Mac Musings

The Future of Low End Mac

Dan Knight - 2002.05.22 - Tip Jar

Something has gone terribly wrong with the world of online advertising when a site with a loyal following that serves up to a million pages per month can't earn $1,000 in income from all the ads displayed on our site. Yet that's precisely the state of things at Low End Mac.

Fortunately, online ads aren't our only source of income. We also take in several hundred dollars per month in affiliate fees between CoolVCD, eBay, MacMall,, and several other programs. We bill several hundred additional dollars for text ads on our email lists, although we've recently lost a couple sponsors. And we continue to receive donations and subscription fees.

But that doesn't come anywhere close to generating the nearly $3,000 we need each month for salaries, taxes, hosting, connectivity, and other expenses. The longer we go, the deeper we dig the hole.

I had believed that the subscription system would be our salvation. $2.50 per month or $24 per year - we've had a few people write and tell us that we're worth far more than that. But out of hundreds of thousands of visitors, only a few dozen subscribed, far less than the three per day we'd anticipated.

Maximizing Income

We've had several opportunities to make more money with ads for online casinos and pop-up ads. I believe online gambling is a scam and refuse to run ads for it. Sure, it'd be a quick shot in the arm, but our Annoying Web Stuff survey (running through May 27) tells us that 90% of you dislike seeing these ads, including 68% who strongly dislike it and 37% who avoid returning to sites with such ads.

Pop-ups, pop-unders, and the more recent pop-after ads are even more vehemently despised. I don't like them, and the same holds for over 99% of you. Over one-third of those taking the Annoying Web Stuff survey report that they avoid returning to sites with pop-ups, and nearly half avoid going back to sites that pop up ads when they leave.

Nice as the money might be in the short term, I don't want to drive away one-third to one-half of our visitors. In the end, that would mean we'd be serving less people and making no more money.

We are pushing the affiliates a bit more - our Book of the Day link goes to, and our Deal of the Day connects to various affiliates. But that's only going to help the budget a bit.

It's the Ads

We will be experimenting with "skyscraper" ads, those tall narrow ads you've probably seen on other sites already. That will help, but the core problem isn't the number of ads, but ad rates. From $30 per thousand impressions (CPM) a few years ago to $10 to some ads selling for as little as $1 CPM, buyers just don't seem to think that ads are worth what they used to be.

We offer a highly targeted audience: Mac users and potential Mac users who are looking for the most value. You'd think online discounters would be beating down our doors....

Here's what you can do to help:

  • Buy from advertisers and through affiliate links. Tell 'em you came via Low End Mac. Let 'em know you appreciate their support of LEM.
  • When you buy from businesses that don't advertise, ask why they don't support Low End Mac. Let them know why you think they should support your favorite site.
  • If you run a business, especially a Mac-related one, consider buying ad space on Low End Mac. Prices have never been lower. Contact Greg Snyder at BackBeat Media (646-546-5194) about display ads. Contact email Dan Knight at LEM about list sponsorship. (Most of our email lists have rates below 50¢ CPM for a two-line text ad.)

Of course, we're always happy to receive donations and subscriptions. We'd still like to see 1,000 of you sign up at $2.50/month or $24/year by the end of the year. It'd really help turn around our finances. In the long run, that's the kind of support that's going to keep Low End Mac alive and well.

Our future is in your hands.

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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