Archive for the ‘money’ category

Project Wonderful performance

April 6th, 2010

We’ve been using Project Wonderful for about two months now. We haven’t done a lot of posting asking users to buy ads to support us. We haven’t contacted people and asked them to buy ads on PW from us. We mostly left it alone, didn’t do much self promotion to ramp up our traffic. (We’ve been busy elsewhere.) How have we done?

Meh. Not well. That doesn’t come close to covering our current hosting. We’d probably be doing better if we had bigger ads and more ads. The fan oriented wikis that I know that us PW get comparable traffic but have more ads and bigger ads. They also actively promote their wikis in ways that we don’t. They also ask their community to buy advertisements. Those three things mean that they come much, much closer to covering their hosting costs than we could ever dream of with our current strategy.

Across The Pond, a Queer as Folk fan fiction archive, needs help

April 6th, 2010

Parts of this were cross posted to qaf_coffeeclub and as I emphasize with their needs, I thought I’d crosspost their plea here as I hate to see archives in trouble…

Just an FYI.

Okay fellow Queer As Folk fans … UK Qaf, US Qaf, or both!!! ALL
PAIRING PREFERENCES!!!!

If you want to keep the ATP Archive up and running – please read this
information.

Some of you may know I am an archivist at the Across The Pond QAF
Fiction Archive. It’s been many years of hard work, but not a little
pairing drama…lol (just teasing) – but through it all, there has
always been one place that served as an archive for all pairing
choices and all versions of the show “Queer As Folk”.

Now we all have our own pairing favs, and in some cases, we may also
have our pairing specific archives. But all of us know that there is
value in diversity, and having a wider selection can yield many
rewards.

And now, in the spirit of hope, I’m asking for your help to keep the
archive alive. Please read the information below, and know that
ANYTHING you can give is greatly appreciated.

Since our last donation drive in 2006, our failsafe backer(s) have
quietly slipped out of the fandom, and the Archive has literally been
surviving on air for almost a year thanks solely to the generosity of
our host provider. But they can no longer let things stand as they
are. This has come as news to me, and I’m sure to many of you. So
your help is needed, and needed now – if possible. In that spirit -
please share this request with your other QAF communities on
LiveJournal, Yahoogroups, etc.

Remember – No action = no result. And in this case, that would mean
the end of ATP.

The goal for their fundraiser this year is $500

The money will be used for hosting cost, maintenance for the site, and any overages for bandwidth.

Direct PayPal link

ProjectWonderful wonderfulness

February 5th, 2010

I feel like most of my recent posts have been bitter and angry.  (Which alas, my reaction to money problems and other people.)  I do have some rather cool news.  We’ve been using ProjectWonderful for a while.  We did bigger ads when we opted out of Amazon.com and got ToSed again from Google Ads.  They’ve made their advertising potentially more profitable for fansites.  How?  By geotargetting their ads.  Advertisers can buy ads for the US, Canada, Europe and everyone else.  That means instead of one potential income stream from one ad, you have four.  And advertisers win because they can better target their market.

It makes me happy.

Thank you Ross!

January 28th, 2010

E-mail and I can have a goofy relationship.  I love to get those little paypal notifications of donations received because yay! a little bit less stress in my life.  At the same time, I never feel like I can express enough gratitude towards the people who have helped Fan History keep going by donating, no matter how little.  Thus, reading those e-mails is a little bit scary.

So I put off reading the one from Ross last night until this morning.  And when I did, my eyes about bugged out of my head and I had to reread the e-mail about five times to check the decimal place: He donated $500.00 towards Fan History.  That should keep Fan History going for about three months, give or take a few weeks.  And that’s a huge amount of less stress on me and it makes it easier for us to complete our mission as we don’t have to worry for the next two or three months about how to pay for the site.

And wow.  Just wow.  I… yeah.  I can’t begin to explain how grateful I am.  Seriously.  Wow.  And thanks.  And thanks again.

I’d also like to thank Nile for her $5.00 and to anyone else who can help support us.

GoogleAds continue to suck: You’re suspended again with no explanation and no recourse

January 28th, 2010

About a week ago, I talked to an industry person I really respected about the cash flow problems that Fan History has had and the stress that this has caused for me.  I’m not really good with the monetization aspect of running Fan History.  It is a problem and a chronic one.  He suggested trying Google Ads again because it works really well for his site.  (And the more prominent the ad placement, the more potential earnings for Fan History.)  We had tried them before on Fan History, only to be suspended right before we would have gotten our first check for $120 so I was leery.  Nevertheless, I conceded to myself that maybe it was time to try again. We did that on January 19.  Last night, our Google Ads were suspended.  Why?  You tell us based on the e-mail they sent me:

While going through our records recently, we found that your AdSense
account has posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers. Since
keeping your account in our publisher network may financially damage
our advertisers in the future, we’ve decided to disable your account.

Please understand that we consider this a necessary step to protect the
interests of both our advertisers and our other AdSense publishers. We
realize the inconvenience this may cause you, and we thank you in
advance for your understanding and cooperation.

If you have any questions about your account or the actions we’ve
taken, please do not reply to this email. You can find more information
by visiting
https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153&hl=en_US.

Sincerely,

The Google AdSense Team

I have no clue why Google removed our ads and why they yanked our $2.79 or so in revenue.  And I really have a hard time believing that this is for the best interest of their advertisers.  Why?  Because Google does things that are NOT in the best interest of their advertisers, like allowing people to have a domain up with a single page where Google hosts nothing but ads on it.  How is that traffic in anyway good for an advertiser?  What that sort of thing does is encourage bad practices amongst domain owners, encourages squatting on domain names, etc.

Google often sucks for the people that host their ads and advertisers; they cheat both out of lots of money.

