Pro Instructables Accounts

As you know, the recession has has hit many industries hard; it's even changing the way the internet functions. While we hoped to provide an excellent service for free under an ad-supported model, it's becoming obvious we'll have to do something different to help our community survive this economic downturn. So, in the next few weeks, we'll be launching Pro Instructables Accounts.

The pro account feature set is still slightly in flux, but it will give you access to some of our existing features and some new ones:
Private Instructables - share an Instructable with only a small group of people
Patches - create and send patches to other users
Fewer Advertisements - No contextual (Google) ads, or ads from indirect networks
Pro Users forum
PDF versions of Instructables, including more customizable options
View all steps on one page
Access to secondary images sizes on an Instructable's step All images are available for free
No captcha for Private Messages
Pro badge on user icon

We have not finalized the pricing, but it will be reasonable, and you will be able to join for periods of one month, one year, or two years. Initially, we'll only accept payment via PayPal. Every user who has registered prior to the release of pro accounts will receive at least 3 free months of access to the existing features we are turning pro. During this period, we hope to convince you that the features are useful enough to pay for.

Why we're doing this:
Instructables provides a tremendous amount of value to everyone who uses it. Our authors benefit from having a superior documentation tool and an already established and sizable audience; our members benefit from our active community management; and our audience (those who do not currently have accounts) benefit from inspiring, entertaining, and useful content. In consideration of Instructables' value, you currently look at and occasionally buy products from our advertisers. Supporting content with advertising is a wonderful system, but it isn't covering all of our costs, so we're asking you to subscribe to support us and the DIY community.

One of the things I've endeavored to create at Instructables is an egalitarian meritocracy. Anyone can post an Instructable and anyone can comment on an Instructable, not just editors and approved writers; we don't highlight our admin accounts or often use them to moderate comments because it's important that the community as a whole enforces the "be nice" policy. In that spirit, we won't be giving away free pro accounts. I, and everyone else who works here, will buy pro accounts for ourselves. This may seem like just an exercise, but with it I hope to make the important point that we value Instructables and we want to support it. Having been an Instructables member for a long period of time, or having the greatest number of pageviews will not entitle you to a pro account. Just like anyone can post an Instructable, anyone can become a pro member, and the price is the same for everyone.

If a pro account isn't for you, we'll always offer a free account. The free account maintains the site's core functionality, and is extremely usable: You can follow an Instructable's directions, post pictures of your results in the comments or another Instructable, and enter all of our contests and challenges. We've tried to carefully balance providing free access to the content -- so we can provide a large audience to our authors -- against making some of the more bandwidth-intensive value-adding features available only to pro members. As an author, you'll always retain full access to your own projects, including PDF versions.

I often tell people that Instructables is an online magazine. In reality it's so much more than a magazine, but as an active member of the community you already know that. I hope you'll subscribe.

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ewilhelm (author) 7 years ago
A few of the comments here have been nonconstructive, so I've opted not to respond directly. However, they do contain some factual errors, and I'd like to correct a few of the most egregious.

The Instructables team works very hard -- despite being underpaid -- because they love what they do and they love the site. A title is a bare summary of each person's contribution to the site; everyone on our team is highly skilled and passionate, and everyone on the team has sold advertising or a contest for the site.

We also have a direct sales team that we share with Popular Science Magazine (and website). Among other things, they sold the Craftsman, Converse, Apple, and Norton campaigns recently or currently running on Instructables. They work extremely hard, and are quite talented, but the sales environment -- and frankly the macro-economic environment in general -- is tough right now. For an outside example, pick up a copy of Wired magazine today and compare its thickness with an issue 6 months ago.

Google Adsense can be hit or miss, but it does a better job of monetizing pageviews not directly sold by us than most other programs available. You'll note that even sales powerhouses, such as the New York Times, run Adsense. Finally, I know of many sites that are approximately our size in terms of traffic and headcount that are profitable on Adsense alone -- Wikihow being the most relevant example.

