Flattr Out of Closed Beta, Open to All

Just yesterday I was trying to see if I could generate Flattr beta invites. I’m a little disappointed in how slow things have been since I joined, both in terms of getting and giving Flattrs to other people. I just don’t see that enough folks using it that I think about doing it on an average day.

Well, today I saw the news that Flattr is out of closed beta and anyone can sign up. I think that’s good news. I think it’s an interesting project but my evaluation of it so far has been skewed by lack of critical mass and the fact that most of the users of it to date seem to be German speakers so I’m not that into most of that. I personally love the “no mental transaction cost” of not deciding how much to pay. Just Flattr the way you’d Digg anything, and the money takes care of itself.

Some of the user pushback I see is from people whose response is “but but … I don’t get to decide how much to pay? Everyone gets the same thing from me that month? Where is my fine-grained control <sputter />.” In my own life, I am doing everything I can to eliminate those large number of decisions I make every day that I just don’t give a shit about. “Give this site $0.03 or $0.05? Is this one $0.17 worthy?” I don’t want to think about any of that.

I’m going to give Flattr more of a shot to determine how useful I find it. Whenever I run out of my first chunk of money, I’ll evaluate whether it seems reasonable to recharge that account. I’m guardedly optimistic. I’d like to see some webcomics people adopt it, I think they might find it more useful and lucrative than Project Wonderful. What can it hurt to try?

Project Wonderful Arbitrage

I’ve been experimenting with Project Wonderful ads on AmigoFish for some time. It’s never made that much money and what it brings in I just spend back out in placing ads myself. I mostly just like the idea of it and the purity of their mechanism even though now the distribution of advertisers skews heavily to the goofy end of webcomics people.

The other day I got a bid on my ad box that in retrospect was probably inevitable. Some third party was bidding on my box with a Dell ad that was certainly some kind of CPA affiliation situation. It makes perfect rational economic sense. If you have a CPA ad that generates you $50 in referral fees per customer acquired, and you can acquire a customer by placing $5 or $10 worth of inexpensive ads via Project Wonderful, why not? I rejected the bid because why I am going to let him do that on my site for $0.03/day? If the bids are going that cheap, I’d rather it be some smalltime knucklehead like me placing the ad than some HP or Dell ad. Still, I figure that unless Project Wonderful specifically bans it on the terms of service, you’ll see more of this. I don’t mind them doing the arbitrage play as long is it pulls up the ad prices from the demand side. I’m not letting them place through me, though.

Project Wonderful is Aptly Named

I have found Project Wonderful to be aptly named. I blogged my initial impressions here. I’ve been using it for about a month now. Let’s start with the downside. I applied to be an ad seller the first day I joined up and never got my invitation code. Two weeks after that, I sent an email asking about it. I never got a response to that. Ten days later, I emailed another followup. I never received a response to that either. So, they might be getting swamped or having manpower scaling issues, but my experience as an excited person who wants to put their ad boxes on my sites has really sucked. I have a whole lot of enthusiasm for using them as an ad provider, but if they continue to blow me off that enthusiasm will evaporate. Get it together, guys! How hard are you going to make me work to help earn you money?

On the seller side, it has worked fabulously. I started slowly, picking a few small buttons to advertise AmigoFish. I picked and chose somewhat randomly across sites that seemed to be a good value for the money, tending to stay in the pennies per day region. I advertised on most of the podcast related sites in the stable (exceprt for the Warcraft Radio guys who inexplicably rejected me and also never replied to my message asking why.) That was all well and good, and I was happy with that.

Then, a week ago they brought their campaign system online. This allows you to bid not on single boxes but on the results to a search. So, insteand of searching on everything tagged “podcast” in the system and finding them on bidding on each of them one by one, I instead set up a campaign to do that. That worked well, but was about on parity with what I was doing before, just a more efficient way to achieve it. Here’s the biggie.

