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Call for Ideas for Revenue Generation to Support uF
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AmblinAlong
Boot


Joined: 20 May 2010
Posts: 67
Location: in the ocean

If there was high quality awesome designed swag for a good price that we can associate to a film with a saying/logo then that would be cool.


PS-by high quality i mean not that iron on crap that falls off in the dryer

PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:19 pm
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SpaceBass
The BADministrator


Joined: 20 Sep 2002
Posts: 2684
Location: pellucidar

 Current Thoughts

I'm really appreciating all of the feedback so far. Here's what I'm currently leaning toward.

Monthly Health-o-Meter. A donation meter at the bottom of every page where the donation button currently sits, showing how much of that month's actual costs are covered by donations for the month. This would reset each month and we could keep a running tally somewhere of how well we did each month.

Project-Related Donation Meters. Additional donation meters could be added from time to time to fund specific projects like large-expenditure upgrades, or hiring programmers and designers.

Periodic or Annual Fundraiser. October has a bunch of great ideas about how to go about this and it could be optional based on whether or not there were still gaps to fill.

Centralized List of Donors. For the above, we'll maintain a list somewhere where people can get credit for their contributions, if they opt in. This could include leaderboard-style tiers with potential awards or achievements for levels reached over time although I'd need help implementing that.

Better T-Shirt Designs. FSURobbie, I'd love to work with you on some more timely T-shirt designs. I agree that we'll have to avoid infringing on anyone else's intellectual property but we might be able to get permission to use campaign IP from time to time.

QR Code Stickers. Not a big money maker but we could sell sticker packs with QR Codes that point to specific game forums, so people can support uF and point people to their favorite games at the same time. FSURobbie, I might want your help with these as well, if you can spare it, unless we were to stick just the code without context.

Amazon Affiliate Links. I'm thinking of setting up a list of links to the Amazon Wishlists of any moderators and administrators who wanted to opt in (need to clear this with them first anyway), so players could gift mods for a job well done while also supporting uF a little.

Booster Subscriptions. Without disabling any functionality for guests and unpaid registered users, allow users to subscribe to a "booster" group that provides a few perks such as a moderator-style badge, custom rank title (our choice), custom template, maybe extra profile fields or the ability to disable avatar/signature display for yourself (would need help with this), and potential early access to new features or redesigns. This fund could help pay for growth as we might add more servers for every group of so many subscribers we have. Everyone would benefit from the additional capacity whether they subscribed or not but those in the group would have special recognition separate from regular donations and those few extra perks above. Pricing might be around $5.99/month (less than the price of a Netflix subscription!), 3 months for $14.95, 6 months for $27.95, or a year for $49.95. I might consider doing @unforum.net email addresses for an additional charge but it would depend on the actual demand as it would probably be a nightmare to administer unless I went through the Google and even then it would be expensive and so might not show a sufficient return.

Leaning Against. The fast/slow server idea would require additional technical expertise and doesn't appear to be much of a selling point and anyway it's probably more in keeping with the uF ethos if we continue to offer the same great service to anyone who shows up. As for advertising, I'm not ruling it out completely but I'd really prefer to keep it as a last resort.

So... how are we doing so far?
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:25 pm
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enaxor
I Have No Life

Joined: 25 Feb 2003
Posts: 2369

SpaceBass wrote:
Monthly Health-o-Meter. A donation meter at the bottom of every page where the donation button currently sits, showing how much of that month's actual costs are covered by donations for the month. This would reset each month and we could keep a running tally somewhere of how well we did each month.


If this works it'd be great, but I'm afraid this may turn into an end of the month scramble for funds each month, similar to what happened with ARGfest in the last week. On the other hand, as someone said earlier, the visual cue may be enough to make this work.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:12 pm
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FSURobbie
Guest


I'm on board for all of the above Spacebass. Tee designs are no problem and I've played with QR/AR codes before so I can help out there as well. I will do whatever I can, I've gotten too much mileage out of uF to not lend a hand.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2010 11:31 pm
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louiscontaldi
Decorated

Joined: 12 Sep 2009
Posts: 248
Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Im liking it!! Although, what is your opinion on an uF running booster game. You seem to be neither for or against it on your list Razz

PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:41 am
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tk42one
Decorated


Joined: 16 Jul 2010
Posts: 171
Location: Chatsworth, CA

What I would love to see & would be more the willing to pay for is a phone app that sends push notifications. I know this is way to much to do, but it was the 1st thing that came to my mind. I kinda have a bit of a problem with controlling the scale of my thinking...

PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:17 am
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Rogi Ocnorb
I Have 100 Cats and Smell of Wee


Joined: 01 Sep 2005
Posts: 4261
Location: Where the cheese is free.

For those of us who are "Boosters" and "Trout" and have just plain donated recently, will any credit be given if/when services start costing?
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 4:51 am
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rose
...and then Magic happens


Joined: 26 Nov 2003
Posts: 4116

I like these ideas Spacebass!!

