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Do developers need a college degree?

“You don’t need college degree to be a web developer because people with advance college degree create libraries so that people without college degree can get a job.” 

That’s the comment I just got on YouTube.

🙄

Yeah.

Sooo… let’s tear this guy a new… ahem…

I mean, here are my thoughts:

Later,

John

November 19, 2018

Stupid Developers

It’s a trap.

I, first, heard of this from Sal Khan of Khan Academy. It’s a study done by Scientific American. They broke kids into two groups and had them do some schoolwork. Both groups scored around the same to start.

Then, they broke them off into their separate groups.

One group was constantly praised by their parents and teachers for how smart and talented they were. The other group was praised for their work ethic. Then, each group was given a new set of assignments.

The kids who’d been praised for being smart… mostly gave up.

The other group dramatically outperformed the first group.

Why?

Because the kids in the first group were praised for being smart and so became focused on maintaining their “smart” status. While the other group was praised for their work ethic, so they focused on working through the problems, even when they were really difficult, and figured them out.

This is all you ever really need to know about being a developer.

The ability to grind.

The reason you have this group of know-it-alls out there that constantly yip and yap about how smart you have to be to be a developer… isn’t because it’s true. It’s because it makes THEM feel better about themselves.

(No doubt, I’ll get a bunch of breathless responses from some of you who were “offended” by this blog post… writing a book about it.)

But, the truth this…

There’s plenty of stupid, and yet, highly successful developers out there.

It’s not about intelligence.

It’s about work ethic.

Persistence.

Courage.

All this “prodigy” s!@# is overblown.

So, don’t fall for this trap.

You’re smart enough. Quit worrying about it.

Instead, head down. Grind. Focus on work ethic.

And, you’ll be fine.

What’s that?

You’re fired up and ready to grind, but not sure where to start? That, my padawan, is where I come in. I’ve got a full library of Jedi training for you to grind through and make this s!@# happen.

And, you can get started for nothing.

It’s all on SkillShare and you can start your 2-month no-cost trial here: https://www.johnmorrisonline.com/skillshare.

And once you’re in…

Hustle, grind… whatever hip cliche you use.

Actually DO it.

May 21, 2018

Why I’m Joining YouTube Red

There’s been plenty of wailing and gnashing of teeth surrounding YouTube’s announcement of it’s new “Red” membership.

And while there are plenty of good points being made, I’ll be joining YouTube Red as soon as it’s available (and think you should too). Here’s why:

1. The Nay-Sayers Actually Have No Idea (Even If They’re Right)

You’ll find plenty of people already predicting YouTube Red’s demise, or how it’ll be bad for Creators or how it’s all about making money… and on and on.

And, it hasn’t even launched yet!

Truth is, nobody (not even Google) knows how this is going to pan out.

So, while the nay-sayers may end up being right if YouTube Red does any of the above… it’s not because they have any kind of special insight. It’d simply be dumb luck.

Feel free to ignore anyone predicting YouTube Red’s future (including me).

2. It’s a Win-Win For Viewers and Creators

While it’s future may be uncertain, YouTube Red’s value proposition for both viewers and creators isn’t.

Nobody likes watching the ads.

As a content creator, I’m not 100% comfortable with making my money off of them either.

So, viewers win by avoiding the interruption and creators win by not making their money off Viagra ads.

I like the idea of being able to support the channels I follow simply by watching their videos… and not suffering through the ads attached to them.

And YES! I know I could just use AdBlock. But, I’m not a douche and I actually want to help support the channels I watch.

Before YouTube Red, I didn’t have any good options. Now, I do. Not be a douche AND not suffer through annoying ads. Yes, please.

Plus, it comes with a Google Music subscription. Uh, why wouldn’t I do this again?

3. It Was My Idea

Ok, not really… but I did write a really long blog post about why I think the ad-revenue model is broken.

The current model creates a click-bait culture that rewards publishers who are good at writing headlines and not necessarily at creating substance in their content.

A subscription-based model like YouTube Red is a step in the right direction (IMHO) because it pays based on watch time and not views.

So, you make money if people actually watch your video… not just click on a deceptive title.

