Author Topic: How would you feel if I sold out?  (Read 11833 times)

Daley

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How would you feel if I sold out?
« on: April 27, 2015, 10:36:52 PM »
Howdy everyone.

As some of you know and may have noticed, the Communications Superguide refresh for 2015 has been a much slower refresh than last year. Fact of the matter is, it's getting even larger and more encompassing as it's expanding into Canadian and international options, and it's a labor of love that's seriously starting to cost me both financially and time-wise to keep going. As such, I'm rapidly approaching a fork in the road: either this is the last year and update the guide likely ever gets, or the time spent on the guide needs to be net cash positive. The wife and I aren't FI, so we don't have the FU money to just keep doing what I love.

I'm not sure if many have noticed, but the guide and Technical Meshugana is supported only by a meager Amazon storefront and donations. Miraculously enough, the greater the traffic and the more people from here I've shared the resource with over the years, the less financial support I've actually received in response. There's just enough money coming in to keep the server lights on. I've sought to be an unbiased, unflinching resource... at least as best as I possibly can. There are no ads and no referral links to service providers in the guide to color or taint my recommendations, and I don't perpetually rattle tin cups.

So, some of these are questions for the people in the community who actually care about whether the guide still exists or not... not that I'd want to stop others from answering honestly and leaving feedback as well. I'd rather have an accurate idea of realistic support in the community than inflated bias. Anyway, questions:

1) Do you think the guide is actually a unique resource worth trying to keep around, or would you prefer that I just shut up and let everyone frolic in the never-ending stream of MagicJack, Ooma, Republic Wireless, and StraightTalk recommendations?

I know I get a lot of kickback and insults from users of these services for speaking out against their shortcomings, and I frequently get accused of hatred myself despite not actually being hateful about the services. Can I be critical? Yes. Blunt? Absolutely... but I've always though it valuable to have a counterargument, especially when there's known alternatives in the same price ranges that don't carry the same shortcomings. Sometimes we get so focused on price around here, that we can compromise the entire purpose of the tool itself. However, if price alone is all that matters with the majority anymore, I see no reason to continue.

2) Do you think monetizing the recommended service providers in the guide would compromise the integrity of the guide itself?

I'm personally very uncomfortable with the idea of doing this, because then it just looks like I'm shilling for the kickback and I might lose the credibility of being an independent resource. I like the idea of being an unbiased, independent resource.

3) If I were to put together a book, would anyone actually be willing to buy and read it?

The book itself would be a bit more timeless and less carrier specific, and it'd also let me meander a bit more and have a little fun instead of being hideously information dense. The best way to describe what I'd write would be a book covering quality, frugal communications - both the practical and philosophical aspects with a bit of humor peppered in where appropriate. Think Marie Wynn's Plug-In Drug meets John Muir's How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, but with less doodling and more disgruntled legal chimpanzees.

4) If you were inclined to and actually wanted me to keep the guide and research going, what other means would you actually be willing or able to provide financial support to keeping it going beyond donations, service referral links, and an Amazon aStore?

I know ads can be a revenue generator, but I lose some control of who advertises on my site and I'm also uncomfortable with the potential security risk that some ads can impose. Plus, I really like my AdBlock and trying to support sites I like through other financial means than ads, and prefer an internet not wholly festooned with billboards... as such, I'd feel like a hypocrite sticking them on the site. Beyond that, I'm drawing a blank... might be too close to the trees to see the forest. Any other clever ideas with some lateral thinking?

I'd love to keep doing this for you folks, and for others outside this community... but reality is starting to dictate that it needs more support than it's currently getting, and the heart of the project is almost too anti-consumerist for its own survival without random acts of generosity. Something needs to be decided. As such, I'd love to hear some feedback... good, bad, or otherwise.

Thanks, as always.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2015, 10:42:45 PM by I.P. Daley »

curler

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2015, 10:43:19 PM »
With the caveat that I have never made it very far into the superthread, so I am speaking in generalities here:
I never really trust sites that get a kickback from the ones the recommend.  However, I don't have that same reaction to sites that have banner ads and the like.  With ads, I assume you are just giving up space to whomever pays the most, and doesn't effect my impressions on reliability or impartiality.  With things that are more sponsored posts and links with active recommendations, I begin to think the link and the recommendation are tied together, and the site takes a credibility hit.

vagon

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2015, 12:18:23 AM »
I'm not the market personally, but how about you make it into an ebook and sell it for a reasonable price?
If I sprinkle a bit of marketing magic on this your tag looks something like:
  • This $Y guide will save you $X a month
  • How to save $X on your monthly phone bill
  • How I saved $X through the few phone company tricks
  • Hack you phone bill: a guide to radical saving
  • X ways to save money on your phone bill

handsnhearts

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2015, 01:36:26 AM »
With the caveat that I have never made it very far into the superthread, so I am speaking in generalities here:
I never really trust sites that get a kickback from the ones the recommend.  However, I don't have that same reaction to sites that have banner ads and the like.  With ads, I assume you are just giving up space to whomever pays the most, and doesn't effect my impressions on reliability or impartiality.  With things that are more sponsored posts and links with active recommendations, I begin to think the link and the recommendation are tied together, and the site takes a credibility hit.