Building Pro accounts was not easier than doing sales calls to advertisers or advertising agencies. Because I am analytically minded (and I prefer to spend time kitesurfing rather than hitting my head against hard objects), we have always built the features and tools that I think will bring in the largest amount of revenue for the least amount of work or development time. The site didn't have pro accounts from inception because previously the easier revenue was through advertising. That has since changed. Were I starting Instructables right now, it would launch with pro accounts and advertising opportunities together, because to start a business based exclusively on advertising in the current climate would be madness.

Instructables provides a huge amount of value: we have a super-cool documentation engine, a great community, and we help authors get their projects in front of a huge audience. Making changes to a site is always hard; we carefully weighed all of our options, and chose those that would be least disruptive to the community. Besides, what else of value can you get for less than $2/month?

I love Instructables and the creative values it stands for, and am simply taking the challenging but necessary steps to keep it a vibrant, productive, sustainable community.

I'm not in the PRO category but have had an account for a few years. I guess I was grandfathered to download, because I have been downloading until this week. I had to change my password again (Instructables no longer recognized it - for the second time). Now I can no longer download. Sure, I can create an Instructable, and I did, but after nine iterations and a couple of hundred dollars, I felt $40 dollars is not enough for my efforts, so I never posted it I have built them for several people who would have built it for themselves if it had been posted on Instructables.com. I built them for the cost of the materials, no profit. It reminds me of the Apple does business. They charge you $99 per year for the privilege to create apps, then take part of your money to sell it on their site, and only on their site. I feel like some of the other people. If I pay, I don't want to see ANY advertisements. I NEVER, NEVER read the ads nor do I buy from them.

smallfrys6 years ago
I'd be fine if it actually were $2/month vs. $2/month if you pay for 2 years at once. "In this economic climate" (to repeat ewilhelm's post), how can we pay for 2 years outright for a service we don't know will still be around tomorrow? For that matter, there are many people that can't afford that much outright (students, low/fixed-income people) in the U.S., let alone in third-world countries. Why not have a $2/month plan that's month-to-month? Perhaps only have one of the 2 main features that most people want (PDF or all-on-one-page).

"...there are many people that can't afford that much outright (students, low/fixed-income people) in the U.S.,...

I'm one of those low/fixed income ppl, & can't afford paying out the asking price. DIY is for the idea of saving money, being frugal, etc,especially for those that <have to> be frugal, not spending more money.

Other than that issue, I love this site, but am very disappointed w/the pay for an account in order to have the ability to download pdfs, when it was free B4.

As was said up top, "recession." Recession means, guess what, not only pay for what was free before, but also ppl get laid off, get paid less, get reduced hours, go on welfare, food-stamps, low/fixed state-given income, or even go homeless. All with a lot less money to spend.

All I can do is shake my head with the catch 22 of it all. <sigh>

Create a feature-worthy instructable and earn 3 months pro free.

Algag smallfrys5 years ago
How many people in third world countries have regular access to the internet?
diy_bloke Algag4 years ago
many. You'd be surprised
smallfrys Algag5 years ago


Good necro btw. Comment notification saved you ftw though.
MelPhleg1 year ago

How bout you pay for the amount you actually use, cuz I certainly don't use this site every day, nor every week. A lot of times not even for months.

Or how bout, go the way that NaNoWriMo has, ask for donations, or others to sponsor the site.

Or even for the free account, only allow so many download pdfs a week, month, whatever.

Goodhart4 years ago
Because I am unable to post directly to the recent post in "Pro Instructables Accounts" I wanted to reply here. I DO hope that I have not inadvertently made any comments that anything imply like what you are describing. I LOVE instructables, and despite many changes, realize the stress that your team is under with all you have to do and accomplish with so few resources. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate EVERYTHING you all do. Thank you for all you do.
Skymeat4 years ago
Are pro memberships paid only? Do free members that contribute quality information get paid status?

