral Genetics Unit at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute
John Sloboda, Co-founder of Iraq Body Count.
Vaclav Smil, PhD, Distinguished Professor in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba
Richard J. Stoll, Professor of Political Science at Rice University
Amy Traub, Director of Research at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy
Debu Tripathy, MD, Professor of Medicine at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center
Karl Vick, Reporter for the Washington Post
John Whitehead, Professor of Economics at Appalachian State University
Ken Zweibel, Director, Institutefor Analysis of Solar Energy at George Washington University
Reader Comments Pro & Con: We received 1,663 reader emails in 2009. 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 love your website. I make reference to it all the time, especially when discussing hot topics on which I have a strong opinion. You should ‘publicize' this site more on news webpages, with CNN, Fox, etc... Please please please remain balanced. I don't detect any political leanings right now and I hope you keep it that way!" Maureen, Nov. 12, 2009
"I'm a student at CSUF and used this site to help me with my medical marijuana persuasive speech. I found this site to be LEAGUES better than ANY other site I've ever used for a paper, essay, or speech. It was extremely difficult (nearly impossible, in fact) to find a non-biased source. Here, it doesn't filter opinions based on who donates the most, which some similar sites do. I was very pleased with the simplicity, organization, and overall usefulness of this site." Robert, Nov. 8, 2009
"I would really like to personally thank you through this email for your tremendous work at www.ProCon.org. It is one of the most useful websites that I've ever seen with rich contents. I can find my knowledge base is increasing each time I visit that website. Good luck and please stay online." Ibrahim Al-Hudhaif, Network Security Engineer at Al-Rajhi Bank (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Nov. 1, 2009
"This is one of the best sites on the Internet for people that are trying to either form or clarify their personal opinions on the current topics of the day. Keep up the GREAT work." Allen, Oct. 31, 2009
"I just now found this site, and I am in love with it. I'm a home school debater, and I can't wait to share this with all my friends! This is awesome! Keep up the great work!" Emilie, Oct. 22, 2009
"EXCEPTIONAL; ProCon.org ranks with 'think tank' sites and Congressional Research Service Reports in its quality and usefulness for research on important issues. BRAVO." Paul Barron, Director of Library and Archives at the George C. Marshall Foundation, Oct. 8, 2009
"…it is highly unlikely that a piece of work that carefully-planned, consistent in following a very detailed set of policies, and high-quality could be a wiki." Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, Aug. 14, 2009
"The website ProCon.org is nonpartisan and not-for-profit and highly professional - what we all need for intelligently objective dialogue. I am supporting ProCon.org financially and in any way else I could help because we all need to think critically and not dogmatically or politically… I am glad to support this educational website because it helps us to be critical thinkers and to be less judgmental of others.” Phil, July 2, 2009
"You are providing a very valuable service." Helen Caldicott, MBBS, Former President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute and Co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Mar. 5, 2009
"Keep up the great work. We truly need an unbiased, nonpartisan organization like yours to help us ‘sift’ through such major domestic socio-economic issues that ProCon.org places a powerful spotlight on for Americans to become enlightened and engaged in OUR democracy! Count on me to keep ‘spreading the gospel’ of ProCon.org!!!" Michael A. Freeman, Executive Director, Trans-American Alliance for a National Consensus (TANC), Mar. 3, 2009
"During this era of 'newspeak' and a one sided 'free press' it is refreshing to find a site that tries to promote an equal presentation." Charles, Jan. 19, 2009
"You guys have a lot of nerve saying you are non-partisan. You come down firmly and clearly on the right of every issue I have read. You have a great idea here but I could never recommend you to serious people." Matt, Dec. 2, 2009
"Your site [Medical Marijuana ProCon.org] is somewhat informative but otherwise worthless. Why don't you investigate, find the truth, and then get behind the pro pot campaign?... I realize you're middle of the road, sitting on the fence, position. That's cool. But in a way all you do is feed the ignorant and starve the informed. I smoke pot for pain so I, like thousands of others, really don't get much out of your site. On the other hand, those that are ignorant and narrow minded are fed doubt of validation regarding pot. That's not cool." Ron, Sep. 14, 2009
Linked Sites: The number of 3rd party websites that linked to ProCon.org in 2008 was 40,036 per month. In 2009, that average increased to 105,503 - a 163% increase!
Alexa Rankings: Our ranking on Alexa.com, a web service that measures online popularity, improved from 46,276 overall and 13,339 US in 2008 to 43,638 overall and 12,530 US in 2009.
Staff: Our organization ended 2009 with a full-time staff of nine in-house employees. Our end-of-year staff included six researchers, one IT Manager, one Managing Editor, and me, our President and Chairman (unpaid).
ProCon.org held its 246th weekly staff meeting on Dec. 29, 2009. These weekly staff meetings remain excellent forums for our staff to exchange ideas, news, site progress, and statistics.
Financials: 2004-2009 Financial Information for ProCon.org:
In 2009 ProCon.org received total gross income from donations of $660,012 down from $776,297 in 2008. Of our $720,151 in 2009 expenses, $618,097 (85.8%) was spent on program services, $62,527 (8.7%) on management and general expenses, and $39,527 (5.5%) on fundraising expenses. ProCon.org operates with such a high percentage of its expenditures in program services for several reasons, including: we spend small amounts to yield large amounts of funds raised, our operation is remarkably efficient, and our Chairman has refused a salary since we started.
2. 2009 vs. 2004 - 2008 Expenses: A Graphical Breakdown
3. Detailed Chart of Financial Data, 2004 - 2009
For the 12 Months
Ending Dec. 31, 2009
% of Total
For the 12 Months Ending Dec. 31, 2008
% of Total
For the 12 Months
Ending Dec. 31, 2007
% of Total
For the 12 Months
Ending Dec. 31, 2006
% of Total
For the 12 Months
Ending Dec. 31, 2005
% of Total
For the 6 Months
Ending Dec. 31, 2004
% of Total
- Total Contributions (Unrestricted)
2. Efficiency of Expenditures:
- Program Services Expenditures*
- Management and General Expenses**
- Fundraising Expenses
3. Excess <Deficit> of Operating Revenue
over <under> Expenses:
4. Balance Sheet:
as of 12/31/09
as of 12/31/08
as of 12/31/07
as of 12/31/06
as of 12/31/05
as of 12/31/04
- Cash and Cash Equivalents
- Total Assets
- Payables and Accrued Expenses
- Total Liabilities
- Net Worth <deficit>
Total Liabilities and Net Worth
4. Definitions of Terms Used [Definitions provided by the Internal Revenue Service - http://www.irs.gov/instructions/i990-ez/ar02.html#d0e5239]
Program services are mainly those activities that the reporting organization was created to conduct and which, along with any activities commenced subsequently, form the basis of the organization's current exemption from tax.
Overall management expenses usually include the salaries and expenses of the chief officer of the organization and that officer's staff. General expenses include those for meetings of the board of directors or similar group; committee and staff meetings (unless held in connection with specific program services or fundraising activities); general legal services; accounting (including patient accounting and billing); general liability insurance; office management; auditing, personnel, and other centralized services; preparation, publication, and distribution of an annual report; and investment expenses.
Fundraising expenses are the total expenses incurred in soliciting contributions, gifts, grants, etc.