I totally agree with the above statement. I HATE paid sponsorship shills. I have stopped following many good people because they have gone that direction. But the Adsense and banners are populated by my interests and have little to do with the website they are on. I didn't know about the guide until now. I will definitely check it out.

Hamster

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2015, 01:44:49 AM »
I wouldn't turned off by banner ads and such. I would find it harder to believe the objectivity of a site that gets direct promotional link kickbacks.

I have found the information you share valuable, and it inspired me to save a big chunk of change.

Often I feel that the amount of abbreviations, bluntness of opinion, and technical jargon may turn of some of the people who need the info the most, but ultimately it is your voice.

Over the last year or so, MMM has gotten less and less DIY in terms of cell plans (and financial services), choosing easier and more expensive options to promote. I think your alternatives are a valuable counterpoint for people who are willing to put in a little more work for a much better deal. It just requires a little more badassity, and it is good for people to see that there is still badassity to be achieved.

dungoofed

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2015, 03:06:07 AM »
I think you have more than enough material and value to turn this into a proper side-business.

Are there any trade shows where you could go and approach potential advertisers, selling 12 month blocks of ad space? Not sure what your costs are like but you might only need a couple of advertisers per year in order to make it worth while again.

matchewed

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #6 on: April 28, 2015, 05:41:32 AM »
Hrm, I think the recommended service providers is still the best bet. IMO the best thing to do is to be open and honest about your side of it. Have some sort of recommended service provider policy statement or mission statement... Make sure that you hold to that. If you don't want to recommend something be honest with those service providers and with your readers. Not sure how well it'd work out or if the service providers would be willing to play ball. I also understand that it may feel very slippery slopey.

If you sell out in order to keep your passion project going it's okay with the caveat being that you just do it in a way which jives with your values. My take on that is the above, you don't strike me as the kind of person who would recommend something which goes against your values anyway. So approach those companies you would already recommend today.

Best of luck Daley.  :)

kpd905

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #7 on: April 28, 2015, 06:12:20 AM »
I think you put in more than enough research and work to get compensated for it.  As others have said, maybe try Adsense or banner ads instead of direct advertisement links to the cell carriers.  Many will not trust the recommendations if they know you are getting paid for certain carriers and not for others.

forestbound

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #8 on: April 28, 2015, 06:45:30 AM »
Your advice is valuable and you should be compensated by it! I would vote for the banner ads. Savvy web users have learned to ignore them, no biggie. Sponsored ads I think would influence your advice even unconsciously. Good luck with which ever decision you go with, and thanks for all the great advice.

Zamboni

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2015, 06:51:18 AM »
I agree that you should monetize your site in some way.  Perhaps kick back links to other helpful things that are not phone services?

The problem with a print book is that it will pretty much immediately become dated. An e-book is a better idea. But keeping your site as a "free" resource with some ads to generate revenue stream is an even better idea.  MMM does a pretty good job keeping the "suggested" products from being too obnoxious on his main page, so maybe you can come up with a similar design? Banner ads on the main page can be very distracting and interfere with load speed, especially any that have videos, flash, or sound.

Good luck, and keep up the good work with the honest reporting!  I feel like I owe you thousands of dollars in unspent phone money.

Rural

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2015, 06:51:32 AM »

First of all, you should definitely be compensated, and I think you have the right to sell out any way that you want to.

That said, I'll add one more to the recommendation to do banner ads rather than direct support from recommended services.


I don't know that an ebook would get enough sales to make a lot of difference. People would – maybe – buy it once, while looking for some way to cut expenses. But I think, given the nature of the subject matter, you'd be attempting to sell to the people who buy the least.


Also, frankly, I don't see any problem with rattling the tin can a lot more. I think a lot of us would be likely to kick in if we remembered. I would, but it just doesn't occur to me on any given random day that hey, I should send IP some money.

Cromacster

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2015, 07:04:45 AM »


1) Do you think the guide is actually a unique resource worth trying to keep around, or would you prefer that I just shut up and let everyone frolic in the never-ending stream of MagicJack, Ooma, Republic Wireless, and StraightTalk recommendations?

The guide is an amazing resource on this forum.  Don't shutup, keep fighting the good fight.

2) Do you think monetizing the recommended service providers in the guide would compromise the integrity of the guide itself?

As long as you stick to your guns I see no problem with this.  You may not be FI but I'd assume your on your way and have already established your position of power when it comes money.  To the doubters who feel this will compromise the advice and recommendations of the superguide this is a great example by MMM.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/06/21/i-just-gave-up-4000-per-month-to-keep-my-freedom-of-speech/

3) If I were to put together a book, would anyone actually be willing to buy and read it?

