Why club memberships are important to CoasterBuzz

Friday, September 18, 2015 1:43 PM

Gonch posted a great article on Facebook about the changes on the web that continue with regard to revenue and where it leaves smaller, independent content publishers. You should read it, as it describes how sites like CoasterBuzz and PointBuzz are facing changes around advertising.

Welcome to hell: Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook and the slow death of the web

Seriously, I'll wait. :)

In a nutshell, there are a number of factors pushing the value of advertising down. For us, a lot of that has to do with mobile usage. The mobile ads pay so little, yet so much of our traffic now comes via mobile. And the great irony here is that we really pride ourselves on the mobile experience. We've tried very hard to make sure that the sites look great and are usable on your phone or tablet. It's a lot of work for 1/2 guy(s).

A lot of sites have tried to compensate by adding all of those crappy, spammy ads ("lose belly fat with this one weird trick!"), and that is so not where I want to go. As it is, the chain of ad providers already cause some serious crap to get through the filters and appear on the sites. I hate that.

When I started PointBuzz (then Guide to The Point) in 1998, then CoasterBuzz in 2000, it was mostly for fun. By 2001, the sites got so popular that hosting them cost about a grand per month, not counting software. In 2001, the ad provider mostly covering that, DoubleClick (which hilariously started to crumble later, until it was purchased by Google for its ad serving assets), dropped me like a bad habit. The other ad providers couldn't make up that grand per month, and that's how CoasterBuzz Club was born. The community rallied to join, and within a few days, I knew the sites would be solvent for at least a few years.

The cost to host sites has only gone down since then, but doing it right still isn't free. The really exciting thing is that building in redundancy and keeping things fast and reliable is now possible for a lot less than it used to be. It's that cloud thing you're always hearing about. It's just that I can't afford to get there while ad rates continue to decline. Traffic to the sites has been relatively consistent over the years, but the dollars are getting harder to come by. For example, it would take another 85 memberships per year to add the redundancy. It would probably take an extra 5 million page views per year under current ad rate conditions to make up the same revenue. The average visitor only looks at 5 pages, and there just aren't enough people interested in roller coasters to add a million new visitors per year.

So here's where I'm going with this. I don't expect every regular user to join the club. I won't think ill of anyone who doesn't feel like that $25 for the site (without ads) is worth it. Everyone can decide that on their own. I bring this up because I want you to understand why it's important, and how things are changing. I happen to believe that paying for a service is worth it if you get value out of it. I pay Vimeo $60 per year for a paid account, and I might upload three videos per year. Why? Because I really like the service and the community it fosters. I want to see it persist for a very long time. If you feel that way about CoasterBuzz, awesome, I appreciate your memberships. If not, that's OK too, but understand the change that's happening. It's generally not a good one for small and independent publishers.

Thank you for considering the issue either way.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 2:04 PM

I've suggested this before and will suggest it again, add a way for users to donate through PayPal. I'll donate when I got spare money. I currently belong to another coaster club. But I'll donate to support CoasterBuzz and PointBuzz. I disable AdBlock on here and PointBuzz so you will get some ad revenue.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 2:19 PM

Last year I was trying to cut back on spending and didn't renew my membership. After a year of being tortured by Oprah, Ellen, and those disgusting looking miracle cures, I'm happy to say I've renewed.

Thabto, there's no reason you can't belong to more than one club. :-)

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Friday, September 18, 2015 2:50 PM

Proud to be a club member since its inception. I use this site just about daily, and is by far the site I visit more than any other, so $25 a year is absolutely worth it to me.

And no, Jeff didn't pay me to say this.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 2:52 PM

I know I had a problem with you back at gttp but I really respect you putting the facts out there.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 3:11 PM

Thanks?

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Friday, September 18, 2015 10:07 PM

TIL Jeff helped found Pointbuzz. I rarely go there, but still, never knew that.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 10:32 PM

I started it as Guide To The Point in 1998. Walt started Virtual Midway in 2000. In 2004, we combined the two because it made sense and prevented duplication. To this day, he does more of the design and content, I write the software and keep the lights on.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 10:40 PM

I'm a huge CoasterBuzz cheerleader! I am also usually broke, as a part-time loser Walmart employee can only be (for 4 years now, GO ME!)

