Posted by:on September 20th, 2007
Be careful what you wish for. If you spend the time and money to make something worthwhile online, you want people to read it. If you get too many people reading, it can become quite expensive and time consuming to maintain. I used to spend a lot of time on Concrete Disciples and Sleestak. As I started to develop Skate and Annoy more, I gradually chose to spend more time creating on SNA and less time reading other sites. Maintaining these things can be a bitch, just ask the guys who do it. Adding forums generates a headache of a different level of magnitude. Imagine every jackass commenter you see on this site multiplied by 100 or 500. Flame wars, server overloads, spam posts… I know, cry me river right? I haven’t been following it in detail, but I know Jeff Greenwood over at Concrete Disciples had some health issues for a while, and I think he’s turned over the reigns of CD for the most part. A while ago they made the decision to contract an online advertising agency to help generate ad revenue and pay for the heavy usage the site gets. At first there were a lot of “crossover” ads for action sports related companies, you know, lifestyle stuff. Buy your surf trunks here, etc… I was over there the other day and got a little bit of a shock when I pulled up a page and found geographically targeted ads trying to sell me a car in Portland, as well as ads for Verizon. Basically, non skateboarding related in any sense. It kind of bummed me out a little, but I know they aren’t “selling out”, they just need to pay the bills.
The reality is that skateboard companies aren’t real fond of shelling out money for advertising online, or even in print, unless you are talking about the major magazines. At best, they might be persuaded into flowing some product if you know someone who works there. A free deck isn’t going to pay your hosting bill or allow you to take time off of work to go photograph a skateboarding event, or pay for gas on a road trip. What about Google ads? Those are those text only ads that a lot of sites use on every page. I think you get paid a couple of cents if someone actually clicks on them. One of the problems is that most of the links that come up are for generic online extreme sports retailers, you know “Buy a World Industry complete for $99.” Personally, every time I see one of those Google text ads I think that they really aren’t doing anything besides diluting the appeal of the site. I’m not looking for the kind of reader that doesn’t already have a favorite local or online shop that they frequent on a regular basis.
How do sites handle it? Sleestak went to the “invite only” method, and occasionally has events where the community will donate money or time or goods or services to help out, but for the most part it comes out of Bobcat’s pocket. As a result, the community is a lot smaller that it could be, and there have been frequent “service outages” and reboots of the site. But it’s there for those who care, and without advertisements of any sort.
By contrast, Concrete Disciples is huge, and must be an even huger headache to manage. They have a lot of features, but I’d wager the bulk of the traffic is on the server heavy discussion forums. And they’ve got advertisements, but I’d seriously doubt anyone is actually making money over there. If they are, then more power to them.
Other sites? Well, it’s not uncommon to see a lot of “This site is a lot of work, I need your donations in money and content to make it work.” These kind of pleas can come off very whiny and childlike if you’re not careful. I mean, either do it because you love it, or get your shit together and approach it as a money making venture. Just don’t try and guilt your readers into supporting you as if you were on some sort of public broadcasting telethon.
What about Skate and Annoy? Well, I’ve tried to assemble a cast of enthusiasts who can generate quality content. Of course, nobody gets paid so it’s all for “the glory” or creative outlet, which doesn’t exactly encourage regular participation, especially when you can head on over to Blogger.com and set up your own site to contribute whenever you feel like without the restrictions of some guy calling himself your “Editor” and trying to get you to do things his way all time. Thanks Conahan I have some help! We run some banner ads at the top, most of which were for trade or are affiliated with people we know. Occasionally, we get someone willing to part with cash for ad. We also have the skateshop link (OldSchoolSkaters.net) on the side of the page. We get a small percentage if someone clicks on the link and actually buys something. So far we’ve made less than $200 total, but it’s better than nothing. lately I’ve been getting approached by a few web sites and companies that are geared towards extreme sports. They poke around tentatively, but are interested in much more complex (and intrusive) advertising programs than I am willing to offer, or they are more one-sided in their benefits, sometimes requiring adding their content that I’m pretty sure our readers are not going to be interested in.
So what do you think? Do you run a skateboarding web site that actually gets any money from Google text ads? Does anyone actually pay attention to banner ads on the skate sites they visit? Do ads for non-skateboarding related companies have a negative effect on you as a viewer?
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