Thursday, August 23, 2007

Money Is A Dirty Word

Stop and think. Realize. Gain some insight. Reflect. And then?

What comes next is up to you.

I applaud DearMYRTLE's blog post, Genealogy sites at no cost to users? If you haven't read it yet, please do. She's brought to light a very important issue, one that nobody likes to talk about. It's about that dirty word "money"... and the fact that there's no such thing as free lunch. Or in this case, a free web site.

We all like it when we can freely access genealogy databases online. What's not to like? But most of us don't stop to think about the fact that somebody is shelling out bucks to host the web site that database is on. And the bigger the database, and the more popular it is, the more money is getting spent to host it. Because when lots of people access it the owners have to pay for more bandwidth. And bandwidth = $

As Myrtle's article shows us, it's not just the big players who have to shoulder heavy costs for maintaining online databases. Small genealogical societies can get in over their heads financially if their databases become very popular. And you know what? It isn't just genealogical societies that have to worry. Churches, cemeteries, historical societies, or even individuals who host popular content of any sort can run into financial woes they didn't plan on. As a web site designer who also offers hosting packages, I understand the situation better than most.

Nobody likes to ask for money. Begging for it is humiliating. So what's a not-for-profit organization or individual to do to help defray the costs of hosting a web site/database? Some groups can fund their online offerings though membership dues. But that's not usually an option for individuals. And it's not always a feasible option for groups either.

So what's a person/organization to do? The most common choice has become to put advertising on web sites, in the form of Google Ads, affiliate programs, and if one is lucky, corporate sponsorship. Is this lucrative? Yes and no. These options almost never generate the kind of revenue hoped for. But they can be viable sources for modest income under the right circumstances. Unfortunately one needs to be knowledgeable in SEO (search engine optimization) and monetization and have enough traffic on one's web site/blog to make it all work. And how many genealogical societies, churches, or individuals do you know who have the kind of know-how needed to pull that off?

Are you still with me here? By this point I should have made you "stop and think" (database/web site hosting costs money), "realize" (somebody is paying for it and it isn't you), "gain some insight" (options for generating money to cover hosting expenses are limited, online ads aren't an easy solution), and "reflect" (hmmm, I guess there's more to this issue than I ever considered... maybe there is something I could do to help).

That leaves us with, "and then?... what comes next is up to you". This is where you can help out and show your appreciation. I know we all lead hurried lives but there are some times when we leisurely read blogs, surf the web, or look for ancestors in obscure databases. This is when you can help by taking a moment to actually look at the Google Ads or affiliate links. Go ahead, click on them! Don't do it insincerely just to help out the hosting site. That would be unfair to those who have to pay for each click. Do it because there's a link to a site you haven't been to before and there may just be something of interest there for you! Take a moment, make a click. Support the site that needs the help by not ignoring those ads every time.

So what about blogs or web sites that are obviously hosted for free but have ads on them (like this one)? Ah, my friend. Things are not always the way they seem. Take my situation for instance. I have created, and host entirely at my own expense, the following web sites:
All of these sites have information that is potentially of interest to genealogists, granted some more so than others. All of them have been around longer than my blog. But, none of them get as much traffic as my blog. The ads on this blog help support those sites. I do have ads on those sites but I put ads here too because this blog gets more traffic.

This is not a shameless plug for the ads on my blog. I'm just trying to make the point the the ads on one site can be generating revenue to support other sites. We're all in this together. All for one and one for all.

What comes next is up to you.

DearMYRTLE's blog post, Genealogy sites at no cost to users?