Personally, I've read through the superguide and the revamped one, so I probably wouldn't read the book.  But it might be worth a shot to throw a ebook on amazon.  It might get out beyond the mustache community.

4) If you were inclined to and actually wanted me to keep the guide and research going, what other means would you actually be willing or able to provide financial support to keeping it going beyond donations, service referral links, and an Amazon aStore?

I've used your amazon links, that's the way I would prefer to keep supporting you, through buying products you recommend.  Ads on your site would be fine as well.

swick

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2015, 07:12:53 AM »
A couple of thoughts:
1. Gather some testimonials from the forums for people who have used your guides. Sprinkle these around your site & use for promotion
2. If an ebook wouldn't be too hard to produce, I would go for it.
3. There are TONS of people who might stumble across your site/guide while looking for a solution. People who see the most immediate benefit from your guide are those who are just starting their Journey (or looking for a quick solution) If you target these people with a bit of hand holding - perhaps breakdown the super guide into manageable quick pieces, throw in some audio instructions/interviews and offer it as an e-course? Or offer a webinair or recording?
4. You have spent enough time and energy in this space that people see you as an expert. Just have to figure out how to monetize that :)

Ricky

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2015, 07:37:19 AM »
I wouldn't be your target market, mainly due to geographical restrictions. There are only a few carriers that will work where I live anyway.

I'm tied to Verizon at the moment. I would use Republic, as it worked well for my needs (and no, I wasn't just focused on price, it actually worked great). The only problem is I couldn't get data on it because I don't have any Sprint towers nearby.

That said, I don't think an e-book is going to be all that helpful. I'm all for you doing it; but, as you alluded to, it seems like your content is more timely and the industry changes too much to really bother keeping up with two separate entities (a site and a book).

I think you should link people to the guide on your own website and include ads, referral links, and donation buttons. One, it's much less headache for you. Two, I think you'll still be successful that way.

You definitely need to get paid. I admire the romantic notion of what you're doing, but it just isn't practical when you still have financial goals to meet yourself. I appreciate the transparency as well. I think most here feel the same way.

Daley

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2015, 10:27:07 AM »
Thanks everyone for your feedback so far.

It appears a definite pattern is starting to emerge regarding ads being the lesser evil than referral links to service providers. Of course, it does raise the question of whether the incoming ad revenue itself would be worth giving the space away on the site to do so. That said, of the two, the referrals appear to be the more likely to return a reasonable steady income stream than not.

This point also confuses me somewhat. Several of you have agreed outright that paid referrals compromise your opinion of the individual and the integrity of the recommendation... and yet, beyond my own diligent posting on these forums, most of the recommendations made by others here (especially on the cellphone end) are either a direct or indirect result and consequence of exactly this sort of referral link and endorsement. I don't say this to insult or slight anyone, especially the most gracious and generous of the lot here who this resource wouldn't even exist if not for... but you can see my confusion on the point of paid referral links for services, which do seem to strike a far different chord with folks than selective referral links for physical products off of Amazon.

Regarding the book idea, the book wouldn't just be a redux of the guide. The book itself would be more about the philosophy of less being more and reclaiming technology as a tool instead of allowing it to own you. The first half would cover the science behind and intellectual framework of the how and why the guide is the way it is, the second half would cover how to execute that framework in your own research and life so you can apply the vetting process of the guide itself to any provider or technical resource you may encounter, whether that resource is cited in the guide or not. I would try to make it considerably less dry and more entertaining than the guide, which I know is incredibly information dense because I'm trying to share a lifetime of information in as compact a space as possible for a generation of people who prefer sound bites to lectures. The thing with the guide is, for all the recommendations, I'm trying to emphasize that there is no one-size fits all solution and I'm trying to teach how to do the research at the same time. I know this goes contrary to most people who just want you to shut up and tell them what to buy... but that brings us back to the problem of no one-size fits all solution and the need for research.

Which brings me to Ricky's concerns specifically and one of the larger issues with defaulting to one-size recommendations, and making those one-size recommendations dependent upon one of the least one-size friendly networks out there and/or a variety of kludgey workaround technologies - which describes the very nature of the most commonly recommended providers in these forums by people who aren't me (or at least it seems like most days, anymore). It kind of saddens me to see that Ricky (and others, I'm sure) don't think they're my target market, because they are. The people who need the resource the greatest to effectively save money are the people locked into situations where their options are restricted the most, but the only real way to save in those situations is to learn how to get by with less... which is a philosophy that benefits everyone, and only gets better as your options diversify.

...but I've digressed.

I am taking notes here, by the way. Feedback on how to improve things is always welcome. I've long known about the acronym problem and technical jargon, the problem is correction takes time, and time in relation to cost is the issue. It's less problematic on the website than here because I'm not bound there by post length restrictions and the format of a forum.

