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How long can the 'independent webmaster' survive?

Being pessimistic today

     
9:02 am on Feb 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Earlier today I was reading up on the of the phenominal AM successes of some members on this site, and I got to wondering how this is possible. It just seems to me that given enough time big business will eventually corporatize the whole Internet, driving out opportunities for individuals.

When [if] you retire, what are you going to do with your domain names? What are the majority of people going to do? Suppose a big corporation offers you a big paycheck, won't you take it? I think most people will.

Over time, won't corporations eventually own all [already they own most] of the good virtual real estate?

Recently I've read stories of large companies hiring [previously] independent bloggers for consulting. Some bloggers even go as far as to write for these businesses. When this happens, isn't creativity and perspective just becoming a commodity? After all, on the 'net writers are called content providers. In the end, can't everybody be bought?

I've been watching over the past few years, making a note of the fact that corporate sites are in many cases becoming less "corporate." What makes a site run by an independent webmaster any better than a corporate site run by a company that has learned to act small? I'm reminded of how some companies in the 80's & 90's began breaking off chunks of their company, send them to SoCal, and let them operate outside the negative influences of a bureaucracy.

Maybe it has always been this way and I'm just too young, but even when watching TV I am getting disillusioned by all of it. Big boring companies hire advertising agencies to make funny commercials, but in the end it's all just BS. But if that funny Burger King commerial sells more burgers then more power to them, right? Regardless of the fact that their employees are underpaid, they serve largely unhealthy food, etc.

Also, Wikipedia looks like it could destroy the value of content on all of these AM sites. It has a huge wealth of unbiased, accurate information, and I'm tempted to say that if more people knew about it they would search less in SE's. I'm unsure how Wiki is funded, but they run an ad-free site and have thousands of unpaid content providers. (wince)

When Brett [or his maker] decide he's no longer going to run WW, is it destined to become a subdomain of Y or G?

9:23 am on Feb 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hell, I'm ready to sell the damn thing now. Serious inquiries only and not a penny less than 10K (US).

The term webmaster has become so convoluted, it doesn't mean the same as it did five, or six years ago. Back when the Internet was fun...waaaay back.

Lotsa folks becry the right to make money. Cool. I can live with that. What I have a problem with is all the crap that goes along with the domain.

Formmail Queries.

UCE/SPAM - spoofed, or otherwise.

Downloaders.

Site Scraper.

Harvestors.

E-mail addy harvestors.

BHOs.

Link requests based solely on perceived PR advantages.

Pop ups / overs / unders / after you've left the site.

Log Spammers.

People who open and respond to UCE/SPAM.

Masking.

Re-directing.

Cloaking.

Hacks.

Viri.

Worms.

Trojans.

After nearly tens years, this independant webmaster is getting very tired of it all.

Maybe you are onto something. Can you see the Internet being comprised of one huge site that one interacts with verbally? Maybe they'll call it Monet. No. Not the artist. Monetize the Internet.

Then those that are around will strive to be good Monet'izens.

9:34 am on Feb 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I guess I haven't been in the game long enough.. always a day late.

In the end, maybe the corporitziation of the whole mess will be good. I think economically the Internet is very inefficient. It's just an illusion and whoever has the fastest hand wins.

Before logging onto WW for the first time about a year ago, I had no idea there was even such a thing as SEO. The whole idea seemed so ridiculous to me... I figured if people made sites then the engines would judge how good they are. But it's just a game for the most part it seems.

I'm sick of seeing spamsite.ru at the top of the search engines. I'm starting to think directories are the future (or AI). I've followed WebWork from since I first got here, and I think he's on to something; I like to snoop in peoples' profiles.

9:46 am on Feb 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Suppose a big corporation offers you a big paycheck, won't you take it -Funny you should say that.

Im talking to firm at the m,oment who are willing (it seems) to pay me my current rate plus a bonus on top that would cover my income tax on PAYE.

Now I swore id never take another job again with a large firm but this one.... Well it seems I may change my mind.

Yes teh web is becoming Corporation row which saddens me greatly, the whole concept of web WAS that you could compete with the multinationals from a bedroom in Clacton on Sea (!).

It now looks like you have to have deep pockets to pay for adverts which the big boys push to overinflated prices.

Still (you still reading?) there are plenty of ways to drive traffic to your site with out the engines I have found.

