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Thinking of starting a site like eHow - seems too easy
Always wanted to start a big content site

 9:32 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

In all my years of Internet marketing I've always focused on very commercial sites, selling some type of products and/or services. I've always wanted to do a big content site and I'm seriously thinking about it again.

I'm interested in doing a "how to" type site like eHow for example. I read a few old articles about them that were pretty interesting - they were funded with 24 million and filed bankruptcy a few years later. How in the world they managed to do that I don't know - perhaps it was just a case of corporate waste and they spent investors money like there was no tomorrow, I don't know.

Obviously they are still around, so maybe they have figured out ways to make money. I think part of the problem was that they relied too heavily on banner ads, even after banners hit the toilet. I see they are now using Adsense, direct people to Ebay to buy stuff related to the articles, etc.

It just seems like a no-brainer for a site. They claim over 15,000 articles - how hard can that be? Even at $10 an article that would "only" cost me $150,000 and I'm 110% confident I could make a heck of a lot more than that from all the free search engine traffic that would result from it.

Am I missing something here? Just keep adding articles, growing the site, making more and more money, and eventually sell it to some company for at least a few mil. No?



 9:33 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Oh and I forgot to say ... that maybe it wouldn't be a generic site like eHow with articles on 100s of topics. One could build a niche site that is specifically focused on various industries, professions, hobbies, etc. Maybe then you'd only have a few 1000 articles so it would be easier, cheaper and faster to get it off the ground ...


 9:49 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Thats what I do now. There are some perks but you must know how to set your site up properly. It doesnt matter what kinda of idea you have, you need to get into the brain of google. That is all I will say. Good luck! you can sticky msg me if youd like more info we can speak in private sometime. Cheers.


 9:55 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi Limit,

Am I missing something here? Just keep adding articles, growing the site, making more and more money,

That is the very definition of a "content site" and there are hundreds of webmasterworld members who are doing just that in thousands of niches, including myself.

Most people choose a small niche they know really well (like a paralegal webmastermaster would choose some legal topic). This lets them stay interested in the topic even after writing hundreds of articles.

If you want to see an example of a good model content site, I'd check out:

1) Europeforvisitors.com (run by WebmasterWorld member EuropeforVisitors)

2) Sitepoint.com, which currently has 805 articles and seems to earn a pretty penny.

The trick is to get a good CMS, build a SEOed site, get a few inbound links, and then just write like crazy.

[edited by: Livenomadic at 9:56 pm (utc) on Oct. 17, 2004]


 9:56 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Cool, thanks for the reply - I'll do that.

I definitely need to start learning about SEO because I have never ever relied on search engines for traffic. It was always advertising, affiliates, etc. With my past and current sites I could care less about SEO so that is probably the one "important" thing I don't know much about.


 10:00 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Working on something along these lines right now in a niche - a very broad niche, but a niche nonetheless.

As Livenomadic says, the right CMS is the challenge so you can concentrate on writing and managing. I've looked at several and dumped them all so far.

*sigh* so instead of writing for the next month or two... I'm going to knuckle down and finally learn php properly. :) It's a good thing at the end of the day though - I'm far to picky to put up with someone else's conception of how things should work.


 10:00 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I don't imagine I would write even 1 article. No offense to those that do, but it seems to make a lot more sense to just hire a few people who know about the topic to write the articles while I would focus on more important things - like promotion and making money.


 10:02 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I love content sites beacuse they can only get bigger.

For example:

I start with a 5 page site, thus I have 5 pages producing revenue.

A week later I add 5 pages, now I have 5+5 (10) producing revenue..

A week later I add 6 pages, now I have 5+5+6 (16) producing revenue..

etc.. etc...

This example sounds silly, but it is very powerful because given enough time, a single person can have a 2000+ article site, no need for lots of staff, no need for lots of overhead (only hosting), and no need for advertising (if you are big enough). Furthermore, even if you stop working on your site for 6 months, its revenue will not dip too much (unlike ecommerce when the products needs to be built, packages, shipped, and supported).

I dont have the spare income like limit does to hire authors, so this allows me to join build my own empire for little cost.


 10:04 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Exactly ... it seems to be a good model for a "long term" site which is kind of where I'm at now. Just keep plugging away at it for a few years or longer and watch it grow.


 10:06 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Ah - outsourcing huh?

:) Might if I had the budget, but I don't. And I admit.. I'm tired of coding and programming and I want to just write for a bit.

I do anticipate the point coming where I will solicit contributions, but I'd like to 'set the tone' first.

