Over the last two weeks I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the future of PaulStamatiou.com. It has been around for over 2 years, served up over 4 million pages (1 million of those in the last 4 months), amassed over 15,000 comments over 850+ posts and grown a dedicated readership. PaulStamatiou.com has always just been a hobby as I'm passionate about everything technology related, but I have been wondering if I could take this site from hobby to something more.
I took advantage of LinkedIn's Answers feature and asked my professional network a question related to this and acquiring corporate sponsorship to help me grow PaulStamatiou.com. For the record, LinkedIn Answers works extremely well. I received about 20 responses from the ~150 contacts that received my question; everything from "how much money do you need" to well-constructed emails about optimizing advertising to lure sponsors. After receiving some great advice from a friend, I turned down any thoughts of taking funding as I don't want to give up equity/percentage profits of my business, especially this early.
Contrary to popular belief, I make almost no money from this blog. At one point I made good money from paid reviews but it quickly became apparent that you guys don't like paid reviews, so I stopped doing them. I've talked to the big ad networks and tried other monetization strategies within reason (I will never whore out my site with throngs of ads), all without much luck.
Why am I looking to professionalize PaulStamatiou.com just now? I have about a year left in school. If I actively begin building my blog, I might be able to make it successful enough to potentially become a full-time gig by the time I graduate. If not, no worries, it's risk-free and I'll just do a startup with friends in the valley.
Let's backtrack to my childhood for second. Even 10 years ago I still thought it would be great to work for a tech publication, receive the latest gadgets before they come out, take them for a test drive and write about them. Things haven't changed, other than the fact that I'd prefer doing my own thing online instead of in a print publication. This site is about quality over quantity and it will always be. Talking with others familiar with the tech industry, there is a void in my field. The larger tech sites/blogs have "turned to crap" to quote an older friend in the field. Everyone's got an agenda and a quota to fulfill; there aren't too many "free spirits" when it comes to tech writing, which is why sites like John Gruber's Daring Fireball receive so much acclaim.
Take for example the time I reviewed the Sonos music system, one of the longer and more in-depth reviews on this site. Here's what Sonos had to say after they saw my (unpaid and I had to send the Sonos back) review:
Paul man - jesus - what a review. Thanks a ton. Glad that our hype lived up to your experience.
That's the type of feedback I thrive on and motivates me to pump out quality content. I know I've been going off on a tangent, so I'll get back to the point.
Here are things that will be happening around PaulStamatiou.com in the near future:
- Your Feedback. I plan on building out a section of this site dedicated to receiving your immediate feedback and suggestions for the type of content you would like to see as well as particular articles you want me to write. "User Generated Content Suggestions" if you will. Once I perfect the technology I will release it for use on other sites (has something to do with that patent I was trying to apply for).
- Reviews. I don't have the money to purchase all the gadgets and gizmos I would enjoy reviewing but I will make a proactive effort to get in touch with PR contacts to get hold of hot ticket items for review.
- Usability. I'm thinking about different ways to make it easier for new users to find worthy, older articles. After they leave the homepage, they are often lost from public sight. This should also help boost pageviews, which would help me join a larger ad network.
- Pitch Myself. Rather than pursue advertising on other influential tech sites, I believe that increasing PSTAM awareness could be done by pitching myself to newspapers and other websites for profile-type pieces. Yeah, I know it sounds kind of lame to pitch myself but hearing about my site on say the NYT would be better for readership than an ad on TechCrunch. My oldest sister works in PR so I'll be taking some advice from her.
- Corporate Sponsors. I am talking with a few companies about providing corporate sponsorship during this growth period.
I also have some small ideas floating around like hiring a developer to write an Amazon FPS script that would make it incredibly easy for readers to donate in micro-payments if they wish. This will eliminate the weekly "Paul, your article was a lifesaver! How can I donate?" emails.
What are your thoughts?