Of course, I know I’m probably “unbearably naive” for some people’s taste… but I’ll be joining YouTube Red and I hope you will too.

October 28, 2015

Be Remarkable… Or Don’t Be a Coder

remarkable(adj): worthy of attention; unlikely or surprising; likely to be noticed

It was Iraq 2005 and there was a girl I liked. Problem was… so did every other guy. In fact, you could say she was overloaded with guys trying to get her attention. She was gorgeous… as you can see from this picture:

sonja

And, she had an intriguing personality. She was the kind of person everybody just wanted to get to know. So, it was no surprise every guy was “after” her.

And, I was stuck.

I wanted to get to get her attention. I wanted to impress her. I wanted to get her to like me. But so did everybody else. And, so I kept trying to figure out…

How do I stand out?
(more…)

April 24, 2014

How Fear Can Kill Your Coding Career and How You Can Easily Overcome It

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It’s Really All About Fear, Isn’t It?

Today’s going to be a little tough I think… because today is about standing in front of the mirror a little bit. Let’s talk about fear. Let’s just put it on the table… you’re scared. It’s okay.

So am I… every day.

  • Scared you don’t really know what the hell you’re doing.
  • Scared somebody will find out.
  • Scared somebody will see your code and flame you into oblivion.
  • Scared you’ll wreck your client’s site.
  • Scared you’ll never get it figured out.
  • Scared you might break something.
  • Scared you might not be smart enough for this…

So, why am I bringing this up?

Because, the reality is… as a coder… fear is the one thing you’ll fight your entire career. At every level of mastery… there’s another level of mastery ahead of you that scares the s!@# out of you.

To be great, you have to get good at dealing with your fear. You have to figure out how to work through it and continue to push yourself anyway.

To take the client that scares the daylights out of you (what if I “f” it up?). To learn the skill you’re not sure you’re smart enough to figure out. To put your code out there to be mocked (and loved).

You have to do it.

If you can’t, quit now. It doesn’t get any easier. I promise.

BUT…

If you embrace and take it head on… you get better at dealing with it. The fear doesn’t go away, but how you handle it gets easier.

You get more confident. And, the conversations changes from “I have no idea how to do this, I don’t know where to start looking, I’ll never figure it out, my client will be pissed, they’ll tell everybody, the whole world will laugh at me, I will explode…”

Into…

“I have no idea how to do this, but I know I can figure it out”.

See the difference?

When I first started learning how to code, it scared the s!@# out of me. But, I said the two infamous words that have propelled me continually down this path and over every hurdle I encounter.

The two words I hope you’ll tell yourself when you feel that twinge of fear rising up telling you NOT to do whatever it is you really want to.

The two words (pardon my language here):

“Fuck it!”

Dumb? Maybe. But, try it. Things is, I know that fear hits you at times… so NEXT time just try it. Just say those two words to yourself and see how your attitude changes.

You might be surprised.

What About You?

Tell me why I’m wrong. Or, why I’m right. What has your experience shown you? Let me know in the comments below.

September 11, 2013

How Targeting Can Trump Credibility As a Freelancer

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Awhile back, I posted a video talking about how you can make more money in web design by laser-targeting the services you offer. Since then, I’ve received a little push-back from a few coders and I wanted to address their concerns.

Their two main arguments are:

  • Being too specific will cause you to lose jobs when you’re first starting out.
  • You have to build up credibility/rapport before you can start targeting more specifically

In the podcast, I cover both of these… but let me briefly summarize the points I made:

You CANNOT Get Too Specific. Period.

It’s as close to impossible as you can get… for you, as a freelancer, to get less business by targeting your services more specifically. Here’s why:

  • You only need a few regular clients (4-5) to sustain your business
  • It’s almost impossible to find a market on the web that doesn’t have 4-5 customers in it

Even if the number of clients you need is higher… say 10… it’s not 1 million or 10,000 or even 100. You couldn’t sustain that many clients anyway. In fact, once you start to get above 5 or so clients, it becomes un-manageable for you, as an individual, to handle all those clients at once.

So, you don’t need a ton of clients to sustain your business.