Katsucon

January 4th, 2010

The admin staff hasn’t really been keeping up with the latest Katsucon drama and we would really appreciate if our awesome contributors could step up and improve the article.  One of the most contentious issues that we’ve seen in the lead up involves issues around Artists Alley.  randomsome1 called the Maryland Comptroller’s office and got the low down on the tax situation for any artists selling merchandise and other goodies there.  This is crossposted with permission from her:

So I just spent an hour or so on hold and on the phone with the comptroller & sales/use tax people of Maryland. (For the record, their hold jingle is dire.) I transcribed what I got from them for sharing with the group.

If an individual in the state of Maryland is selling artworks or crafts which have been made specifically for sale, do they need to collect sales tax?

A: Yes they do. What you and/or the show promoter will need is to get a temporary sales tax number, unless you plan to sell in Maryland on a regular basis. If your sales will not be regular, register for a temporary sales tax number. “Regularly” is defined by “four or more times a year.” People who sell regularly in MD should get a permanent tax number, and for more information should call Miss Foster @ 410 767 1543.

A temporary tax number does not have a yearly/quarterly filing requirement. Getting one does not actually make you a business—it’s just to say that you will be selling things. (If you officially want to sell as your studio instead of your name you have to register a fictitious name, which is a slightly different and kind of expensive beastie in its own right.) When you complete the application it asks how long the event will run. After there’s a 20-30 day window to file.

If you return to sell in MD and need to pay sales tax again, just call the temp sales tax phone number (from above) and Miss Foster will be able to talk you through using the number/temp license. She got me registered over the phone with my info from Otakon.

Would tax liability change if a seller proclaimed themselves to be an amateur or a hobbyist?

A: No.

What about the provisions in the tax code regarding “casual and isolated sales”?

A: In the case of this event, quite a few people will have the option of making purchases so it does not count as a one time sale. As the purpose is for people to have more than one sale, and as the likelihood is extremely high that more than one sale will be made by each seller, this makes it exempt from the “casual and isolated sales” provision.

What about out-of-state sellers, small businesses, etc.?

A: They would also need the a temporary sales number. PA or other out-of-state sales tax numbers do not apply in MD, where the possession of merchandise will take place.

What could make sales at this show be tax exempt?

Sellers would not be required to collect sales tax if the purchase is made from a verified/certified reseller. (In this case, they would be required to collect proof of reseller status.) Otherwise they are liable for collecting and paying sales tax. To do otherwise is tax evasion.

What are the responsibilities of the individuals running a show that will feature sales of the previously mentioned artworks?

A: An event promoter could register for a sales & use tax number for the particular event, then at the end of the event the sellers will report their sales volumes and pay them the sales tax due; then the event promoter will report and pay that to the state of Maryland. If the sellers are registered with the state of Maryland they will pay the amount themselves directly. If any of you sold at Otakon—it’s like that.

Wikia is doing something awesome for fandom and wiki contributors

September 11th, 2009

While Fan History isn’t hosted on Wikia, we still love what they do. They are home to some of the best fandom wikis on the Internet for small fandoms and large fandoms. They have Wookipedia, Halopedia, The Muppet Wiki, Chuck Wiki, Creatures Wiki, Darthipedia, Hellboy Wiki, Lostpedia, Saturday Night Live Wiki, Stargate FanProd, and Yu-Gi-Oh Card Maker Wiki to just name a few.  If you don’t have the expertise to do your own Mediawiki install, aren’t as familiar with wikis as you could be so want something that is easy to use from the onset?  They are a great option.

And they are doing something pretty damned cool. …  That I need to actually go out about setting up myself later.  Wikia has an answers site.  It’s pretty good but like a lot of answer sites, it doesn’t always feel like it has the niche audience for certain questions I might want answered.  (Ever tried looking for help finding a specific Twilight story on Yahoo!Answers?  It can be an impossible endeavor.)  What Wikia is doing is allowing people to create niche specific answer sites using the framework they developed for WikiaAnswers.  The part that excites me more is that for the person maintaining the answer site, they are giving half the revenue the wiki earns through Google Ads.  It is a way of giving back to the community that does the work in providing answers and to encourage you to help build up  your answers site to make it more useful for the community.  Often, the people in fandom who build awesome fandom resources don’t get the recognition they deserve.  More often than not, they don’t get compensation for their work and go in to large amounts of debt running their sites.  What they are doing means that fans can potentially get something for what they are doing and, for those who are cash strapped, can justify their fanac a bit more.

So yeah.  If that interests you, get in touch with them to find out more.

Torchsong Chicago

June 5th, 2009

A lot of my friends are big Torchwood fans, and a number of them have been planning on attending Torchsong Chicago this weekend, especially to see prominently advertised guest and main series star John Barrowman.

Well, at the last minute it’s been announced that both John and Kai Owen will not be attending (John due to injury, Kai for undisclosed personal reasons). Understandably, there is huge upset over this, particularly given the very high cost paid by many attendees for the event, photo-op tickets, and a cabaret that was advertised primarily as a showcase for John. The convention organizers are so far insisting that absolutely no refunds will be given, not even partial ones, which no doubt they’ve covered their butts legally in their ticket sales to do this, as most all conventions do. Yet given the high prices paid by some for the event — upwards of $1,410 a person in an auction for front row seats and $500 for “Premiere Memberships” — one wonders if they’ll really be able to get away with that or if there might be so much public outcry (and potential legal troubles) that they may have to relent. Even if not, I doubt many Torchwood fans would go to another event sponsored by this same promoters again.

Who knows what will happen yet? I’ll be following the fall-out and looking forward to reports back from my friends — some of whom were already in transit to the Chicago area before news of the cancellations was released.

#rcc09 Wikis as Business

February 21st, 2009

Taking notes as a presentation by Evan on wikis as business because I am not facilitating this session. Some random thoughts from this:

Introducing money into the equation can change the dynamics of a wiki community.

There is a fear that the wiki maintainer will profit off other people’s work. Wiki maintainers and owners need to really work on it so that they treat their contributors with respect, help with administration and provide services to the community. Communities need to own the project. The company owns the website.

