Mac Musings

State of the Site Report

Daniel Knight - 2001.07.16

I launched The New Low End User Site in April 1997 by posting about two dozen Mac profiles on my personal Web space - everything from the Mac Plus through the Mac IIvx. I had no idea it could make money, let alone be my primary source of income.

In coming weeks and months, we expanded the site to cover Quadras and PowerBooks. On July 15, 1997 we posted our first two editorials: Gil Amelio: Facts & Speculation and Critique of Microsoft print ad.

I still don't understand how, but we were already getting 20,000 hits a month back then. Today we average over 20,000 pages served per day.

Low End Mac slowly grew into a business. A deal with Supra to sponsor my 56k modem page put their ad up for a year and replaced my 14.4 modem with a 56k one. Moving to in November 1997 added site-wide ads, and we started to see some site income in January 1998.

In January 2000, I incorporated as Cobweb Publishing and quit my day job to publish Low End Mac fulltime. We were taking in over $4,000 a month, traffic was growing, and everything looked rosey.

We didn't know the dot-com meltdown would have such a devasting impact on site income, but we managed to get by until the start of June. Then we realized we had less than $200 between checking, PayPal, and petty cash. Cobweb Publishing had a lot of money owed, but almost nothing on hand.

We asked for reader support, and y'all came through for us. About 150 people sent in donations during June, adding over $2,000 to our bottom line. We paid our writers, our host, our ISP fees, and our publisher. For the first time, my salary was up to date.

On top of that, ad money continued to come in and a sponsor who was six months behind sent us over $2,000 in June and another $1,000 this month. We're not floating in money, but we usually have enough in the bank so we know we can cover the following week's expenses. That's a good feeling.

Low End Mac has grown from about two-dozen pages to somewhere over a thousand. We have everything from Mac and clone profiles to tech articles, advice columns, and a lot of editorial content. Last week we had two days where we served over 33,000 pages and another day just shy of the 30,000 mark. We have served over 600,000 pages every month since February 2001.

We're operating over two-dozen email lists, some with 500+ subscribers and over 1,000 postings per month. They're widely regarded as some of the best lists on the Web.

We've found a lot of ways to support the Mac community and create communities of users. The email lists are a great resource, as is the site. We pull no punches when we label some Macs "Road Apples" for not living up to their potential. And we have over a dozen writers providing a wide range of perspectives on all things Macintosh.

We're a bit aprehensive about the future. We expect great things from Apple, and I will be attending Macworld Expo this week (only possible because of reader support - thanks!). But we don't know what will happen financially. Will advertisers come to recognize the true value of banner ads? Will ad rates go up or down? If ad income doesn't improve, how will we keep Cobweb Publishing solvent - subscriptions, micropay, donations?

I'm optimistic, but I'm also tightening my belt. I'm looking into other hosting options for Low End Mac and my other sites, ones that will reduce our costs. I'm hoping to invest more time in Digigraphica and to bring them up to their potential. I have a couple other projects I'm not quite ready to unveil yet, but the goal is to become less dependent on a single site for income.

I may sever my ties with, the ISP I've used since I first connected to the Internet and where I hosted those first Mac profiles. On the other hand, I've been using that email address for almost five years now....

I'll be making a choice between Earthlink DSL and AT&T @home service in coming weeks, but I need to do some more fiddling around with DSL and the home network configuration. Cutting one service or the other will free another $40-50 per month.

I remain optimistic. Between donations and ad income, we seem to be getting by each month. We'll be exploring some options with other Mac webmasters and the guys who handle our ads later this week. (One great benefit of Macworld Expo is a chance to meet others involved in the Mac Web in person.)

As always, we are grateful to the Mac community and their support of Low End Mac. I created those first computer profiles to serve the needs of low-end Mac users and remain committed to helping Mac users get the most value from their computers.