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FlossyTheSmart

The Economics Of Club Smart Car

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Ok, so with questions of the speed of the site coming up, we can immediately follow up with, how can we make it better and what we need to make it happen.

First, let me go over what our current situation is like. It's worth noting that right now, these costs are being covered via donations that were kicked in a while ago.

Domain names:

Right now, TFM/the club owns 2 domain names. clubsmartcar.com and clubsmartcar.ca . It costs around $19.75 for each domain name for a year. That's $39.50 a year for our domains.

Web Hosting:

We're being hosted on StableHost's Shared Hosting Plus. As discussed in the Site Speed thread, this isn't meeting our needs. We're paying $9.95 a month for that service. That's $119.40 a year.

Forum software:

We're currently running Invision Power Board from 2007. We don't have an active license, so we continue to run that version at no additional charge. That's $0 a year. (But it's worth noting that this is a really bad idea - security holes abound, and we've been hit through them a few times).

That puts our current costs at $158.90 a year.

The question is, what do we need now, and how much will that cost?

Domain names:

No need to change anything, so still $39.50 a year for our domains.

Web Hosting:

The next logical step up for our web hosting would probably be to go to StableHost's Stable level VPS Hosting. Using a VPS is a little bit different, but should be suitable for our purposes. Someone with more web hosting expertise than me may have more insight. The VPS hosting costs $29.95 a month, so $359.40 a year (yes, really.)

Forum Software:

Running up to date software is good, and there is actually a reason to maintain an active license now. Invision Power Board now offers services to automatically do lookups on all new members signing up to make sure they aren't spammers or hackers. In addition, modern versions include a real mobile interface, as well as various other features such as a search that is apparently better. Ideally, I would prefer to wait until version 4 has been released, but they're being kind of weird about the release date, so it might just be worth upgrading ASAP, then dealing with the upgrade to IPB 4 when the time comes. The basic forum software (IP.Board) costs $175 up front, then $25 every 6 months after that to maintain an active license. That puts our first year cost at $200, then $50 every year after that.

Along with our current forum, we also have a wiki that doesn't work very well. Part of the issue with the wiki is integration with the site search. Invision Power now offers IP.Content which is a database add-on that can be used like a wiki, or for other things. It costs $50 up front, and $15 every 6 months for the license, putting first year at $65 and every year after that at $30.

Another frequently requested feature is an image gallery. There's an add-on for that! IP.Gallery costs $50 up front, and $10 every 6 months. $60 first year, $20 a year after that.

There's some other add-ons too, but I don't think we need them. IP.Nexus is a store, IP.Blog is a blog, IP.Downloads is for hosting downloads, and there's IP.Chat which is for a live chatroom.

Totals:

If we go for just the base forum, we would pay $598.90 the first year, and $448.90 every year after that. If we got IP.Content and IP.Gallery as well, we would pay $723.90 the first year, and $498.90 a year after that.

It seems like a lot, doesn't it? It's really not too bad once you look at my advertising scheme that I've cooked up.

My Advertising Scheme

What do we want to see as users of this site? Ads that are actually directly relevant to our interests, ie. smart stuff

Who do advertisers want to see their ads? Only people who are genuinely interested in their products, ie. smart owners

So what do we do? As a site, we directly solicit advertisements from companies selling products we are interested in. Why would they advertise with us though? Because we can give them a damn good deal.

We would display a single horizontal banner ad at the top of our page, under the "Forums", "Wiki", "Calendar", "Members", "Search" and "Help" buttons. One advertisement would be displayed per page load. In February, on average we served around 7000 pages a day. It's basically the same numbers year round. That's about 2,555,000 page loads a year. Essentially, we can divide that number of page loads by the number of advertisers, and that's how many impressions they'll get for the year, assuming an even rotation of the ads.

Who do we advertise to?

Independent mechanics who work on smarts, part's suppliers, aftermarket sellers, club members with businesses they'd like to advertise.

Here's a list I cooked up from my head. These are just ideas, not confirmed advertisers:

-Flying Tiger

-Smart Madness

-Smart Parts Direct

-Boesch Built

-Smartie Parts (For Area 451 cruise controls)

-Troy Wilson Automotive

-Pug City Euroworks

-Supersmart

-Smart Canada?

-<Any other independents>

-<etc. etc....>

Wait, are these sponsors?

Well, yes and no. They would be paying ONLY for advertising space. My opinion is that their reputation is their own. If negative comments start cropping up about them in the forums, we would not be obligated to remove them. Hell, if negative comments start cropping up, we would probably want to talk to them about whether or not they are worthy of being an advertiser.

How much can we charge?

Well, imagine we got only 5 advertisers. I think we could do better than that, but let's just go with that as an example. Assume we went for the most extravagant forum options as I listed above. That's $723.90 the first year, and $498.90 a year after that. Let's aim for the advertisements for a year paying the whole up front cost of our upgrade. Round the number up to $725, then divide by 5. That's $145 a year, per advertiser. That's basically $12 a month. That's practically nothing in terms of advertising costs! If we asked $15 a month, that's only $180 a year, and would pull in $900 for the club, easily covering our web costs, and having some left over for sponsoring events and stuff, all with only 5 advertisers!

There's so much money I can't hold on to it!

We've had a rather persistant issue over the years about handling money. We've wanted to be a not for profit corporation, but it's never gone anywhere. I think we just need to do something fast and dirty to hold onto our money. Be it simply having a "Privately run business", or actually getting the NFP thing done, either way we need an account to put all this money in.

TL;DR

A single banner ad for businesses we'd actually be interested in, with a cost of somewhere between $10 and $15 a month for an advertiser to put an ad up. All banners would be manually inspected before being put into rotation.

