Monday, July 28, 2008

Truth in Advertising (or lack of it)

In an article on Friday by Tech Confidential, Etsy Chief Cupcake Officer Rob Kalin reports:

"There are 200,000 sellers making their livings from Etsy,"

ORLY? Let's check some facts. If you go to the Sellers page on Etsy and have a look at the list of seller accounts, you'll see there are 10,408 pages. At 20 accounts per page, that's 208,160 sellers. But oh, just wait a second... if you sort the sellers by number of listings, you'll find that the number of shops with at least one item for sale in them ends at page 4,551, meaning there are actually only 91,020 people selling things on Etsy, at the time of this writing. [edit: at the time of publication, these numbers are already inaccurate]

Huh. Wow. So Chief Cupcake is off by a mere 117,140 sellers. Maybe it's a misquote? Possibly, but given Etsy's propensity for inflating numbers and Rob's history of bluffing his way into jobs, we doubt it. He either didn't bother to check the numbers on his own site, or he didn't bother to tell the truth. You pick!

Let's examine the second half of that sentence. "Making their living from Etsy". Now apparently, in this thread, some people are defining "making a living" as buying some groceries and putting gas in their car. We here at EB tend to think of the phrase in the more old-fashioned way, as in, earning an income, not pocket money. How many sellers on Etsy are actually making their income from Etsy? We're not sure exactly how many, but we're pretty fucking sure it ain't 200,000. Seller Abitabite does a little math in the thread and points out that since in June the value of sold items on Etsy was $6.5 million, 200,000 sellers means that $32.50 was earned in that month per seller. Is $32.50 a month a liveable wage? You decide!

This is hardly the first time Etsy spins some incorrect numbers for PR fluff. Remember the big announcement they made about reaching ONE MILLION members? Except it wasn't one million members, it was one million registrations. Thanks to numerous people pointing out that little error they used the correct word in the Storque article three days later. Oh, and don't mind that little afterthought tacked on down at the bottom of the article in italics, the part about not accounting for users who have multiple accounts and the "one million" including accounts that have been closed.

Etsy isn't even above using sellers' private income as fodder for the PR machine. Several people in the thread recalled Etsy telling Martha Stewart that Emily Martin of TheBlackApple, one of Etsy's top handmade sellers, makes six figures, which Martha announced during her segment with Emily. According to Emily's blog, that figure is not an accurate reflection of her business, and was revealed against her wishes. For shame, Etsy. We thought you were all about respecting each other.

Etsy, could you just get fucking real, for a minute? You have half the sellers you say you do. Almost none of those sellers make a living just from Etsy. And those who do don't make six figures. Of course, we don't expect you to share any numbers that would be real eye-openers, like how many accounts have been closed, how many shops have been opened and never used, how many buyers have signed up and never bought anything. But enough with pimping a dream that doesn't exist. Figure out what's good and true about yourself, and sell that instead. Once upon a time you said you favoured transparency. The waters are looking pretty murky now.


theoriginalwtf said...

mmm, I think your math's a little off (might be that there are 20 sellers per page, not 21, but I'm not caffeinated enough yet to say for sure), but the point is well taken.

HOESOF said...

"He either didn't bother to check the numbers on his own site, or he didn't bother to tell the truth. You pick!"

Of course a third possibility is that the blogger quoting him got it wrong.

But that wouldn't fit the EB agenda, so it obviously is not the case.

The Malevolent One said...

Caught it, wtf. Hoesof, we did mention the possibility that he was misquoted. But we think that's probably not the case. Mary Kathleen Flynn has written a number of articles on Etsy before and we think she knows her stuff. But hey, you can ask her - she's got an account on Etsy and has posted in the forums before.

impetuous said...

It's OBVIOUS how ridiculous this comment is to anyone who sells here. No agenda needed.

HOESOF said...

Yeah, see, that's not how it works among responsible people. You don't throw out innuendo and then tell anyone who challenges it "Well then go find out the truth yourself..."

If you know the information to be inaccurate, then the first thing to do is ask whose information it is. If you are assuming the authority to lay blame for the bad info, then you are also assuming the responsibility to get it right.

