Mac Musings

Low End Mac in 2001

Daniel Knight - 2001.12.31

It's been quite a year for Low End Mac. The first thing we did in 2001 was incorporate as Cobweb Publishing an January 2, followed by a family vacation and business trip to San Francisco the same week as the Macworld Expo.

Site Content

Jake Sargent, formerly of, wrote iThings Considered from February 13 through May 4. The column was well received, but Jake wanted to launch a new site. He launched Portable Mac this autumn.

Michael Munger helped us all learn to use our Macs better with iBasics, which debuted on February 14.

About a week later we began publishing Matt's Mac: My Performa Still Performa, reprinting articles Matthew Urban originally wrote for his local user group newsletter.

We launched The 'Book Review with Charles W. Moore (a.k.a. The Road Warrior) on March 2nd. This weekly roundup of PowerBook and iBook developments appears each Friday.

Toward the end of that month, we created Mac UK, where Dr. Dirk Pilat shares his thoughts on Macs in the UK.

I'd been explicitly looking for a female columnist to bring another perspective to the site; we began publishing Acoustic Mac by Beverly Woods (an acoustic musician, home schooler, and Mac user) on April 26.

We helped Jeff Adkins find his second calling, humor, with The Lite Side, which we launched on May 11. Jeff has been cranking these out faster than we can post 'em.

We began posting the week's best iMac deals at the end of March and the week's best iBook and PowerBook deals in late August.

We started publishing The Power of Mac by Eric Schwarz on June 14.

My First Mac, where Mac users talk about their adoption of the Mac, has become a twice-a-week feature this year. Likewise, My Turn, another user column, is now published two or three times a week.

Although Chris Lawson started Tech Reflections in 2000, it really created an identity for itself when it became Tech Week in Review on August 3.

In September we turned the thoughts of Steve Watkins, an IT guy and a lawyer, into The Practical Mac. The same month we began publishing The Mac Webb by Kevin Webb (some puns are irresistible).

Admitting we have to live in a Windows-dominated world, we debuted Alan Zisman's Mac2Windows column on November 30.

We started 10 Forward on November 30, where those who've tried it share their experiences with Mac OS X.

Convinced that Apple has to make deliberate moves to grow market share, Tim Nash's Taking Back the Market was launched on December 14.

We closed out the year with one more debut, Aquatic Mac, on December 28. Andrew W. Hill ("Aqua") has written for Low End Mac on a variety of topics over the past half-year, and we agreed it was time to give him his own column.

Several columns are on hiatus as writers concentrate on their studies. We hope to see new Low End Mac Gaming, Mac Metamorphosis, Mac to the Future, Tangerine Fusion columns somewhere down the road.

And we can't forget the ongoing columns begun prior to 2001. Mac Daniel (since 1998.10.20), Miscellaneous Ramblings (1999.09.09), The Rumor Mill (1999.12.10), Apple Archive (2000.04.06), Mac Scope (2000.04.26), Back & Forth (2000.05.25), Mac Lab Report (2000.10.27), and my own Mac Musings (1997.07.15).

Site Traffic

We set a new site traffic record in January by serving 589,000 pages to 150,000 visitors - we'd broken 500,000 for the first time in October 2000. January was also the month I quit my IS job to publish Low End Mac full-time.

That looked like a good move at the time. Low End Mac was bringing in over $4,000 a month from ads, which meant I could pay my writers, pay my hosting, pay my access fees, and still pay myself as much as I'd earned working IS in 2000. I didn't know how negatively the dot-com meltdown would impact site income.

We averaged 19,000 pages a day in January, then settled into the 21,500-22,600 range from February through July. Our visitor count was in the 162,000-192,000 range.

June was a low month with 639,000 pages served. That increased to 757,000 in July, a new record, and 786,500 in August, another new record. We also have over 200,000 visitors in August.

Everything was going swimmingly until September 11; traffic dropped significantly for the first week after the terrorist attacks and regained its momentum in October. Our average pages served per day dropped 12.4% in September compared with August, then rebounded by 14.6% in October.

We set yet another site traffic record in November with 786,500 pages - our average of 26,217 pages per day was up 7.4% over October. And then we got Slashdotted in December, setting a one-day record of 61,257 pages and 29,943 visitors served. The article linked on Slashdot received 23,012 hits that day, and 14,365 visitors came to Low End Mac through a link on Slashdot. Linux users, the focus of our article, accounted for 13.6% of our pages read that day, about ten times the usual level.

Thanks to that boost, December broke all site traffic records. Assuming normal traffic today, we'll have served a total roughly 875,000 pages to over 225,000 visitors during December - an average of 28,750 pages per day.

September 11

When we think back on 2001, September 11 will probably be one of our first memories of the year. It was the day terrorists attacked America, the world was glued to TV news, and a lot of news sites on the Web were overwhelmed and unable to meet demand.

We responded by telling our writers that we understood if they didn't want to write about Macs that week - and also offered them the opportunity to share their thoughts on Low End Mac. We also thought is appropriate to run all our articles about September 11 without ads.

We understand that Macs weren't the first thing on your minds; the same was true of us. Site traffic dropped that Tuesday morning as people became aware of the attack (blue line). It wasn't until the last week of September that site traffic regained normal levels (gray line).

September site traffic

The cowardly terrorist attack on civilians galvanized America and much of the world, shattered families, and hurt business. The Postal Service had to suspend overnight delivery while planes were grounded - so did all the other delivery services. People rethought their priorities and bought less.

It impacted us, too. Advertisers were just beginning to feel comfortable buying ads again, but that came to a screeching halt and is slowly resuming again.

One longtime site and list sponsor owed us over $8,000 when we suspended their ads on April 9. They had agreed to pay the balance down by $1,000 a month after a large initial payment. This would have cleared their account by the end of the year. We haven't received a single payment from them since September 11; they still owe us over $3,000.

Site Finances

No article about Low End Mac would be complete without bemoaning the unexpected downturn in our finances this year. We'd anticipated $4-5,000 a month, created a budget that required about $3,500 per month, and then watched site income plummet. The balance owed us by one advertiser, who has been supporting LEM since late 1998, would cover our entire monthly budget.

But you encouraged us - when we asked for donations to keep things afloat, the Mac community donated over $4,200. Words are not enough to express our appreciation for these generous gifts.

We've trimmed the budget. Although I launched Cobweb Publishing anticipating it would fully replace the income from my full-time job, for most of the year I've made do with two-thirds that. I've reduced the amount paid to writers - twice in some cases. I canceled my EarthLink and Iserv ISP accounts, which also reduced monthly overhead. I moved my smaller sites to less costly hosting.

I cut my salary another 20% in October; I'm now earning about 55% as much as I did with my full-time job (and last year I had site income on top of my full-time income). Even with all these cuts, I'm closing the year three weeks behind on payroll.

I've been working part-time at a local camera store. This helps offset the cut in pay, but I went through most of October and the entire month of November without a paycheck from Cobweb Publishing. It's been a tough year.

With the reductions in my salary, reduced pay to writers, elimination of dialup accounts, and elimination of health insurance, we've trimmed the budget to around $3,000 a month. Anything less means I'll be putting in more hours at other jobs to earn money.

Looking at 2002

We believe Low End Mac will continue to grow in the coming year. Even assuming slower growth next year, we expect to serve over 1,000,000 pages during some month in early 2002 and possibly handle over 1.2 million pages during November or December.

We end this year with 20.3 million pages served since April 1997 - 8.3 million this year alone. We anticipate serving 10.6 million pages during 2002, bringing our cumulative total to 30.9 million.

We hope you'll be there with us.