I'd love to rattle the can more, but nobody seems to pay attention to the can on the website itself short of near-one-on-one interaction, and I'd rather not be a pest on the forums here about that. That seems... tacky. It also might create a double standard or foster less desirable behaviors that would undermine the community more than help, and we get enough self-promotion and financial shilling around here as is.

That brings us to another point and another possible channel for non-direct monetary support from the community. It's difficult for me personally to drive traffic to the main site outside of this joint, with the primary hang-up being social media accounts and my lack of participation in them. As some of you know, I actually read legal agreements. I don't really participate in social media because I will not out of principle agree to the terms of service that I must submit to for an account. Unfortunately, I've severely handicapped myself by denying myself access to the most effective promotional tools available to drive traffic by sticking to the very same principles that are at the heart of the material itself.

I'm also concerned about the whole time=money thing, as this hinders my ability to invest the necessary time to build credibility in other communities, and it just becomes yet another time sink to do so (this place is bad enough). I've long thought the guide would be a great benefit to the Reddit /r/personalfinance and /r/frugal communities, and I know that a few people here have peppered the place on occasion with links back to the site, but I'm not known personally there so it's hard to bend the ears of the community mods to introduce them to the info... and I don't want to join up just to be some noob hype-man for myself, that raises red flags and shuts people down to the idea no matter how good it is. I guess what I'm saying here is, help in getting the word out beyond these walls would be of benefit to helping sustain the resource.

I know this is getting long (WORDSWORDSWORDSWORDS - it's like a Buckley CAD comic up in here), but in a way, it's helping me to kind of think out loud and help others wanting to assist me in getting a better feel for what I'm really working with. There's an old adage that I've heard about it being almost impossible for a ethical man to make money. In a way, this feels like the spot I'm in, and it's been difficult for me to even bring this up to the community. I've never wanted it to be about the money, but without it, I'm not sure I can keep it going.

I also liked Swick's idea about testimonials. Anyone care to step up in this regard?

Anyway, I'd like to spitball a couple more ideas just to see how they stick: merchandise and possibly some sort of croudsourced funding. Regarding the merch, I dunno, silly but slightly practical stuff with things like the running gag of my disgruntled legal ape going "hrumph" on them or tacky shirts that say, "I read Daley's 25,000+ word communications guide, and he still charged me $25 for this t-shirt". Regarding the crowdfunding, maybe do so with the intent of helping establish Technical Meshugana as a sort of independent lab of sorts and to help provide the capital necessary to put more providers and equipment through their paces, and perhaps provide the financial support necessary to get the book (if it would be welcomed) finished.

Further thoughts and feedback are welcomed.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2015, 10:29:12 AM »
Note: IP, I posted while you posted your long reply.  This is not in response to your reply but to your original question.

I personally think you should have referral links for the products you recommend.  You are a known and respected resource so people know your recommendation isn't just for the money.  There are a few ways you could do this.  On one reddit subthread, the rule is that you post both an affiliate link and a non-revenue link so people can choose to support it or not.  Another blog I follow religiously (a fashion one) has a referral link for every item she discusses.  It could be one she thinks is great or one that she thinks is a miss.  Either way, if someone purchases it through her site she gets some dough.  I don't know how she set that one up but I like that she gets a paid link regardless of whether she says the product is good or bad.  If she was only paid for the good ones then she might be inclined to only promote those. 

Let's say you write that phone option A, B, and C are the best, followed by D but someone only has D in their area.  They may not have heard about D until reading your guide so you have still turned them on to the brand. 

Usually such links also offer your reader a benefit too like a credit or cash back.  If they are going to sign up anyway, don't you want them to get the deal? Just my two cents for what it's worth.

Blonde Lawyer

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2015, 10:36:09 AM »
Also, one other thought.  To me, until you FIRE and have your FU money, being Mustachian means increasing revenue and decreasing spending.  Missing out on a potentially very lucrative revenue stream is just silly to me.

sheepstache

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2015, 11:11:14 AM »
I'll go against the tide and say I don't mind referral links. I might be wary with a new site that may be motivated by just getting the kickbacks, but you've been in a the game awhile so people would notice if you suddenly started changing your recommendations, plus you already have a well-established reputation as being objective. Naturally, you'd want to state the referral link policy explicitly.

Personally, in the case of credit card offers, if I hear about something and then think about it for awhile, then decide to go for it, I'll deliberately go back to the page that I heard about it from or that had the most complete information about it specifically to get the writer any bonus they would get by being my referral.


beltim

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2015, 11:11:40 AM »
Note: IP, I posted while you posted your long reply.  This is not in response to your reply but to your original question.