Basing it on what other admins have done in the past is not evidence of anything in this case. Your assumption is based on reasoning something like "We know he screwed up because Etsy always screws up."

TheSneakyOne said...

No, sorry, it doesn't work that way here. If you have issue with tech confidential, take it up with them. We've given all 3 possibilities, but it is our opinion that Tech Confidential most likely got it correct.

If you don't like it, too bad for you.

innuendo based on prior lies said...

hoesof said...

..."Your assumption is based on reasoning something like "We know he screwed up because Etsy always screws up."

But Etsy *does*--- consistently and repeatedly--- screw up and they LIE.

Furthermore, if the quote was taken out of context, then Mr. ChiefCreativeOfficer should get his ass into the forums --or Storque-- or wherever there is conversation happening. And he should say he was misquoted.

Pretty simple, actually.

Then nobody will need to discuss, accuse or speculate.

impetuous said...

The Hoe said:
"If you are assuming the authority to lay blame for the bad info, then you are also assuming the responsibility to get it right."

If you are assuming your authority lays the responsibility on EB, to assume blame for the bad info, your assuming is ass backwards. I assume you are responsible for patrolling the internet defending Etsy and it's authorities? Laying blame where no one assumes responsibility? If so, then you are also responsible for making assumptions!

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

just bitchy said...

Has anyone else noticed the number of posts about QYDJ or about people ACTUALLY QTDJ in the business section of the forums?

Unless you are already making enough money online right now to pay for everything you require then DON'T QYDJ because the dipshits at etsy (who BTW have a salary and insurance and other benefits) tell you you can do it.

QYDJ means you pay for your own insurance, if you take days off you don't get paid, your income is not guaranteed and will likely fluctuate wildly.

It is a great thing for some people a a total disaster for others.

Don't jump on the QYDJ bandwagon unless you know EXACTLY what you are making now, spending now for your day to day life and to maintain your business and how much you need to maintain your lifestyle.

As for Kalin, he's a tool and a dangerous one. Good riddance.

HOESOF said...

It's funny that you all seem to get it exactly half right - Are there 200,000 people "making a living" on Etsy? Well, a quick look at the FACTS show that there are certainly not. This is a statement that can be verified or disproved by going to an original source of information. You give your reasoning and math and back it up. Nobody is making a living on $32.50 a month.

So then the next question, since this apparently false statement is being attributed to someone by a third party, is "why?" Was Kalin lying? Mistaken? Was it a typo? Did the author get her notes mixed up? Was an important word omitted?

Just like the first "fact," this can be verified by going to the original source - in this case, the author. But that's where you suddenly lose the thread of following the responsible path. Instead of going to the source, like you did with the first statement, you assume that "well, the author probably knows what she's doing, so Kalin must be lying."

So why give up on the research halfway through? Would it not have been in the service of your point to verify this so you could have written "The author confirms that she verified this quote with Kalin?"

Why didn't you? Too lazy? Or just too eager to cobble up another hatchet job? You pick.

TheSneakyOne said...

Sorry, we just report what we see and how we feel and think about what was said. We don't do investigative journalism. If that's what you expect of us, you're sadly mistaken. We give the information we find and expect readers to make their own decisions about it, and maybe laugh at our snark. We might break it down to make it easier to digest, but it is out opinion that Tech Confidential got it correct. You don't feel that it is the case, go start your own blog about it.

Don't like it. Don't read it. We're not going to change for a troll like you.

just bitchy said...


Why don't you do the detective work if you are so interested? Why don't you write or call the author?

Otherwise, STFU.

blacksheep said...

Frankly, if the quote contained erroneous information, and I were Rob, I'd have contacted Tech Confidential and asked them to correct their mistake. I find his silence more confusing than the possibility that the publication may have erred.

Trace said...

I've seen alot of people have closed up shop for the summer but that doesn't mean they are gone for good, that doesn't mean he completely didn't do his research.

I can't believe how nit-pick some of these posts are. What exactly does his number quoting have to do with your daily Etsy selling experience? I'd say none, so why don't we move on to the real issues?

