"Can't take it anymore": The realities of running an Apple website in 2018

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This morning I received an email from a reader who is "leaving the site". Since Dennis and I have been struggling to keep Apple World Today viable for the past three years, I decided I had to respond. 

I'm keeping the reader's name out of this, but I think all of our other readers need to see this. I've said it before and I'll say it again: if we don't get more support and more readers soon, this site may be history. Here's the reader's email, which had "Can't take it anymore" as the subject line:

I have been a long time daily reader and big fan of Apple World Today. Unfortunately, I will no longer be visiting the site and feel compelled to give you feedback as to why. Quite simply, it is the video pop out. I have to close it every time I come to the site, every time I read an article and every time I go back to the list of articles. It is just too annoying for me.

Thank you for providing valuable, entertaining articles, and I wish you the best.

My response:

I’m sorry to hear that you’re leaving us, and I’d like to explain a few realities of the economics of a website business before you go.

Dennis and I are not running this website just for kicks; we’re trying to make a living for ourselves. Websites like Apple World Today are dependent on two things for revenue — ads and subscribers. 

If we had a lot of subscribers, we wouldn’t need any advertising. Yet every time that we ask people to consider supporting the site with $5 a month, we get maybe one or two more new subscribers. Subscriptions have turned out to be a bit of a bust except for a core group of supporters who joined up back in February of 2015 and who have faithfully kept the site afloat with their contributions. Each month, we get a handful of supporters who drift away because they feel that they can’t support the site any longer, and we’re OK with that — if someone needs to support a family, that’s a hell of a lot more important than keeping us up and running. But those revenues have been fading away slowly for three years, and things like Team AWT (designed to provide benefits for subscribers) are ending up costing us a lot more than they’re bringing in. For example, we added forums for Team AWT subscribers back in March or so. Sadly, they cost us money to run and nobody is using them so it’s probably time to get rid of that “benefit”. 

Ads. Every ad on the site makes money for us each time a pair of eyes looks at it or clicks on it, so if our readership goes down, so does our ad revenue. Guess what? It used to be that nobody cared about Apple and websites about it were rare, so even a small one-man show could make a living with a site. Well, now everybody and their sister is reporting Apple news, so when you have Mashable and fashion sites competing, it’s hard to get the attention of readers. Ad revenues are also dependent on the whims of Google, which occasionally changes its algorithms for payment and lowers our monthly take. 

Primis is the video window you’re seeing, and last month it made us a little money; nothing huge, but it gives us just enough (paid a month later) additional revenue to keep us going for a while. That’s why you’re seeing that window and it will stay there. We’re working with Primis to try to tailor the video content to English-language features that are about Apple or technology in general, so it should be more on-focus in the future. 

We’re sorry if you don’t like the video popup, but as I’ve noted before we’re in a pretty sad revenue situation here so it’s going to stay. If readers had responded to our many earlier pleas to get the word out about the site to increase our readership and to help us out with support, we wouldn’t have needed to add Primis to the site.

I hope I didn't offend anyone, but it's just time to tell it like it is.