Monthly Meter
I wonder if it might be good to have one major push a year just dedicated to basic fundraising--maybe around the anniversary of the founding of unfiction--, as well as a monthly cost meter. I think a focused effort will be more effective. It can get easy to ignore a monthly thing. I'm leaning heavily in favor of the annual fundraiser, but make the goal high enough to make cash reserves.

T-shirts
Probably not as reliable a way to get cash on a consistent basis. Although,
I like the t-shirt ideas as well esp. if robbie gets in on it. I wore my Harvey Dent T-shirt for a while around the time the Dark Knight was showing and people noticed it. I'm sure we might have some content creators who would enjoy it if we had something promoting their game -though access to the content is usually in the control of the client. Example, I wonder if Campfire would have let us make something for the enhanced viewing thing they are doing for Discovery now.

badges
I have to admit that I am surprising pleased by seeing my little moderator badge. Shiny! So maybe badges are a way to go, though they may make the forums more junking looking? Dunno about that. I'm happy with just a list. Anyway, I think a badge might cost more than just a donation? Maybe a special cost?

Keep it simple


As for deciding what to do, I think we should aim to keep the technical/ work aspect of it as simple as possible. I think that minimizing the technical difficulty/ hassle to SpaceBass and the admins as much as possible should be the second highest priority to actually raising the money. Example: I would not worry about doing the unfiction email thing, if it will be a nightmare. We all have access to many email accounts these days.
Amount
Also, I am thinking why not do more than just get by? I think it would be great to raise enough money so unfiction has some cash reserves should some thing come up in the future. As mentioned above, I think we should do an annual thing to raise money for the year, not just a month to month survival plan.

Weekly sponsorship

As for the existing sponsorship place at the top of the page, would it be possible to change it so it can be shared by people? I would be glad to cover half or a third of a week, if I found a couple other people to go with. I think I am not alone in that thought.

I'm 100% behind the effort to fund this forum ourselves. I have every confidence that this is something we can and should do.
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I love this site for being free, in every sense of the word~Spacebass

Mankind was my business, the common good was my business.~ Dickens


PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 8:19 am
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Tenshi Akui
Entrenched


Joined: 18 Jun 2008
Posts: 1003
Location: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Just thought of something, not sure if it would generate lots of revenue but I know I would buy it. Why not see if someone can make an official Unfiction App for the iPod/iPhone? I do a lot of checking the boards from my iPod at work (as I am now) and the mobile browser is a pain.

Maybe the app could include some mobile versions of some of the decoders also offered on unxfiction, for those code breaking emergancies?

Just an idea if code one for you if I had a clue how to lol.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 10:26 am
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diszaster
Unfettered

Joined: 15 May 2009
Posts: 405

At the risk of being unpopular(er), I'm going to make one last push for sponsorship to be what finances unfiction in the long term, by making a sponsorship space bigger and sticking in it in the corner, while possibly keeping the small stamp space for individual donors.

Note: I'm not saying do random Google or click-thru style ads, because quite frankly, you don't make any money unless you click on them anyway (and no, people don't click on them). Nor am I saying that those other ideas should be rejected. Not at all.

I just can't help but think that uF is missing a real opportunity here to be more fiscally solvent. Users hardcore enough or financially able to donate come and go, it's just not stable. However, there is ONE group that always benefits from uF--the producers and production service providers.

Producers (when successful) really are making money off of the uF audience, which would not be here, if it weren't for uF. I think it's time that the people who (at least in theory/in some cases) make money off of uF users be at least considered the right source for funds. Why?

1. Sponsorship space at uF would be REALLY valuable to some production companies, for obvious reasons. However, no major sponsor is going to pay for that tiny postage stamp at the top.

2. Some of the hugely expensive, successful ARG and viral campaigns recently clearly involved more money than I will ever have in my entire life.

3. A PM sponsoring uF is not without precedent. Yellow Curtain part 8 did it recently.

4. Collectively, this group has the contact list to make this a viable stream of income for uF. It just needs to reach out to them with something to offer.

Personally, I would rather be subjected to a sponsorship logo than be subjected more directly to peer pressure to contribute financially to uF and get a gold star on my belly (I mean... profile). I also feel this way about my upcoming high school reunion too.

I guess what I'm saying is: ultimately, there is something about the way this conversation is framed that REALLY doesn't sit right with me, and I just wanted to say my peace.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:45 am
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rose
...and then Magic happens


Joined: 26 Nov 2003
Posts: 4116

Quote:
I guess what I'm saying is: ultimately, there is something about the way this conversation is framed that REALLY doesn't sit right with me, and I just wanted to say my peace.


I'm not sure why you feel that way; I think that everyone is just giving their opinions on what to do.

