As I'm sure you've realized over the last year or two, the slow economy has affected almost everyone, including TidBITS, since our primary source of income is our corporate sponsorship program. We've seen MacFixIt move to a subscription model, and Ric Ford of MacInTouch recently wrote about his site's difficulties and announced that he would be taking donations along the lines of our contribution program.
Contributions from readers have proven extremely welcome in softening the financial blow for us, and a bit of a rebound for the sponsorship program might be coming in the final quarter of 2003, but in the meantime, we've decided to broaden our revenue sources. Here's what we're doing, and I hope you'll find these changes sufficiently interesting to help make them successful ways of keeping TidBITS solvent.
DealBITS Drawings -- Many years ago and for a relatively short time, we published another newsletter called DealBITS, whose goal was to attract and publish product discounts for readers, with companies paying to be included. It wasn't a huge success, in part because it came too early, and companies hadn't realized the utility of the Internet for raising awareness and increasing sales with limited-time discount offers.
Now we're reviving the DealBITS name and aspects of the concept, though not as a separate newsletter. The end goal remains the same - to attract discounts for TidBITS readers while raising some money for TidBITS, with the added bonus that the company providing the discount will also donate a prize to be awarded randomly to one of you. To be eligible to win the prize, you will need to sign up (no purchase necessary, yada yada yada) on a Web form and explicitly agree to the rules. At the end of the week, we'll pick a random name from the entries to win the prize; everyone else who entered will receive the discount code. We'll notify all entrants and publish the name of the winner in the next issue of TidBITS (that's an important requirement of the laws surrounding these sort of drawings).
We've discussed this project a bit on TidBITS Talk, and here are a few answers to the common questions:
Although we can't be responsible for any wacky local laws that may make you ineligible, international readers are welcome to enter unless we specifically note otherwise. The lawyer says you must be over 18, though.
Shipping costs shouldn't be an issue because we anticipate either the prize being a registration code to a downloadable product or the sponsor bearing the costs, even to international addresses. The winner will be responsible for any taxes, fees, or duties.
Our first DealBITS drawing appears in this issue; future drawings will occur as we find companies that are interested in participating. Any company that wants to learn more about what's involved should send me email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. So take a look, and for those of you who don't always get around to reading TidBITS right away, remember that DealBITS drawings are active only for the week following the issue in which they're announced. You snooze, you lose.
Spotlight on Peachpit Books -- With the trend toward fewer and slimmer manuals that I identified more than five years ago in "The Death of Documentation" in TidBITS-428 continuing unabated, technical books have become ever more important sources of tested, organized, and well-presented information. There are times I've struggled in vain to search the Web for the solution to some problem, only to find it quickly in a book on my shelf.
So we're starting a partnership with our friends at Peachpit Press to spotlight one book a week in the sponsorship area at the top of each issue. These are recent books we find the most interesting or useful, and the ones we think you'll want to know about. They'll all be 30 percent off the cover price, and InformIT (the fulfillment arm of Peachpit's parent company) offers free UPS Ground shipping within the U.S., making the overall price cheaper than most online sources. The only downside is that their international shipping is usuriously expensive, so we recommend international readers investigate other methods.
It remains to be seen how helpful this program will be to our bottom line, since our experience is that affiliate programs seldom generate significant income. My hope this time is that by recommending a different book each week, it will prove sufficiently popular with TidBITS readers to be financially worthwhile.
Google AdSense -- One of the major problems that anyone who attempts to fund a business via advertising quickly discovers is that attracting advertisers is extremely difficult. Ad sales is a specialized field that few people do well. So, what if there was a service that would go out and find appropriate ads for you?
As you've no doubt realized by now, the search engine company Google earns money by selling keyword-based ads that appear when you perform searches - the AdWords program. Since the ads are (at least theoretically) targeted to match your search, they're more relevant and thus more successful than standard banner ads. Google has done a good job of making it easy for businesses to promote themselves by buying these ads via a process of bidding to pay a certain amount for each click-through. The higher an advertiser bids, the higher in the listing their ad appears.
We've redesigned our home page to make room for the Google ads, and we're testing to see if our traffic and click-through rates will make it worthwhile to add the Google ads elsewhere on our site. Anecdotal reports from friends indicate that sites with a lot of traffic can generate tidy sums of money. I'm not positive that our site meets the ideal profile, but it's an easy test, and remember, every time you click one of those ads, TidBITS earns some money, somewhere between 3 and 65 cents to judge from what we've seen in testing.
Try 'Em Out! All of these efforts are quite new for us, so be sure to let us know what you think in TidBITS Talk. Here's hoping they work out, both in terms of providing useful services for you and helping keep TidBITS in the black.