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Commentary for: 9 February 1997
Last Week's edition

All that glitters is not...
award logo So you've got your copy of Front Page, your ISP gives you a megabyte of free Web space (or you're using a low-cost hosting service for just a few dollars a month) and you're about to build the ultimate [insert your favourite topic here] Web site. Hey - what if you could even earn some money from your efforts?

Wow, imagine if you could earn enough money to cover your monthly Internet access bill - wouldn't that be great? Even better, it all seems so easy!

Let's ignore all the really stupid "get rich quick" and multi-level marketing scams and look at two of the systems that claim you can earn money from your Web pages.

First up there's the "We'll pay you to carry our ads" offer.

Sounds simple doesn't it? You simply make some space on your page and link back to the advertising company's site in a manner that allows them to display their banners on your site. Once you've done this, they'll pay you some arbitrary figure each a visitor to your site clicks on that banner. Money for jam eh?

Well, let's look a little closer...

One of the key exponents of this offer is an organisation called ClickTrade. A visit to their site indicates that most advertisers are only prepared to pay around a cent or two per click - with many seemingly not paying anything.

Look a little further and you'll see that as a participating site, it is YOUR responsibility to continuously check the rates being paid by individual advertisers - which may change at any time. And, should an advertiser use up all their credit, you'll be paid absolutely nothing for showing their ads.

So, let's add up the figures and see how much you're going to earn from this little offer.

Assume you've got a reasonably popular site (see this issue of Aardvark Weekly). If you're getting (say) 300 visitors per day you can expect to deliver 300 ad impressions. The industry standard for well designed banner ads is that around 2 people in every 100 will click on an ad. If we assume you're carrying an ad from someone who's paying the average amount of 2 cents per click, that's 12 cents per day. Hey, it's got to be better than nothing right?

Well check out this page for the "gotcha" clause that may change your mind. Note that they're not going to pay you anything until you've earnt at least US$50.00.

Do your sums... at twelve cents per day, that's 416 days or nearly 14 months before you're eligible for a payout and even then, you're only going to get US$50 - *IF* they're still in business and *IF* you've been diligent enough to make sure that you're always carrying advertisers who are actually paying for the ads you display. If you're a site that gets just 30 visits a day - then you're looking at nearly 11 YEARS to payday!

I suspect ClickTrade are going to make a small fortune by effectively getting a whole lot of free ad-space from small sites that participate for a few months and then opt-out long before they're due for any kind of payment. Smart - but is it fair?

Another money-making option?
The other type of "earn money from your web page" offer is that on offer from the likes of Amazon.com.

These people offer you the chance to sell books directly from your web pages and earn a small commission. Just sign-up, choose your books, set up your site accordingly and in theory you will earn cash each time someone comes to your site and then goes on to buy one of the books you've selected.

Big problem - it doesn't always work that way!

Why not?

Simple, you only get paid if people buy the book without first browsing around the Amazon.com site. If they follow the link from your page to Amazon and first decide to check out similar titles or just browse around a bit, the reference back to your site is lost so if they then finally decide to buy - you get nothing! I don't know about you but I always check out the range of similar titles on offer before I buy a book and I suspect most people are the same. Amazon are obviously benefiting hugely from this natural curiosity by avoiding the payment of commissions to participating sites who send them customers.

While there are some very busy sites with well chosen book titles that are earning a small amount of money from such schemes, the vast majority of people I've spoken to who initially thought this was a great idea have since changed their minds after getting reports from visitors who followed the links, browsed a bit and then bought - producing no revenue for the site concerned.

So, there's still a lot of value in the old saying ... "if it sounds too good to be true... it probably is!". Before you give away pieces of your site to promote someone else's products, make sure you're going to be getting something in return!

Read the fine-print first!

Keep those cards and letters coming!
Fighting junk mail - the sequel
A few weeks ago I published a piece on how to deal with spam in which I suggested forwarding copies of junk mail to the FTC in the USA.

Well it seems this *IS* having some effect. In this story carried by CNet's News.com, it is reported that the FTC are obviously taking notice of all the junk emails that Net users forward to them and finally doing something about it. Good news indeed!

Of course it's just a drop in the bucket at this stage but it does mean that when the US finally gets around to drafting legislation to control these junk mailers, the FTC will most likely be very vocal in its stance and we'll be the better off for it.

Another tactic I've started recently is to drop an email to the "administrative contact" for any domain name which is being promoted through junk email. You can use this page to get the email address of this person and then forward a copy of the offending email along with a note that says:

"a client of yours has recently engaged in the offensive practice of sending unsolicited commercial email - please let them know that this is not acceptable"
There's no point in ripping into the person at this address - they probably aren't aware that this has happened - but let them know that you're not happy. I have received some very positive responses from administrative contacts, some of who were obviously less than pleased that the domains concerned were engaging in such activities.

We can win the battle against spam - remember, we (the Net population) are tens of millions strong, they (the spammers) are just a few thousand in number. It only takes a few seconds to forward copies of your junk mail to either uce@ftc.gov or pyramid@ftc.gov so get into the habit of doing it.

Now that's funny!
Top marks to last week's ICBIT winner for having a sense of humour. He quickly replaced his own photo with one of me. I laughed and laughed until I stopped!

It's good to see that there are still some people out there who don't take life too seriously - good work!

Well done!

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Don't Forget The Competition!!

The I.C.B.I.T Award
I Can't Believe It's True!

Sign me up!

How many times have I complained that too many cowboys over-hype the Net and make outrageous claims about what a Web page will do for you. Remember a few weeks back I pointed out that even the *BEST* of NZ's web sites only captures a few thousand vistiors per day?

Well here's one guy that goes the whole hog and claims that YOUR ad on his site will reach those 40 million other Net users who are just waiting to see it.

Hmm, only 39,999,500 to go!

Oh... and don't forget to bookmark that page now - you wouldn't want to get caught in the stampede now would you?

 
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