Wende said...

Well, clearly Rob's been reading the fora and has adopted a certain Pie's "FACTPINION."

Truth is SO last year. Accuracy last century.

HOESOF said...

Did I not hit the submit button, or am I now being "moderated?"

Just curious.

The Malevolent One said...

Trace, we don't find that fact that Etsy has on multiple occasions spun grossly inaccurate figures for PR "nit-picking". It's either unethical or sloppy. Whichever it is, it paints an entirely different picture of Etsy than what actually exists. We think that's a "real issue". But if you have other issues you'd like us to talk about, then shoot us an email.

eclipse said...

In another article last year, Rokali said there were 50 sellers on Etsy selling over $30,000 a year.
That is gross sales, NOT profit. If you subtract materials and overhead, their income is probably closer to $15,000 a year.

Current (2007) poverty level income for a single person with no children in the US is $10,787.
Add one dependent child and the poverty threshold is $14,291.

I would not call $15,000 a year "making a living", I would call it barely surviving. And there are only 50 people making more than that much from Etsy income alone. Not 200,000.

eclipse said...

Here is the complete paragraph-

Kalin also notes the managerial and technical challenges of running a rapidly growing startup. "There are 200,000 sellers making their livings from Etsy," he says. "Launching a single feature on Etsy now involves talking to 15 people. Creating a process to do that is a fair amount of work."

Mary Katherine Flynn put this in quotation marks, so I do not think it is paraphrased or that she misconstrued something he said. When you put something in quotes, it indicates the person said those exact words. If she had combined several statements into a summary or put something into her own words, she would not have used quotation marks.
I think Rob did say it, and I think he knows it is incorrect.

The Kinky One said...

$15,000 a year is called "having a second job" or "living at home with your parents". Shoot, cost of living around where I live is so bad that $30,000 a year is practically poverty level.

HOE - all comments are being moderated (not just yours, but everyone). It might take a few minutes or more to see your comments appear depending on who's online and as long as the debate stays a debate and does not get personal and nasty.

impetuous said...


As you can see we now, suddenly have "Batch Feedback" to keep us busy and distracted! No need to discuss Kalin's exaggerations or the coral nail polish he wore to his last board meeting!

carry on!! nothing more to see here!

impetuous said...

Here is the frightening NYT article where he tells everyone he can't possibly be a CEO because of the nail polish he is wearing.............

sooooo, I guess there are no women CEO's Rob? Or is it that women CEO's don't do their nails? I can only imagine the uncomfortable obligatory laughter that occurred when you revealed your hands.

The Ebon Swan said...

Impetuous, you tease! The link to that article isn't working!

eclipse said...

link to NYT

CORAL? yecchhh.
nail polish on men is hot, but NOT coral. Black or silver or cobalt blue. Coral is for old ladies at the early bird dinner in Boca Raton.

impetuous said...

try this to read about his coral nails

The Incredulous One said...

Why do they let him out to speak in public?

Wende said...

EXCUSE ME... I wear coral, Eclipse. Who you calling OLD? *snarf*

Old ladies in Boca Raton... grumble, grumble.

I've ceased being amazed by anything Rob Kalin says. Appalled, sure. Amazed? Yeah, not so much.

Wende said...

Correlation does not equate cause and effect... but in this case, I think Impetuous is on to something. In fact, I'm paranoid enough to believe that EVERYTHING we want is in a queue waiting for Rob to stay something stupid to the press. Diversion, look at the pretty new toy.

If that's the case, someone needs to get him on National Television, Quick, so we can get Search fixed.

peacekeeper redux said...

" Truth is so last year. Accuracy last century."

thank you for the quote

Just this morning I was telling my pro bono therapist the latest Etsy outrage: RK removing the skateboard ramp with his fingernails painted coral, quoted in the NY Times ! Why ? HAH !

