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Content, Writing and Copyright Forum

    
Making Money with Free Content?
Does your content have value beyond how you're using it?
ccDan




msg:927072
 4:54 am on Feb 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm going to digress a little into ecommerce, but my main question is regarding content. Please hang in their while I give you the backstory. ;-)

Over a decade ago, I started a small general interest newsletter/magazine. It never made money but evolved into a BBS and then a web site. The BBS generated a total of probably under $100.

I was convinced that, once I had enough users, I would be able to generate a profit through memberships and advertising.

In the meantime, however, I began selling products to make extra money for the site to pay the bills and such. I tried selling gifts (you've probably seen the commercials on late night TV for the company...), but that was short-lived. I did make a few sales on eBay (this was eBay's early days), but being that this company inundated late night TV with its ads, it seems like everybody was selling the same stuff, and most at heavy discounts, so you could no longer make the kind of profits shown in the ads. Which is unfortunate, since many of the products were a good quality and could be sold at high profit margains, until everyone in the world became a reseller...

I did, however, get into another line of products. While there is a lot of competition, I have managed to be fairly successful in sales. I also offer a service which, though I have not managed to make a single sale of it online, I do get referrals from word of mouth. Between the two, I manage to keep things going.

(I have also tried affiliate programs, through which I've probably made under $100.)

Being that my original goal with offering the product and service was to fund the content web site and forums (web forums will replace the BBS), I suppose it could be described as a way of making money with your content. Or, should I say *for* your content. ;-)

But, during this time, I have remained committed to my original vision of a content and forums site. New web forums are under construction, and I am working on a total revamp of the content site. I intend to have the revised content site up and running within a couple weeks. The web forums will be a while yet.

I have continued to build content with articles. Some articles do help to sell the product, as well as increase the popularity of the product's web site. Keeping with my original vision, other articles are more general interest and do not try to sell anything. I try to have unique content with different perspectives or undercovered information than what other sites have.

I want to keep the content freely available. I'm not yet at the point where I feel I have enough content whereby I can keep some free and have some available for a fee. Somewhere along the line, maybe I can do that. But, for now, I think my best option is to keep content free to build rankings and popularity. I also do not currently have enough traffic to attract outside advertising. (I do advertise my own products and services.)

Still, I'm thinking the content I have built up has some value and that there ought to be a way to make money from it, to fund the creation of additional content, as well as to make a profit.

I can keep going the way I have been, and using product sales to fund the general interest content site. And, each time I add new content, it has helped to increase site traffic.

I think that I am heading in the right direction. But, I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to leverage my existing content to generate additional revenue so that I can "shift up to the next gear".

Any thoughts?

Thanks!

 

Ivana




msg:927073
 7:20 am on Feb 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure if it is the right thing for your dite, but have you thought about using AdSense? Or, the other way round, AdWords?

rogerd




msg:927074
 10:56 pm on Feb 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

Monetizing information and forum sites can be tricky, but if you can generate traffic there are ways to make them pay. Building on Ivana's idea, here are a few suggestions:
1) Adsense - Google matches your content to intersted advertisers, and shares the per-click revenue. In most cases, this will be more profitable than other ad deals.
2) Targeted Sponsors or Advertisers - if your site is perfect for specific products or services, try getting some companies to advertise on a CPM or CPC basis. If your volume is low, consider seeking "sponsorships" for specific site sections or features.
3) Affiliate Links - these can pay if you choose affiliates carefully targeted to your content, and present the ads or links in appropriate context.
4) Aggregators like Burst can deliver CPM and CPC ads, either targeted (rarely) or untargeted (almost always); the effective CPM will be quite low, though.

You may have to try a combination of approaches to see what works and to avoid overexposing one particular revenue stream. Good luck!

ccDan




msg:927075
 4:33 am on Feb 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd wrote:
1) Adsense - Google matches your content to interste advertisers, and shares the per-click revenue. In most cases, this will be more profitable than other ad deals.

I looked at this, but here are the disadvantages I see:

1) You only make money if someone clicks on the ad.

2) If they click on the ad, they've left your site.