I really like the donation idea. You might even get more than $25 per year from some people if you added a donation link. A lot of people who frequent this site have a generous heart. While I appreciate that you would rather give something to trade for the paid support, I'm pretty sure that some people wouldn't mind just helping out sometimes.

Every popular browser has an ad blocker or offers ad blockers as a free add-on. Many people are not going to go through the trouble to disable it for one website, even one as awesome as CoasterBuzz. I haven't thought about disabling my ad blocker on this site in a long time. I appreciate CoasterBuzz so much. It has just been disabled. Maybe that will help a little anyway.

When I finally get that $60,000 a year dream job that I keep applying for, I will make a point to donate $25 for each of the years I haven't been a club member if that donation link was there.

Seriously, that donation link idea is a really good one.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 10:42 PM

Just renewed my (very) lapsed membership. This is easily the site I get the most out of visiting (visit Facebook more, but ugh...) and I would be heartbroken if anything prevented its continued existence. I'd be happy to throw a couple more bucks in the hat if there were a way to do so.

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Friday, September 18, 2015 11:04 PM

Perhaps someone can buy Travis a gift membership. :)

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Saturday, September 19, 2015 9:08 AM

I don't block ads on any sites I go to just because I know where that's where the money comes from. If we make a point of actually clicking on any of the ads does that affect how the service pays? I'm currently saving up for a new septic system and haven't had a paycheck since June but I am perfectly willing to watch/go switch my laundry while some crappy ads play if the clicks affect how much the site gets in ad revenue.

Last edited by Paisley, Saturday, September 19, 2015 9:13 AM
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Saturday, September 19, 2015 4:08 PM

I'm in the process of moving to Michigan for work in the next few months, but I imagine after I get settled, I'll be more than willing to throw some money your way.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015 10:18 AM

Folks, I'm not asking anyone with financial hardship to join the club. That is not my intention at all. I just want there to be awareness so one can make an informed decision, and know that it doesn't just apply to this site, but likely many that you visit.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015 10:44 AM

Does clicking on the adds that we normally just ignore change the site's revenue though? On the Piano World forums they recieved more when adds were clicked andnot just seen so we were encouraged to click adds once in a while. Like I said I'm up for clicking if it actually makes any difference over time.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015 12:22 PM

It depends. Generally it doesn't matter, as most of the advertising we use works on impressions. That, and I can't ask you to click on ads, as it would violate all kinds of terms of service. It's not really in your best interest either, as the ad providers will show you less relevant ads, which you don't want.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015 1:29 PM

In the past, I've been content to just have my ACE membership; a second coaster club membership seemed unnecessary. (Also, I've been a member of ACE since the mid-80s and I develop its national event fliers, so I have something of an attachment to the organization.)

When I first read about this over on Salon, Coasterbuzz and Pointbuzz popped to mind. Would I be sad if Wonkette's ad dollars dried up and the site went away? Yes, but I'd get over it soon enough. If CBuzz and PBuzz went away? Different story.

I'm currently under-employed, but once I'm again fully employed, I'll sign up. As Vater noted, $25 a year is well worth what I get out of CoasterBuzz.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015 3:13 PM

When I'm financially comfortable I'd be happy to not only pay for club membership but also donate extra cash on a donate button. As it is right now, it'll be about eight years till my college debt is paid down lol.

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Monday, September 21, 2015 8:40 PM

I hardly ever post anymore, but this is my favorite site for amusement park related information. I'll continue to support any site that tries to endorse the use of proper grammar and has a least some integrity. It seems to me that if anyone comes here a couple times a week they should cough up the measly $2.08 a month it costs for a membership.

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Monday, September 21, 2015 10:05 PM

I don't know that it's necessary to put it in absolute terms. "Should" is a pretty strong suggestion that people who don't are somehow lesser humans. Like I said, it's up to the individual.

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