To sum up, yes it will still be possible to make a living from teh web only your going to have to be darn good at what you do, but thats the sign of a maturing market isnt it?

2:23 am on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I often think of shutting down my sites when I get disgusted with all the spam. My real job is software development. My sites only make enough to pay for their hosting (primarily Google AdSense, Amazon, and MacResQ affiliate). Whenever I threaten to shut them down, someone always tells me they depend on the sites (a Mac news site & a world music info site).
3:05 am on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well, the gold rush didn't last forever but California still seems to be doing pretty well.

The world will move on as will the internet. Things change, for better or worse, but I would not change that change for anything.

Do we all work for corporations? No. So why do you think that all websites will be owned by corporations? Even mighty Amazon is crumbling and some small upstart, probably just now squalling in its internet infancy, will replace it someday. That someday may be 30 years from now, but it will happen.

We have only just begun on this internet voyage. Independent webmasters will be around for as long as small business owners have and will be.

And no, a big paycheck won't do it for me. You have to offer me something else. Money just isn't going to do it.

3:51 am on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Amen, HML.
5:01 am on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The web to me is opportunity, to find holes the big multi-nationals dont want to poke.

I worked all of my life for big corporations and I know that they hire "yes men" and "seat fillers" so I am not worried by them.

Big companies have big budgets - but they also have big overheads. I can do more with $100 bucks than they can do with $100,000.

Do I want to sell out - hell no! Do I want to kick their @ss - hell YES!

Okay, it may only be a dream - but its mine and I am sticking to it.

4:18 pm on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The independent webmaster's biggest advantage is agility. Independent webmasters don't have ongoing disputes and rivalries between the tech, editorial and marketing departments. If a crisis looms, the independent webmaster can turn on a sixpence. And the independent webmaster only has a single salary to pay.

If everyone could be bought by corporations... where did Wikipedia, FireFox, open office and linux come from?

I don't think a corporation could run my website because it would have to have a staff which could read if not speak most European languages as well as people with experience of SEO, graphic design, XML and CSS, sales and marketing... not to mention all the journalistic stuff I do offline to generate the research in the first place... and industry knowledge.

The money to pay all those salaries would render the project unworkable before it got off the ground.

4:55 pm on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Sure this will not be that lucurative 5 years down the line ,like its not that lucurative now as it was in 2003 ...But who cares ,if i have made enough money for the rest of my life by then :) ...
8:19 pm on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't know how anybody survives anymore. I've been out of work for 16 months now (electronic eng. tech).

I have some old magazines from the 40s and 50s.

Can you believe back then it was actually possible to run a Radio and TV repair shop? Even possible to hire repair staff and equip the shop with a small fleet of service vehicles?

Today when your TV or radio breaks, chances are it's cheaper to buy a newer model with more features, warranty and lower price than to fix the old one.

Remember when PCs sold for $5000? They were worth fixing. Today's PCs are a thousand times more powerful and can be bought for $500 or so. Who fixes them, aside from upgrading for higher performance? Often they get tossed out too!

In 10 years computers may be self repairing or simply there will be enough redundancy on the internet to make things like hard drives obsolete. Code may be completely automated as well.

Too much change is going on and it's not necessarily for the better.

11:23 pm on Feb 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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That's funny,

I enjoy the internet more every day. The market is evolving and bigger, more profitable, niches seem to be opening every day...

12:16 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Too much change is going on and it's not necessarily for the better.

Whip and buggy makers said the very same thing about the automobile. Should people have listened?

1:29 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Given the cost of new cars, the cost of borrowing, the rising costs of fuel and the smog cities get every year, I wonder about the "wisdom" of accelerating life and mechanizing the earth's surface transportation to the point we have, and how sustainable it is.

It isn't sustainable. At some point it has to crash due to a lack of fuel. Then folks will wonder about slowing down but it may be too late.

1:40 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Funny snowman, I just finished reading a book with a main character by the same name, who might very well agree with you... ;) But in his case it was already too late.

I'd have to second vkaryl's "Amen" to hannahmyluv's first post in the thread. I'm not just in it for the money, and I think it's a sad thing that so many people assume someone chooses a career path just because it's got the biggest possible paycheck.

The internet isn't economically efficient? Neither are libraries or city parks. Don't make the mistake of thinking "efficient" or "profitable" always equals "good."

1:54 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I can do more with $100 bucks than they can do with $100,000.