I just tried writing my first complete instructable and it was a bear. I kept getting messages that a paid membership would make it easier. After publishing and adding to the content of the site will I be able to use other features to make better guides, or do I have to shell out 40$ for a two year membership?

Other sites that I contribute to in a meaningful way (weatherunderground for example) take my time and data and convert that into a paid account.
ewilhelm (author)  Skymeat4 years ago
If you Instructable is featured, we send you a free pro membership.
There are many Pro Members (including myself), who earned their Pro Membership by publishing "feature worthy" Instructables. So yes, Instructables DOES reward members who contribute their time and effort to this community. It's just not done based on your time surfing the site.
dzawrotny4 years ago
My pro membership expired on 4/21/12 and my next automatic payment is not until 4/23/12. I've been a pro auto renewing member since last October. What can be done so I'm not locked out 3 days a month?
diy_bloke4 years ago
Though I understand everyones need to make some money and appreciate the time people put into instructables, economic hardship comes to all of us and frankly I do not see enough benefits for the 'Pro' membership:
-Share instructables wit only a few people: why on earth would anybody want to do that, if you take the trouble to share an instructable in the first place. Do Non-pro users get the opportunity to restrict their ibbles from being seen by the Pro-users?
-Patches: Never felt the need to create send or receive those. Not even sure what is meant with it
-Fewer Advertisements: Adblock takes care of that
-Pro User Forum: Would there be some secret 'solve it all' information revealed?
-PDF version: I hardly ever have need for those, though sometimes they are handy. Usually I use the standard options and never had the need to change those
-View al steps on one page: Hmm, that just means more scrolling, not getting any extra info
-No captcha. Never realized I had to use these now. Captcha's are usually a nuisance and if non pro members would have to use those it would probably just keep me from sending private messages
-A Pro badge on my user icon: Yeah that makes it all worth, to rub it in to the others that they are poor slobs that should sit in the back of the buss

Again, I enjoy the website, but I don't think I would pay 24-48 dollars a year to have access to some special features, especially not if I had to go through the hassle of getting a paypal account. Besides, it is us, the users who fill instructables with content.

Also: Much, much of the info in instructables is available elsewhere (though maybe not so organized) and.... speaking of 'fewer advertisements' more and more ibbles are actually advertisemens: some one telling you how to put a commercially available kit together
butch1234 years ago
i cant use paypal service, if i want to be a pro member what other options for payment are there?
bree.jay5 years ago
All I will say is: the amount of money actually LEARNING how to do/make things from this site is worth the very reasonable amount they are asking for - and I am definitely not rich...

And I have actually never paid for an online service like this - Instructables is the first website I've found to be worth every penny.
rchhh35 years ago
I just signed up for the pro account on my laptop but it will not let me log in on my ipad. Jjust wondering whats up
Kiteman rchhh35 years ago
Give the system a little while to update its database.

If the problem persists, report it as a Bug.

ffsman Kiteman5 years ago
Uhm.. Hello
can you get me a pdf
thanks before
Batness5 years ago
New question, sorta related!

I apparently had something akin to a "grandfathered" account here on Instructables. So even though I wasn't a Pro member, I could view all steps, add to favorites, download pdf (other than my own), etc etc.

I was gifted a one year pro membership, which I activated, but now I have the concern that if the membership expires, I'll lose all the abilities I had before.

Will my "extra" features be removed if/when my pro membership expires? I already tried asking the person who sent the pro account code, but it's been over two weeks and I haven't heard back.

Thanks for any assistance!
pssssst: IIRC that was a bug. You, ah, just lost the "bonus" abilities. :D
WHAT it was a BUG?! I've had that account for YEARS and it's been doing that pretty much since the beginning!

