Maybe I spoke too soon.
January 5, 2001 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Maybe I spoke too soon. A lot of semipro tech-zines, sort of like blogs except with specific subject matters to cover, are financed by ad networks. In the recent past a bunch of them have lost their funding when their ad networks went out of business. Now one of the biggest networks which remains is changing their terms to the detriment of the web sites. I gather that a lot of the ad networks were running at a loss, and of course new funding has dried up. [more inside]
posted by Steven Den Beste (6 comments total)
I feel sorry for some of these guys; they really pour their hearts into their sites. [H]ardOCP, in particular, is actually run by a couple of guys named Kyle and Steve as their day jobs and they update the site many times a day with lots of info they get by browsing the web, as well as doing direct testing of products for review. They're both quite witty, and it's a pleasure to read. They make fun of everything, including each other and themselves. I usually visit several times a day. They work 7 days a week and they work [h]ard. Steve runs a separate site called Hypothermia, and he's actually had to descend to soft porn to attract hits. And how the hell did he meet Asia Carrerra, anyway? I'm envious; she seems like she's a really nice person. Turns out she's a computer freak and a hardcore gamer; I gather she's a top Unreal Tournament player, but plays anonymously online. Right now she's studying computers hard so that "I can get a job I can do with my clothes on". It seems they are actually friends. (Some people have all the luck.)

This site, on the other hand, is more cynical about the fact that sex sells. It's too bad that this is what they're compelled to do to survive.

If you're not into this, the reason it matters to you is that these kinds of sites have made a difference in the industry. For example, Kyle, Anand and Tom, between them, convinced Intel to recall the 1.13GHz PIII last summer by proving to Intel that it didn't work. The actual demonstration to Intel was done by Kyle in his lab in front of an Intel engineer. A few days later Intel acknowledged the bug, and shortly after that they recalled the part. And Tom Pabst has been in the forefront of trying to publicize the failings of Rambus RDRAM.

Tom and Anand are not in any danger because their sites are big enough and popular enough to actually sell advertising directly. But Kyle may be in deep kimshi because his funding came from UGO. No reports yet on what that's going to mean.

In some cases those ad networks also hosted the sites. Kyle hosts his own site on a server "in the bunker" but he is supporting his wife and new baby with the money he makes from the site. (He isn't getting rich, though; he does it as much out of love as anything. And he has non-trivial expenses since he has to pay for his own datalink, not to mention his baby.) His site is good enough that he may be able to find another sponsor. But a lot of my other favorite sites may disappear. And that will be a damned shame.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:51 PM on January 5, 2001

Just in passing, Anand Lal Shimpi is a phenomenon, and is sometimes referred to jokingly as "Wonder Boy" by other sites. (I think Kyle started that.) He started his site when he was 15 and it had an international reputation within a couple of years. He's only 19 now; he's in college and still works on the site even while holding down a full course load. Again, I don't think he makes a massive profit from the site if he makes anything at all (although he damned well deserves to). One thing of which I'm certain: he will have no trouble at all finding a job once he graduates.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:00 PM on January 5, 2001

Ad networks out of business?

I have no idea how this could happen. For instance, I used to do some odd-jobs for the guy who runs Sentrak. I recently found out that he's 14.

He makes ~ 3 grand a month. In his spare time. (I could be an informercial writer, no?)

As far as I'm aware, the owner of UGO pulls in many times that.

How can you lose money on something that takes little capital and so little upkeep?


posted by Kevs at 12:41 AM on January 6, 2001

UGO pays the sites which carry its ads. By so doing, it collects a lot of sites which are popular and thus gets a lot of hits. This is their hook for selling their service to the advertisers. Moreoever, it's a very specific and very targeted audience.

The problem is that UGO guarantees a minimum monthly payment to each of those sites, plus an amount per hundred thousand hits beyond that. UGO further provides hosting services for a lot of them, and UGO has a nontrivial staff not only to do all this but also a sales staff as well, plus there's network connect costs for their servers not only for the sites they host but for the ads themselves. I can't say I'm surprised they're running at a loss.

The other ad services which have shut their doors were following a similar business model. Part of the problem was that the number of advertisers has shrunk and the rates they're willing to pay is down because advertisers have gone sour on the "banner ad".
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:29 AM on January 6, 2001

I make so little running banner ads that I wonder how any small Web publisher is supporting itself that way. One of the things that may be contributing to hard times for these videogame/tech sites is that there are a million of them all catering to the same crowd.
posted by rcade at 8:14 AM on January 6, 2001

There's a thriving subset of online comics that heavily focus on the gaming industry. They're usually top-of-the-heap comics, and funding (sometimes hosting) from companies like UGO keep them around, too.

The number of sites that are being affected by this even includes some "evolved" personal sites who are members of the network that don't necessarily contribute in the way the tech sites do, but provide entertaining content.
posted by cCranium at 8:18 AM on January 6, 2001

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