Even more, with the global nature of the web, it’s almost impossible to find a market with less than 10 or so customers in it. You probably could find one somewhere… but to do so, you’d have to get SO specific it would be obnoxious.

In practical terms, no matter how specific you get… you’ll always have enough customers to sustain you.

Specificity Will Trump Credibility in Many Instances

I go back to my contact lens example from the original post. I knew nothing about the brand of contact lens solution I bought. Even more, I HAD heard of the some of the other brands that were marketing themselves as “Multi-Purpose Solution”.

But, that didn’t matter.

I needed something very specific and I chose the product that marketed itself the best in that regard.

As a freelancer, you certainly want to build up your credibility. However, if you’re the only (or one of the only) people who can deliver a certain outcome for a client… guess what… they don’t really have a choice. They HAVE to choose you.

In fact, when you’re first starting out as a freelancer… one of the easiest ways to get clients right away is to offer a service that very few others can. Then, use that to build credibility and expand into other areas as you see fit.

What About You?

Tell me why I’m wrong. Or, why I’m right. What has your experience shown you? Let me know in the comments below.

September 3, 2013

WordPress Plugins Are Dead

iOS and Android have forever changed what people expect from their technology. For the most part, however, that wave of expectations hasn’t hit the WordPress community.

Sure, WordPress itself functions a lot like iOS and Android in a platform/app context… But, most of its plugins don’t.

That is changing.

And, in this new world… you’re either a plaform or an app… but you’re NEVER a plugin.

App vs Platform

iOS is a platform. Android is a platform. WordPress is a platform. Evernote is an app. Gmail is an app. SmartS3 is an app. Platforms are the operating system. Apps are the software that run on them.

And, what’s changing (where you need to be headed if develop a WordPress plugin) is users are beginning to expect your app (plugin) to be a platform.

We see a lot of plugins in WordPress. What we don’t see a lot of is plugins that have their own plugins.

The main difference between a platform and an app is how much of an infrastructure is in place for your software to be developed on top of.

We’ve seen some of this with WooThemes and what they’re doing with WooDojo. We’ve seen some with Gravity Forms and their “apps” market.

But, they’re few and far between… and the ones that exist are just in the early stages of development.

It’s not just about what “hooks” you have in your plugin. That is important (it NEEDS to be there)… but it’s also about:

  • What kind of delivery system do you have in place to deliver apps developed on your platform?
  • What kind of support do you offer developers?
  • Have you created a marketplace for developers to sell apps in an integrated way?
  • Do you have the back-end infrastructure in place to support all of this and make it easy for customers to use?

Who would you rather be? Apple selling millions of its platform largely due to its apps… earning a piece of the pie for every app sold on its platform or the app-maker earning solely based on what you yourself can develop?

Even more… and this is so absolutely critical to get… in a community like WordPress’ where many plugin authors are in direct competition with one another, do you think you can continue to stay viable when your competitors are thinking like Apple and you’re still thinking like Doodle Jump?

Not a “there’s always room for everybody” situation… but a you’re in direct competition with someone acting like Apple… building platforms with a full-blown marketplaces behind them… aimed squarely at running you out of business?

Who do you think wins?

What We Should Be Doing

For context, here’s my mindset…

I think of WordPress as a Content Management Platform. WishList Member is a WordPress plugin, but I see it as a Content Monetization Platform.

It sits on top of WordPress and exposes content monetization services to WordPress itself and to the apps developed on top of it.

That’s what our API is for.

But, in our little world, I think we need to go further.

I’ve gone to the point of being annoying about…

  • Integrating WishList Member deeper into WordPress… especially interface-wise.
  • Adding more and more ways for developers to interact with WLM (especially, hooks in our admin interface)
  • Upgrading, testing, re-working, documenting, etc our API.

All of this will become critical with what comes next. What comes next is what makes a plugin a platform whether you like it or not. What comes next is what makes it almost impossible for a competitor to beat you.

What comes next is what premium WordPress plugins 5-10 years from now will HAVE to be in order to even compete… let alone win.

So, what comes next?

July 12, 2013

How Wealthy Developers REALLY Succeed

You know, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching coders technical skills. How to upload files using PHP, how to create website templates, how to hack, twist and mold WordPress to your will, and so on.

