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Thoughts on Funding Web Sites


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(This started as a response to a thread on the whole CharterMemeber issue. Some folks wanted to know about how web sites fund themselves. Here are some of my observations on the topic)

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Folks, its been a few years since the idea of funding a web site was new and innovative. In fact its pretty safe to say that most of the ways webs site got funded are now mostly dried up and blowing in the winds of the boomdotbust.

 

Banner Ads, Click throughs, Amazonstyle price shaving, Product Placement.......

 

All of these were once the ways many fan and community sites funded themselves. When the reality set in to the folks paying for /sponsoring the services that most of these methods were not making them money (most were costing them) the "free" services went away.

 

No tickey no shirty

 

Classica example..http://www.arstechnica.com/

 

Ars was using banner ads and the like to pay for thier great website. Then the bottom fell out of the market and they had to go another way to pay for the site. The answer they picked, Subscriptions.

 

The main site everyone knew and loved was still open to all, but value added stuff was used to lure folks into paying a subscription fee to keep the whole site up.

 

So some payed for a few extras so that everyone, both those who payed and those who did not, could keep using the site.

 

Even Yahoo, probably one of the largess free community sites around, has had to rethink thier innerworking. Recetnly they floated the idea of charging a fee for "advanced" group functions.

 

Napster? Napster was a joke folks. Napster was an attempt to cash in on distributed file sharing. In order to do so they had to do two very stupid things.

 

One, they had to centralize the decentralized methodology.

 

Two, they had to charge folks to trade mostly illegal files.

 

It did not take a rocket scientist to realize this was going to blow up in thier faces.

 

I wont even get into how the Copyright Mafia has changed thing so much over the last decade...really I wont. You want some one to hate, try Sonny Bono.

 

I think over the last few years a basic answer has bubbled up as to the funding of a community project, an answer that is very old and very very essential. Its called community support.

 

You dont look to Nike. You dont have Porn Banner Ads or "Hit the MonKey" flash appletes. You dont look outthere, you look in here.

 

Examples.....

 

Fidonet

Ars Techinca

1980 era BBS's

The Fathead's Jean Shepard Collection

The OTree Old Time Radio Cd Exchange

The Countermoves Game Zine

 

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TeamWSMF@wsmf.org

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Now, having said that, there are times when you need sponsorship.

 

Thats when you ned to go outside the community and make a pitch. You have to sell a company on the idea that if they give you money to do something cool you will draw lots of folks to that thing and in the process expose those masses to the sponsors corporate brand.

 

It works well in times when the market is on the upswing and when there is a proven mass that is recptive to the sponsors brand.

 

An Example of this can be seen at Slashdot

 

The Slashdot guys sold the sponsors so well they bought themicon_smile.gif-

 

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TeamWSMF@wsmf.org

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Now, having said that, there are times when you need sponsorship.

 

Thats when you ned to go outside the community and make a pitch. You have to sell a company on the idea that if they give you money to do something cool you will draw lots of folks to that thing and in the process expose those masses to the sponsors corporate brand.

 

It works well in times when the market is on the upswing and when there is a proven mass that is recptive to the sponsors brand.

 

An Example of this can be seen at Slashdot

 

The Slashdot guys sold the sponsors so well they bought them:)-

 

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TeamWSMF@wsmf.org

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On the other hand, one has to be comfortable that sponsorship does not lead to incompatibility or favoritism.

How would we all feel if Garmin became the primary site sponsor?

Or Magellan?

Or Microsoft? icon_wink.gif

Those of us with different brand or computer orientations might worry about new "features" that would marginalize us, or affect editorial content.

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On the other hand, one has to be comfortable that sponsorship does not lead to incompatibility or favoritism.

How would we all feel if Garmin became the primary site sponsor?

Or Magellan?

Or Microsoft? icon_wink.gif

Those of us with different brand or computer orientations might worry about new "features" that would marginalize us, or affect editorial content.

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Yep, that is the problem with sponsorship, you then are in many ways tied to the sponsor.

 

Then you have to start worrying about not offending the sponsor, you tend to bend to them to make them stay paying sponsors.

 

Which is why I like the community supported approach more than the corporate sponsor approach.

 

Events and the like, sure, but the running of the infrastructure? Nah, too messy.

 

-tom

 

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TeamWSMF@wsmf.org

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It seems to me that Garmin could pay Jeremy a fair price for all that he has done (thereby owning the site) and hire him to continue his work full-time (paying him handsomly, I'm sure).

 

If I was an executive at Garmin, I'd surely consider it. With this type of corporate ownership, the quality of the site could be extrordinary. In return, it could boost their sales of recreational GPS units, funding everything.

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