Exactly! :)

I've got a site that's rubbing shoulders with sites run by international newspapers and one of the largest advertising agencies in the world - and I do it with ZERO advertising expenditure.

As long as this is possible then the independent webmaster will be about.

Even when the folks here grow old(er!), there will still be new blood coming into the industry.

Perhaps everyone has their price eventually, but there will always be someone who can't (or won't) be bought today.

For me personally, well this is just better than any video game out there! I'm sure I'm not the only strategy / management game fan who relishes this industry! ;)

Scott

2:00 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I have a pretty simple attitude toward change: in some ways, change will always be good, because adapting to that change will force you to be flexible and flexibility is a good thing compared to stagnation.

Now the corollary is: in some ways, change will always be bad, because every change will require reorientation in some areas and of those areas only some will be able to absorb that change without damage.

It's a juggling act: you accept changes that you can absorb without damage; you mitigate changes which will damage something beyond hope of repair; you gladly promulgate changes which improve flexibility and growth.

If we stop accepting change, we stagnate. I'm not willing to do that....

3:39 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Snowman wrote:In 10 years computers may be self repairing or simply there will be enough redundancy on the internet to make things like hard drives obsolete. Code may be completely automated as well.

This is kind of why I am hedging my personal bets outside of the auto repair industry and getting into ecommerce. The "automotive middle class" is being squeezed out by the dealers on one end and the iffy-lubes on the other. Customers come in all belligerent that we "overcharge" them because they saw some cheaper prices on parts online, under a completely different business model than our bricks-and-mortar operation. Instead of beating the online parts sellers, I decided to join them. ;)

So now you're telling me that the online world faces the same issues? Say it ain't so, Snow!

4:33 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I'm just warning against accepting all change as being good - someday any one of the people here may find themselves in a position where out of circumstances beyond their control they are unable to change, and that's not a very good thing to live through.

Nobody can sustain rapid change indefinitely. It's not humanly possible. People aren't machines and shouldn't try to live like machines.

An ideally planned system would minimize change for it's own sake, and carefully examine any needed change, comparing it's benefits against it's negative impacts, both long and short term.

As an example, I can point to the Amish and the Mennonites. While the rest of the "civilized" world goes crazy, these groups of people maintain their communities, their peace of mind, their control over their circumstances by maintaining and respecting simplicity and carefully examining "change" and most importantly - reserving the fundamental right to say "NO" to any change and to enforce it!

To this end they make with their own hands almost all of what they need, they know how to cast iron and make their own carriages, their own stoves and utensils. They remain strong as a people because they are more independent of change in the name of "progress" as it is dictated by someone other than ourselves.

Homesteaders too. Many live very simply and with as little impact on the earth. They do so to maintain the one thing that truly has value - independence from the will of others, especially if that will steers economies down the tubes.

In our "civilized" world how many of us are able, in our supposed freedom and wealth, to reserve the right to say "NO" to a change, say, in the work place? Or in the community?

Sometimes less IS more. Less technology, less expense, less complexity = more true freedom, more control over your life and less yielding control to the interests and outside forces that more or less dictate how people have to live.

Just my 2 worth.

8:59 am on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Nobody can sustain rapid change indefinitely. It's not humanly possible. People aren't machines and shouldn't try to live like machines.

With the progress that is being made, they may eventually perfect computerized microchip brain implants.
Thereby enabling us to keep up with all the rapid changes.

2:02 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Would you want someone to implant something in your brain just so you can be made to go faster at someone else's command?

And speeding up the brain is only one component. The circulation, lymphatic and respiratory system have to be "beefed up" to keep up with the demands of a faster brain.

Do you suggest we all turn ourselves into robots just to keep up with what others demand, just for it's own sake?

What about affordability? Will those who cannot afford to have such surgery done in order to "keep up" be consigned to life's trash heap or be exterminated because they represent "inefficiency" in the eyes of others? Who will designate what is inefficient? Who will pull the switch on people - men, women, children - who don't "measure up" to such a totalitarian system?

Where does it then stop? Who draws a limit on what is sensible, sustainable and for the greater good of humanity? Why should the simple requirement of food, shelter and security take on such monstrous proportions?

It's a very dangerous road to tread on, a road best left unexplored if one has any understanding and respect for all pre-existing bio-technology on this planet, the natural life.

5:16 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Its already happening.