3) The revenue is small (cents) unless you have a large amount of traffic. So, if I help lead people to other people's sites, I make pennies. If I steer them to my own product site, I make dollars.

4) Clutter. Ads add more clutter to a site. While they are certainly less intrusive than pop-ups and pop-unders, they still clutter up a site.

2) Targeted Sponsors or Advertisers - if your site is perfect for specific products or services, try getting some companies to advertise on a CPM or CPC basis. If your volume is low, consider seeking "sponsorships" for specific site sections or features.

I do have low volume, so I have thought about the sponsorship idea. In fact, that was my latest idea before I came on here to see what other options I might have available. I was thinking sponsorship of an article would be $200 per year. The advertiser's ad would be the only ad that would appear with that article.

The downside I see with that is that a sponsorship more closely ties an advertiser to a specific section or article. That close of a relationship means that either advertisers, rather than myself and my visitors, will be dictating content or that I will have unsponsored content.

On the other hand, advertising less closely ties an advertiser to a specific section or article. But, lower revenues for that.

3) Affiliate Links - these can pay if you choose affiliates carefully targeted to your content, and present the ads or links in appropriate context.

I have tried that, and I often feel I spend way too much time trying to find quality products offered on an affiliate basis. And, also ones that pay a worthwhile affiliate fee.

I had one affiliate program that was very well-targeted, whereby the visitors to the page it was on were a good match to the service offered, and still I made I'm guessing under $25 in the four years or so it was up. The payout was about $4 for each new signup.

On another program, I received $20 for each new signup, and I made mayb $60 there.

The nice thing about affiliate programs is that you can basically set it up and forget about it, and just be pleasantly surprised when a check shows up.

The downside is the research required to find quality programs matched to your content.

But, what I have to look at is that if I sell a product on my website, on average, I make $10 per product. So, I feel an affiliate program needs to pay me $20 or more, or otherwise it's not worth my effort. If the program pays out less than $20 per sale (especially if it's a single digit figure), I am better off trying to steer people to my own products than to someone else's.

That's the thing with ads too. Do I put up ads for other people's sites and products, for which I'll get pennies, or do I steer people toward my own products, for which I'll get dollars.

The product I sell is something most businesses use, and many individuals use or could use. So, being general interest, it does fit well for general interest articles, such as what I do.

I hope I don't sound negative against any of the ideas offered. I certainly do appreciate it. I'm just more or less thinking aloud, and letting you know the pros and cons as I see it.

I do want to make more money off the content and take things to the next level, but I'm not sure that advertising is the way to do it. At least not advertising other people's stuff, unless, of course, I can get at least $20 or more per sale.

Let's say I make a penny a click. It would take 2,000 click-thrus to make $20. On the other hand, it would take 200 click-thrus to make $20 on an affiliate program, assuming a half-percent conversion rate. So, 2,000 click-thrus on an affiliate program equals $200.

Or, 2,000 click-thrus to my own product link would equal $100. That's assuming $10 per sale average and a half-percent conversion rate.

Actually, I tend to get a higher conversion rate, around 2.5% on general, non-specific product links. So, 2,000 click-thrus would net me $500.

I'm figuring, then, that perhaps I would be further ahead to find more products to offer, and perhaps even eBooks based on some of my more popular content, than to sell advertising on the site.

Or, offer advertising at a premium rate. If 2,000 click-thrus is worth $500 to me, than I should not sell advertising on my site for less than that. Which means I should sell ads for not less than 25 cents per click.

A high rate, but then maybe I just need to attract advertisers for whom 25 cents a click is worth it. Ads on Google can go for more than that, so why not?

Any thoughts? Am I crazy, or am I making sense?

rogerd




msg:927076
 10:53 am on Feb 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

What you say makes sense, ccDan, at least in terms of comparing alternatives. I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss Adsense as "pennies", though, unless you've already tried it and found that the ads you get are low priced.

The real issue is your traffic level, which you admit is low. The earning potential of your site will be limited regardless of the path you choose unless you are in such a lucrative category that even a small number of visitors generates high revenue.

Perhaps the next step to leveraging your content is to boost your traffic. (This is the right place to come for that kind of knowledge! ;)) The forum idea sounds like a step in that direction, although forums often generate lots of traffic that is even trickier to monetize.

