Mac Musings

Low End Mac and Mission: Small Business

Dan Knight - 2012.06.05 - Tip Jar

Low End Mac has been around since April 1997, when I posted two dozen Mac profiles to my personal webspace as I began to learn how this World Wide Web thing worked. Since then we added more and more profiles, expanded with editorial content and support groups, moved to our own domain, and grew from a few hundred hits a day to over 10 million per year.

We quickly became established as the place to go for information on older Macs. We have always advocated the long-term value of Macs, using them as long as practical, upgrading when necessary, and only replacing them when they became a bottleneck. And then we often suggested moving to a less-old Mac, not a brand new one.

Growing Pains

I left my full time IT job in January 2001 to do Low End Mac full time, and we've had our ups and downs since then. The dot-com bubble burst, greatly reducing ad income, and since 2008, the Great Recession once again reduced site income.

The solution has always been to supplement Low End Mac's income with a part-time job, and the first time around it didn't interfere much with publishing lowendmac.com. I worked Saturdays and 1-2 afternoons a week at a local camera store and was still able to dedicate plenty of time to Low End Mac.

Not so much this time. I've been working a part-time third-shift job to help make ends meet, and it averages three nights a week - sometimes just one, sometimes as many as five. For two-and-a-half years I've been burning the candle on both ends to make ends meet, and it's taking its toll on the website. I have less time to work on it, which means less new articles. Traffic has dropped from over 50,000 pages per day to about 20,000. Income last year was down 15% from 2007.

This year we've lost two affiliate programs that really made a difference, one of them being the online Apple Store. That's been about 7% of our income, so it's really starting to hurt.

A Big Opportunity

Mission: Small BusinessChase Bank and Living Social have teamed up to create Mission: Small Business, which will award $250,000 grants to at least four small businesses - and perhaps as many as 12. We could really use that at Low End Mac.

First of all, this would let us get caught up on our debts, making us debt-free. Secondly, it would let us put aside money to better ride out the ebb and flow of income from month-to-month and season-to-season. Best of all, from my perspective, it would let me quit that third-shift job and go back to doing what I love (publishing Low End Mac) full time again.

This would also allow us to hire someone to help us move Low End Mac to a content management system (CMS), something I have wanted to do for years but never quite mastered on my own. With a CMS, writers would be able to submit articles via the Web, we would be able to hire a couple part-time editors and proofreaders to approve those articles for publication, and I wouldn't have to be the one who proofreads and edits everything we post.

That, in turn, would give me time to find new writing talent for Low End Mac, others who love older Macs and have a gift for writing. And that should do wonders to boost site traffic, which will boost income.

On a personal note, this would let me have a regular paycheck instead of the "catch as catch can" system I've been using for too many years now. (There have been times when I've gone months without a paycheck just to keep the site solvent.) And I could get better health insurance, which is important when you're in your 50s.

A Dream

For years, I've dreamt of having an office, a Mac museum, and a small coffee shop where I could work, people could see and use older Macs, and Mac users could hang out with each other, using WiFi to connect to the world. Nothing big or high-end, just a place to get some coffee and a cookie or cupcake, relax, and be surrounded by fellow Mac lovers.

That's never going to happen without something big happening, like winning the lottery (unlikely, since I don't play it) or getting a Mission: Small Business grant.

Low End Mac has always offered something unique, a non-consumption advocacy of getting by with older technology, which saves you money and keeps things out of landfills. We want to continue doing that, but until the economy takes off again, it's very likely to become a part-time hobby once again.

If you'd like to see Low End Mac get on a solid financial footing, please vote for us in Mission: Small Business. Follow this link, click on the "Log In & Support" button, then enter Low End Mac as the business name. We are in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and we need at least 250 votes to be considered for this grant.

Thank you for your support!

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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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