I'm opposed to sponsorship for a number of reasons, but I understand it is an option. As mentioned, I would prefer to have this remain a community that sustains itself before Space sells ad space to sponsors. I also don't think there would be more pressure to donate or not donate. It is just a thing, you know. Everyone just does what they can and want to do.

I don't think that anyone undervalues the space here or how valuable a commodity it may be to someone; I personally am not interested in selling that space until a last resort.

If anything, I think that using production company money to sponsor ARGFest is a better use of those funds.
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I love this site for being free, in every sense of the word~Spacebass

Mankind was my business, the common good was my business.~ Dickens


PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 12:16 pm
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diszaster
Unfettered

Joined: 15 May 2009
Posts: 405

I just think "the community" is small, is possibly getting smaller, and cannot sustain itself; that going directly to users should be the last resort rather than the first; and that you can only ask for so much from your users all the time.

Wasn't thinking about how this would affect ARGfest sponsorship, but that should probably be a separate conversation anyway.

On the specifics, while I'm not opposed to booster subscriptions, I do think $50/year is a little high, and would like to see an "a la carte" option for some of those extra perks.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:54 pm
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zygotesix
Veteran


Joined: 10 Nov 2009
Posts: 132

I work as an affiliate marketer online for a living, and I can tell you that there are tons of ways to monetize your traffic that are better than Amazon links.

You could offer banner or interstitial ad space to media buyers, or through a media network (AdBrite, Gunggo, etc). You could sign up with some affiliate marketing networks yourself and place banners on the forum (using a simple banner rotator script or plugin) to display offers relevant to the users of the forum. There are literally hundreds of possibilities, everything from simple email submits that pay a dollar, up to offers that pay $30 to $50 when a user takes a free trial. It's all about knowing your demographic.

Considering that ARGers are across a pretty broad demographic, you could try putting more generic banner offers on here and let someone else manage what gets shown - easily done by selling adspace using a placement network (like the ones I mentioned above) or Google AdSense. Google is the easiest to set up but you'll probably bring in the least income from it.

Oh, another thing to consider - if you do ad placement through Google, you get a small amount per click. If you do placement through a network, you get a percentage of the flat rate they charge per day/week/month to the advertisers who buy the space, or a cost per click to the advertisers who do CPC advertising with them. If you make banner space available directly to media buyers and direct response marketers, you can charge a CPM (cost per thousand views) fee and this will make more money for the site - you get paid every time their banner gets 1,000 impressions (is viewed 1,000 times, by anyone - not by 1,000 individual users, just in total). Doing it this way can make you a lot more, because if people are paying on a CPM basis, you can run many advertisers ads and make a lot more than if you charged a flat rate per month cost on the banner space. This is how a lot of big websites do it. Go to almost any larger site (fox news, magazines, newspapers, etc) and look at the bottom where it says "Advertising" or "Advertise With Us" - they have pricing structures set up similar to this. You might not be able to get the $15 CPM they get, but even $1 or $2 CPM adds up quickly.

I'd personally be happy to try to help you figure out a monetization strategy for the site, as I love this place and thats sort of what I do for a living anyway. If you'd like me to chime in in more detail, feel free to PM or email me.

Hopefully everyone can put their heads together here and we can come up with a way to help the forum increase income. This place is one of my favorite spots online and I'd hate to see it disappear or diminish.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:00 pm
Last edited by zygotesix on Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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FSURobbie
Guest


I'm part of an iPhone dev team at my job and a simple app wouldn't be hard, but you have to buy a one time $99 dollar dev license for app deployment on the iTunes App store. Designing a web app is free, and also will work on any smart phone, but you lose certain features like push notification. If we wanted to design a native uF app for deployment that one time license cost would have to be factored in.

PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:01 pm
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SpaceBass
The BADministrator


Joined: 20 Sep 2002
Posts: 2684
Location: pellucidar

Someone asked me recently what it actually costs to run uF and it came out to about $500 per month. That doesn't seem like a lot until you think about it being every month and increasing over time. Actually, our recent server upgrades, which seem to have improved overall performance a bit, ended up costing us slightly less than we had been paying previously, so we gained a little ground back there.

Something I forgot to consider when calculating the above, however, was the overhead for running as a business, which we incorporated when Andy Darley made his generous donation from his Perplex City winnings, and which we did so that his gift wouldn't be eaten up by taxes and more of it could go to support the site costs.

None of the above takes into account the manhours that go into running this site with the volunteered time of a few great technical people who help with things like server administration, upgrades, and PHP coding. If we had to pay for those services, it would probably run us about $20,000 a year. If we were to pay the active moderators a decent wage for all of their donated time and effort, we'd likely be spending another $350,000. And then there's the admins and me. That's a pretty great value for a free site that only exists because of the support of its members.