One wiki model that has worked is doing wiki farms but it isn’t really a software business in an interesting way because it doesn’t have the content issue and the community issues in that way.

This may pose a question regarding a business model that is viable. How can you make it a successful business if you can’t generate revenue just through advertising?

Ways to do that? Let the community pay for the platform… That may work well in some places but people are like “Why should I pay for the privilege of working for you?”

Google Advertising can remove value because the value ends up only being in the words. Possible way is to go directly to the advertiser. It helps improve your return on advertising.

Display Revenue takes a lot more organizational work than Google Revenue.

For a site like vinismo, direct advertising may work really well because the content is very focused in its content and mission.

WikiTravel declared that the far right column is for advertising. The ads didn’t appear in the wiki content.

WikiTravel also generates revenue through being able to print up physical version in a condensed version for people to use in another medium where they sell that printed version.

Most of the editors for the print version come from the WikiTravel community. They get hired for the print version. Being hired for wikitravel from with in the community helps maintain the community.

Books cost between $12.95 and $25 and you get the most up to date version.

Other mediums are about brand extension.

Yellow Wikis got shut down because of trademark but they were similar to the yellow pages. Their business model was that businesses could pay to protect their page. It was partially succesful. It might have moved to Wikia.

There is a question of if paying for ownership of a topic can be done in an ethical.

AboutUs pays for the article to be written, the article to be featured, etc. Companies get follow links when they pay. (But everyone who does constructive edits gets their links turned on to follow. That is manually being done. That policy is still in the air.) The main page rank has a lot of good page rank so that they have good reason to pay in some reasons.

There was a business that did a pay for improving articles on Wikipedia. The business that did that kind of got shut down because while they had the know how to write good edits on Wikipedia, the business didn’t interact well with the Wikipedia community.

Some people still do paid article writing on Wikipedia. They just aren’t as obvious as about it, are good communities, etc.

If you can show value to the community, that you aren’t taking anything away from the community, then it makes sense to do some monetization.

Three basic components to monetize: 1) Software, 2) Content & Advertising services, 3) People side and how to wiki. (Steven Walling.)

Dream Fish does a collaboration and co-working consulting business that is about establishing a collaboration culture. It is about practicing together. There is a paid content fee for some types of content. They help them find the appropriate wiki software to help them serve their goal. They help them figure out how they want to network and use collaborative tools. They also help people identify key people to help them implement their solution.

Steward Meyner does wiki consulting.

Microsoft has tried to put out white papers on how they use wikis.

Portland created a wiki and later didn’t realize what they wanted to do with their wiki. They ended up backtracking because of that as a result.

There is a need for a wiki for wiki consultants where you can get reputation, years of experience and involvement with types of software.

Wiki is great for content based websites. It can be more cost effective with users generating content.

GoogleAds wasn’t something that AboutUs originally feel was going to pan out but now they have changed their view because it now works and their Google Ads and they make money. It helps because they have really broad ads which works pulls them up which Google Ads helps serves up. They are also helped because they get a lot of traffic. They tried content categories for niche sales but for AboutUs it really hasn’t worked well so far. AboutUs thinks that Google Ads works well for random content where they can’t really target. It can be hard to sell specific ads for sections because it takes time and effort and people to sell ads across those categories.

wikiHow has a very similar model to AboutUs. That works really well for wikiHow.

LeadGen is a model about selling the ability to do surveys where the company does polls that they then sell that polling information to marketing companies. Leads can be worth $30 to $40. AboutUs learned about it from All Star Directory. That site has a lot of information about colleges and universities. People fill out forms with the expectation of being contacted about that information. It is online research, offline purchase. It can remove some of those issues involving community as your community isn’t going to get ad information they don’t ask for.

Wagn is a company that gets paid to host and doing consulting services related to the wiki they are hosting. Wagn doesn’t have wiki competitor because of what they are doing.

Mahalo has a micropayment service to reward for contributors where they can monetize it off. This might not work for everyone as people can be corrupted by reward. Alfie Cone did some research where kids were paid to play games and some were not. The kids who got paid stopped playing with toys when they told they were done. People get different things out of an altruistic activity. You need to consider some of that when you try things like that.

Evan doesn’t see wiki software business as much different than other software selling businesses. The only thing that might be different is the admin type function.

Wikia pays people to do some of that community maintenance. But that feels like doing it just to help generate community. Wikia also pays for wikis. They use a selling point of helping with community moderation to help prevent fights.

Wagn has a possible selling point of maintaining things so that people wn’t have to worry about becoming them next magnolia. The person can have back ups easier than other places. Wagn can also sell on having structured data and yet behind collaborative. They can also show that they need to sell that the content can’t be behind a firewall because their software is so great. They also help people to help them wagneering/wikibuilding which helps those users get greater ownership in house.

Ward Cunningham was told with in a week that he should patent the wiki idea. He didn’t necessarily see a way to patent it with out a wiki community being active. He didn’t see a business model off the first wikis. A few years later, he talked to entrepreneurs who paid him to do consulting and customer support where he found that it could make money in that way in terms of live organizational support and structuring. But the amount of support wasn’t necessarily right as it required almost a job to do that he wasn’t interested in. He now gives wikis to people for free. Ward calls his software The Wiki or more properly, Wiki Version 4. His big wiki is currently on Wiki Version 1. Wiki Version 4 is more modular. Ward did explore potential when was at its peak to sell the wiki. He talked to some people, went through some friends and some people might have been interested but the people interested would only have paid for the code based on how much it would have cost for the company to create the software themselves. The potential buyers were not interested in the community built on the site. Ward has made some money off Amazon Associated from the sale of books. He also makes money off the business card. He has never gotten any consulting work off of his wiki work… which is wow as he invented wikis. That might have been because he highballed the price. He was competing against Lotus Notes. The competitor might have looked at it as Lotus Notes vs. lone consultant and the end users doing the asking because they wanted to avoid Lotus Notes. The higher ups weren’t as interested in the user experience.

