Since you’re reading this at our site rather than through “our RSS feed”:http://www.onedegree.ca/index.xml you’ll notice that we’re running ads for “Firefox”:http://www.getfirefox.com throughout the site. We’re doing this as part of the next step in the evolution of One Degree.
From the start we’ve been working through all the critical elements of our strategy one step at a time. I’ve worked on enough projects now to know that “baby steps” is the best way to get anything done and that’s what we’ve been doing since our Preview Release launch back in April 2005. Our plan from the outset was to put stuff out there and see how our core constituents (readers, writers, and advertisers) felt about what we were doing.
Our first goal was to see if we could build a great site on a budget. I think we did, let me know if you don’t.
Next we wanted to see whether we’d get good contributors to post regularly. We’ve had mixed success here. All our contributors have been great, but some have been too busy to keep up with the commitment. To help with this we’ve added a “graduated licence” for contributors where they begin as Guest Contributors and work up to full Contributor once we’re all comfortable with each other and the workload involved.
With some great editorial in place we had to figure out how to tweak the site and our content to fully optimize it so that our intended audience could actually find the stuff we’re writing. We’ve had great results with that (with lots of help from “Bill Sweetman”:http://www.onedegree.ca/contributors/bill_sweetman) and we continue to tune the site as we learn more.
Throughout this we’ve essentially been in stealth mode, letting people find us through search and plain old word of mouth. Note that I didn’t say “Word Of Mouth” – anyone else find it odd that we named a type of marketing the same thing as a natural form of communication? We’ve been very happy with traffic so far and expect to kick things into high gear this fall as everyone gets back to work and we start to make some more noise in the market.
The next thing we have to iron out is how we make money off this thing.
Over the next few weeks I am hoping to have a bit of an open discussion around what is an appropriate model for an incredibly focussed B2B site like One Degree. We’re thinking about a lot of the same things “John Battelle”:http://fmpub.net/, “9rules”:http://9rules.com/, “Jason Calacanis”:http://calacanis.weblogsinc.com/ and to some extent “Chris Anderson”:http://longtail.typepad.com/the_long_tail/ are. I’m not sure we’ll come up with the same answers, but I’m hoping the conversation will be a good one.
In particular I’m interested in hearing from you, the loyal One Degree readers. What ad formats and sponsorship models work for you and what turn you off? What would it take to convince your company to advertise on One Degree? How do sites like us deal with “church and state” issues between editorial and advertising?
To be clear, the display ads on the site are in fact our _second_ ad test. Our first involved running Google Adsense ads for a month. The general feeling at the end of the test was that a niche site like One Degree would never get enough volume to justify the added clutter of Google Ads. In the end we decided to defer the decision for another day and more testing.
I’ll write more about how we’re approaching display ads in this test later. In the meantime, feel free to “contact us”:http://www.onedegree.ca/contact or leave a comment on the site with your thoughts on what we should be doing to make this pay for itself while keeping the quality of the content and experience of using the site satisfying.