Mac Musings

2005 Was a Good Year for Apple, Mac Users, and Low End Mac

Dan Knight - 2005.12.23 - Tip Jar

Wow, what a year! Apple finally heeded the cries for a low-cost desktop computer, and the Mac mini was a lot more than we ever expected. eMac power. Just enough ports. All the essentials.

It was also a lot less than we ever expected. No expansion slots. Just one RAM socket. No mouse or keyboard. No big, fast hard drives. No excess space or desktop clutter - it's just 6.5" square. No bloated price. No hassles toting it between home and work or school.

Macintel

Then came the Intel announcement in June. Who would have ever expected Apple to change ships like that? Or to announce it perhaps a year before delivery?

In retrospect, it makes sense. Mac OS X was developed on x86 hardware before Apple bought NeXT, and parts of the current Mac OS are hacks to make things that work easily work at all on PowerPC architecture. Intel should really unleash OS X.

iSee

Perhaps the most unexpected development after Intel was Apple including iSight in the iMac G5. A stroke of genius. No big metal tube on top of your computer. No extra wires. There it is - and there you are on iChat.

Low End Mac's Best Year, Too

It's nearly nine years since I first posted two dozen Mac profiles (Mac Plus through Mac II series) on my personal website and a month shy of five years since I quit my IS job to publish LEM full time.

Those of you who were part of the LEM community during the intervening years know how poor that timing was. The bottom dropped out of the online ad market, and what was supposed to be a comfortably profitable business wasn't. I cut my salary several times, asked for donations two or three times, and pretty much ran the business on a break-even basis for four years. (Even that was sometimes due to my deferring my paycheck.)

That was then. This is now. And now is a revitalized online economy, increased ad rates, and also a revitalized Low End Mac with increased traffic. Those factors combined put us on a very solid financial footing. In fact, I've actually put some money aside for retirement for the first time since I started running LEM as a full-time job.

Credit Where It's Due

Two years ago I was going through separation, then divorce, and the emotional toll was overwhelming. We took off a week here and there, and we cut our publishing schedule from daily to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Remarkably, site traffic remained constant.

About a year ago we were back to publishing almost every weekday, and nowadays we run three price trackers each day, four news roundups each week, and anywhere from one to four new articles per day.

Did I mention traffic is up? A big part of that is that we're publishing a lot more new content, and a lot of the credit for that goes to the other writers. (I've been writing less than usual this year - and editing more.)

Charles W. Moore

Charles W. Moore has been with Low End Mac since Sept. 1999, and we've published about 360 Miscellaneous Ramblings columns since then. Between them they account for about 1.25 million pages served, and nearly 200,000 of them were served in 2005.

Moore also puts together our four news roundups. He's been compiling The 'Book Review since March 2001 - roughly 250 weekly columns bringing in about 740,000 hits. We launched Mac News Review this past February to cover non-portable news (the Mac mini was the impetus for that), the iPod News Review in March, and the Macintel Report in June.

Tom Hormby

Tom Hormby is a budding chronicler of the history of personal computing. He's run his own website, published some articles on OSnews, and has been writing for LEM since May. Where many of us (myself included) tend to focus on the hardware and others on the operating system and software, Hormby tends to look at the people driving the decisions.

We both agreed that Low End Mac would be the perfect venue for his histories, and they've been our most successful articles in the history of the website - because Hormby is also a gifted promoter. He's managed to get LEM articles (both his own and those by other writers) linked on Slashdot, OSnews, and MacBytes on a regular basis, and that work has paid off.

We've never had an article with 100,000 hits before, but Hormby's PowerBook history passed that mark within a week of publication. He's also had one article break the 50,000 mark, another pass 30,000 in one week, and several others that have been far above our site average.

I've always told my writers that I consider 1,500 hits good, so Hormby's track record is incredible. (Yes, we do give him a big bonus for the heavy hitters. In fact, we've been able to pay our writers better than ever.)

Adam Robert Guha

Adam Robert Guha wrote his first Apple Archive column in May 2000, and he's produced a column nearly every week since then. That's about 275 to date and around 900,000 hits between them.

Until Hormby joined us, Guha was consistently our most-read writer month after month at an average of around 2,800 hits per column during the 7 days after they were first posted. His writing is eclectic - he even admits to using a Windows PC - and he often raises interesting points I haven't seen elsewhere. (Who else would get worked up about blue LEDs?)

New Talent

We made a concerted effort to find new writers in October, especially those who would provide better coverage of the older, lower-end hardware than most of our staff was using. It's been a roaring success. We've covered everything from System 1.0 and the 9" compact Macs to using OS X on a Lombard in Iraq.

We've moved from an average of 30,000 pages served per day to about 40,000 in October and November. December is on track for the same results. We've gone from serving somewhat under a million pages per month to about 1.25 million.

Google

Like never before, search engines are bringing in traffic. Most of it's to our hardware profiles, which have always been the core of the website. And most of that traffic (well over 90% of search engine traffic) comes courtesy of Google. Month after month, they are the leading source of traffic.

Kudos to Google for a great search engine, and thanks for all those links to our website.

BackBeat Media

None of our success would be possible without Dave and Greg at BackBeat Media handling advertising. I am not cut out for that, and they are more than worth their piece of the pie for the money they send us month after month.

We've been through the hard times together, when BackBeat only worked with a handful of tech websites and Internet ad rates hit rock bottom. And year after year we've seen them sell more ads and give us more income.

That's what made it possible for my to do this full time. That's what makes it possible to pay our writers. And that's what makes it possible for Low End Mac to be the resource it is today.

Our Sponsors

Between display ads handled by BackBeat Media, affiliate programs we manage, and one company that sponsors most of our email lists, there are a lot of businesses supporting Low End Mac. Their success advertising here is what keeps LEM online and profitable, so we recommend you check with our advertisers when buying online.

Our Readers

And where would we be without you, our occasional readers and our faithful visitors? You're the ones who find our content useful, who are the traffic that the sponsors want to reach, and ultimately it's you that we hope to serve.

In the big scheme of things, there are around 36,000 more popular websites on the Internet. Of them, about 20 are online publishers - VersionTracker, Macworld, Macsimum News, Dealmac, MacNN, MacInTouch, MacFixIt, and the like.

Based on some research and number crunching earlier this week, I discovered that Alexa ranks Low End Mac as the 21st most popular site on the Mac Web (that excludes commercial sites such as Apple and the various mail order houses).

We're thrilled that what we do is so popular, because the whole low-end thing is rather anti-consumption, anti-consumerism, counterculture. I guess we're the practical geeks who have to live within our means, and the rest of you living with budgets obviously appreciate that.

Looking Ahead

It's been quite a year. We have a quarter million unique visitors each month, and we'll probably zoom to the 1.4 or 1.5 million page mark when we cover the Macworld Expo in San Francisco next month.

This will be my second trip to San Francisco, and I'm really looking forward to it. Five years ago I took my family, and we spent a week seeing the sights and visiting the Expo. That was the last time LEM had money for a trip like that.

I'll be within walking distance of the Moscone Center and the trolley turnabout, and I'm coming two days early and leaving two days after the Expo, so I hope to just play tourist as much as Mac geek.

We'll also be launching Low End Living very soon. That's one long-term project I hope to finalize next week, when I take a week off from publishing Low End Mac.

We'll see you in 2006!

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Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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