We've decided to try something a little different. Today's computer industry continually pressures companies to lower prices, but at the same time the price of entrance for a small business trying to make a name for itself continues to increase. A single four-color page in Macworld reportedly costs over $30,000, and the other major magazines charge comparable rates. Yet advertising remains a necessity in the industry, especially in the less-traditional formats, such as the constant stream of MacWare/Mall/Connection catalogs we all receive every other week. Those catalogs aren't merely collections of software for you to browse and order - they're also big-time advertising vehicles, and the ad revenues no doubt go a long way toward keeping mail order prices low.
But isn't the Internet the great equalizer, the place where the little guy can appear larger than life? Yes, certainly, but it's never guaranteed, because (as I've said for some time now) you need content, but attention is even more important. Lots of people have great products and great content, but far fewer have the necessary level of attention.
TidBITS has that attention, if our mailing list of 26,000-plus readers and estimated total readership of 150,000 is any indication. And, we think we've found a way to use our strength to do something interesting. We call that something DealBITS.
DealBITS is a new publication of sorts, parallel to TidBITS but independent and rather different. Instead of offering editorial opinions, news, and reviews, DealBITS is devoted to straight-up advertising.
I can almost hear the collective gasp. That's right, DealBITS is an unabashed advertising vehicle. This may seem out of character for us, but let me explain our two major goals for DealBITS, and I think you'll see how it fits in with our philosophies and ideals.
First, we want DealBITS to serve the Mac and Internet communities by ensuring that every advertisement in DealBITS is a deal that will interest the sort of people who read TidBITS (in other words, ads for computer stuff). Everyone's interested in getting a good deal on hardware, software, and services, and we require that companies advertising in DealBITS offer lower prices, free shipping, free t-shirts, or something that constitutes a deal. No deal, no ad. Along the way, we're trying to encourage some of our pet ideals - email addresses in every ad, Web site URLs when possible, and non-800 numbers and fax numbers for overseas readers.
Second, we want DealBITS to help level the playing field between large and small companies. Sure, Microsoft can afford those mega-buck, multi-page ads in the big magazines, but most companies can't. We've set the price of advertising in DealBITS low enough that any company should be able to afford it. In addition, we've set some rules to keep things equal, including a size limit of 250 words and a no-exceptions policy of one ad per company. And, of course, we'll be sticking with our standard setext format and clean HTML design, sans graphics, so companies will have to make themselves stand out by providing great deals. If DealBITS can help put some small companies with innovative products on the map, we'll be happy. If DealBITS can get TidBITS readers some great deals on cool products, we'll be even happier.
In addition, DealBITS has virtually no impact on TidBITS. This article and a two-line announcement at the beginning of TidBITS issues is all the evidence of DealBITS you'll see. These advertisements will not appear in TidBITS, and TidBITS readers need only see DealBITS if they're interested.
Details -- As far as the details go, a new issue of DealBITS will be published on the first and third Monday of each month. Like TidBITS, you can get it in many ways, including email, FTP, and the Web.
Everything will be run from our new Apple Internet Server 6150 using Peter Lewis's FTPd, StarNine's WebSTAR and ListSTAR, and Apple's Apple Internet Mail Server. Assuming I've set the programs up right and assuming the 56K line provides sufficient bandwidth, everything should be copacetic.
We won't be distributing issues of DealBITS on the commercial online services. All the commercial services offer free or inexpensive Internet email and most offer FTP and Web access as well, so there's no reason to look beyond the Internet.
Unlike TidBITS, DealBITS issues aren't meant to be kept around. Once a new issue comes out, it totally replaces the previous one, which will disappear from our site. Deals may only be good for the time the ad exists in DealBITS, so there's no point in archiving old issues.
How will DealBITS interact with TidBITS? Not much. TidBITS will continue its sponsorship program, because the sponsorships provide a different (and more noticeable) form of exposure. There's no way we could fit the content of DealBITS into TidBITS, from both the perspectives of space and editorial mission. The DealBITS footprint within each issue of TidBITS will be just two lines at the top, much like the sponsorship mentions. As with the sponsorships, we'll mark when the contents of DealBITS change.
If your company is interested in finding out more about participating in DealBITS, send email to <email@example.com> and we'll send along details about costs, content, and the like.
The goal is for everyone involved in DealBITS to come out ahead. Readers can take advantage of better deals than would otherwise be available, and companies both large and small can present their products to Macintosh and Internet users on a playing field where company size and budget won't hamstring great products.