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I like it; we need to make progress on this soon! This is a great start!

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I agree an upgrade is in order, observing the site's poor performance. I am surprised at how few Sponcers it would take to keep us afloat while remaining a free site to users. Worst case scenario would be to charge a very small fee to users

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Excellent business plan! I really like the idea of paying for ad space as opposed to being sponsors. The advertisers will be accountable to how they treat the members here.

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The next logical step here would be to contact as many potential advertisers as possible, and figure out how many are interested. No money at this stage, just getting the word out, and trying to determine how much we would charge. I figure we could do something like $15 a month if we have up to 10 ads. $10 a month if we have between 10 and 15 (inclusive). If we somehow get more than 15 advertisers, we could drop the cost again. We'd want to run the exact numbers through the BoD, but those are the sort of rough numbers I see in my head. We can put that on the agenda for the meeting that is supposed to happen really soon.

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Thanks, Max - great plan. You are proposing a much less expensive advertising rate than Autoguide gets for ads on SCoA. :)

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As it should be - We aren't running a business, so we only really need to cover our own costs. Any surplus can simply be redirected back into the club however we feel fit. Not trying to pay any salaries. It's win-win for everyone involved :)Probably worth clarifying that the costs I list above are in USD, so that's probably how we would want to charge people as well.

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Sound great and very doable, and preferable to adsense pushing targeted ads. Any members wishing to advertise their non-smartcar products or services should be entirely welcome, I think. Not any random company advertising any old thing, but I see nothing wrong with a member choosing to support CsC by advertising their business here.

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I do know there's quite a bit of members that have their own businesses, so I think its a pretty good and feasible concept. Personally I'd be interested in an ad for one of my companies.

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Agreed. Ads for smart products/stores or businesses run by club members.

In terms of ad size, I was thinking a "Banner" sized ad, which is 468x60 pixels. Maybe even the "Leaderboard"size, at 728x90. You can see some standard ad sizes HERE, with examples.

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You should consider moving the domain registration. You should be able to save 25% of that cost by moving them elsewhere.

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That number was just an estimate based on one site. I figure it is somewhat high. I don't know where it is currently registered or what we are paying. That's still TBD, but I doubt we're paying more than that, so the ad money should still cover it.

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The site is running every slowly, almost unusable at this time 2:35 am PDST . Only 2 members but 35 "visitors" from AhrefsBot and MSNbot. Ok it is 3:15 am. the site seems fine with 1 member and 31 vistors. How much traffic can this site handle before it slows down?

Edited by Roger

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The visitor count covers a 15 minute window, which doesn't make it really an accurate representation of how much load is on the server. The issue is more related to simultaneous page loads, as I described in the site speed thread. If there are 5 people requesting a page simultaneously, everything should load just fine. However, if more than 10 people try to load, one of them will have a slow load time. Theoretically, you could have one new visitor every 5 seconds for 15 minutes, and no-one should experience any problems, for a total of 180 visitors in the visitor count. It's just the issue of simultaneous loads. Also, as I described in the speed thread, if some of the other people on our server are inducing high CPU load, we end up getting hosed as a result, with no CPU left to deal with incoming page requests.

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What about optional member contributions? Flattr? Paid membership within the software? I'm not suggesting a two tiered membership (we're Canadian eh!) but just a way for those who appreciate the service to chip in.I would also suggest looking at a tapatalk (or similar) license.

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What about optional member contributions? Flattr? Paid membership within the software? I'm not suggesting a two tiered membership (we're Canadian eh!) but just a way for those who appreciate the service to chip in.

I don't see any reason myself why we wouldn't want to accept contributions from members. I'm not a huge fan of flattr myself, it's just another e-wallet to load with cash, but we could figure something out for sure. Not sure what we could provide to paying members, but again, it could be figured out. I think that would be a secondary step.

I would also suggest looking at a tapatalk (or similar) license.

I had actually thought that tapatalk needed a paid license, but from what I can tell, it seems to be free to add unless you want a branded app (Eg. the Autoguide app for SCoA). The free app has ads in it, but the paid version of the tapatalk app does not. The profits from those ads don't go to us. I know there are a few tapatalk-like apps around, so it'll be a question of what's the best. We can definitely look into it.

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Just poking my head in. I want to say good on you for taking lead on this. I have no particular input at the moment, but just so people are clear about the hats I wear (conflict of interest, etc):1) I am a long-time member but am basically inactive now (variety of reasons)2) I am handling the hosting of the site, but NOTE that is not a vested interest! I don't mind doing it (its really no work) but I'm not married to it either. I pay Stable Host and you guys pay me. See below for another note.3) I am the owner of SmartieParts, so I'd be a potential advertiser Because of a conflict between #2 and $3 (should an advertiser have the keys to the hosting??) and considering my smart car related sales are near-zero (I saturated the market with cruise controls so only a few trickle in at this point), I'd have to say that I probably wouldn't elect to be an advertiser.A note about hosting costs: as it stands, it is about half the normal rate with this account because of a deal I got a long time ago, and that's for the life of the account so IF we switch, no more deal. In other words, it jumpsfrom about $50/yr for "kinda slow" to around $400/yr for an OK VPS (which takes a lot of managing and *should* be overkill for a site like this!)I didn't realize there were speed complaints. I've sent a ticket to Stable Host to see if we can get a little more horsepower under the hood (pun fully intended) and hopefully retain my grandfathered-discount. I kind of went into begging-mode hoping they might throw us a bone for free (more resources without more cost) but we'll see.I'm now subscribed to this thread so I can follow along. - Steven

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The Board will be having a look at this whole thing shortly when we have our next conference call, so it's going to be resolved in due course.

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