As your traffic rises, you'll have more and better revenue options.

401khelp




msg:927077
 7:05 pm on Feb 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

looked at this, but here are the disadvantages I see:

1) You only make money if someone clicks on the ad.

2) If they click on the ad, they've left your site.

3) The revenue is small (cents) unless you have a large amount of traffic. So, if I help lead people to other people's sites, I make pennies. If I steer them to my own product site, I make dollars.

4) Clutter. Ads add more clutter to a site. While they are certainly less intrusive than pop-ups and pop-unders, they still clutter up a site.

Don't be so quick to discount Adsense. You make good points, but they are not the experience of most Adsense publishers.

First, you don't need a large amount of traffic to make good money. We have a free content site that averages about 30,000 page views a week. I can't give you specifics, but we earn between $1,**** and $2,xxx per month in income from Adsense. Bottomline, your experience will be different than ours, but most Adsense publishers do not earn pennies.

Only earn if they click. Sure, that is the point. This is a positive, not a negative.

Leave your site. Sure, that is the point. This is a positive, not a negative.

Clutter? Not at all. Because they are so well targeted, our visitors see them as added content, not ads. The site is enhanced. You also have many options in type, style, colors, etc. of the ads. They blend in well.

Check out this webmasterworld tread:
[webmasterworld.com...]

Tigrou




msg:927078
 11:16 pm on Feb 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

ccDan according to your calculations it makes more sense for you to get people to buy your products than for you to advertise for others.

So, twisting that logic on its head, you can buy advertising for less money than you can sell products for. (OK, every 3rd party adsystem takes a cut of the ads they server but it isn't 1000%)

If this makes sense then I guess the next step is to match your highest absolute margin products to the cost of advertising for related keywords (then factor in your CTR for certain products/keyphrases combos) and then do a test run on the best one.

Or did I miss something here?

Colin

ccDan




msg:927079
 4:35 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd wrote:
Perhaps the next step to leveraging your content is to boost your traffic. (This is the right place to come for that kind of knowledge! ;)) The forum idea sounds like a step in that direction, although forums often generate lots of traffic that is even trickier to monetize.

It's sometimes difficult to explain things without mentioned URLs and identifying products <g>, but here goes...

First off, I do have experience with forums, going back to old BBS systems. Actually, online communities were easier to form back then than they are now. You'd have a core group of users that would frequent many of your forums/message boards, and others will fill in the gaps.

Now that the Internet has matured a little more, that's not as easy to do. People find a site they like (or a couple sites) on just topics they are interested in, and stay there. Many don't venture out. Consequently, you'll find people discussing occasionally discussing politics on a computer software forum. Rather than go to a politics forum, they discuss such things with familiar faces. As a result, I think, a lot of forums don't get the fresh ideas and meaty debate they might otherwise get. It's usually the same group of people rehashing the same things over and over.

On the one hand, that's a negative. On the other hand, it is something you can take advantage of, by targetting a niche group, and growing it into non-niche areas.

As an example, the main product that I sell is used by both businesses and individuals. But, regardless of who is using it, it is usually used for mundane purposes. However, a similar product, which I have started offering and will be expanding, is used by artists and crafters. So, that gives me a community from which I can build off of. I have already purchased a site with an established (albeit nearly inactive) community of users. I am working on getting people involved again and will eventually absorb the site into my own.

I have been working on building traffic, with ideas from here as well as other places, occasional Google advertising, purchasing other sites with existing communities, plus things I've found on my own that work. Still, my traffic is meager compared to what others on these forums have claimed their own are.

ccDan




msg:927080
 4:48 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

401khelp writes:
First, you don't need a large amount of traffic to make good money. We have a free content site that averages about 30,000 page views a week. I can't give you specifics, but we earn between $1,**** and $2,**** per month in income from Adsense. Bottomline, your experience will be different than ours, but most Adsense publishers do not earn pennies.

