Ditch the Banner Ads

I’ve used affiliate programs on my websites for many years. I saw only meager earnings until we signed up with the eBay program and started displaying “dynamic” content. Eventually I started working with product datafeeds, and that’s when it all became worthwhile. We now manage about a dozen datafeeds from various merchants (most through Commission Junction) and earn a decent amount each month.

Banners and buttons are not very effective. If you have the opportunity to earn from displaying banner ads then do so. But don’t expect to earn from pay-per-sale programs using banners. We tried it for years with pretty lame results. I still display banner ads but it’s more for their “aesthetic value” than revenue. Here’s my quick tips for increasing your earnings:

Link Deep send the user right to the page they need- not the front door or a nearby page. How many times have you been frustrated by “Click here for yada yada” only to find that yada yada is still three more clicks away? I usually leave.

Relevant Content generic content or “pretty close” content isn’t good enough. If a visitor was searching for “chrome plated bolts” when they found your page you need to show them exactly that- just “bolts” won’t do.

Use Text Links ad graphics are virtually invisible to the average web surfer nowadays. The common 468 x 60 banner at the top of a page is not even noticed. Look at Google Ad Sense- the most successful campaigns are usually boxes in the middle of the page or lists embedded in the navigation menu.

Learn a Script dynamic content requires some sort of scripting language. No matter whether it’s ASP, PHP, Perl or whatever- learn some basics or find a tool that that coughs it up for you.


See also: Can I Really Make Money with my Web Site?

My Guide to MP3 – Part 1

or A Podcast Primer for People Over Thirty

If you get frightened when you overhear conversations about iPods and MP3 and Podcasts you’re not alone. Portable music players have become so incredibly popular in such a short amount of time it’s easy to feel like we’ve been invaded.

But all is not lost, fellow Boomer. It is possible, even for the curmudgeonly, to understand and possibly enjoy the magic of tiny machines that store a huge amount of music. So shut off the turntable and set your cassettes aside for a moment and read on…

Killing Yourself to Live
Up until about twenty years ago most recorded noise involved mechanical devices to store the sound. Grooves on a record or patterns on a magnetic tape were the most common. The downside to these nostalgic music players is they all rely on physical contact. A needle follows a groove or tape is rolled past magnetic heads. Basically, to enjoy your music collection you must destroy it.

But suddenly the world went digital and now everything is stored as bits and bytes of data. That binary data (that means it’s really just zeros and ones) can still be stored on a magnetic tape, but unlike analog data it can also be stored on many other formats. The compact disk is the most common introduction most people had to digital music storage. And while the CD may appear similar to a vinyl record (they’re round and spin and sorta’ have grooves) the way they store and reproduce sound is very different. The music is bits and bytes on the surface and a laser reads that data using light. Presto… no more physical contact, no more worn out albums!

You might say the CD, by using light waves to read the music, was the first consumer music player that was “non- destructive.” So now we have a virtually indestructible format to play all our favorite tunes. What could possibly be better?

It Always Gets Better
Most portable music players have no moving parts. That’s one of the coolest things about this stuff. Shake it, throw it, bounce it all you want… nothing skips or jumps! If you’ve ever been jogging with a portable CD player you can probably appreciate this aspect.MP3s from Amazon.com
It’s Your Media

You’re probably set up to make MP3s (or the Microsoft equivalent) and didn’t even know it. If your Windows computer has a CD drive you’re ready to get started:

* Drop in your favorite music CD and open Windows Media Player (there’s a good chance that will happen automatically). If you need to open it manually look under Accessories | Entertainment.
* Now click on the File menu and select the item CDs and Devices. Click on “Rip Audio CD” to see a list of the songs. Tick the checkboxes beside the songs you want to convert and click Rip Music.
* Media Player will commence to compress and copy each selected track to you’re My Music folder. From there you can enjoy them from your computer (but without the disk, of course) or copy them to a portable player or e-mail them to a friend!

Notes (there are always notes):
The file created by default will be Windows Media Audio format or WMA.
Earlier versions of Windows Media Player have the menu labeled simply Copy From CD.

There’s another benefit of storing those bits and bytes in a digital format instead of bumps and waves required for the old analog stuff. Without going into way geeky stuff here’s the bottom line: digital audio can be copied or played over and over again without any loss of quality. Imagine the digital data starts out as 001011010110 and we copy it… it’s still 001011010110. So my first generation recording of Gruppo Sportivo’s Greatest Hits sounds exactly the same on my cousin’s twelfth generation dub. Now that might piss off a record company executive– but I call it revenge for all those worn out compact cassettes I bought in the Eighties!

But the best part of this revolution is the way digital information can be tweaked and tuned to cram more information into a smaller space. Just as computers have continued to outperform previous models, software engineers and programmers work on new ways to manage and store data. One way of storing audio and video data is a format known as MPEG.

MPEG is what geeks call a “codec” because it compresses and decompresses digital information. You may have seen video on your computer that was stored as an MPEG file. You’ve no doubt heard of MP3, which is simply the third variation of the MPEG codec. Guess they didn’t get it quite right the first time?