I setup a campaign to do an experiment in long tail breadth on Project Wonderful ads. In it, I bid $0.01 per day across the widest possible search. In essence, I’m bidding one cent a day on every ad they have. I capped it at 50 cents per day. Because I win some of these with zero cent bids, that puts it on over 50 sites per day. For the week I’ve been doing that, I’ve averaged over 70 click throughs each day from this campaign alone. Not views, but clicks! It seems to be working fabulously, and the new subscriber rate at AmigoFish is about twice the baseline over the last few weeks.

I can’t say there is no clickfraud with this system, because I don’t know that. It does seem like the motivation for it would be more dispersed than with Adsense. You might conceivably want to click your own ads a lot to increase your value, but in my case all that would do would be to lift the bid up to where I no longer high bidder. Spurious clicks might exist in order to increase one’s value to bidders, but it is not the sole metric of how much you get paid. In general, this system seems like a better way of extracting intrinsic value for smaller sites. I like the service, I hope they stick around for a while and I hope they get it together well enough to take on new advertisers soon. I want to sell their ads, and I want more podcasts to sign up as advertisers so I get more cool venues to put my ads on.

Project Wonderful

Here’s an interesting project that I found completely by accident. A kind correspondent/listener who sensed I was down and wanted to cheer me up sent me a link to the Crimson Dark web comic. It looked interesting but I wasn’t in the moode to start at the beginning on such a thing right now. What I did think was interesting was the ad box, which had a little money value on it that said “You’re ad right here, $0.80” or whatever the value was. I followed the link, which took me to Project Wonderful.

It’s got an interesting bidding mechanism for placing banner ads. It’s kind of like combining Adsense with eBay. You place a bid for a banner ad on a site, and for the duration that you are the highest bidder your ad shows. I’ve been thinking I need to start doing advertising for AmigoFish and rather than doing Adsense, I figured I might as well start with this. Thus far, it seems like an interesting experiment. I put some money in an account, fixed me up some 117X30 pixels banner ads (learning how to create animated GIFs with Graphic Converter for the first time) and let it rip. I put in bids on most of the ads with the tag “podcast” in the system. Some are working better than others, but thus far I’m getting a way better cost per click than anything I’d have been able to have got via AdSense. I’ll do that too, but I’m having fun fiddling with it at this point. I like the mechanism, and it seems like a really good way to extract value for content creators.

There are downsides, though. One is that the day I created the account, I signed up to be able to sell advertising. I figure I’ll put something in that dead space in my header and see how it works. At this stage of the game though, you have to be approved before you can sell ads. They say that it will take around two weeks for that approval to happen. It’s been 10 days, and I’ve seen incoming traffic on this site from Project Wonderful admin pages, but still no hookup. I continue to wait impatiently.

The other downside is in the approval side. As an advertiser you can configure it to auto-approve all bids, approve advertisers the first time or every time. It’s much like the options you have as moderator of comments on a blog. I’ve put in a dozen bids to mostly podcast related stuff. Most have been approved, a few are still pending, and one has rejected me. I have no idea why and emailed them to ask why, that’s still pending. I have to say, though, the rejection actually felt kind of personal to me. Although I’m more sanguine now and I’m reaching out to find out what I can do differently to be acceptable, my initial reaction was “What the hell? How dare they reject my ad!” Because of the way it is set up, it just felt like a repudiation. I’d think that usually you reject ads because you find the ad or product objectionable. I’m interested in finding out how my benign little project could offend anyone.

I’ll be following this experiment and will periodically update how it is going. So far, it looks interesting. When I finally get approved, if you want to join in the experiment and put your own banner on here for a while, let’s fire it up. It’s an easy process to join, PayPal them some money and place some bids. This process is banner ads steered by the invisible hand of the marketplace, which is neat by itself. One of the side effects (which could be pleasant or not) is that it does give you a direct and real world metric of the valuation of your web page as an advertising property. Project Wonderful seems to mostly have a lot of webcomics using it currently, and a few are making some reasonable money. I’ll be keeping my eye on this.