Joe Levi:
a cross-discipline, multi-dimensional problem solver who thinks outside the box – but within reality™

Recession Taking Toll on Independent Web Content

With the downturn in the economy and the official declaration of the USA being in a Recession, most people are looking at how to trim their budgets and stretch their dollar.

Geeks are finally switching from traditional POTS telephone service to its much cheaper VoIP alternatives. Rather than going out to the movies people are using the Netflix 1-out-at-a-time plan to get unlimited streaming movies to their XBOX360. Thermostats are being set lower and lights are being turned off in unoccupied rooms. Even though the price of gasoline has dropped well over half (from its $4.00+/gallon high just several months ago to around $1.50/gallon now) people are driving less.

While all of these are prudent and thrifty ways to save money and spend less, some things are still seen as non-necessary expenses.

The Internet isn’t free

In the case of one tech. blogger, that expense is web hosting.

For those of you who don’t know, web hosting is basically leasing space, bandwidth, and services from a Web Host who, in turn, serves up your website to your audience. Think of it as your ISP, but in reverse.

If you fail to pay your ISP bill, they turn off your internet access. If you fail to pay your Web Host bill they turn off your site. To independent web content providers, this is basically the kiss of death.

Does it matter if you can still pay your ISP if the websites that you visit are no longer available? It’d be like having a phone, but none of your friends can afford one anymore, so who you gunna call?

It’s a hard call. Almost everyone has been hit by the recession and finds it difficult to must up any money for non-necessary items. (I’ve even cancelled my membership with the National Arbor Day Foundation after 10 loyal years.)

That’s where we in the blogosphere are in a bit of a different business model than “traditional” publishers:

  • Your subscription to Sports Illustrated or USA Today costs you a good chunk of change and goes to fund “big media,” infamous for their bias.
  • Your “subscription” to independent news via the web costs you only your ISP fees, giving you access to zillions of news sources across the globe. Many of these sources are independent and make little to no money to bring you content as unbiased as they can, often reporting on events that Big Media doesn’t – or won’t.

So, what happens if three-hundred people a month are regulars to some indie website that’s about to be shut down, if half of them donate a dollar, that site can stay up.

Is anyone really asking that?

Wikipedia has begun active solicitation for donations, nagging you on every Wikipedia page you visit., an independent tech blogger, recently announced that he will not be able to meet his web hosting costs and will have to “go dark” by the beginning of the year. He is asking if his readers feel his content to be worthwhile, and if so is asking for a donation to go toward his hosting fees.

Even I have an avenue for you to donate through my “You can thank me later™” campaign(though no one has yet to donate).

What are your thoughts?

How much would you donate to help keep one of your favorite sites from being turned off?


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3 Responses

  1. Joel Dare says:

    Donations are great, but I don’t think most people will simply pay a donation. In order to make money, I think you’ve got to come up with some creative solution. Some websites are selling T-Shirts (see the recent Wired article about it). Others are selling ad space.

    I’ve yet to make any money on either of those avenue’s, but if your web hosting is expensive enough that you can’t finance it as a hobby, you could probably be turning a nice profit if you had your business cap on.

    Granted, I mainly run my websites as a hobby, but my hosting only costs $120 a year. Of course, I’m only generating a couple thousand impressions a day, probably not enough to generate much revenue. If your costs are higher than that, however, you probably are generating a lot of usable traffic…

  2. Joe says:

    @Joel Dare,

    I agree with you about donations. There are some sites that make their living on donations (DownsizeDC, for example), but their “begging for money” turns off a lot of visitors (like fund-raising times on PBS stations).

    My yearly hosting and DNS charges are less than $200/year, with web access about $50/month. Luckily, I have enough advertising revenue coming in to cover both, plus be a net $300 up to cover my time. Effectively, this means I break even with my hosting, access, and wage with my hobby. Not everyone can say that, which is a shame.

    I’ve done the shirt selling thing, the ad selling thing, the Google ads thing, the donate if you found this useful thing, and am trying to focus on what works…

    I’m impressed with your impressions, I get between 1 and 2 hundred per day, you’re getting a couple thousand? That’s remarkable!

    BTW: Good to hear from you again! It’s been far too long!

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