I don't know what you figure is a large amount of traffic, but if I were getting 30,000 page views per week, and could get 1/2 percent of page viewers to buy one (or more!) of my products, well, I would be a happy camper. ;-)

And, if I could get my average 2.5% conversion rate, well, happy happy happy...

buckworks




msg:927081
 5:10 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Only a small percentage of your visitors are likely to buy your product at the best of times, so income from Adsense is usually "new" money that doesn't take away from your other sales.

I wouldn't advise putting Adsense on your actual sales pages, but pages with content articles can be a productive place for Adsense.

I'll add my voice to the chorus who are saying not to dismiss Adsense until you've actually tested it.

ccDan




msg:927082
 5:28 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

buckworks writes:
I'll add my voice to the chorus who are saying not to dismiss Adsense until you've actually tested it.

I have another web site, not connected to the ones I've been discussing, that is strictly content. I don't sell anything on it. I have good content, but I've been trying to figure out a way to make money with it.

I think I'll give AdSense a try on that site.

lorenzinho2




msg:927083
 5:29 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

ccDan, I would look at taking content submissions from your users. This will help you to generate more content, build more loyalty from your current users, and grow your traffic.

Also, here is another thread you should check out:

[webmasterworld.com...]

Finally, AdSense is a no brainer. It will take you hours (not days) to implement, and requires absolutely no maintenance, allowing you to focus on cranking out fresh content.

Fearing that your visitors will leave your site is simply not a valid excuse - if your content is good, they will come back.

eWhisper




msg:927084
 10:50 am on Feb 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

If you have unique articles that just aren't sales pitches of how to use a product, but an article that can stand on its own as interesting and informative - don't be limited by the web to produce your content.

People pay for good content every day.

Take your best articles and submit them to trade journals, magazines, etc. If one of them decides to publish your article, not only will you get paid for the article, but you can add your website url to it as well for free publicity - a win win situation.

Submitting to magazines is virtually free, no app fee, just the paper and a stamp. If you have an agent, then it gets even easier (although a bit less profits).

ccDan




msg:927085
 6:26 pm on Feb 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

lorenzinho2 writes:
ccDan, I would look at taking content submissions from your users. This will help you to generate more content, build more loyalty from your current users, and grow your traffic.

eWhisper writes:
Take your best articles and submit them to trade journals, magazines, etc. If one of them decides to publish your article, not only will you get paid for the article, but you can add your website url to it as well for free publicity - a win win situation.

If I do either of those and (a) the user submitted content is non-exclusive (I would think getting exclusive content for free to be more difficult) or (b) the trade journal or magazine is also published on the web, wouldn't that lower my search engine rankings since my content would no longer be unique? Currently, all of my content is unique and not duplicated anywhere else on the 'net.

rogerd




msg:927086
 6:56 pm on Feb 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

ccDan, customization is one way to ensure content is unique. If you offer your content to others, take a few minutes to retitle the article, rewrite the intro (perhaps slanted to the specific audience), and add a couple of other unique twists. It's a win for all parties, IMO - the site gets truly unique content, the visitors get a more targeted article, and your content ends up in different SERPs.

Likewise, if you get permission to use other content, ask if they would consider doing the same; if not, ask if they mind if you change the title. Add your own parenthetical intro if necessary, e.g., "The following article by Dr. Jones should be of particular interest to our visitors..."

Vary the presentation a bit, too - perhaps split it across a couple of pages, etc.

Duplicate content filters aren't all they are cracked up to be, and modest changes should be fine. Retitling (article & page title) is particularly important, IMO. It's irritating as a searcher to search for "burnish widgets" and have to top 8 results all be, "Dr. Jones Describes 14 Methods to Burnish Widgets" - the same article clearly copied to multiple sites. Even modest changes should avoid getting caught in lockstep with others using similar content.

Blue_Wizard




msg:927087
 12:29 am on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Once people are used to obtaining content for free from a web site it is very difficult to convince them to pay for it or other related services.

A good example would be mp3.com's downfall.

rogerd




msg:927088
 1:14 am on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good point, BlueWizard - when you give stuff away, it's hard to sell it later. The people who can give web content away successfully include consultants, service providers, etc. They make their money by selling a higher end product/service, and the content they distribute serves to promote them and polish their credentials.

ccDan




msg:927089
 6:20 am on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd writes:
Good point, BlueWizard - when you give stuff away, it's hard to sell it later.

