|Monthly Editorial by Marc Mickelson|
Keeping it Free
A press release I received this week is headlined: "Consumers Want Free Online Content, According to CEA Survey." CEA is the Consumer Electronics Association, the body that organizes and puts on the CES, among other industry-related meetings and events. I read the press release eagerly, and for reasons you can imagine: The SoundStage! Network of websites is free and always will be.
But keeping our sites free -- and free from the headaches of required log in -- is not easy. Don't worry -- we won't be charging anytime soon, if for no other reason than the results of the CEA survey. But the business climate on the Internet as well as our desire to create the very best reviews you can read anywhere make our goal of keeping our content free more challenging.
As anyone who's followed the stock market knows, the Internet was first responsible for a boom in stock prices and now is at least partially responsible for falling stock values. The promise of the Internet, as abstract as it was, excited a lot of people, and money flooded in in the form of IPO dollars as well as venture capital. Internet businesses grew overnight. But then backers and stockholders were slapped in the face with reality: Not all ideas for making money on the Internet are good ones. Selling CDs is doable, but selling 80-pound bags of dog food isn't. The weeding out began, and now so many of the companies that advertised during the 2000 Super Bowl are now six feet under.
SoundStage! and its related sites grew during this time, but not via an infusion of outside money. All of our revenues are put back into our sites. If you've ever tried to grow a business this way, you know what Doug Schneider and I have undertaken. My standard line to Doug is that our work is a lifestyle and not a job. We both laugh because we know it's true. But our work has paid off, and SoundStage! has become the most-read, most-respected website of its kind. All you have to think about in terms of these claims is how we've grown -- from two websites two and a half years ago to a dozen now, including sites led by industry veterans Wes Phillips and Ian G. Masters. And our plans for the future include not only improving what we already do well, but also more expansion. It's a fun time for us, without a doubt.
But keeping our sites growing and improving is still a challenge -- one that we won't lose to but which does require your participation. When you read one of our reviews and find it helpful, let us know. Also let your audiophile friends know as well as industry people you talk to. Doug Schneider and I have become experts at e-mail outreach, but we have nowhere near the clout you do to spread the word. We value the contact we have with you via the work we do, and if you've written us with a question, you know how diligent we are at answering it. So when you take our advice, let the audio industry know it. You'll not only spread the word about us, but also ensure that we'll be able to serve you better in the future with more reviews, columns and feature articles. In this way, you can help yourself, and what can be better than that?
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