In fact, the entire site over at LearnPHP.co is about exactly this when it comes to PHP. I have an entire category on this site called Code Snippets where I do exactly that. All of my YouTube videos do the exact same thing.

But, to be honest, I’ve never really talked much about what it REALLY takes to be successful as a developer. Because, while all that technical mumbo-jumbo is cool… none of it REALLY matters.

Yes, you need to know how to do those things… but those things aren’t what MATTER most when it comes to determining the successful from the unsuccessful. Any monkey can learn to code.

And, there’s 1000s of coders out there who can do all those “cool” things who struggle to get by day after day. People “who can code” are a dime a dozen.

What’s rare is a “Coder”. An artist. Someone who has a point of view about what/how/why they code. Someone who’s so passionate about what they do they’ll not just tell you no but “hell no” when you ask them to do something that they feel violates their art.

So…

You WANT to be one of these coders. Because you’ll make more money. Because you’ll be more appreciated. Because you’ll be happier.

What do you need to do to get there? Here’s some things I’ve picked up from the successful coders (and artists in general) I’ve been around… things I try to integrate into my work:

Be a Picky Bitch

This is my slang way of saying “have a point of view”. I see so many coders who don’t really care about the code they write. Their standard for their code is “it works”. They’ll bend to the will of any client no matter how asinine the request is.

The successful coders I know don’t do this. Meeting them… you might even think, “Man, that guy/girl is a whiny picky bitch”.

Yep. They have a point of view and own it. But, most good artists do.

My guess is if you happen to be around when Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel and told him to use red instead of blue… you’d have been thrown out in a fiery rage.

Why? Because he, and only he, knew what his art was. He knew what his perspective was and he was going to express it his way regardless of what you might think of it.

All the successful coders I know are this way. Hell, all the successful anybodys I know are this way.

My boss, Stu McLaren, is this way. I don’t know how many times I’ve been working on a project with him and at some point told my wife, “Man, he’s a picky bitch”. 🙂

But, you know what… he’s almost always right. And, the stuff he does works. Because, he has a point of view based on years of practical experience and he’s willing to stand up for it.

And, in the long run… I appreciate it. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.

So, don’t be afraid of being a picky bitch. Be proud of it. Own it. Because, it’s based on your point of view… your art. And, in the long run, people will appreciate you for it.

Be a Megamind

For coders specifically, I believe the single most important skill you can ever develop is the ability to mentally abstract. I believe that how well you can mentally abstract is inextricably linked to how good your applications will be.

For your applications to get better, you have to get better at abstraction.

If you think about, ultimately that’s what coding is. You’re taking a specific instance of something and abstracting it out into functional code that will work across instances. The bigger your application becomes (i.e. the more it “does”) the more abstraction is required.

All the successful coders I know are wizards at this. They have this uncanny ability to simultaneously hold the full scope of their applications in their mind and focus on the fine details of any individual part.

The best example I have of what it’s like is a mind-map. If you’ve ever done any mind-mapping, you’ll know the power of it is in the ability to get a large-scope view of an entire idea while simultaneously having the fine details of any particular part available at a moment’s notice.

This is what good coders can do.

Of course, the big question is “how do you get better at it”. The answer is you code. You try building bigger and bigger applications and have the ability to keep going when you look back on old code and want to puke.

You’ll never really be completely happy with your code… ever. Especially old code. But, to others, it will seem elegant. It’s kind of like an artist who’s never fully satisfied with a particular painting (that’s why he/she keeps painting)… but to others, the painting is gorgeous.

You just have to keep coding and pushing yourself… and you’ll necessarily get better at abstracting.

Be Like a Dog on a Bone

That is, be tenacious. As a coder, you have to have a dogged persistence with details. You have to care about every last minute detail. For you, “good enough” can never be good enough.

All the successful coders I know are bloodhounds when it comes to details. They iterate over and over and over their code. They labor to make sure every character is where they think it should be at that time.

That’s not to say that they’re perfectionists that never ship. On the contrary. Good coders ship early and often… before they’re ready. But, they’re never done. You’ll find them up late at night working through a 10-line block of code to make sure it’s perfect.