Actually, I'm at the point already where I can see I need two sites. One is the 'bare bones' e-how... the other is a much more developed 'magazine' style. One to satisfy the pocket, the other to satisfy the ego :)


 10:06 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hey deejay,

I looked for a cms forever, but before you knuckle down, check out Articlelive by interspire.

Articlelive is basically a clone of sitepoint's CMS. Currently it is only avaliable in ASP, but the PHP version is currently in beta testing (which I just got accepted too).

I'm gonna spend about 30 hours this week beating the $@$% out of the CMS so when I do eventually purchase it all the bugs I could find will be fixed.


 10:19 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Do you guys/gals generate revenue primarily via AdSense, selling ads, promoting products/services as an affiliate, or all of the above?


 10:29 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

My site is still growing so I am no expert.. but in my experience:

Currently adsense provides me with 100% of my revenue. Adsense provides GREAT profits, even for small sites. I use adsense because from day one it covered my hosting costs.

However, as I growing I am working very hardto diversify in every possible revenue source:

Commissions (Affiliates)
Impression Ads
Direct Banner/Text Link Sales
etc.. etc..

Adsense is great, but you have no security. If adsense thinks you might be breaking the rules, they delete your account automatically... you have little or no recourse.

Commissions are much better because you have dramatically more income security (mnostly because it is virtually impossible to "cheat" a commission affiliate program). CJ.com rarely if ever bans people from their programs, and if they do you can just sign up again.. unlike adsense.

So for myself, adsense provides me with hosting costs until my site gets big enough that I start earning from other revenue sources.

The trick is to find a niche that lets you take advantage of lots of cj.com affiliates. For example if you had a site about hiking, then you can write reviews of the backpacks and place an affilaite link to that particular backpack in the article itself. Thus you provide the visitor with good TRUE information, and if they want they can buy the bag... giving you some cash.


 10:43 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

:) Thanks for the tip Livenomadic - I'll look it up tonight.

Think I'm still gonnna go the php route though - I've been putting it off for a couple of years now, and I'm at the stage where everything I want to do has enough scale to it to make dynamic practical.

Income wise, obviously I'm not live yet with this one, but it will be affiliate commission and adsense.


 10:49 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Think I'm still gonnna go the php route though - I've been putting it off for a couple of years now, and I'm at the stage where everything I want to do has enough scale to it to make dynamic practical.

Im trying hard to learn PHP/mysql too. B

eing a one man operation, I really want to be able to mangle and twist my CMSs into exactly what I want, instead of being at the mercy of some $30 an hour freelancer.

Being able to use PHP/mysql will let me COMMAND my CMS instead of just using it.


 10:51 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

And don't forget lead generation. My last site that I recently sold generated a small fortune generating leads for something most people would never think of - nothing to do with financial services, business opportunities, or any of the "popular" stuff.


 10:59 pm on Oct 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

There are many many many ways to earn money.

For example I have a special database and my niche's largest directory of links and in both I am going to offer premium listings for a monthly subscription.

My idea is to get as many types of income sources as possible from many types of subjects. Thus when one stop working (for whatever reason) I see only a 10% drop in revenue instead of a 100% drop.

Furthermore I want to make as many sources of revenue "automatic" as possible.

Thus someone can:

1) Learn about Advertising on my site
2) Select a Payment Plan
3) Upload a Banner
4) Pay via paypal
5) Review their banner ad

ALL without any involvement on my part. The more automated my site is, the more I can concentrate on GROWING my site instead of just MAINTAINING it. This is the key to one person running a large and popular site.

Automation is your friend.


 10:05 pm on Nov 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hi, i've read this thread with alot of interest, and i have an ideas for a website as well, something in the direction of ehow as well, but not totally :-). But has anyone found a CMS that can do this well?

I do not have the funds or skills to develop a complete site, so im looking for a nice CMS to do this. Any ideas?


 10:38 pm on Nov 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

I just coded in php an article feature for one of my sites. It took me a couple of days, but then I had some code from another project that I could readily use.

Basically I kept it pretty simple, I store the article metadata in a mysql database and the body of the article in flat text files (including HTML markup). The metadata does all the basic seo like title and metatags as well as control the breadcrumbs and pagination. Then when I need the articles body I just have a readfile function with the first page.

One of the big tricks to keeping it all search engine friendly is to use mod_rewrite. I force all URLs with the word article to go through my php script:
RewriteRule (aŽA)rticles.* /art.php


 1:28 am on Nov 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

For a generic site that does this, in a sense, you might look at About.com. They have people serve as subject experts in a broad array of topics.

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