I personally think you should have referral links for the products you recommend.  You are a known and respected resource so people know your recommendation isn't just for the money.  There are a few ways you could do this.  On one reddit subthread, the rule is that you post both an affiliate link and a non-revenue link so people can choose to support it or not.  Another blog I follow religiously (a fashion one) has a referral link for every item she discusses.  It could be one she thinks is great or one that she thinks is a miss.  Either way, if someone purchases it through her site she gets some dough.  I don't know how she set that one up but I like that she gets a paid link regardless of whether she says the product is good or bad.  If she was only paid for the good ones then she might be inclined to only promote those. 

Let's say you write that phone option A, B, and C are the best, followed by D but someone only has D in their area.  They may not have heard about D until reading your guide so you have still turned them on to the brand. 

Usually such links also offer your reader a benefit too like a credit or cash back.  If they are going to sign up anyway, don't you want them to get the deal? Just my two cents for what it's worth.

I was thinking the bolded part myself.  I don't feel weird about referral links if all of the products discussed on a blog have a link to the purchase.  Then you insulate yourself from potential criticism of "selling out."

historienne

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2015, 11:19:59 AM »
Have you ever come across Mattress Underground?  It's a mattress review/guide website.  That guy's revenue model might be worth checking out. It strikes me as a good balance of monetizing his own knowledge of the industry while having enough transparency that I felt pretty confident that he was not pushing bad products just for the affiliate revenue.  Similar setup to you, in that it's basically just one dude running it all.

Another Reader

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2015, 11:32:41 AM »
I have benefitted from your advice and although I ended up sticking with Verizon because I did not like the interface with Mr. Slim's alternative (which you described accurately), I learned a substantial amount in the process.  I would have no problem with referral links and I think most people go back to sites where they learned something from an objective resource to thank them by using the referral links. 

An excellent example of reasonable use of referral links is the "class" and resource pages on credit card churning that MilesDividend and Brad from Richmondsavers.com put together.  They specifically state that all they ask is if you decide to sign up for one of the credit cards they recommend, that you do it through their link.  They get the commission and you get the same deal as if you clicked on another link or went to the card issuer's site.

A lot of the RV travel bloggers are on limited budgets, and they are Amazon affiliates to help with their expenses.  If you like RV Sue, you can buy your Amazon stuff through her blog, and she gets a small commission.  I ALWAYS go through her site because I want to support her sharing of her adventures with her writing and photos.  If a way to get out of the clutches of the evil empires of Verizon and Comcast appears, I can count on Mr. Daley to tell us about it.  I would be very happy to click on a link as a small token of my appreciation.

And, really, you are not "selling out."  Selling out would mean you promote things you don't believe in for a few pieces of silver.  That's not you or what you are doing.

Mother Fussbudget

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2015, 11:45:04 AM »
+1 on Mattress Underground.  He also got coverage on NPR which helped.  I work in the cellular 'un-industry', (consultant/tech-whore) yet use the most badass $10/month barebones prepaid plan in existence thanks in large part to the TM.

My thoughts:  Crowdfunding + 'Event'.  Last year's ice bucket challenge made MILLIONS for ALS research.  Come up with something similar.  Like...

"Take the Technical Meshugana Challenge":  when one or more techniques presented in the TM saves $$ on your monthly bill, pledge to send HALF of one-month's savings in as a way of saying "Thank You".  Add an animated GIF of a tin-cup with a cell phone inside, and dollar signs on the outside that 'rattles'/moves to attract the eye.  Have fun with it.  I would pledge right away.  My savings?  From $120/month to $10 - that's $55 from me alone.

Search Engine Optimization:  this can be a maze of twisty passages, spiraling down, down, down... but a little SEO goes a long way in helping send traffic to your site. 

And AdSense model beats direct sponsored links.
Write the e-Book in any case.  That both sounds fun to do, and will be a good read.  All the best!

neo von retorch

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2015, 11:51:17 AM »
I did not read everything in this thread.. because.. "TL;DR." I think that's often a problem for you, the master of many words and useful thoughts.

The "masses" would like to be able to check off a few boxes and sliders, like Ting gives us. "Check off major networks that have suitable coverage where you need it. How many minutes do you need to communicate with loves ones? Which SMS substitutes can you and everyone you (need to) communicate with switch to? What amount of data would satisfy your mobile data needs, if you actively work to get most of your download needs in WiFi areas?" OK - here's your magic answer, the best options for you, what they cost, and why they are great: ...

The guide is basically "length of guide minus two paragraphs too long" to read.

Of course, impatience, inattention and laziness is the obvious source of waste, overpaying and corporate power.

Can you grab attention first and then get people to spend a little more time here and there learning more?

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2015, 12:10:44 PM »
I'll go against the tide and say I don't mind referral links. I might be wary with a new site that may be motivated by just getting the kickbacks, but you've been in a the game awhile so people would notice if you suddenly started changing your recommendations, plus you already have a well-established reputation as being objective. Naturally, you'd want to state the referral link policy explicitly.