And, once it is… they’ll move onto the next 10 lines.

Of course, a lot of that passion comes from having a point of view. When you have a point of view, you know exactly how you want something to look and function… and you won’t rest until it looks and functions how you want.

And, once it does…  you’ll find ways to make it better.

This is the kind of tenacious attitude all good coders I know have.

You just can’t be afraid to be a little OCD. Don’t worry. You’re not weird. We’re all that way. If you can’t sleep in the middle of the night, because a certain piece of code you want to fix is driving you nuts… you’re on the right track.

At the end of the day, this is the kind of tenacity and passion your clients will appreciate.

What Else?

These are a few of the biggest pieces of the puzzle I’ve identified… but by no means is this list exhaustive. I plan to add to it as I see fit. But, what characteristics have you seen in successful coders? How are they different from the coders you see struggle? How have you tried to implement those skills in your coding?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

(photo by Ludovic Toinel)

April 4, 2013

How NOT to Hire a Freelance Developer

I’ve seen a rash of really bad job postings on Elance lately and I thought I’d step in to offer a little (ahem) constructive criticism.

Here’s the thing. Bad job postings are bad for everybody, because they lead to unclear expectations. Developers hate it because we have no idea how to bid these kinds of jobs… and the job posters hate it because they always end up paying more and getting less.

Now, certainly there’s something to be said for how a developer should submit their proposal back; however, 1) I can’t see how other developers do it, so I have no case studies and 2) it’s hard to critique the proposal if the job posting itself is jacked.

So, here’s a list of things NOT to do:

1. DON’T Be Ultra-Concise

I’ve literally seen listings like this:

I need a custom WordPress theme.

Then, the job will be listed as a fixed price job and the budget will be “not sure”.

As the developer, there’s almost nothing I can do with this. Yes, I can submit a proposal without a price and ask all those questions, but here’s the rub for you the business owner:

A good developer won’t.

Good developers (the kind you want) aren’t desperate. They have plenty of work and generally only look through job postings every couple weeks or so when other projects are finishing up.

And, they’re picky. They won’t take just any client. And, they’ve been around the block enough to have developed a sort of “radar” about what projects to avoid.

And, this is the kind of project they’ll pass right over.

What this kind of job posting does is attract more desperate developers… developers who will take just about any job. Developers who haven’t worked on enough projects to know when to walk away.

In a nutshell, NOT the kind of developer you want.

Instead, take a few minutes (or hours) and really think through your project. Flesh out the details. Know what you want. If you can, develop mock-ups of exactly how you want it to look and function.

You’ll attract better developers and you’ll get better proposals and you’ll know right away which developers paid attention and which ones didn’t. And, your chances of landing a quality developer are much better.

2. DON’T Be Incomplete

Here’s a perfect example of how to be incomplete:

This is a high level description and does note reflect the final description. Some more features will be added. Your bid should reflect the total price for the entire project considering these requirements represent 70% of the total requirements.

The big problem with this is it was posted as fixed price job. If it was a posting for an hourly job, it’d make more sense, because the details could be fleshed out and they’d be billed at the hourly rate.

But, for a fixed price job?

I’m not sure how you can expect someone to bid your job accurately when you’ve only given them a vague description… and it’s not even the WHOLE description. Details matter when bidding a job like this.

It’s hard enough for a developer to estimate how long a job will take them… even with a full, detailed description. A proposal like this will typically get two types of proposals:

  1. Overbids. Developers who at least recognize that the scope of this project will most likely increase pretty dramatically and they will bid accordingly so as to not be accused of “jacking up their prices” later.
  2. Underbids. Desperate developers who just want the job and who will bid it low to win. But, once it comes time to actually build out the project and they see how much they have to do and how little they’re getting… are very likely to abandon the project.

Neither is accurate and both will lead to turmoil down the road.

Instead do one of two things:

  1. Either, flesh out the details of the project before-hand and post a full description including mock-ups, if possible.
  2. Or, post it as a hourly rate job and be willing to pay the developer for non-development time… that is, time helping you flesh out the details.