Are we hard wired to get personal gratification for being altruistic? Can that be used to make wikis better? Maybe wikis can be used to help prevent donor fatigue.

Some people may be hard wired to give and people might be emotionally hurt if they don’t give.

How would be work differently if that isn’t hard wired but cultural? Maybe it wouldn’t make a difference at all.

People might be financially rewarded for what they are passionate about. Though that might actually be hard to monetize.

Ward Cunningham didn’t worry about money as much when perusing his passion. He might not have been positioned as well connection wise in order to make money.

Wiki might not have been positioned correctly to get patented because when done it might have been viewed as something like herding chickens.

The idea for patents is to encourage innovation but it might not do that because it encourages people to work in isolation. Rather, all it does is encourage people to make a business model around an idea.

Do as I say, not as I do…

November 20th, 2008

I’m having one of those I’m a great big fat hypocrite moments. As it nominally affects Fan History, I thought I’d let you know. be-a-magpie is an adserver for Twitter. You let them put ads in your twitter feed and, based on the frequency of these tweet ads and how many followers you have, you get paid money! Yay! It is a great way to pick up some extra cash from $15 a month to $400 a month.

I haven’t done it for my primary twitter account because I don’t want to see ads on my twitter stream. I’ve unfollowed about a dozen people who have used be-a-magpie for similar reasons. I just… don’t want to be advertised at that way and I don’t want to do it myself. … even though be-a-magpie suggests I could make as much as $140 a month.

But fanhistorywiki’s twitter account, which is largely used to share things that appear on RecentChanges, is a different matter. It has about 20 followers. The account wasn’t intended to be interactive but rather to act as an off-site way to monitor changes on the wiki using a forum that a lot of people like. So I’m testing out be-a-magpie on that account because I would really love the extra $17.00 a month that it could earn for the site.

So I won’t subject you to ads where I have to view them and will reward you if an unfollow if you do it to me. But I’m doing it elsewhere. (And if you’re a fandom person/fansite thinking of doing something similar, remember that your followers probably will have similar ideas about not wanting to have their twitter stream polluted with ads.) Do as I say, not as I do…

Google Ads, your fansite and click fraud

November 15th, 2008

I was poking around various fan fiction archives last night, looking for archives to contact about FanworksFinder. One of these archives was encouraging its members to click on Google Ads as a way of helping to cover costs. This had worked. When they stopped encouraging people, their Google Ads revenue dropped a lot. In the end, they were busted for click fraud as a result. (Because Google accused them of clicking on their own ads to make money.)

If you’re a fansite and you want to cover your costs, Google ads are one way to go. If they aren’t working on their own to raise revenue, DO NOT ENCOURAGE USERS TO CLICK ON ADS! DO NOT CLICK ON ADS YOURSELF! THAT IS CLICK FRAUD! You get caught at it and you all the revenue you’ve earned goes poof! You won’t get that check. I’ve seen a number of fansites get busted for click fraud where they encouraged their users to click on ads to cover costs. I’ve heard of several fan people who got busted for click fraud because they were accused of clicking on ads themselves. No check. And if you’re announcing the “Click to pay our bills!” effort on your site? Then anyone with a grudge against you can report you to Google Ads for click ad. You’re opening yourself up to lots of trouble. Don’t engage in click fraud!

If you need the money that badly to pay for costs for your fansite, there are ways that are much less risky than click fraud. There are three ways I recommend to help raise funds. First, ask your users to donate money to help cover costs. If your site is that important to them, they’ll contribute. Second, consider an advertising network like ProjectWonderful which pays out at $10 and is paid based on the amount of views to your site. Also fantastic about ProjectWonderful? You can encourage your users to buy ads for their sites and projects on your site. It isn’t just begging for donations then. Third, find a better hosting solution. You can move to a free host. (Transfer your wiki to say Wikia.) You can move to a cheaper host. (Fan History went from SiteGround to SliceHost and saved about $100 a month.) This could make your hosting more affordable for you. If you need more ideas, contact me on AIM at h2oequalswater or some other way. I’m more than willing to help you.

Just don’t engage in click fraud with Google Ads. You’ll get caught. It will cost you legit funds you earned. It is unethical. Just don’t do it! Find another solution!

Fandom as a business

October 27th, 2008

I spend at least two to eight hours a day working on Fan History. On a busy day, I could spend twelve hours day. About a third (1) of that time is spent talking about effective ways to market the site, how to improve the content, policy decisions and revisions that need to be made, how features we implement will be received by certain communities, discussing the risk/reward of these various strategies. My favorite places to have these conversations include twitter where I have access to some great people who follow me who can offer a business and wiki perspective, and via phone, AIM, e-mail or another messenger where I can have one on one conversations with users, with fandom and business people. I also love to have these conversations on my LiveJournal as a result of posting about my insecurities regarding what I’m doing, explaining the process of what I’m doing and soliciting alpha and beta feedback on features and policy we’re launching on a semi-public platform. (2)

I was having one of these conversations (3) recently on LiveJournal about a bot we’re planning on launching soon. One of the issues that came up was that, in making the decision to create this bot and launch this bot, we are going to ruffle some feathers because it goes against the norm in parts of LiveJournal related fandom communities. We decided to go ahead with it anyway because, as a business decision, it made sense. Risk/Reward was weighted. We discussed different, for want of a better term, market segments (groups and cliques? subfandoms? fannish subcultures?) inside of fandom, and their potential reactions to this bot. We also review previous decisions that were comparable, response to that and determined that overall, if we take this step and that step, our response rate should be ninety percent favorable. The ten percent unfavorable are not part of our potential audience, have a negative view of Fan History anyway, were largely informed of the means of protecting themselves in the previous discussions about Fan History. We can afford that as such articles increase our participation on the wiki, help users overcome a barrier for entry by not forcing them to create articles from scratch and get a lot of quantitative and qualitative information which will help us to better understand fandom. That’s how we made our decision. It was a business one.

