Mac Musings

Blacklists, Quicklinks, and Site Finances

Daniel Knight - 2002.07.08 -

Although I've linked to several pieces about the press pass fiasco, I haven't weighed in on the issue until now. Last Friday's article by Chris Lawson evokes a Seinfeldian "press Nazi" image that's not only priceless, but also does a great job of covering the territory.

But the main reason I haven't weighed in is that the issue doesn't directly impact Low End Mac. It's not that we haven't been blacklisted - we don't know. It's that we don't have the $700-900 necessary for airfare, lodging, and meals in New York City during the Expo.

We'll worry about being blacklisted when we can afford to go to the Expo again.

Just to give Apple more reasons to put LEM on their blacklist, if they haven't already done so, let me state quite clearly that I think it's ludicrous to block press passes for writers at sites that don't do rumors. We have been Apple's staunchest supporters during the hard times, we do what we can to keep the Mac faithful within the fold, and most of us only wish that The Apple Store had an affiliate program that we could sign up for.

The nose may be only a small part of the body, but don't cut it off to spite your face, Apple.

And maybe some day we'll have the money to attend the Expo again - and see if we're welcomed as press.

Apple Quicklinks

Today Cobweb Publishing launches Apple Quicklinks, a headline news service designed to be the best headline news source on the Mac Web. I've used a lot of the tricks involved in automating links on Low End Mac (see our Website Automation with PHP and MySQL series) and added a few more.

We've been surfing over to the leading headline news site for years, and we've seen it evolve. We've also come up with ideas that we think will set Apple Quicklinks (AQL) apart, and we hope that you'll see it evolve into the best headline news service on the Mac Web.

Instead of simply listing links, AQL will typically include a short description of the article or a brief excerpt. This will give you a better idea of what awaits you when you follow the link. We'll also be categorizing content into both broad categories (Mac News, Software, etc.) and finer subcategories (Opinion, Analysis, Humor, etc.).

We'll also be more selective, trying to pick the best links instead of posting every link on every site and ending up with maybe 10-20 covering the same material.

AQL will be automated. Once we add a link, it will be up for 24 hours (except for weekends and holidays, which we're still working on). We'll include a link that can display links for the previous 24 hour period as well. Soon we'll also add a search engine and a way to view links by the day they were added.

The eventual goal of AQL is to have link editors around the globe adding links around the clock, turning it into a 24/7 service that doesn't close down for US-only holidays.

One of our other goals for Apple Quicklinks is turning a profit. We need to generate income so we can pay our editors and cover hosting costs. But we're not going to fill your screen with ads and make you scroll way down to the second page to see links. Just as we'll focus on the best links, we hope to focus our ads with a different kind of ad program that will be less intrusive for you and, we hope, more attractive to advertisers.

Consider this week our public beta. Right now we're using affiliate programs instead of paying advertisers, getting our staff lined up, and making sure everything works as it should. We expect to have all the bugs worked out by the Expo and hope to be your first choice source for Expo links that week.

Cobweb Publishing

We formed Cobweb Publishing to publish Low End Mac and a few other projects I'd been working on. To date, none of these other projects have been a significant source of income, nor have our expenses been much beyond the cost of hosting.

Our finances depend on Low End Mac, although we hope that Apple Quicklinks will help out there. But it may be several months before we see any income from AQL.

As has been true for over a year, we're really hurting financially. While we've seen a 30% increase in traffic compared with 2001, overall ad income has generally fallen, and our subscription program has not done as well as expected. (With almost 250,000 visitors per month, we'd hoped for 100 subscribers per month. Instead, we're seeing about 25.)

We need $3,000 per month to remain afloat. Any shortfall means I don't get a paycheck, and sometimes things are so tight that we have to postpone paying our writers, too. We've fallen far short of that goal for most of the life of Cobweb Publishing.

We're hoping that by September we'll have as much traffic to Apple Quicklinks as we do to Low End Mac. We're also hoping that we'll be able to at least double ad income with two popular sites, allowing us to meet our current expenses and the additional costs of staffing and serving a headline news service.

Until then, consider this our monthly plea for donations and subscriptions. Thank you for your ongoing support.

We're also pushing our Web design services. In addition to the Cobweb sites, we've already designed sites for Family Matchmakers, Inc. and Arden's Photo, both located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Finding additional local businesses to work with is another way we'll be working to keep Cobweb Publishing fully funded.