April 26, 2001HELL! I'LL BUY THAT FOR A DOLLA'!!
Hank, who runs the HOBBY TALK Bulletin Boards, came out with the news a few weeks ago stating advertisers would have to start paying a monthly fee to advertise their products on the boards.
On April 15, 2001 he posted the following guidelines to the 'Modeling Forum' BB:
On the face of it, it's not an unreasonable request. The fee of $50 per month is lower than one could find anywhere else in the advertising world.
But in writing this weeks column I've learned this subject isn't as cut and dry as I first thought it would be.
Are the Bulletin Boards a valid money-making source, or should it be looked at as paying rent for space? What companies, exactly, are "...collectors and modelers that they make money off of..." are we talking about here? And lastly, is there a danger of turning a 'modeling forum' into a 'classified ad' suppository?
If the issue is one of money, is there any company, right now, which can say with confidence, "Yes, we make at least $50 a month off the folks who visit these boards!" ??
And if there isn't...what can HobbyTalk do to entice companies' to spend $50 per month?
Personally, I haven't seen any evidence that it could be profitable. As was brought up in a thread prior to the guidelines being posted, there isn't a modeling forum in existence that discussions of new kits, new conversion packages, and new replacement parts aren't discussed all the time. It's part of the nature of 'modeling forums'! But mentioning said kits or parts doesn't mean everyone is running out with their wallets open and money flying out!
And as Hank states above, "This does not mean that you are forbidden to tell others where things can be found or where "deals" can be found." But doesn't that promote a loophole around what Hank is trying to achieve here? Let's face it, the majority of 'companies' that advertise their products on the BB's up til now are small time hobbists or modelers in their own right. And 'advertising their products' is stretching it at that.
So what's to prevent you or I, who don't produce any product, from telling everyone on the board that So&So has a new kit, or a new replacement part and point the way to that company? It sure is cheaper than the company paying $50 per month!
Again, what Hank proposes isn't unreasonable. But I think it's unrealistic to believe there's "companies" presently on the boards that fit the bill of what he's trying to achieve... that of providing a bulletin board that isn't costing HIM an arm and a leg to maintain!
And maybe that's where we come in. Yes, us! Remember those "...collectors and modelers..." he was talking about? Maybe if we went out to our local Hobby Shops and told them about Hank's deal they might just jump on it! Yeah, remember those nice, small Mom & Pop Hobby Shops we keep crying about. The ones who are getting pushed out of business by those big, nasty conglomerate stores!
What if we told them of a place with approximately, what, 500 - 700 MODELING & R/C members, per BB, hanging out and for only $50 per month, they could advertise their wares on the board each day, every day!! Think about it! Think about the deals we could get...think about the price wars!!
Where normally do these Hobby Shops advertise? TV commercials? I've only seen my local Shop's commercial twice in the two and a half years I've lived here. How much does that 60 second spot cost? Magazines? Full pages, whether color or B&W, go for over $1000. Newspaper classifieds?
But if they do come, then what? Let's say we go out and convince five Hobby Shops to take advantage of these forums. That's five messages per day we're going to start seeing posted. Each day, every day.
What happens when folks visit the forums and there's no posts talking about the hobby any longer, day after day after day? Just posts after posts selling products. Isn't there a danger that members will go elsewhere to find a simple discussion forum once again?
Mega Hobby recently gave up their BB forum. Why? Economical reasons? True, it cost them $100/month to have their own forum, but if they weren't seeing a return on their investment, how will other companies likewise see a return on their $50?
Because for this to work, the members at large have to open their wallets as well. If you don't spend money on their stock, then the Shops will quickly come to the conclusion that these forums aren't drawing in buyers.
And we're right back where we started with our original question... are the HobbyTalk Bulletin Boards a money-making source?
To add further fuel to the fire is the availability of FREE Bulletin Board programs. Mark Fergel, of PCModeler, as well as StarShip Modeler both run the free phpBB message forum program. Dr. P's Laboratory also ran on a free Bulletin Board type system. And as we read in a previous column, there's Yahoo email lists and Yahoo Club forums available. All avenues that a company can go to, with no out-of-pocket expenses.
Where does this leave Hank? In-line advertising is drying up, Playing Mantis and Cult seem to be the only ones paying rent right now, with Hank footing the bill for the other BB's. The computer industry, overall, is floundering like a goldfish out of it's bowl and things don't look to be getting any better down the road.
When I started this column I honesty thought if we as members canvassed our local Hobby Shops, making them aware of this advertising medium at a good price, that we could help Hank achieve success. Now I'm not sure this would work. I'm afraid the members, over the long haul, wouldn't be willing to support ALL these advertisers and we'd quickly be right back where we started?
Any bright ideas out there??!
This weekend is the CHILLER THEATRE Expo!! I'll be working the Model Contest room all day Saturday, so drop by, introduce yourself and buy me a drink!!
Feel free to drop me an e-mail anytime! Happy to hear other opinions, or ideas for future columns!