That sparked further conversation which asked the question: Should fandom be treated as a business? Should business models be used as ways to assist in the decision making process as it pertains to sites, projects and people where the decision is based on a fandom?

There is a good argument for most fans that the answer should be no. Fandom is a hobby. Fans engage other fans and the source material for pleasure. The goals of most fans don’t necessitate a business approach.

But for certain subsets of people involved in fandom, fandom is a business and decisions need to be made based on that model. These people include fans who invest a fair amount of time and money on their sites, convention dealers, convention organizers, fans who have incorporated or report earnings from fandom on their taxes, anyone running a fansite with over 50,000 unique visitors a month, fan artists who sell their work, costumers, startups operating in fanspaces, freelance writers who also are fans, professional bloggers covering entertainment and fandom issues, professional writers and the list goes on and on. There are just a huge number of people who need to treat fandom as a business. These are people who cannot afford make decisions based on their perceptions of how “fandom” will respond, what fannish norms are and act as if they are operating on the same level as the casual fans who have much less of an investment legally and financially in fandom.

Why can’t they afford to do that? Because for a lot of fans who are in fandom for pure enjoyment, they have a general goal of not making waves, of finding ways to participate that don’t create additional strife for themselves, where they can express their love of canon, of finding a ways to enjoy the source more, of connecting with like minded people. Those are great goals for fandom. But if you’re on that other level, your goals are different. They include such things as covering the cost of materials, hosting, travel expenses. They include trying to make money, to profit off or maximize your profit. The goal might include trying to increase traffic, increase media exposure, increase interest in your project. The goal might be to create the biggest information resource, to create the best information resource, to use that information to get a job. These aren’t necessarily compatible goals.

If you’re a fan, you might shut your mouth and avoid controversy at all costs. If you don’t, your enjoyment of fandom might decrease. If you’ve got a financial or business stake in fandom, you might not have that luxury. You might need to wade in to that controversy or find a way to use it to your benefit. It can increase your traffic and your visibility which can help your bottom line. (4) By alienating a certain group, you might gain acceptance by a larger group who will enjoy what you’re doing who might not otherwise have been exposed to you had they not heard about it from the people who disliked the business. From a risk/reward perspective, it makes sense.

If you’re a fan, the rules might be that you might be constrained by personal relationships. You don’t want to offend your friends, alienate people who could help you be happy in fandom. These rules on a micro level mean you can’t say and do certain things. If you’re a business, the rules are different as you’re generally operating on and being judged on a macro level. On the micro level of fans, it is generally viewed as unacceptable to copy some one’s work and to archive it on your personal web space. On a business level, this behavior is generally much more acceptable and tolerated. Google makes copies and derivative copies of most people’s content. Fans don’t react negatively because this is being done by a corporation and the overall good is viewed as worth the loss of control of their content means that they can have copies of their work available should something happen to their own copy. It also makes their and other people’s content much more readily acceptable. The business aspect depersonalizes this and makes it acceptable. Thus, if you’re a fan with a financial stake in fandom, you need to depersonalize these activities and treat your fansite and activities like a business because of the dual standards in fandom. By acting like and treating your fansite like a business, your activities are judged by a different set of standards which more generally are friendly towards probable business models. If you treat it like fandom, you can’t get away with that.

If you are an artist who makes their living off of fan art, it behooves you to treat fandom like a business. Some parts of fandom have real problems with fans profiting off their fan created works. If you immerse yourself in that culture, you are going to have a problem of trying to make money off a community that is intrinsically hostile to what you’re doing. How can you then make a living off your art? If you’re treating fandom your fan art like a business, you find conventions that allow you to sell or auction your work. You find auction sites that allow you to sell this type of content. You create a site which talks about your art experience, has a gallery of some of your work, talks about your inspiration, might have a blog and talks about where you can buy your art. You create art that you think you can sell. You do this by researching what fan art does sell, finding out what fandoms are popular, possibly doing a few free pieces for big name fans so that you can help build an audience, leaving comments in reply to people discussing your work and avoiding places that are hostile to this business plan. You’re open and honest about what you’re doing. You learn enough of the legal defenses so that if some one calls your art illegal that will lead to a crack down on fans who aren’t trying to make money off their work, you can defend yourself. You can still act like a fan and if your art becomes established enough for its quality, you can play the fandom game more on a personal level with out it hurting your bottom line as your audience will be more focused on the product than you as a person. If you do the opposite, if you play fandom games first and then try to become a professional fan artist, people are going to have to get over all your fandom baggage as part of the purchasing decision process… which means tat when you play in fandom, you’ve got to weigh how you behave in that context of losing potential sales. What is the risk/reward for making fandom wank? Make Failure to these tasks will hurt your bottom line.

If you’re a fan who is spending upwards of a thousand dollars a year on your fansite, in creating art, in making costumes, organizing a convention, publishing fanzines, you have the added issue that you will probably have to treat fandom as a business unless you have some other means of income or are independently wealthy. From my point of view, Fan History costs me a fair amount of money to maintain. I have web hosting costs. I have development costs. I have advertising costs. I have legal and incorporation fees. I have taxes. I have networking costs. I’m fortunate in that my job provides me just enough money to cover these costs and my basic living costs that I can afford to spend all this time on Fan History. I’m also lucky because my job is fandom related to the extent that many of the things I do professional connect back to what I do for Fan History as a business. Because I love what I do, I am willing to make the sacrifices I need to in order to see things through. If I didn’t have my job, I would likely be unable to maintain Fan History. Many others who treat fandom as a business have similar issues. Fandom is their job. It is their career. For people in those positions, it is difficult to treat fandom as a hobby, as a source of personal enjoyment. When making decisions, we’re talking about people who aren’t making decisions about what makes them happy but about their personal livelihood. If you have a problem with a person in fandom, good advice might be to retreat and avoid them. If you’re in fandom as a business and you have a problem with a person in fandom, a business decision might be made differently. Why? If you were giving advice to some one about a co-worker or boss who were annoying, always putting you down, who were slandering you, whose activities at work were threatening your ability to do your job, you probably wouldn’t tell them to just ignore their boss and do whatever they feel like because doing so could result in them getting fired. Fandom as a business livelihood is the same. You make decisions differently.