Personally, in the case of credit card offers, if I hear about something and then think about it for awhile, then decide to go for it, I'll deliberately go back to the page that I heard about it from or that had the most complete information about it specifically to get the writer any bonus they would get by being my referral.

I agree with this too.  Referral links don't bother me at all as long as it's clearly communicated.  And of course your content isn't effected by it, which I'm sure in your case it won't be.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2015, 12:23:17 PM »
You might try something like this -

Top three low cost phone options -

1. Ting
2.  RW
3.  whatever

You could write 1 or 2 sentences about your choices and do a little comparison check box.   Put a link next to each one and enjoy any referral income that comes you way.   Then move on with your life.

The whole thing might take you 4 hours to put together and take you 30 minutes a month to update.  It would also take the reader very little time to make a decision and move on with their life. 




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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2015, 12:38:37 PM »
I'll go against the tide and say I don't mind referral links. I might be wary with a new site that may be motivated by just getting the kickbacks, but you've been in a the game awhile so people would notice if you suddenly started changing your recommendations, plus you already have a well-established reputation as being objective. Naturally, you'd want to state the referral link policy explicitly.

Personally, in the case of credit card offers, if I hear about something and then think about it for awhile, then decide to go for it, I'll deliberately go back to the page that I heard about it from or that had the most complete information about it specifically to get the writer any bonus they would get by being my referral.

I agree with this too.  Referral links don't bother me at all as long as it's clearly communicated.  And of course your content isn't effected by it, which I'm sure in your case it won't be.

Agreed.  I think that you will demonstrate impartiality/reduced bias by continuing to articulate the pros and cons of a given technology.  Monetize away!

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2015, 12:42:10 PM »
I did not read everything in this thread.. because.. "TL;DR." I think that's often a problem for you, the master of many words and useful thoughts.

The "masses" would like to be able to check off a few boxes and sliders, like Ting gives us. "Check off major networks that have suitable coverage where you need it. How many minutes do you need to communicate with loves ones? Which SMS substitutes can you and everyone you (need to) communicate with switch to? What amount of data would satisfy your mobile data needs, if you actively work to get most of your download needs in WiFi areas?" OK - here's your magic answer, the best options for you, what they cost, and why they are great: ...

The guide is basically "length of guide minus two paragraphs too long" to read.

Of course, impatience, inattention and laziness is the obvious source of waste, overpaying and corporate power.

Can you grab attention first and then get people to spend a little more time here and there learning more?

This.

I am an engineer, not particularly a dumb one, and I've never made it further than a few paragraphs into anything you've written in the guide or elsewhere, IP.  Brutal honesty, but there it is. 

Your revenue reflects your lack of mass appeal.  Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on you, I suppose.  If you want to monetize it, simplify your discussion and your recommendations.  If you want to keep the geek's guide to all things cellular, it will probably stay marginal.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2015, 12:50:52 PM »
When you talk about affliate links, are you talking about BLOGGING with affiliate links?

Seems like blogging using the material you've developed would help you keep it ever-changing and vital.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2015, 01:02:46 PM »
I'm definitely in your target here.

Like others have said, I don't mind referral links as long as they are transparent. I honestly wouldn't buy a book, except maybe if it was $1. Limited use of ads is fine as well, but I've stopped using certain sites that go overboard. I would definitely not buy a cheesy t-shirt. Sorry.  :(

I like the idea of "take the challenge" and pledging half of one month's savings. That would be especially interesting if you paired it with some kind of calculator tool type thing - sorta similar to what Ting has, for example. That might also make your guide more accessible to the masses. All they have to do is put in their information like location, usage, maybe some preferences. You could do more with this , too: High data usage? Suggest a post you wrote about curbing data usage for great savings.

Have you tried proposing guest posts on other personal finance blogs? That would be one way to increase readership once you have your monetization more defined.




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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2015, 01:04:49 PM »
With regards to affiliate links, I don't have a problem clicking on them only because we've spent enough time throughout these forums that you've developed some brand recognition.  If I read a random Yahoo finance article with affiliate links I'd tell them to piss off, but I'm more willing to click based on the trust you and other advisers have established in the community here.

If you want to write a book whether it be e-reader or paper, it would need to be mostly focused on fundamentals since companies and deals come and go.  Your guide is pretty big (you do call it the Super Guide after all) and it's possible something you write in January is simply obsolete in June.  A blog or some kind of more-quickly updated forum thread would be better if you're wanting to keep posting company, technology, and hardware recommendations.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2015, 01:13:28 PM »
K, full disclosure: I have not read the guide.  I'm in Canada, and feel like our options are pretty limited, though clearly I"m being a complainypants, because there's way more $$ to be saved here!

Anyway, I just wondered if this might be something you could also contact MMM himself about?  The superguide is a work of art; I don't know why it couldn't go under the MMM mainpage of "Recommended Reading" or something like that to drive traffic to your site....

