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How are you seeing your future, as a web publisher?

6:33 pm on May 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Things are changing lot online the last few years. And all of a sudden , I feel very pessimistic for some reasons.

Even big sites, which are here since 20+ years are closing, some are converting to pay subscription, ... the can afford this, because they are established names,... but smaller publishers can't really expect people to pay to access their content.

Google, Facebook are harvesting site's content, to make them available directly to their user, more and more.

People are less and less sharing links. And when they do, they share pages of Google or Facebook... For example, at the Google' image search, there is a button to share an image on social networks, fine, but , it shares the link to google's page...

So all this is making me feel all of a sudden very pessimistic about the future, or at least my future.

ps: trying to find something positive, when the dinosaurs disappeared, this was the smallest creatures which survived...
8:49 pm on May 17, 2018 (gmt 0)

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In the future there will be the web for pay

The Flea Market Web

The Consignment Web

The Vanity Press Web

The Dark Web (oh, that's here already!)
1:53 am on May 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I've spent the last 12 years surviving entirely on ad revenue. I used to do professional web design for contracts, and 12 years ago I stopped taking contracts and focused entirely on the expansion of my own sites.

The "advancements" of the last few years, IMO, are killing the internet. Maybe on purpose, I haven't decided.

As recent as 2013 (the last time I did a major site rebuild), the trend was for cell phones to get smaller, and computer screens to get bigger. Since then, things have reversed and now web design focuses almost entirely on mobile. Even though my traffic is about 50/50 mobile vs. desktop, Google punishes me for not focusing more on mobile.

But for all the work,I can show fewer ads on mobile devices, mobile users look at fewer pages, they interact less with the site, they click on fewer ads, and they buy less when they do... so it's a compounding problem of loss after loss after loss.

This also impacts the e-commerce businesses. When fewer and fewer people are clicking on their ads, or are clicking and not buying, then they can't survive, either.

In addition, phones come preloaded with apps that promote mega-companies, like Facebook and Amazon. I know a shocking number of younger people (16-25) that have no idea how to install an app, but they can figure out how to use Facebook and Amazon because it's preloaded on their phone. No matter how great of an app I ever develop, I'll never be able to compete with a company with billions of dollars in funding that comes on their phone by default.

From experience, though, I believe that social media in general is in a bubble, and at some point it's going to burst. This is being exacerbated by the high number of scams, spam, viruses, and bots, especially on Facebook. When that happens, technology may have pushed mobile to such a degree that no other site can really survive... OR other websites will have a resurgence and the internet will slowly start to rebuild itself.

I'm praying for the latter, because I shutter at the thought of being 55+ and trying to start over.
5:56 am on May 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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There is always been David and Goliath.

Since 2010, when Google showed clearly to me who rules here, I am pessimistic about the advertising model so I am trying alternative online business models to make money.
In these years I launched an app for pet owners (failed) and a local online marketplace (failed as well).
Next month I start with an online service selling widgets handmade on customer demand and in September (maybe we will have some delay) I start to promote an indie game.

As web publisher, I believe we have deep knowledge about Internet and, one way or another, we will adapt and survive.
Vinyl disc was dead as well: [statista.com...]
7:33 am on May 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I smelt the coffee in 2004 when I realised how dependent I was on G via search and Adsense, opened membership section that now gives me 80% of my revenue, but growing pessimistic again. Huge players are out there, with tens of millions to throw on copied/stolen/derivative content. I'm a one-man band, they have 50 content "creators".

For the first time ever since opening my site in 2001, I think I can say "in five years' time, there's more chance of me having sold the site than me still running it".
7:38 am on May 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for all your comments, I am sharing the same feelings.

I am also thinking there might be opportunities appearing, with things changing all the time, something dominating today, might disappear tomorrow, people can start "consuming" the internet differently, etc, etc... but other times, I wonder if I am telling myself unrealistic stories :)
1:07 am on May 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Something else I've noticed.

Working online used to be a real opportunity for prospective businesses without a lot of money, and small brick and mortar stores could supplement their income by selling online in addition to their store.

But this got overwhelmed by people with ridiculous amounts of money (often inherited) that thought working online would be a cute little hobby.

Example: my first business was started with a few hundred dollars, and after a few years was doing well and growing fast. Then one day I came in and had voicemails from several of my biggest suppliers; these two Harvard students had decided to compete, and called my suppliers and made a $50,000 purchase EACH in exchange for exclusive contracts. Unless I could come up with $500,000 today, they couldn't sell to me anymore.

I went from a growing business on Wednesday to out of business on Thursday.

