Hey, I almost forgot our birthday! The Online Photographer launched two years ago last Wednesday. There were 1348 posts on the old site, and there have been 291 posts so far here on the new one. We average about 15,000 page loads every day from all over the world, with a one-day record just shy of 30,000. During our best month we received just over 400,000 page views, almost all of them on the main blog page. All this makes us a "big little site" (with apologies to the Oglala Lakota warrior Little Big Man, a.k.a. Chief Gall. That's him in the picture, in 1877): we're puny compared to the big-dog photo sites, but gratifyingly large for a blog.
A couple of weeks ago we got into some heavy discussions (in the comments to "Rather Be a Dental Floss Tycoon" and "Say It Ain't So, Soth") about how blogs make money. So, okay, here's the thing: Everybody who wants to read any part or particle of this website is always welcome, and nobody has to pay a cent for the privilege ever.
I mean that—I'm not just trying to lay a guilt trip on ya. (Well, not too much.)
That does not, however, mean that I'm going to stop trying to make the site pay. It is nice for me when you:
1. Check out the advertisers' links. ("They pay us so you don't have to.")
2. Buy something through an affiliate link.
3. Make a donation.
...In that top-down order of desirability. But every one of those things is voluntary and optional, period. Always has been, always will be, for as long as T.O.P. survives.
That said, I've gotten a tremendous amount of support from a lot of different quarters—too much to mention everyone by name. Here are just a few of the groups who have helped:
• Many of the original subscribers to my print newsletter, The 37th Frame, some of whom didn't get their entire subscriptions' worth of paper issues. The original plan with that was for the online version of the newsletter (T.O.P., of course) to be free for a few months, to build traffic, and then become a paysite, at which point the 37th Frame subscribers would have been given free passes. That never came about, which means that some subscribers in a sense made "forced donations" to the free site. That's not good, I recognize, but I've never known exactly what to do about it (given that I don't have the ready capital to make wholesale refunds—the paper newsletter lost money, which is why it didn't survive). It's not like they've been deprived of content, but still, others got the same content for free. I still think I owe the original subscribers some added value, but I haven't come up with what to give them or a good way to deliver it.
• People who comment. Hey, it would be duller around here without you, and I learn from you. Thanks.
• People who send tips (I mean regarding suggestions for content). Lots of these are redundant, but please don't stop, please. I do find a lot of stuff on my own, but some great stuff comes in over the transom from readers.
• People who send tips (here I mean donations of cash). What can I say about this kind of kindness? It's very kind. More than 30 people have made donations, all told. Top place goes to Ken Tanaka of Chicago, who got 2008 off to a great start by donating a dollar a day for the whole year, in one chunk. But several people have donated $100, one person $200, and I appreciate every $2 and $5 and $10 and $20 gift, too—after all, in accordance with the "Little Drummer Boy" principle, you never know what amount means what to whom. I'd also like to single out Howard I. Miyamoto of Hawaii, who sent a donation of cash—I mean as in cash cash—through the mail! I've been meaning to write back to thank you, Howard, but I never seem to get around to it. Consider yourself thanked, warmly, if you see this.
• Friends who've been helping to guide the site from the beginning, like Oren and Carl. True fotographisch mensches.
• People who write for the site. Carl, Eamon, my longtime colleague Ctein, David E., and many, many more.
• You, the reader! I'd probably still be doing this if there weren't so many of you, but I'd be a lot grumpier. And that would be an ugly sight to behold. Whether you are a "friend of the site" who comes by often, sends tips, and comments frequently, or a silent lurker who comes around but once or twice a month, thank you.
• Our advertisers. Spare a thought for 'em, eh? Most of our advertisers are not huge corporations—they're people not unlike you who love photography and are trying to participate in it and contribute to it. I offer discounts on advertising for "small shops," and most of our actual advertisers fall into that category. Our biggest supporter at the moment is Michael Tapes, whose "RAW Without FUD" (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) video effectively replaces technical books about RAW. His productions are of very high quality; do check them out if you haven't already. I'll have more to say about it in weeks to come. But without a doubt, historically this site's biggest supporter is Fabio Riccardi. Fabio is the visionary and entrepreneur behind LightZone, perhaps the most innovative and un-Photoshop-like image editing program out there. LightZone offers non-destructive, source-transparent handling of image files with a uniquely intuitive interface based on the traditional Zone System. It's not a stretch to say that without Fabio, this website would not exist. He was an absolutely invaluable supporter when we needed it most, and still ranks as the top T.O.P. booster. So if you like T.O.P. and you ever run across Fabio in your peregrinations, say thanks to him! Thanks to all our advertisers, too, past, present, and future. (Nikon very nearly became our first big-time camera company advertiser this month, but they passed on us, I think because they didn't like my "static images only" rule. Too bad, but I don't like blinking ads.)
Happy Birthday to Us
Meanwhile, if you want to send us a birthday card, all you have to do is buy yourself a present. (yeah, this is just an Amazon link. Boring, but it does help us out). I've been meaning for weeks to get some Amazon links permanently up on the home page, and I will, too, just as soon as I get over the current bout of procrastination I've been suffering from. I'll get an associates link to LightZone going sometime soon, too, for people who want a handy link to that.
So what say we take a go at Year Three? Seems like there's still some gas left in the tank, so we might as well.