University Of Michigan Scientists Develop First
Micro-machined Mechanical Cochlea
[sciencedaily.com...]

Just a matter of time before a implant to allow you visualize your changes.
A keyboard and mouse would no longer be needed.
Carpal Tunnel sufferers wouldn't suffer anymore.

The military is experimenting with output devices for jet pilots.

They are working on a chip for the blind to see.

Its not if. Its when. The distance future I hope.

5:41 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't think one should be trying to hold back change or fight it - but to anticipate and roll with it. It's like when a surfer see's a big wave coming up, he paddles out to greet it and then rides it to the shore.

There will always be change in life, technology, the internet - in everything. Accepting it, anticipating it, adapting to it and growing with it is the only way to conquer it.

6:25 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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on a chip for the blind to see.

I read about one where they are making a device that will allow blind people to see through their tounge. It was in the NYT, some really cool and fun stuff.

Is it scary? Of course, but we do not advance without change, evolve or become better.

There use to be one of those stupid chain emails that went around about how much better off we were 100 years ago. How much healthier, happier and junk. I finally got fed up and emailed back a response to all the sappy people who had forwarded it. Healthier? Do you know what you could have died from 100 years ago? Polio, small pox, whooping cough, german measles and that was before the age of 5. Childbirth was the number one killer of women. Child labor laws were not only non-existant but not feasible due to the abject poverty that existed in the US. Women were fighting just for the right to vote, let alone not to be legally beaten by their husbands or work outside their homes. Would you want to go live 100 years ago? Without change, sometimes hard change, sometimes bad change, we would still be there.

My grandfather is 90 years old (and still sharp as a tack). When my sister emailed me from Japan one day with him sitting next to me, he almost cried in amazment. He does not lament the change, though he himself witnessed the brutal side of change in WWII, he applaudes it.

I can only hope that when I am 90, not only will my grandchild make me cry in amazement, but that I will be able to expect 20-30 healthy years beyond that.

7:10 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Amish - Seriously well balanced lives.

i wish I could spend a year with these people.

8:57 pm on Feb 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I was able to spend a few weeks living among the Amish. I had a smile on my face that took a couple of weeks to wipe off once I returned to the "real world".
12:16 am on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A few years back, I started tinkering with a personal website just for the mental excercise... Within a few months, people were hiring me to build websites for them.

4 years later, I'm up against "Web Development Agencies" with large staffs and economies of scale I can't compete with.

Yet I still get business. Why? Because small business likes to support small business. There's an emotional bond between small bsuiness people. Also, they don't want a cranked out assembly line product, and that's what they get if they go with an agency, and it shows.

Other niches for the independant webmaster:

Activism sites: Get it right, and you have massive traffic and support, and it only works if you give it the "personal touch" and you actually believe in the cause in a way that only an indy can deliver. And they can also be profitable. Selling T-s, bumper stickers, etc. and just plain solicting donations.

Special Interest Communities: I know a fellow who took his small circulation philatology newsletter (cuirculation: <1000 ) and turned it into a site that now gets serious worldwide traffic. The site itself deserves an honorable mention on webpagesthatsuck.com, or maybe even a full daily sucky, but the passion behind the project shows through the myriad of bad design techniques.

There will always be room for the indy. It will always be a difficult, uphill challenge, just like any small business. But small business was never for the easily discouraged.

10:54 pm on Feb 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

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"And no, a big paycheck won't do it for me. You have to offer me something else. Money just isn't going to do it."

My clients pay me, but if a corporation walked up to me to get me to work for them there would be no amount of money that would make me put up with that kind of soulless mediocrity. Plus of course I want the person I'm talking to to have direct decision making power, no 'chain of command' bs to make a simple, or complex, decision.

And, to be honest, if you ask my clients, you'd hear the annoyed response that their money doesn't do much to motivate me either. Make the problem interesting, the site interesting, and maybe the work will be interesting enough to do. Or maybe not.

I'd rather do this just for myself, most people don't have the resources, interest, skill etc to do it right, and it takes too much energy to do it well anyway.

With zero budget I've gotten some of the bigger companies around to believe I was one of the other bigger companies around, just because I had access to pro level site design and construction, plus content. that's just me of course, still was funny.... sad fact is corporations have to pay for everything because they suck.

<snip>

[edited by: lawman at 8:14 am (utc) on Feb. 10, 2005]