The prime directive for any codec is to squeeze a huge file as much as possible without screwing up the quality of the sound or image. Video on the Internet would not be possible without these codecs and the much smaller files they create. The MPEG codec is particularly good at this. In fact, it’s so good at it that MPEG-2 is used for the video on DVDs. It didn’t take long for some nerd to apply the same idea to the audio, and MPEG-3 was born.

“MP3, MP4… whatever it takes.”
Before anyone had heard of an MP3 player there were MP3 files. About 1995 someone noticed that a CD full of music required about 650 million bits of data to store. However, by compressing it with the MPEG-3 codec it suddenly became about 70 million bits and still sounded killer. “Killer!” someone exclaimed. So now instead of listening to a CD with only ten songs, we can burn a homemade CD that holds a hundred.

But burning CDs and changing disks is such a drag at parties. Plus you had to have a CD player that supported this new MP3 format or listen to them on a computer CD drive. Bummer, dude. Eventually these audio files (that’s code for copyrighted material) created using the MPEG-3 codec were shared with others (strictly for educational purposes I’m sure) over the Internet. That’s how that whole Napster thing happened, but that’s another story. More importantly….

This is where MP3 players come in.

To be continued

alt.storage

I don’t remember who the comedian was– but he was doing a schtick about people without a pot to pee in buying brand new cars. The old welfare Cadillac bit. The punch line went something like:

Youse can live in yo car, but you can’t drives yo house.

I guess whoever owns this Bronco is a firm believer. It’s completely packed with crap except for the driver’s seat and a small peephole in front of the steering wheel. Scary.

T-Shirts for the Masses

Since sixth grade I’ve been putting stuff on T-shirts. Back then I used a magic marker. That was fun, not just for the creativity. Back in the Sixties a magic marker smelled like an auto body shop and would get you high as a kite! Today I doodle mostly with Photoshop and a digital camera, although I still sketch by hand occasionally. And instead of drawing on spare tees from the underwear drawer I let Cafe Press print them for me.

Buy or Create Hilarious T-shirts and moreCafe Pressis a unique marketplace that makes all sorts of stuff– shirts, postcards, mugs, panties, posters, etc. The neat thing is none of the stuff they make is their stuff. It’s your stuff!

You create a design or take a photo, then create a product with your image. They take care of all the fussy stuff like making it, packing it, shipping it and taking money for it. The best part is you decide how much you want to make and set the markup– if any.

A similar scheme is offered by Zazzle. They promise 24-hour-turnaround on orders and claim superior printing quality to Cafe Press. Either offer a quick way for you to start up for free.

Another unique approach to embellished clothing is Threadless. Think of it as My Space meets Cafe Press. The idea here is to rate submissions then produce those with the highest approval. Site visitors create designs or create slogans and post them on the site. Other users rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 and can also post their comments. If the design garners sufficient interest Threadless prints the design and offers it in their catalog.

Here’s a few of the designs I’ve dreamed up and posted on Cafe Press:

Maduko SpA
Ever since Quasi Maduccino invented the Space Tube they’ve been exploring the cutting edge of the unnecessary at Maduko. It’s been my lifelong goal to document it.

Oklahoma Centennial Blackout Mother never let me out of the mainframe. Air Racing Team featuring a Caproni Ca.133

Radio Milan
Back in the Eighties I played in a band originally called The Insects, later the name became Radio Milan. You can buy recreations of the band T-shirt as well as a compilation CD online.

Audio CD of Insects and radio Milan recordings. The classic Radio Milan tee. Wake up to coffee with the Insects!

Places 2 Ride
These are shirts promoting my motorcycle web site. It’s basically a list, as the name implies, of places to ride your motorcycle.

The Green Tee I get to ride home. The HANG UP AND DRIVE sweatshirt.

More Various and Sundry T-Shirt Information

Incidentally, my Threadless design didn’t make the cut, but it was fun just participating in the process. Here’s a thumbnail:

My design for Threadless called They Keep Making Them Smaller

True Beauty

Over the last several years I’ve noticed an odd evolution in photos of scantily clad women.

Where once were curves and soft mounds of erotica I see hip bones. The body shapes you see today are more akin to a 14-year-old boy than a woman (the bags of saline known as “boobs” are being ignored for the purpose of this comparison). Models that look like real women are forced to work for “plus size” catalogs.

Dove, the soap people, have launched a campaign of sorts to challenge our current perception of what a women is supposed to look like. This short film is part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. It shows, in compressed time, the evolution of a normal woman into a fashion magazine tart.

I thought their film was excellent. Their goal is to expose our current perception of beauty for the heavily retouched photo it really is. They seek to showcase true beauty. Raise self-esteem. Exalt curves.

I applaud them.

UPDATE: March 3, 2017— The video above is more than 10 years old, but its message still rings true. Dove has produced a new portfolio of photographs by Mario Testino that depict #RealBeauty

60 Years of Real Beauty