The reality of making decisions in fandom based on business models can feel really cynical if you’re a fan who bases your decisions based on what heightens your fannish enjoyment. If you’re making business decisions in fandom, the whole process can be really frustrating as your actions might not be judged as business decisions but rather as actions in fandom evaluated from the perspective of what facilitates an individual in fandom’s personal goals. How do you handle these two things perspectives existing together? I don’t know… but the easiest way to start is to remember both perspectives exist and for fans to work with people who are changing their perspective.

1. About 1/10 of my time is being involved with Fan History and FanworksFinder as a user. The remaining time is spent implementing various policy decisions, tutoring people how to do them, doing work for pay that relates back to the activities I do on Fan History, publicizing the site, dealing with admin issues, searching for money or trying to keep abreast with fandom news.

2. If you’re interested in what I and what Fan History LLC are doing, then feel free to follow me on twitter or friend me on LiveJournal.

3. This is a locked conversation on LiveJournal. In order to view it, I need to have friended you in order to view it.

4. Which isn’t to say that this is just the purview of people with business interests in fandom. Plenty of fans enjoy controversy and plenty of fans have a stake in creating controversy in order to further their own standing in the community. The purpose in doing those activities is just different and should be acknowledged as such. FanLib benefited from controversy because it increased their potential audience. Some fans benefited from creating the controversy because it helped solidify group cohesion and reasserted their status as important people in the fan community.

StartUp Alpha pitch session

August 16th, 2008

On Tuesday, I did a pitch session at StartUp Alpha’s event in NYC. I figured it was good exposure for Fan History, and a great learn by doing opportunity. I didn’t believe that we’d hook up with a venture capitalist there. (Though if it had happened, I would not have turned it down.) Two nights in New York City to do that, the cost wasn’t bad.

  $340.00 for airfare to New York City
   $35.50 for train from EWR to NYC
   $23.00 for MTA pass
   $94.00 for hostel for two nights
   $16.20 for book about fandom
    $7.64 for breakfast at ORD
    $5.41 for breakfast in NYC
    $7.14 for lunch in NYC
    $3.63 for snack in NYC
    $7.04 for breakfast at EWR
    $2.00 for CTA to downtown Chicago
    $5.65 for train home from Chicago
    $3.29 for food in Chicago at Wiki Wednesday, Chicago
  $550.50 Total for Startupalpha.com pitch and party expenses

Really affordable if you’re a startup and looking for VC pitching experience, another reason to network and to meet more people who are doing their own start ups. Kept costs down by staying in a hostel which ran about $47 a night, rather than $250 at a hotel. One night, I had a room mate who snored but with a hostel, that’s a risk and I slept through it. The next night, some one came in at 1am. Still, not bad. (This was the Candy Hostel.) I took MTA, flew into Newark, took a train into the city. Those things also helped keep the costs down.

While there, I talked to some one from femalethiink.com and I owe them an e-mail.  I also met Roger from klickable.tv which looks to be a very cool project.  From how it was described, it reminded me a bit of a video version of like.com and LiveJournal’s celebritystyle community rolled into a collaborative environment where people can comment on and offer additional links.  As some one who has SQUEE! moments over clothing on shows I love(d) like CSI and Boston Public, being able to click on clothes that my favorite characters are wearing and to learn more about them… just awesome.  It would also be another great way to find a community of like minded fans.  (And for shows like Lipstick Jungle and Sex in the City… considering how central clothes are to the show…)  I can’t wait to see more of it.

Great trip overall.  It was affordable.  It was a learning and networking experience.

Communicating with the fandom community

July 15th, 2008

When you’re running a fansite, LiveJournal community, mailing list, ficathon, convention or anything else in fandom where you’re effectively in charge, there are all sorts of communication issues that have to be dealt with.  As the person who is running whatever fandom project you’re running, the weight of whatever decision is made falls on you.  Whatever risk, be it legal, financial or social, there is with the project is yours to bear.   You’re on a different level with the users because you don’t necessarily have the same purposes for being involved.  These different levels can cause communication problems.

Did I mention problems?  Companies operating in fandom can attest to the communication problems that arise.  Wikia, LiveJournal, Quizilla, Lucasfilms Ltd., TokyoPop have all had to deal with the backlash of members of fandom not being happy with the decisions made by those corporations.  Fan run groups also have had similar problems in communication with fandom regarding the purpose of their projects, the rules they have, etc and have had to deal with backlashes.  Organization for Transformative Works, SkyHawke, FicWad, SugarQuill, Fiction Alley, ficathons or communities that have not allowed slash or gen, mailing lists over policies regarding concrit, the list could go on and on.

So how do you communicate with the community which you’re creating or operating in?  There is no simple answer.  Over on InsaneJournal and LiveJournal, I’ve discussed this with a few people who have operated fansites and other fan communities.  Even amongst my peers, we can’t reach a consensus.

While there are no simple answers, there are questions that can help you determine how you should communicate with them and what about.

  • Should you tell users all about the financial situation in regards to your project?

This is a common communication problem for fan projects because they take money to run.  Fans can sometimes have entitlement issues which can make those who run projects queasy about because those fans can wank a money situation hard core.   Couple that with your own need for money to help fund your site, well… huge problems can develop.