Later a sales rep from weddingwire called me on the phone ! I was so happy ! The phone ! Old school ! Did I want to advertise on the fastest growing wedding website on the internet because they just hooked up with Martha Stewart? I will be focusing on this endeavor full on, and hopefully not give a damn what happens to Clown Nursery School, AKA Etsy Admin They can bring in all the hot shots they want from Yahoo NPR etc, but when the Wedding Wire sales person told me had never heard of Etsy, steam came out of my ears. It is quite possible that the latest chess board skirmishes are too little too late.

If Etsy does not seriously start rolling out a major buyer trolling advertising campaign they will watch Etsy go down the drain.

seriously pissy said...

HMMMM, lets also not forget that it is okay to be a "mom and pop shop" and be promoted on Etsy, and that is okay too, because while a certain mom and pop shop are making thousands the rest of us are lucky to be able to fill their gas tanks on what we make on etsy.

Anonymous said...

This is getting a little silly isn't it? Etsy is so irresponsible.

The Funny One said...

It's really such a shame that this list of comments got so completely off track because of accusations that have now turned sellers on sellers. Which is pretty much what Etsy has taught this community to do.

Etsy's PR statements give quite a different picture of the Etsy that sellers know today. And the PR statements clearly encourage more sellers to open shop with the hope of making money. How many comments are posted each week in the Forums by sellers complaining that they "have not had one sale"? Etsy not only said they would, Etsy writes a weekly column on Quit Your Day Job.

A company that cannot live up to its PR is one problem, but Etsy has really lousy PR with its own sellers. Etsy communicates in fits and starts, and uses a punitive system throughout the site to silence sellers who can't understand why the PR differs so drastically from reality - for 3 years!

No matter what the issue is, pitting sellers against sellers is the ONE THING ETSY HAS EXCELLED AT. And it is no wonder that sellers are expressing their disgust and dissatisfaction in several ways, EB being just one of them. You have to ask what the hell made sellers treat each other like crap-------well, Etsy did.

Etsy's PR has dozens of holes in it, but the real PR they have perfected is making sellers actually believe Etsy works for them. That's the biggest, baddest PR misdirection of all.

cuppycake said...

" Except it wasn't one million members, it was one million registrations."

I'm assuming the difference between members and registrations is that some people have cancelled their etsy accounts, closed their shops, etc.? Is that right?

Simone said...

"I've seen alot of people have closed up shop for the summer but that doesn't mean they are gone for good."

Actually, if you look at those empty shops you'll see that a lot of them show no sign of any activity all the way back to 2005. That's a very long summer!

Around the time the do's and don'ts were written Rob said that abandoned shops would be removed: "Accounts that have been confirmed but are inactive for 12 months (no logins or activity) will be suspended, pending reactivation.":

Obviously that's never happened, but it also shows that Etsy is well aware that there are a lot of abandoned shops. But I guess it looks better to be able to keep quoting those big numbers.

As for making a living on Etsy, where I live even $30k net would see me living in poverty. But $30k gross for a business is insanely low almost anywhere in the western world, surely! If those are the best figures they have, then people are crazy not to be expanding their businesses well beyond the Etsyverse.

dennisanderson said...

I make alot of money in sales on etsy and was able to quit my dayjob. With expenses and overhead subtracted and monthly bills and insurance and food for 3 kids taken care of with just what I make on etsy, so I am beginning to expand off of etsy in a gradual process. I am not saying I am leaving etsy at all, but I am doing more craft shows and linking up with other site. I just purchased my first domain, and hopefully can get a site up soon, even if its a small site where etsy customers can see different products of mine. I am really having a hard time swallowing that I have been paying between 400 - 600 dollars a month on etsy fees. You might call me a lucky one, not to have to go to work, or may call me stupid for quitting my dayjob, but I am happy and have more time with my little girls.

The Malevolent One said...

Dennis, we don't think you're stupid. If you're paying all your bills from Etsy and you get to spend more time with your children, that's fantastic. We just think your story is far, far from the typical Etsy experience. It's great that you're expanding off-Etsy as well, and no doubt you'll be able to bring some of your Etsy customers over to your website and cut down on those Etsy fees. Congrats on your success.

The Malevolent One said...