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2015, 01:31:18 PM »
If you want to monetize it, simplify your discussion and your recommendations.  If you want to keep the geek's guide to all things cellular, it will probably stay marginal.

Agree 100%. People who google search terms like "how to save money on my cell phone bill" are not looking for a dedicated technical discussion of cell phone carriers or a philosophical discussion about freeing ourselves from technology, for better or worse.

Part of why those Ooma/Straighttalk/Republic Wireless recommendations are so prevalent (even if they're not the best choice) is that it's a direct, straightforward recommendation people can easily implement without having to do much reading or research.

If you help people figure out a good solution that saves them money, they are not going to be offended if you are keeping the lights on with ad revenue or referral commissions. As long as you don't let it bias your reviews or recommendations and you disclose that you earn money from these sources, it doesn't seem like a big problem to me.

Writing a longer e-book sounds more like a passion project to me rather than a viable income stream.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2015, 01:32:40 PM »
I'm still chewing on the ads versus referral links argument. Some great ideas popping up, thank you all.



Have you ever come across Mattress Underground?

Thanks for the mention of Mattress Underground. I've been digging around since your mention, it's been useful.



And, really, you are not "selling out."  Selling out would mean you promote things you don't believe in for a few pieces of silver.  That's not you or what you are doing.

I think perhaps I needed to read that, thank you.



Come up with something similar.  Like...

"Take the Technical Meshugana Challenge"

Clever!

I've already done some SEO optimization internally, and do reasonably well all things... the real problem is external linking to help drive relevance, but that comes back to the whole social networking and legal agreement catch-22.



I did not read everything in this thread.. because.. "TL;DR." I think that's often a problem for you, the master of many words and useful thoughts.

...

Can you grab attention first and then get people to spend a little more time here and there learning more?

Neo, you're hitting a nail on the head here. The issue is how to address it when the solution is both brevity and education... two things that tend to mix like oil and vinegar. The key here is working out what my binding agent is.

That said, the major problem isn't a lack of readers, and from what I've seen over the years, I've sufficiently teased enough to make people want to learn more (which isn't to say there isn't room for improvement)... it's monetizing the information in a way that lets me keep producing.



The whole thing might take you 4 hours to put together and take you 30 minutes a month to update.  It would also take the reader very little time to make a decision and move on with their life.

The thing with the guide is, for all the recommendations, I'm trying to emphasize that there is no one-size fits all solution and I'm trying to teach how to do the research at the same time. I know this goes contrary to most people who just want you to shut up and tell them what to buy... but that brings us back to the problem of no one-size fits all solution and the need for research.



I am an engineer, not particularly a dumb one, and I've never made it further than a few paragraphs into anything you've written in the guide or elsewhere, IP.  Brutal honesty, but there it is. 

Your revenue reflects your lack of mass appeal.

Appreciate the feedback. Truth is, I've never bent over backwards to try and monetize thus far... so gaging the lack of financial and by extension public success of the guide based on a lack of steady revenue up to this point doesn't particularly work, though I'm sure you're going to be right long term, no matter how high the optimism gun gets cranked to. It comes back to potentially compromising my ethics and the purpose of the guide for financial gain because the mainstream doesn't actually want to learn anything anymore, it's all people like yourself and Bob W who just want me to shut up and blindly tell them in as few words as possible to buy a one-size solution in an industry that has no one-size solutions.

That said, it is generating enough with what I'm already doing that I could leave it up indefinitely and it would at least keep the server lights on and give a bit of pocket change, but it is getting dated, and it does nothing about the time sink of keeping the guide itself going.



Anyway, I just wondered if this might be something you could also contact MMM himself about?  The superguide is a work of art; I don't know why it couldn't go under the MMM mainpage of "Recommended Reading" or something like that to drive traffic to your site....

The man's already aware of it, it's on the recommended subpage, but I'm not sure I'll ever be main page worthy with the man. At this point, I've probably pissed too many times in his bowl of Wheaties publicly calling him on the fact that his darling cell phone provider isn't exactly compatible with the very philosophy he's promoting, or very good at meeting many of his reader's needs given some of the feedback from others I've seen over the years. We've exchanged a few communications in the past, but I'm not sure I'm his cup of tea and sometimes wonder if he only politely tolerates me here... but that's hard to confirm without a tête-à-tête. People can sometimes read different in text.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2015, 01:51:40 PM »
I've referenced the guide from time to time to help me decide or understand communications options, prices, and what's behind the marketing speak. 

As for monetizing, go for it.  You can put in links to whatever service providers you do (or don't) recommend, and see what happens.  I can't recall if you have equipment recommendations ("good used phones under $100" or similar type guides), but that's a space you could have a lot of amazon affiliate links (they convert even if the clicker doesn't buy the actual product; they only need to buy something after clicking your link). 

You should be able to at least cover your hosting bills I would think.