Before communicating with your users or others involved with your project, determine your comfort level and your potential monetary needs.   If you’re not willing to be in the spotlight, then consider not talking about money.  Deal with everything behind the scenes;try to keep the project scalable so you don’t need to create waves with users by begging for donations or adding advertisements.  By making changes and being public about those changes and the monetary reasons behind it, you’re likely to become fandom unpopular and end up on fandom wank.  If discussing money in fandom is something you’re not comfortable with, don’t discuss it period and don’t create situations where you might need to.  If you need money to run the site, then be honest about it from the get go.  Be as specific as you’re comfortable with and provide as much information to users as you think they need in order for you to meet your finacial obligations for the project.

  • Should you discuss policy decisions with your users?

Fan fiction archives, mailing lists, LiveJournal communities, wikis, forums have rules.  (Or don’t.  But most do.)   At some point, some one is going to object to those rules existing or run afoul of them.  You’ll ban some one for plagiarism.  Some one will question why your m/m slash community doesn’t allow f/f slash.  People will get upset because you needed to throttle bandwidth and turned off the feature that they cannot live with out.  People will demand, absolutely DEMAND an explanation from you in some of these cases.

This situation is difficult. My advice is make a short statement and do not engage outside that.  If you must engage, do so privately.  By actively and publicly engaging your users over say why you banned a particular author for plagiarism, you’re inviting them into dialog.  That dialog is probably one that you cannot control.  If the dialog is going on on your community or site and you shut it down after you’ve participated, people are going to come after you with all sorts of lovely accusations of stopping freedom of speech, breaking your own rules and being a hypocrit.  It is a situation you cannot win because you probably won’t be able to scream as loud as those complaining as their numbers are probably larger than yours.  Just wait it out, be willing to risk losing participants and friends.  Don’t capiluate unless you have to because by capitulating, you’re giving people permission to pull that similar stunts.   Eventually, those situations will pass.

Before you get there, make sure your ass is covered.  About page, Terms of Service pages, contact information, rules pages, help pages on how to use your project, a history of your project, all of those are communication tools.  If you want, include an article about why your policies are the way they are… but have it up before you launch.  If you don’t accept chan because you are in Australia and that’s child porn, then communicate that with your users so they know who to blame.  (The Australian government, not you the fan fiction archivist.) Make sure they are linked in your header, footer or sidebar so people don’t have an excuse for not seeing them.  That can head off some of the worst that may come at you.

  • Should I communicate with people participating with my project?

This is a question I’ve seen from a few tech oriented people in fandom.  They do not see the inherent need to communicate with the users on the sites they run.  Or they think that they can get away with just communicating with their administrative help people.  I’ve also seen members of fandom  lament over the lack of contact they’ve had with administrators at the sites they use.  This happens with big sites like FanFiction.Net and smaller groups like mailing lists or LiveJournal communities.

The decision to communicate with people involved with your project comes down to a couple of things.  Do you need to continue to promote your project?  If yes, then you need to communicate with participants until such a time that marketing begins to take care of itself.  If no, then you might be able to get away with it.  Do you plan to use the project as an example of your coding skills and is that your primary motivation for building the project?  If yes, then you can probably get away with out communicating with participants for your project because the project isn’t about the participants and the community but about the underlying value being the coding.  Is your project central to your identity in fandom?  If yes, then you probably want to help keep and maintain that identity by protecting your project by communicating with your project’s participants.  Can you get some one else to communicate for you?  If yes, then the pressure is off you and you can use that other person to handle any problems.  Can you afford to lose people because you’re not answering questions?  If yes, then you probably don’t need to communicate that often with people.

  • What platform should I use to keep in touch with people?

There are so many tools out there for people to communicate with participants in their projects.  They include blogs, message boards, IRC, instant messenger programs, report abuse forms, contact forms, services like getsatisfaction.com, social networking services, e-mail, mailing lists, the main page of your site, private messaging through various sites, microblogging services, flyers, the phone, snail mail mailings, etc. Before you start your project, determine how you’re going to do that.  Consistency for you and participants related to your project is important.  (I know.  I’ve learned the hard way and I still make this mistake.)  Find a method of communicating that you’re comfortable with.  If you can’t stand twitter but your users are all on twitter, then don’t use it as your primary communication tool because you’re less likely to be as responsive as you should be to people’s concerns.  Use the tools that you’re most comfortable with to communicate with people.  And then advertise what tools people can use to get in touch with you using and under what conditions they should contact you.

How you communicate, what you communicate about and when you communicate are personal decisions and/or business like decisions.  No solution is one size fits all.  Determine your needs, your objectives and your comfort levels and you should be able to find a solution that works for communicating regarding your project in the fan community.

Funding your fansite

July 11th, 2008

Discussing money and fandom always makes me queasy because I come that part of media fan fiction fandom which prizes the fact that there is a certain purity to do what we do and believes that making money off our activities is wrong for a variety of reasons.   Another part of the reason that fandom doesn’t discuss money  is that there is the strong belief that what we are doing is probably wrong.  Fansites, fan fiction, fan vidding, fan art all have possible copyright issues.  If some one is making money, it is best to keep that quiet lest the creators decide to go after you and others around you. As a consequence,  money very rarely gets discussed, the financial back end for most sites is largely unknown and the details that are believed to be true are frequently way off base.
But if you get a site big enough, if you run something with high bandwidth consumption or you some how make it in the top 50,000 sites, your site is going to start costing you money if you’re doing your own hosting.  Serious money.   (And a serious time commitment.  A potentially huge time commitment which can also potentially cost you lots and lots of money.)  The question than comes down to how do you fund your fansite?

There are a number of options.  They include donations, paying yourself out of your own pockets, paid accounts, advertising, merchandise sales, being bought out (or moving to a free service), incorporating and some other creative solutions.

