How much do you hate banner ads?

The time has come for a consideration of something we thought wouldn’t happen… But the signs are all around that the business model of the Free Web is unsustainable and possibly it isn’t here…

An article in The Register sums up a couple of weeks of articles we’ve been reading about the revenue stream from advertising.

To be quite honest, the revenue stream from advertising is non existant and getting slowly worse. We are doing somewhere around 4 times the advertising hits we did this time last year and we are earning LESS than we did in October 1999. We’ve heard lame excuse after lame excuse from the ad banner providers, about ‘well its the Millenium Bug got everyone jittery’ (thats a true quote from one of them at the beginning of 2000!).

Quite honestly, our dream of running a number of websites as our fulltime job is evaporating real quick. This means we still have to work to feed our families and if we’re doing 40+ hours a week in a real job, the time for doing this is a lot less. Wanna know how much revenue we pulled in last month for all of the hits we got? I’ll tell you. Around $80. Deduct server fee’s of $355 and you see where we are.

You might say wow, compared to the millions I’ve seen dotcoms spending thats nothing. But we are not a dotcom. We’ve never had cash to literally burn. In fact the cashburn of the dotcoms is exactly why we are in the position we are in, but thats an aside.

So what are the choices? Well, we could continue as we are, spending nearly $300 a month on our hobby (which DearDiary is), and as some hobbies go that isn’t too bad really… We could close it all down and cut our losses, which we don’t really want to do even though we could keep our diaries on other free sites. Or we can change our business plan, and adapt to the changing fortunes of the web world.

The sad fact is, that we are all too aware that most people want something for nothing, and why wouldn’t they? I know I do! But I also know that if I use something a lot and feel the authors deserve some recognition, some payment for it, then I am more than happy to pay some small fee for using it.

Shareware springs to mind. You try some software for 30 days and if you like it, you pay a moderate (sometimes stupidly small even!) fee to continue using it. Getright an excellent download manager, and Becky! an excellent Email client are but two examples of software I have recently ‘registered’.

So, what are we contemplating?

A subscription mechanism. Basically. We’re presently simply asking for your opinion. We do not have any concrete plans in place. Do not write to us and flame us, you’ll be ignored. But please DO write to us with something constructive to say. The sums are not finalised, (possibly between $15 – $30 a year?), the benefits of subscribing are not yet finalized but one thing is for certain, a subscriber will see no banner ads!

You know, at $15 a year, we only need 10 people each month to register and we suddenly double our income… Its still not enough but it’d be a whole lot closer 🙂

So, please write to us with your thoughts. How much, for how long. How would you want to pay (credit card, micropayment, paypal)? A yearly subscription, monthly or only when you use it? Should readers have to pay as well as writers? Other features we could offer to subscribers over and above non subscribers?

If you’d like to see our rationale for this, there’s some links here;

CombatSim.COM goes subscription based, and Dougs (who’s site admin and setup sounds remarkably similar!) reasoning behind it. Also this article from Jack Nielsen indicates that more and more places on the web will have to take up this sort of business model in order to survive.

In reality, this model is exactly what we have already in the real world. Its rare that you can get free subscription to a magazine, and only then if the advertisers are advertising enough in it! What we are offering here goes beyond that. It would give you the moral choice of paying or not…

Please send your comments to [email protected]

Steve and Matt.

Matt and Steve. (Just in case he gets mad for me putting my name at the front!)