Personally, I specifically avoid fixed price jobs with incomplete descriptions because it’s the perfect breeding ground for massive scope creep… and generally it’s the developer that takes the heat when timelines and budgets get blown.

So, to attract good developers… be complete.

3. DON’T Be a Douche

I see postings all the time with some sort of harsh language in them like:

Note: Don’t be lazy and actually read this posting before submitting a proposal.

Or something along those lines.

Here’s a hint for you…

The people who don’t read the postings… don’t read the postings. Whether because they’re using some sort of software to auto-submit or they’re copying and pasting their proposals… whatever the method… they’re NOT reading them.

Which means they’re NOT reading your note about not reading the posting.

On the other hand, the developers who DO actually read the job descriptions see that note and are immediately turned off. Again, good developers have developed a kind of “radar” about these things and they’re constantly looking for cues as to what type of person they’d be working with.

And, this is a major red flag. It screams snarky and good developers will move on.

Again, you’ll end up with desperate developers who need the money… and who are more likely to abandon you later.

Instead, just do what you’re doing anyway without actually feeling the need to state it. That is, immediately ignore the proposals that obviously did not read your job posting. It’ll be pretty easy to spot. Just ignore them and move on.

Because, you’re GOING to get them whether you put that note there or not. Sad but true.

And, that way you don’t send any red flags to the really good developers… the ones you want.

Don’t Try to Buy Steak From McDonalds

Another important point to consider here is the quality of the network in which you’re searching for freelance developers.

You wouldn’t expect to get a high quality New York Strip from McDonalds’ dollar menu… so why do you think you can find a high quality developer on a price-oriented network for $5/hour?

You can’t.

The standard approach is to visit an “open” freelance network like Elance, oDesk or Freelancer.com… post your job and watch as 800 Tom, Dick and Harry’s harass you about how great they are.

With these open networks, it doesn’t take much to get approved as a freelancer… and the onus is on YOU to separate the wheat from the chaffe.

Even worse, all you have to go on is a written service description, a limited portfolio, and some ratings.

If you’ve spent any time on these sites, you know most of the freelancers all tend to blur together after awhile and it’s difficult to know who is really great.

But, a new breed of freelance site is emerging.

These new sites are much more aggressively curated. Sites like Crew and Ziptask (among others) curate the freelancers for you by making them go through a rigorous application process.

This means only the best, most committed developers get through.

Probably the most unique of these I’ve seen is Ziptask.

When you land on the home page you see a live video feed of an actual project manager waiting to answer any questions you have and work with you to build a team for your project.

You click “Get Started” and you can be chatting with an expert in seconds… and that expert will work with the necessary developers for you to get your project complete.

It’s immediate and managed. And, it’s impressive. I have yet to see anything else where you can be talking to someone so quickly.

But, regardless of what network you go with… you need to understand what you’re getting into. If you go with a site like Elance or oDesk, it’ll be on you to curate and manage your developer.

With a curated site like Ziptask or Crew… they handle those things for you.

So, don’t try to buy steaks from McDonalds. Recognize if you’re set on going to McDonalds… you’ll probably have to settle for a cheeseburger.

Who’s Advice Should You Take?

Finally, I want to talk a little bit about this whole business of giving advice on how to submit job postings and hire developers on freelance sites.

I see a lot of marketers offering advice on how to submit your postings on sites like Elance and oDesk.

That’s cool. I’m sure it’s valuable to see how they do it.

But, BE careful. A lot of the advice I see… from the developer’s perspective… is… well let’s just say “not quite accurate”.

Here’s my favorite I see a lot of marketers teaching:

This job should be easy for someone who knows what they’re doing.

I see marketers teaching that you should put this at the bottom of every job posting.

Look, I get what you’re trying to do… but we’re not dumb. A good developer sees right through this. Insulting my talent to try and get a lower price won’t work. I’m going to bid the job what I think it deserves regardless of how easy you happen to think it is.

Because, frankly, I know you don’t actually have a clue how easy something is or is not. If you did, you’d just write it up yourself.

More probably, a good developer will just move on… because we’re picky. And, you can choose from all the leftover, desperate and  unseasoned developers who are probably going to make your life miserable.