Second example: Facebook was started / stolen by a rich kid at Harvard, and within 4 months already had millions of dollars in funding, and that funding just continued to grow because of who Zuckerberg was. Since then, they've virtually killed all message board sites, classified sites, chat sites, etc. It's not even well built, it just has a ridiculous amount of money pushing it.

So I guess that my take away is that, with millionaire millennials now starting online businesses for the fun of it, there's not really a chance for normal people to compete. The internet used to be the great equalizer, but now... not so much.

But this IS my fourth business, so I have to hope that if this one dies then I'll come up with a 5th one.
11:49 am on May 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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We always talk about Google, moan about Google and rely on Google, possibly too much. If Google is such a hassle and income is suffering what would happen if Google was excluded from our sites completely?

Could we survive by relying on alternative SE's?
1:33 pm on May 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I'm thinking of just giving up a few websites. I still make money off them but people like google make even more from my work. It takes a long time to find and generate content and google can't enforce their own rules. Everyday new spam sites re post the content I post, website owners with 3 or 4 websites in the niche post the exact same thing within minutes of me posting it, they spam and attach my website and more. I've reported so many times my head spins.what has been done? I was told we are not the police? ? We are both adsense publishers! I am working on plans to just stop. If you won't answer me or help in any way then I'll move along. It's been well over a year now.
3:53 pm on May 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Independent websites, in other words, small businesses or information sites run by individuals or small groups of people, have always survived and prospered by identifying where the inefficiencies are in the market and where demand is greater than supply.

Of course there are evolutions in tactics and approaches over the years but each new 'wave' brings its own opportunities.

For example, martinibuster just highlighted the Google patent where research shows that they may be able to make their own web page by 'repurposing' other people's content.

Now we could - and some people are - throw our hands in the air, groan 'woe is us' and issue dire warnings about the state of the internet. And, in extremis and unwilling to change, we could go back to working for hire with the experience we have gained in running our own sites.

Or, on the other hand, we could use that experience to judge whether or not Google's mashed-up offerings are likely to satisfy every single user and, if not, where those users are likely to go in their search for knowledge or answers. And, given the knowledge levels and experience which most medium- and long-term WebmasterWorld members exhibit, they will be there waiting with that knowledge or answers to those questions.

Google is a mammoth, crushing trees and undergrowth as it lumbers around from one technological 'advance' to another. Other entities, maybe you amongst them, are more agile and find it easier to adapt to changing market forces and circumstances.

After all, if Google is taking over all of the internet and suffocating the ecosystems, then what are you doing here? Take some time to think about that....
11:52 pm on May 19, 2018 (gmt 0)

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... here's a thought ... following on from stever

cockroaches first evolved around 350 million years ago ... small, insignificant players maybe ... but they both predate and outlived the dinasaurs and so far anything else that has come after.

to the great monoliths like amazon, facebook and google ... most of us and our like are just cockroaches .... however giants come and go, yet the best of the cockroaches survive.
12:34 am on May 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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however giants come and go, yet the best of the cockroaches survive.

There are few giants and many roaches. The giants can an do arbitrarily crush roaches with no regards to which is best and which is the worst. Roaches don't survive for long and only the lucky ones live long enough to reproduce. The only reason they survive today is due to their the very large numbers. No giant would be able to crush all the roaches.

Take a blog for a specific and small niche, it will survive for a few month or years, then it dies. Shortly thereafter, a new blog pops-up and fills the void, for a few more month or years. None of these are ever successful but they appear to survive but none will ever thrive.

Google and the other monolith understand this dynamic, and now act as reverse parasites. A parasite is a small animal that benefits from the existence of the monolith. In terms or Google, they have engineered eco-system such that they are able to benefit of the existence all the small animals. The more roaches the better. They have created platforms such as blogger and Adsense that facilitate the propogation of the roaches while being able to extract any value created. The only way to survive is by rising above the level of the roach.

Economically this dynamic makes perfect sense. The web has no barrier's to entry. The door is open, you can create a website and show ads with no or very little investment. This means that competition becomes the barrier to survival. Google and the other monoliths facilitates this, keep barrier as low as possible because it blocks new entrants into its market places. They don't compete on the same playing field and the only way to get to their field is to cross this first field where the probability of success is close to zero. So in a very counter intuitive way, it is the lack of barrier to entry that is the barrier to entry.