Cuppycake - In addition to closed and abandoned accounts, the true number is lower because one person can make multiple registrations. All it takes is one email address per registration. So one Etsy member could have registered many times.

Smarty Pants said...

Just to clarify... I do not make my living from Etsy. So far, it has earned me nothing but expenses and sucked some time out of my life. I am thankful for the goodies I have found there, amazing talent does exist, but it's not enough to gain my loyalty.
Silly Etsy, tricks are for kids.

impetuous said...

It's interesting how people read into these comments. No one ever said people who make a living on Etsy are stupid. Some are just pointing out that there are not 200,000 people making a living on Etsy.

Meanwhile, it is also interesting that the few people I hear about that are able to quit their day jobs have to pay 5-800 dollars a month in listing fees and are forbidden to expand their work force.

I don't see Kalin using those stats in public.

April Horsman said...

Isn't that wild!!? I think I did make something close to $32 this month.... but once the etsy fees and cogs comes out, harldy enough for a coffee and a bagel. But maybe that IS making a living?

LOVING the blog ladies.

I happen to be an ex-ra-ra-yaya-go-etsy-go-girl. Yes I was. Even after I was burned. These days I'm getting real. And demanding a lot more. Thanks for the outlet and fabulous info!


cuppycake said...

"Cuppycake - In addition to closed and abandoned accounts, the true number is lower because one person can make multiple registrations. All it takes is one email address per registration. So one Etsy member could have registered many times."

Ah, that makes sense. I knew I was missing something. Thanks!

impetuous said...

Here's a poll, Hoe. Let's see what people think.

thestinkyone said...


I have 4 accounts, 2 active shops, 1 empty shop and one buyer's account. The only ones I link together are the 2 active shops, Etsy can take a flying leap on the others. And I know for a fact that a few other people have multiple accounts and are not disclosing them, mainly buying accounts so they can keep their purchases private since Etsy favors transparency everywhere but their own back yard.

Etsy reminds me of the Direct TV vs Cable ads. If you aren't familiar with them, you can view them here: specifically look at the one titled "statistics" and "laughable".

yeah you right said...

i agree with many sentiments here, but if you think 400-600 in monthly fees is a burden, you should try doing shows where the fees range from 600-1000, easily, a pop (and those are lowballs) and rent equipment to haul your set up, paying help, purchase advertising, insurance and etc and then it rains or something and your projected attendance falls as do your sales.try doing that every month, plus gas and lodging so adding etsy to your repertoire, especially when the weather is crummy and you can sit in your pajamas isnt that bad.

impetuous said...

I hear ya, Yeah You Right but again, no one is saying Etsy is a place that you can't make a living.

There just aren't 200k people doing it.

j. hart photography said...

not to mention (yeah you said right) that those types of shows don't have restrictions like etsy. could you imagine paying those kinds of fees on stuff that ONLY YOU and YOU ONLY had made?? no one in their right mind would do it unless the average selling price on items was over $800 each.

you're comparing apples to oranges.

yeah you right said...

omg they have huge restrictions j hart-
first you are juried in
that in and of itself is a huge obstacle-
then, no reproductions and of course it must be original art
they only let in just a few of each category
finally you must make enough original items so that you can sell 10K is apples and oranges
selling at art fairs is a huge effort

Peldyn said...

wende, I noticed you did not pay your fee for the use of Factpinion to Pel/Pie Industries, fork it over (grin)!

Seriously, I make a living doing what I do, but it is not on Etsy. I came to Etsy when I was in the middle of a website restructure and never left because I made friends in the forums. From the very first time I landed in the forums I quickly found out what was happening to sellers and I was appalled at etsy's failings. have tried to make constructive criticisms and been rebuffed. Etsy tried to say that the problems lay with us and not with them. Right.... As if that could possibly be true when all we wanted was a search that worked, listings that didn't disappear into thin air, reliable shop statistics, advertising to get the word out to potential buyers etc.! But no, we are just "grumpy haters' sigh. I do hope is changing and that search is next. More people have contacted me about making items this month, so maybe something is working?

tell the truth said...

Does quitting your day job qualify if you got fired from your day job?