Have fun with that.

But, at the end of the day… we really do want to help you. We love watching your project come to life, seeing how excited you get, and watching as you launch and start bringing in those first dollars, and so on.

It’s a great experience that we get to re-live project after project.

It’s just those first few encounters. They set the tone for the entire relationship… and, if you heed the advice above when crafting your job postings, you’re much more likely to attract quality developers who will actually bring your project to fruition.

And, that’s good for everybody.

April 2, 2013

How to Monetize Your Content in 2014

What will the future of content monetization look like? Are we forever stuck with an ad-based, privacy-encroaching business model (ala Facebook)? Does the failure of NewsCorp’s “The Daily” mean fee-based content is dead? What is the trend and how can you profit? These are the questions I want to answer in this article.

I’ve been thinking about content monetization a LOT lately. Not because I’m weird, but because that’s what the company I work for (WishList Products) does… at least in my eyes.

Right now, we call ourselves a membership site plugin, but let’s be real… our software does a lot more than pure membership site functionality.

To me, a “pure” membership site is one with a recurring fee that publishes ongoing content. WishList Insider is a membership site.

And, this is what WishList Member was originally built around… and something it does VERY well. But, it’s not all it does.

For example, WishList Member lets you set up products that can be purchased with a one-time fee… e.g. I charge a one-time fee of $19.99 for lifetime access to my PHP5 Decoded Program at LearnPHP.co.

Nothing about that says “membership site”… not in “pure” terms.

Or, how about the Pay-Per-Post functionality in WishList Member? Paying a one-time fee for access to a single post. Again, nothing about that says “membership site” to me.

What it DOES say (read: scream) to me is: “Content Monetization”.

All of these things, including a pure membership site, are ways of monetizing content.

But, who cares? It’s just semantics, right?

I don’t think so. You see, the web is in a state of trying to figure out content monetization right now. The traditional media models that worked in print, radio, TV, etc… don’t work as well online. And, frankly, I think the current model is broken.

Think I’m kidding? Consider that News Corp spent 10s of millions of dollars testing a new method of Content Monetization (news, in this case).

They created the first iPad only subscription-based news service called “The Daily”.

And, after a couple years of losing 30M annually, they finally shut it down.

Now, why would such a large news and content company spend that much money testing a new model if the current ones were working great?

Remember, NewsCorp is the company that owns massive news and entertainment companies like HarperCollins, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, GQ, Vogue, all the FOX variations, and more. And, they are the world’s second largest “media” group in terms of revenue.

So, again, why would they risk millions of dollars testing a new content monetization model?

I think it’s because they see the writing on the wall. As I said before, I think the most popular content monetization model is broken and unsustainable over the long-term.

What is that model and why is it broken?

It’s the advertising model. You get a bunch of people to visit the pages on your website and advertisers pay you to run their ads on those pages.

Most big websites charge per impression (pageview) not per click… so, the more people you get to visitor your site the more money you make.

Seems perfect in theory.

You can focus on writing high quality content on a regular basis which your readers love… and you continually build your traffic over time and allow advertisers to gain exposure with your audience which they love… and you make a steady income without having to “sell” anything… which you love.

Win-win-win. Everybody’s happy.

Except it never works that way in reality. Instead what happens is you become beholden to your “sponsors” (people paying you to advertise on your site)… and all they care about is exposure. They want pageviews.

You want to keep your sponsors happy and keep the money coming in so you start to focus more on how to generate pageviews… and you quickly realize it doesn’t matter if people actually read your content… only that they VIEW it.

You get paid for the impression whether someone actually reads your article (views your video) or not. And, this has dire consequences.

You end up spending more time writing the headline for your article than you do the article itself.

You could care less about the accuracy of your article as long as it is something that will generate controversy… and thus pageviews.

In the end… instead of peddling wholesome fruits and veggies to your readers… you sell them crack… and could care less how the rest of the world is affected as long as you get yours.

You don’t need to look far to see this actually happening. Look at any of the major news sources out there and you’ll see it’s all about drama.