One of the most popular of these is user based donations. If your site costs $10, $15, even $500 a month and you have a dedicated and loyal user base, that money can flow.  The downside to this is that you can become really beholden to users who think because they kicked back $20 of the $250 you needed this month that you owe them.  Users can also go through a certain degree of fatigue if they see a request for money all the time.  The other downside to this is if you lack a real community and don’t have that dedicated user base, you may never be able to ask for donations in a way that will support your site.  Still, this option is popular because it doesn’t involve intrusive advertisements and it doesn’t offend the sensibilities of those who believe in the purity of fandom, where we shouldn’t make money off our activities.

Probably the most popular option for most fansites is paying out of pocket.   The part I like best about this option is that, as the maintainer, you’re really beholden only to yourself.  If you want to say “Screw you!” to your visitors, you can.  You don’t have to answer to advertisers either.  For smaller fansites, the cost is probably between $2.50 a month to $150 a month.  Many people can absorb that cost with out any problems.  It is the ideal for many who believe that fandom shouldn’t be about profiting off other people’s intellectual property or off other people’s work because you’re basically going into debt because of your love of the community and that which you’re a member of the fandom.  If you’re a fan who wants to support other fans, there are a number of fan friendly, fan run hosting options including Squidge and SlashCity.  The problem is this really isn’t feasible if you’re planning a large, large site, need a lot of custom programming or you have huge amounts of traffic.  Most people just can’t absorb $1,000 to $2,000 a month for hosting.

Paid accounts are another option.  They can be a wonderful source of potential income, especially if you can make them subscriptions.  The problem here is that, if you’re not a programmer, you’re either going to learn or you’re going to have to hire a developer to build features to allow you to offer such accounts.  That can cost time, may make your host less secure if you’re programming with very little idea of what you’re doing. and cost money to hire a programmer.   It can also potentially really offend your user base who might not see the necessity of offering a paid version of the site.  If you have a big enough audience and a loyal fan base, if you can program or get a cheap developer, this option is probably a really good one for larger fansites.  (Unless you’re a wiki in which case, there isn’t much you can offer in the way of paid accounts.)

Advertising is probably the second or third most popular options for funding your fansite.  The popular sansite choices for advertising brokers seem to basically include AdBrite and GoogleAds.  If your site gets enough traffic, you can generally make enough money to cover your hosting costs.  I’m not partial to GoogleAds though because they require you may $100 before you can get your check.  In a one year period where Fan History had the ads on the site, we never reached that $100 threshold and never got paid.   Ouch.  The other problem with GoogleAds is that they don’t allow adult content.  If you’re a site like AdultFanFiction.Net, you’re pretty much screwed when it comes to GoogleAds and a number of similar ads.  A third problem I’ve encounter is that some of those contextual ads are a pain in the ass.  Fan History had a lot of ads for fans, the kind that blow air around as opposed to the type that love something.  This problem means fewer chances for click through to earn money.  Still yet another problem is that some services, like GoogleAds, make it hard to control who advertises on your site.  No, I don’t want some one advertising vibrators and viagra on Fan History.  Thanks.  But unless I catch the url and report it to block it, that ad may keep appearing. At the moment, Fan History is using ProjectWonderful for ads.  It makes a number of those complaints go away.  Besides the ad issues themselves, some users may be really turned off by ads and think that you’re making a lot of money.  I’ve seen a number of kerfluffles and stupidity regarding that issue.  If you haven’t done ads before and you’re going to do them, be open and honest with your users to mitigate any PR damage your site may face.  If you are making more than you need to operate, figure out some way to kick some back to the users in give aways or contests.  And then, if you’re asked, tell your users that all the extra money is going into a savings account for the site to help cover costs in the long run.  Say this to cover your ass.  Fan sites run by fans take a lot of flack for making money compared to fansites run by corporations and that way, you cover your ass.  Getting back to ads, this option may or may not work for you.  It just comes down to how well your ads work for you and the amount of traffic you’re getting.  Don’t be totally dependent on it as a solution until you know how well it works.

Still yet another option if you need to pay for your site is to get free hosting.  There are a couple of sites and services which will pay the hosting costs and host you in exchange for something.  Wikia is one example.  Got a fandom wiki?  Consider moving your wiki to their server. If you’ve got a big one with a lot of traffic and a dedicated community, then you can probably sell it to them.  This has happened before with one wiki earning at least five figures.  If you’ve got a fansite, other hosting options include the Devoted Fan Network which hosts your site based on their overall site design and where Devoted Fan Network puts ads on your site to recoup their costs for hosting.  You may also try selling your site or seeing if you can get some one to pick up sponsorship of your site in exchange for exclusive rights to advertise.   That was the case for Battlestar Galatica Wiki where FanLib appears to have picked up the tab for their hosting in exchange for ads on their wiki. This option may work for a lot of people but it generally means a certain level of losing control over your site in order to do it. Of course, you can still go with the old fandom classics like FreeWebs, Bravenet, blogspot, LiveJournal, Geocities, and Tripod.   If you’re a control freak, it may be a bad, bad idea.  If you’re not such a control freak and money is a big concern, it may be an option for you.

There area  few more options for funding your fansite that I haven’t discussed.  The real issues when it comes down to funding your fansite are your comfort level and control issues, how much you’re willing to spend, how your audience will react and finding a partner or company you can work with.  There is no one size fits all solution for fansites.

Mahalo aggressively goes after Wikia

November 29th, 1999

Yes, Jason is trying to get people to leave wikia. (He has never approached us!) Given the licenses of most wikis on Wikia, he doesn’t really need to approach anyone: He can just copy the whole thing on to Mahalo, find some one willing to curate and be done with it. If he is only offering half the money to one person, large wikis aren’t going to move. If he doesn’t have the domain, there isn’t going to be a lot of money unless he can squeeze Wikia and beat them on SEO for the same content.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Edited to add: Linked to Jason’s twitter account and the leavewikia account on #wikia on irc.freenode.net to mostly complain about Jason’s lack of understanding of wiki communities and fan communities. The result: [14:42] -ChanServ- You have been devoiced on #wikia by Dantman (Nadir_Seen_Fire) .

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