2010 Review: The business

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 1, 2011, 2:57 PM | comments: 0

This year was a good year for POP World Media, LLC, relative to the last few. The big story this year was pretty simple: Ad revenue was up 64% overall. That will sound more impressive overall when I get to the bit about site traffic.

Overall, I can attribute most of these gains to Google. Advertisers spent heavily in areas that appealed to our visitors, and whatever magic they do to calculate ad rates helped enormously. On CoasterBuzz, Federated Media made a solid impact during a couple of months, but it still didn't compare to what Google was able to do. I'd like to extrapolate some kind of bigger picture theory from this, in particular that the economy has indeed been recovering despite high unemployment, but I'm no economist. All I know is that 2009 was the lowest ad spending I've seen since 2002, which we all know was a pretty horrible year. If the trend continues, my hope is that we can see the kind of ad dollars we saw in 2005 and 2006, which were really fantastic.

The company hit a milestone this year, crossing the quarter-million-dollar mark for revenue. That took ten years! Thinking about it in terms of profit is more difficult, because things like computers and plane tickets are expenses, and even though they count against the business, it's not like I don't get to enjoy those things. The first few years, the company lost thousands of dollars every year, mostly on hosting costs. It used to be really expensive to host a Web site with any non-trivial amount of traffic back in the day. Most every cent I could squeeze this year went to paying off debt, which had ballooned to an ugly five-digit number after I paid myself before the business in 2009, to get me through the non-employment months.

Club memberships were down about 15%, almost entirely, I think, because Kings Island didn't do an event this year. I think this because it was up 25% the year before, seemingly in response to it, so at least it's a net gain. I did not push the club as hard this year, even though I probably should have. Getting new members is the hard part, as I'm very fortunate that there's a core group of people who really help out and sustain the community, year after year.

I had two big hikes in expenses this year. One was hosting, which was expected because I upgraded to a better server. The 45% increase in cost was hopefully worth it, as the sites feel so much faster now. I'm not sure if people notice it or not. The other big expense increase was travel. Needless to say, I can't drive to all of the stuff that I used to drive to, and the balance sheet reflects that with a 450% increase in travel expenses. I think I need to be more picky about what events I can or must go to next year.

The traffic story wasn't particularly bad or unexpected, I would've just liked to see more. Page views were scary close to exactly the same on CoasterBuzz, while visitors were just a point lower. The difference was specific news events in 2009 that attracted a lot of visitors. That's probably what you'd expect for a site that tends to focus on news. PointBuzz saw a slight decrease overall, which is also not surprising since Cedar Point "only" built a water ride, and they didn't even get it open on time. But again, given the enormous increase in ad revenue, I can't complain much about flat traffic.

I added a few new things on CoasterBuzz this year, with the top 100 rides being the biggest new feature. I also built the short-URL and Twitter publishing, which really has its strongest benefit on strong news events. I was surprised that there are over 500 followers for CB, because I don't think that many people follow accounts as much as topics or hash tags they're interested in. Overall, I didn't add much in the way of new stuff this year. I squeezed in the Windows Phone 7 app at the end there, and that's more about adding another discovery point for the site than it is giving existing members something new. It's at 40 users in the first week, which is shocking for a phone that is relatively new.

So what's up for 2011? Walt and I conceived of MouseZoom nearly three years ago, only back then it was without the "zoom" part. I want to get that out. I feel like a schmuck for it not already existing. With the ad revenue picking up, a slow start could still be a good start. To go along with that, I'm getting closer to my MVC port of the forums, and that will be key for MouseZoom, since the forum needs a production site somewhere. We've got a fair amount of Disney nerds on CB & PB, and I think they'd create a strong base for us.

If I can get that rolling, I'd like to build something out of one of the many domain names I have. I still want to do something about Las Vegas, I'm just not sure what.

The bump in ad revenue was a huge plus, but I'm not really satisfied with the time I put into the business this year. I can only use having Simon as an excuse to a certain degree. Beyond that, I was just lazy. This year I want to set goals on more of a quarterly basis. I think if I time-box these things a little better, I might be more inclined to deliver.


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