Rogi, I did not mean to consider ARGFest in this discussion. It was run separately from uF this year and that will most likely continue in the future, so that's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

I do have to address the issue of advertisers and sponsors in more depth. I suppose we all recognize that even if we were to start running just google ads or something, the return would not be great unless we were targeted by specific advertisers such as studios producing these campaigns we follow. As soon as we become dependent upon that kind of ad revenue, it provides leverage against us that could be used to attempt to control the nature of our discussions. We are currently free to tell people to piss off if they don't like what our users have to say about things (provided that what they have to say conforms with our Terms of Service, of course). If we need that ad revenue to keep going, we lose that freedom.

I'll go to bat for you fucking guys, too. There was a major campaign recently, during which I believe some enterprising players stumbled across a few images that hadn't been intended to be leaked, and posted them to the internets. I think they may have showed a certain monster which hadn't yet been publicly revealed because on a Friday morning we received a DMCA takedown notice from the studio's law firm demanding that they be removed. I replied fairly quickly that I would look into it and have an answer for them within the 24 hours allowed by the DMCA, and an hour or so later I received a notice from our hosting company that they had been served a DMCA notice and would be removing access to our entire site within 24 hours, automatically. Did I mention it was Friday, and we would probably have been siteless until at least Monday if we couldn't resolve this quickly?

I managed to get a contact name at the studio through some of my ARG friends, and was able to get her to call off the lawyers, who she assured me were just acting according to standard procedure, you see. And the thing was, they were, and she fully understood how their campaign invited players to participate and discuss their experiences with each other and show off what they learned or saw, and the only reason we weren't taken down that weekend was because of her help and the fact that she thought uF was a valuable part of their audience, for which I am very appreciative.

I asked her a little later after things had calmed down if they might be able to spare any swag for uF to auction off to help pay for things, or maybe make a donation, and was told they had no budget for those kinds of things and strict rules about how props or promotional items could be used.

These campaign sponsors realize that they don't need to pay for places for people to discuss things because people will always find places to discuss them anyway. Players will repurpose parts of off-topic forums or start their own free group somewhere or whatever. But a lot of us still come back to uF for our ARG fixes because for whatever our individual reasons are, uF scratches that itch for us better than anyone else. Is that worth something to us?

So that's advertising and I am so far against subscriptions or paid participation that I might as well be standing behind the idea. It pisses me off and it has for about 8 years now since people started talking about how websites couldn't possibly continue to be free and would have to use ads or subscriptions to survive because it just wasn't worth it to people to voluntarily support something merely because they enjoyed it.

Well, fuck you, End of Free Discussion from 2002. I have more faith in humanity than that and I have that faith because of ARGs and the communities I've seen them catalyze. Our communities do band together in times of need and will fucking step up to prove you wrong time and again.

So the only appropriate group to have this discussion with is all of us. We're the group that has come together for discussion and play and it's up to us together to decide whether or not we want this thing we've built to continue, or to get better or worse, or maybe fade away. I've begged people to branch out, start their own forums or discussion spaces, expand the options for people. Why does it seem like none of them lasted more than a year or so before imploding?

This discussion itself typifies how we do everything, as ARGonauts. The kinds of responses we've seen so far have been a few quiet donations (thank you!), some ideas for things people are willing to do to help, some ideas for things other people could do or which would have little to no effect on the suggestor, and 90% silence. This is about right if you think in terms of the audience participation levels in ARGs. It confirms my faith.

I'm not here to persuade or pressure you to contribute but I am here to find out how to keep everything going for as long as necessary. More so, I'd really like to be able to do things like add capacity on our own schedule instead of having to wait until the last minute and then beg people for funds to cover it, to be better able to withstand large traffic influxes when they come periodically, to be prepared ahead of time instead of after the fact. And wouldn't it be great to be able to do things like invest in a couple of servers with Chat-Solutions to bolster the stability of their network? I'd be ecstatic to be able to add a mobile template to the forums, or produce iPhone and Android apps.

I have a really hard time with the idea that none of this is valuable to us, even a little bit. How many hours a month do you spend on this site, even just reading and not posting? 4? 30? 100? How much does it cost to spend four hours at a movie? Around $30 or $40? How much do you spend on magazines each month? Or XBox Live? Or your cell phone, or iTunes, or your Kindle eBooks, or your FarmWars, or the newspaper, or cable, or Starbucks every morning? Is six bucks a month too dear to say, I love this site for being free, in every sense of the word, so much that I will kick it a couple of bucks every week and wear this ribbon on my chest because I'm proud to be a part of something I have absolutely no obligation to but that I value anyway?

When a lot of us get together, our collective efforts can have huge payoffs through almost insignificant individual contributions. Together, we can make this site far better than any one of us could do alone. I don't think it is too much to ask of us, certainly not for all of us. And because of my faith in us, I have been willing to bet that I will not be proven wrong.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:10 pm
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