As far as selling out, I don't think it's selling out if you are just putting links to things you already mention (positively or negatively).  If someone is dead set on picking a crappy cell option, you might as well make a small pile of bucks if they buy it. 

As an example, I have an article on brokerage firms and DIY investing.  My top recommendations are Vanguard and Fidelity that have no affiliate links.  Skip the adviser.  Go with a target retirement fund if you really don't want to learn enough to pick a 2 or 3 fund portfolio.  But hey, if you want hand holding and outsourced decision making, go with betterment (they pay $24+ for a conversion IIRC) because they charge next to nothing in the way of management fees and have some good tax loss harvesting options that could partially offset their fee (if you're too lazy to TLH on your own).  Some people thanked me privately for the betterment recommendation because it's what they want (hand holding, just a little bit). 

I'd say go for ads, too.  It'll be a good way to get some cash in the door.  I get around $2.00-3.00 per 1000 pageviews at rootofgood.  You can limit what ads display (I think I prohibit sexy pron ads and drugs or something like that, though Chinese/russian/Filipino dating site ads still show up). 

I'm not sure if I would buy the book, but then again I haven't bought a book in a decade probably.  Price it under $5 and you might get some revenue from an ebook on amazon.  You'd have to put out a new version each year but you're already doing the grunt work. 

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2015, 07:06:02 PM »
Have you considered adapting the guide to a completely different audience, namely the folks with very little means?

You would have to seriously shorten it. Heck, I seriously doubt the single mother who works two minimum wage jobs has any intention on buying VOIP equipement, but saving some cash on cell phones appeals to everybody.

Now unfortunately the working poor are notoriously hard to reach. When the ACA rollout was going on in late 2013, even with the non stop press coverage, they had people poll the very same people who had a ton to gain from the law, yet their understanding of what was happening was abysmally low. You won't reach the aforementioned single mother by posting a wall-o-text to a forum dedicated to retiring 20 years before everybody else, so some creativity is in order. Reaching out to the social workers in your area, or the public library? Maybe even start a very small non-profit dedicated to helping folks make sense of their options, and then strike referral deals with the providers you recommend?

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #35 on: April 29, 2015, 07:15:48 AM »
Apologies for the abrupt thread locking last night... I needed some time to process a few things and I wanted to minimize the potential for distractions.

I appreciate all the advice and feedback I've gotten, and after some sleep and some prayer and consideration, I've got a pretty firm idea solidifying. Paul's post slapped me back to reality and reminded me of the very mission statements I founded Technical Meshugana on.

I know the direction I need to go from this point. As I prepare for this push, I hope to see the same enthusiasm and support that you've expressed here when the rubber actually hits the road. Details forthcoming when I'm ready.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #36 on: April 29, 2015, 09:14:06 AM »
Paul's post slapped me back to reality and reminded me of the very mission statements I founded Technical Meshugana on.

As the sayings go:
"If you cannot recognize the man in the mirror, it is time to step back and see when you stopped being yourself."
or, similarly,
"If the wind no longer calls you, it is time to see if you have forgotten your name."

(Courtesy of I, Jedi.)

It may not have been that drastic, but sometimes we all need a reminder and course correction, because it's so easy to stray. 

I'm glad you got some clarity.

Way to go Daily, and thanks Paul.
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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #37 on: April 29, 2015, 01:40:59 PM »
I like the idea of having multiple choice options.  It may be hard to package Good + Cheap as Easy, but... you can try.  You could put together a 'Start Here' post, and 'Other Ways to Save'.  Some food for thought...

What are the top recommendations you hear/give?  How would a new reader FIND that in the Technical Meshugana?
What do your READERS use? (graph)
I'm a graphics / data guy - when the text seems too dense, how would you draw a picture on a napkin to explain your point?  Draw that picture, and put it with the text with a simple legend. 
How would you present Technical Meshugana concepts to a paying group of conference attendees in a hotel ballroom via video projector / PowerPoint?
Why not recruit help?  Contributors, 'Case Studies', editors, and moderators. 

But *DO* keep up the good work.

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Re: How would you feel if I sold out?
« Reply #38 on: April 29, 2015, 08:25:41 PM »
Haven't read many replies, but my vote is for referral links. If you can do a combination of explain why you didn't pick certain carriers (and obv don't have referral links for them) and then keep your explanations for why you like other carriers I think that would go a long way. Add some testimonials, maybe do some more attention-grabbing stuff, and you should be set. I follow a lot of the frequent flyer blogs who almost all have affiliate links for credit cards everywhere. Plenty of people dislike them when it's disingenuous, but done well I think it's a fine way to get monetary credit for your hard work. Places like The Wirecutter/Sweethome and the like use amazon affiliate links to get paid on their long and extensive research posts too. For every person who complains about you potentially selling out, there will probably be 10 who go to your site, read the great info, click on an affiliate link, save a bunch of money, and never think of it again.