I also believe that we are entering a phase were there is now a middle tier. If you can cross the first tier of impossible odds and competition then you reach the next tier where as long as you play nice with the monoliths you will be allowed stay, but as soon as you begin to encroach on their piece of the pie you will be quickly pushed back into the bottom tier or worse as soon as they realize that your pie is getting bigger they may decide take it.
3:11 am on May 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Things are changing lot online the last few years.

I think that you can find this said by several somebodies every year since 1994 (the year after the launch of Global Network Navigator (GNN), the first commercial website). And it's been true each time. However, what those saying such (usually) actually mean is that things were changing (for the worse) for them.


I also believe that we are entering a phase were there is now a middle tier.

That middle tier began ~15 years ago as niche major B&M enterprises began to see the web as more than an investor info brochure. By about a decade ago enterprise sites were increasingly dominating their niches for certain queries. Some of the early sites, i.e. Amazon, eBay, Google, PayPal, grew large enough fast enough or in new niches carved out online, to also dominate and hold their own with the more established zillion dollar businesses.

I fit very nicely into that middle tier and I meant to right from the beginning. And so did a good many folks that got their start 'back in the day'. Yes, entry level was lower back then, less forest for individual trees to have to stand out from. But there was also another stark difference. Many/most of the pioneers (1994-2000 - end dotcom bubble) and early adopters (2001-2005 - launch of WordPress) of web businesses had 'background'. They were hackers/programmers, had run or used BBS's, saw the opportunity of the web for their existing business, etc.

The divide in that period after 2005 can be seen most starkly in the shift from mostly folks who were used to figuring things out for themselves who asked for a hint or pointer when stuck to increasing numbers of folks who demanded a step by step how to and instant gratification/success; and got seriously upset when told to do a simple search for ye olde asked/answered basic questions.
Note: not pointing at anyone in this thread, merely a general observation.

Another divide started about then as well and grew quite slowly if obviously to those few of us on the 'out' side: the divide between all things Google and Google for all things side and the Google Search/AdWords/AdSense/etc is but one part of the online/web business model puzzle. And now that the Google 'alone' business model is increasingly problematic for many it is even harder for them to shift, both mentally and technically, to a more holistic approach. Those changing now/recently...
* to responsive sites are years behind competitors;
* to a mobile first progressive enhanced site design are years behind competitors;
* from drop ship of commodities are years behind comparable competitors and/or being trampled by enterprise;
* to actively identifying and blocking 'bad' bots are years behind competitors;
* from third party ad/af networks are years behind competitors;
* etc.

Also... pretty much year in year out...
* users and their connection contexts change;
* SE queries and query results change;
* SM platforms, their audiences, and behaviours change;
* Link rot changes all sorts of things;
* competitors behaviour/offerings change;
* etc.

The real question to ask is how 'you' are going to adapt to all these and more changes that have already occurred and those that are about to and those that may in years to come.

Now I admit that I had it 'easy' in some ways, having:
* decades of life experience;
* decades of (B&M) business managerial and ownership experience;
* decades of programming, DB design/GUI experience;
* almost a decade experience building client websites by hand;
* the luxury to be semi-retired, not reliant on sites to cover living expenses.

However I also:
* put in much of a decade of 100 hour weeks, week in week out; now it's a mere 40ish.
* put in years of networking at niche and ad/marketing conferences, etc. marketing my sites;
* had (and have) a rolling five year business plan attempting to not be surprised;
* picked niches that were not the 'popular' 'obvious' money makers so as to minimise competition and make domination easier;
* put in significant personal R&D and site design time to stay ahead of the web curve;
* invested significantly (monetarily) in double blind translation to offer sites in three colloquial language versions other than English;
* invested hugely (personal time) in an analytics backend including real time personalisation (now pseudonymised per GDPR);
* etc.

And had a whole lot of luck along the way.

Am I fortunate? Yup.
Did I, do I, work my proverbial rear off to help Dame Fortuna? Yup.

I use Google and FaceBook et al, and when they want more than I'm willing to share I cut them off at the knees aka block whole sections of sites from their purview. Given the way they are developing I expect them to be totally blocked within 5-years. If that happened now it would cost me about a quarter of my traffic and a fifth of my revenue. In five years? I'll see then. Because I expect to still be here and prospering. My business plan says so. :)
5:01 am on May 20, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I use Google and FaceBook et al, and when they want more than I'm willing to share I cut them off at the knees aka block whole sections of sites from their purview.

Like minds think alike. :)

This is the future. Those who plan for it now will be here 5 years later. Eight years back the writing was on the wall (for me) and struck out on my own. But it is not for the faint of heart or those whose work ethic is cut and paste ad links. You have to WORK for it.

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