On that note, do you think magazines and newspapers are slowly killing themselves by putting their content up for free on the web?

There are some whose content you can only access if you are a subscriber. But, there are many that are open to the public. There are a couple magazines that I no longer subscribe to because I can read them free online.

Granted, they have ads. But, I generally pay no attention to the ads. The same was true when I received the print edition, but at least then I was still paying for a subscription.

Sooner or later, electronic media (which may include digital "paper") will replace printed magazines and newspapers. And, when the move to electronic reaches critical mass, although I'm sure publications will find away to survive, I would think there will be a bumpy and sometimes fatal ride for those who did not think ahead.

ccDan




msg:927090
 6:28 am on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd writes:
Likewise, if you get permission to use other content, ask if they would consider doing the same; if not, ask if they mind if you change the title. Add your own parenthetical intro if necessary, e.g., "The following article by Dr. Jones should be of particular interest to our visitors..."

I can see how this helps me when I use other people's content, but I am concerned that it may hurt my site rankings when others use my content.

Here's the reason for my concern.

I had a writer do an article on a particular how-to project. The writer obtained permission from another site which already had that how-to to use their steps in exchange for a link back to their site.

Thus, the intro and close were different, but the steps in the middle are very similar.

Now, my page has a higher page rank than the original site's how-to page.

Blue_Wizard




msg:927091
 11:41 pm on Feb 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

do you think magazines and newspapers are slowly killing themselves by putting their content up for free on the web

Yes, and no -
for newspapers
it depends largely on the size of the publication and the city the newspaper is published.
I recently helped one daily paper in a medium sized town switch their site from free to paid only.
They originally went with having all articles including back issues paid membership only and that killed their site traffic and site ad revenue.
Now anything older than 6 months is free, while the current issues for the current 6 months require paid access, that seems to be working.

For magazines I think it's a bit different if when compared to newspapers the mag is higher quality in terms of print quality. Most people will want a tangible copy if its "how to" content, or something they will want to have away from the computer.
Plus, you have the collectors factor as well.

If you're running a periodical or newspaper site:
As a rule of thumb it's a good idea to have your printed version and online version at the same price. Sometimes it's necessary to have the online version priced higher-because it is so easy for one user to pay for access and then cut and paste it to others.

rogerd




msg:927092
 1:20 pm on Feb 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

That's interesting, BlueWizard. Your client's approach is the opposite of some other local and national newspapers, who provide current news for free but charge for archived articles.

If advertising rates strengthen, perhaps content of all ages supported by advertising would be yet another viable alternative.

ememi




msg:927093
 1:34 pm on Feb 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

On a side note, there's a workaround I sometimes use looking for "old" stories in the New York Times (probably works for other pubs as well). If you find you need to subscribe or "be a member" to access an article you're looking for, you can often locate a reprint on another site by searching for the title/subject/author/some blurb.

ccDan




msg:927094
 8:45 pm on Feb 14, 2004 (gmt 0)

rogerd writes:
If advertising rates strengthen, perhaps content of all ages supported by advertising would be yet another viable alternative.

That may also result in increased costs, depending upon the ownership of the content.

The site or publication would need to make sure they have secured the appropriate rights to do so.

If you archive newsletters, for example, the ads in it are already bought and paid for, so the publisher or site is not making additional advertising revenue off of that archived content. So, the original author may not balk at that, since it would be akin to looking at an old magazine at the library or on your own bookshelves.

On the other hand, if an old article is displayed but with fresh advertising, than the publisher is making additional revenue off of that content, so the author may be due some royalties. This would be akin to reprinting an old magazine and selling it for a fee or selling new ads in it.

Of course, there are several grey areas, such as if you use an archived newsletter with fresh banner ads, etc.

It will all depend upon the rights secured from the author of the work, if that author is not the site owner.

Larger publications, such as magazines and newspapers, may not have a problem with arranging and computing royalty payments, but it may be more difficult for smaller sites.

So, when using freelancers to create your content or when using someone else's content with permission, site owners should take care in securing the appropriate rights so that they can use the content in advertising-supported or in paid-access archives.

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