Low End Mac: State of the Site 2013

This has not been a good year for Low End Mac. After switching to the WordPress content management system earlier this year, our Google rank took a nose dive, and while Google still accounts for most of the traffic coming to lowendmac.com, total traffic is about 20% of what it was in 2012.

WordPress lets our writers edit and submit their articles online, eliminating the need for me to proofread, edit, add images, and upload every new article – a time consume process. In theory, this should mean more new content and more up-to-date articles about breaking events. That said, we’ve had a lot less new content in 2013.

There are several reasons for that. I’m working a full time job, so I try to squeeze in a few minutes before I leave for work, get in some time on my MacBook during breaks at work, and put in time in the evening when possible. It’s still a lot less than when I published Low End Mac full time (30-50 hours per week) and had a part-time job on the side.

Also, the economy has kept a lot of us from spending extra money, so less people are buying through links on Low End Mac, which means less affiliate income. And less pages served means less ad income. I haven’t taken a regular paycheck from LEM in several years, and in mid 2012 we suspended payments to our writers – the money just hasn’t been there. That provides less incentive for writing, and the small amount we have been able to pay writers since 1999 has helped a lot of them fund their low-end Mac adventures.

As we migrated existing content to WordPress (mostly Mac profiles and our most popular archived articles), those pages has new URLs, and even though we have set up redirection, Google has reduced our page rank significantly. That means less traffic.

The Data

The more pages we serve, the more ads displayed, the more income, except that over time ad rates tend to drop. Less pages served has the opposite effect. Here’s a chart showing monthly site traffic in millions of pages averaged over the previous 12 months:

Average monthly site traffic

12 month average pages served on Low End Mac, 1999 to 2013

Over the early years, we built site traffic at a steady rate, leveled off, and then grew again to peak at 18 million pages in a single year (1.5 million per month) before leveling off again. Since late 2010 – when I’ve been working an additional job – it’s mostly gone downhill, as the next chart from Google Analytics shows in more detail:

Low End Mac site traffic 2011 to 2013

Low End Macs site traffic in pages served, January 2011 through November 2013

Some might say that our glory days are behind us, because PowerPC Macs are relics of the past and nobody is adopting those old versions of Mac OS X that we love so much. While there is some truth to that, we have been covering Intel Macs since they first arrived, most of our writers now use Intel Macs (in addition to our venerable PowerPC machines), and a lot of us have moved into the world of OS X 10.9 Mavericks – not to mention our iDevices and iOS 7.

And we still love our older Macs, Mac operating systems, and Mac apps.

Finances

I’m going to address the tough issue head on: We’re not even close to breaking even this year. We need to take in $1,200 per month to cover hosting, internet access, phones, utilities, taxes, and other expenses. On average, we’ve fallen short by $300 per month this year – and our deficit is only this small because I took a full time job with medical insurance, which greatly reduced Low End Mac’s monthly expenses in 2013.

It was wonderful when I could make a living publishing Low End Mac, but that hasn’t been the case very often. I started LEM in 1997 and went full time in January 2001, giving up a $35,000 IT position to do so. It wasn’t until 2005 that we had sufficient income to cover monthly payroll and other expenses, including paying most of our writers (some are volunteers). The last year with that kind of income was 2008. I haven’t taken a paycheck from LEM since sometime in 2010.

How You Can Help

We need more site traffic to build ad income. If you have a website or blog, consider linking to our home page or any content on the site. If you’re on Facebook or other social media, maybe post a plug there as well. We have a lot of good content that we promote to our known audience (regular visitors, people on our Facebook page, those who subscribe to our RSS feed, and followers on Twitter), and you can add to that.

Click on the ads and buy through the affiliate links on lowendmac.com. That’s where our money comes from: ad views and purchases. When you buy from Amazon.com or MacMall or many other online businesses, we earn a small commission.

Several times in the past we’ve done fund raisers, and each time we’ve received thousands of dollars in donations. It’s wonderful, and it’s humbling. It’s gratifying to see how much you value Low End Mac, and our current fund raiser brought in nearly $600 during its first week. We’re hoping for $3,500 by the end of December to offset the monthly deficit we’ve been covering out of our family budget this year. We would like to see $3,000 in one-time donations and another $500 in monthly subscription support to help us have a more stable financial foundation going forward.

Donations, Please

I want our content to remain free for all, but also I need to make a living, and there have been times when I have done painful things like raid my IRAs because the business couldn’t pay me. Until that turns around, I can’t consider this becoming my full time job again.

We’re asking for your help. We’re not begging. We’re not going to guilt you. We’re simply laying out the facts in black and white, leaving it up to you to decide what to do.

If you think Low End Mac has helped you, please consider making a donation. If one of our articles or price trackers has saved you money in some way, or if you’ve sold some old Mac gear via LEM Swap, or if our hardware profiles and articles have helped you choose or sell gear on eBay or Craigslist, or if we’ve warned you off of a purchase you were considering – if we’ve helped make you a more savvy Mac, iPhone, or iPad consumer, and if you have the financial freedom to do so, here’s the opportunity to help us as we’ve helped you.

Consider this the website equivalent of busking, where a musician plays music and gives you the opportunity to throw some money in a hat or instrument case.

I’ve come to realize that while we definitely need a big cash infusion right now, we will also benefit from ongoing financial support, so if you want to give on a monthly basis, that’s an option. We’ve been receiving donations now and again for years, and now we’re making it part of our business model.

We have four ways you can send donations:

  • Chase QuickPay requires that you have a US bank account and either a mobile phone number or a valid email address. You can send money using the Web or with the Chase Mobile iOS app (Android and Blackberry apps also available). Reference the email address dan.knight58@gmail.com, and Chase will notify you when we have received your donation. And, unlike PayPal, there are no fees. You do not need to have a Chase account to use QuickPay.
  • Dwolla is a one-to-one payment system. Money can transfer directly between Dwolla accounts, between bank accounts, and between a Dwolla account and a bank account. Money transfers in a flash (it takes 3-4 business days to move PayPal funds to our bank account). Dwolla is free for transactions under $10; there is a 25¢ fee for transactions $10 and above – a bit more than Chase, but cheaper than PayPal, which takes one-third of a $1 donation. Our Dwolla ID is 812-572-0170.
  • PayPal remains the most popular option and makes it easy for almost anyone almost anywhere in the world with a credit card or bank account to send money. Subscription payments will be ongoing until you cancel them. You can also sign up for a regular ongoing donation by using one of the Subscribe options below. You can use the Donate button below if you wish to make a one-time donation of any amount.

  • The fourth option is to mail us a personal/business check, certified check, or money order. Please make it payable to Cobweb Publishing Inc. and send it to 215 Ivanhoe Ave NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

Thank you for making Low End Mac a resource you visit regularly. And thank you in advance for your support.

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