You’ll see cleverly crafted headlines designed to generate the most dramatic response… coupled with articles that have little to no substance or, in many cases, completely refute the article’s headline.

It’s a “click-culture” designed to get clicks… not inform readers. And, it’s driven by the business model that’s used to monetize that content.

But again, who cares?

There’s a moral argument to be made here, but that’s not MY argument. Mine isn’t that you should care because it’s wrong and we need to do something about it (although, we DO)… my argument is that it’s NOT sustainable. It’s going to fall apart.

Why?

To use our analogy… if you feed an addict enough crack, they’ll eventually die or clean themselves up.

People will (and already have) figure out what’s going on and there will be backlash. Need proof?

Easy. Just ask the next 10 people you meet what their opinion of the news media in the U.S. is. Unless you’re at some sort of conference for journalists, you’re going to get negative reviews from the majority of those 10. In many cases, “passionately” negative.

As it stands now, most people don’t read the news from a particular news site (CNN, HuffPo, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, FOX, etc) because they LOVE that news source and believe it’s honest, informative journalism… they do it because the headline is so enticing they can’t resist clicking through.

This is going to change.

We’ve already seen the rise of alternative media on the web… media that focuses more on real journalism and honest reporting.

This is part of the backlash that’s happening. And, it’s going to continue. And, it’s going to mean big trouble for the big media conglomerates that don’t adapt.

And, THAT is why NewsCorp spent so much time and money testing a new business model. Because, they see the writing on the wall.

Now, you might say… “But, The Daily failed. Doesn’t that give credence to the idea that the current model is the only workable one?”

In a word… NO!

Just because someone executes poorly on an idea doesn’t make the idea bad. It means the way it was implemented is bad.

While The Daily was losing millions of dollars/month… there were thousands (probably hundreds of thousands) of smaller publishers making tens of thousands (in some cases hundreds of thousands) of dollars per month… those same months.

And, for me, this is where things start to get more difficult.

Because, I see WishList Member and technology like it as a potential solution to a much broader problem.

The web, as a whole, is trying to figure out content monetization… meanwhile, we have tens of thousands of customers who already have it figured out and are making money hand over fist SERVING their members.

And, they’re doing it with more than just the traditional “membership site” model of content monetization.

Yet, I agree with people like Gary Vaynerchuk who believe content is more and more becoming a commodity… meaning the days of selling $2,000 online courses are coming to an end.

So, on one hand, we have big media corporations “selling” garbage content for pennies/click… and, on the other, we have smaller, well-known individuals and companies selling higher quality content for 1000s of dollars.

I think we end up somewhere in the middle.

And, it’s where I think software like WishList Member has a tremendous opportunity for growth. I think, right now, we see ourselves as “membership site” software and our feature-set reflects that. The way we make decisions reflects that.

We’re doing what we’ve been taught to do. Focusing on a specific niche and serving THAT niche. Not trying to be everything to everybody.

Yet, our customers tend to push us outside of that specific role (which is why we even have one-time fee and pay-per-post capabilities)… because our customers aren’t just building membership sites… they’re monetizing content… and they need the tools to do it.

So, what does a company like ours do?

There’s a Grand Canyon-size difference between seeing yourself as a “Membership Site Plugin” and a “Content Monetization” platform… a lot of which I talked about in an earlier post about platforms vs plugins.

And, the thing is… we’ve seen this before.

This is exactly the kind of disruption we saw in the music industry when Napster hit the scene.

And, it completely revolutionized how consumers saw themselves consuming music. Apple with iTunes was the first to really capitalize on this change and we saw how well that worked for them.

Who will be the first to really capitalize on the change happening with informational content? I don’t know, but I hope it’s us.

(photo by bookgrl)

March 27, 2013

This Is MY Blog!

If you’ve been following this site for a bit, you’ll know it’s been primarily about coding and contained all my various coding tutorials and such. Well, that’s changed.

I’ve officially moved all my coding tutorials over to http://www.learnphp.co and I’m taking this blog back as my personal blog. If you want the coding tutorials, head over there.

Here, I’ll be posting about pretty much whatever I want. You can follow me here if you’d like to keep in touch with me personally.

(photo by a2gemma)

June 13, 2012