Not that I don't HOPE to renew my Pro account, but I am currently a poor college grad so. :(

Is there any way to find this out for sure?
eNGame5 years ago
Is a PRO account available without the PRO badge being attached to the subscribers avatar?
I feel in my case that having a PRO badge would be something akin to buying a $5 Phd in brain surgery from a backstreet vendor in Bangkok.
cosmingurau5 years ago
It's funny that all of the people complaining and standing by their opinions against the PRO account HAVE PRO accounts. It's kind of lame. Sure, you really use this site I guess. I used to love it too... Ah, well... A donation system would have been far more appropriate. BTW, do the hardworking people who actually MAKE the instructables get paid for doing so?
Nobody gets paid anything to make instructables. As for your complaint that "all the people who complain about PRO have PRO!", a few things:

A) That's not true. Lots and lots of anti-PRO people never bought PRO.
B) Some of those who do have PRO got it for free through a contest/featured instructable/gift.
C) People aren't allowed to change their minds?
D) What does that have to do with their argument? I can think it's stupid for a service I use to change, and still adopt the change. There's not necessarily a conflict there.
>clap clap clap<
I <3 you Lith.
Instructables is a for-profit company (legally, even if not necessarily in fact), incorporated in California. It is illegal for them to solicit or to accept "donations." If it makes you feel better, consider the price of a paid account a "donation." After all, you're giving them money so that they don't shut down permanently.

It's funny to me that you make assertions without any factual knowledge to back them up.
 I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with this "Pro" business. I had a free account for a couple months,and used many of the electronics guides as well as computer guides. This is a truly amazing and unique site that deserves my support 100% 
JohnJY6 years ago

 Although the idea of creating a Pro account would be an excellent idea to keep Instructables afloat, in a 'nervous' society,(as in, please, for the love of God don't go bankrupt), I do feel that taking away items in normal accounts, is just a bad idea in general. For example, a Pro account gets less adds, patches, even more text options, maybe some other goods and what not, but taking away options is not fun. I miss the freedom to choose to type really small, and other things take from accounts. If I were you, I'd create a way so Pro members can enter a contest non-paying members can't, or have Pro accounts set with cool doodads. Plus, most members would sign up anyway simple to support Instructables, something I plan on doing to. I hope you take my thoughts into consideration. 

lemonie JohnJY6 years ago
This should have happened to you last year, has it only just affected you?

JohnJY lemonie6 years ago
 No, it's just I didn't realize there was a form about it, I'm slow on the update.  
JohnJY JohnJY6 years ago
 I just heard of this new band coming up, the B...ugs or something.I don't like them, but I think they'll be big. 
Kiteman JohnJY6 years ago

This is really a dead topic.

All you are missing is a bit of formatting jiggery-pokery.  You still have full access to all the core content of the site, for free.

JohnJY Kiteman6 years ago
Ah, well let me guess, it's either because it's been open for so long, or "trolls"?
Aside from that, I am very happy the site is still open for free, and don't feel to heavily with Pro vs non-paying members, so it doesn't really matter too much, but I still don't like when formatting jiggery-pokery is taken away. Oh, well. Just about time to get a pro membership anyway.

Ok, Kiteman, could you answer my question, how was I able to subscribe to my self?(Sorry for the randomness.)     
Kiteman JohnJY6 years ago
It's not exactly a "bug" - it means, well, as far as I can tell there are no positive or negative aspects to subscribing to yourself.

Oh, yes - you know when to expect comments on your work.  When you get an email to tell you that you have published something (like a forum topic or an ible), then you know that all your subscribers have received the same email at the same time, and will be rushing to have a look...

JohnJY Kiteman6 years ago
 Yeah, just one problem, I don't have subscribers. The scenario you introduced would work with you, but I have only two subscribes, one of which is me...   
Kiteman JohnJY6 years ago
Solution: start producing decent projects that make people want to keep an eye on your output.
JohnJY Kiteman6 years ago
 I'm building a work space, and FINAL have decent tools and works, now money is still an issue. 
JohnJY JohnJY6 years ago
 I thought this Instructable was good, a bit short though: Link. 
JohnJY JohnJY6 years ago
 *taken(first sentence.) 
*taken (Third sentence) 
*too(Second to last sentence) 
Ps. An editing option would be great, so I could of fixed those idiotic mistakes...
lordhazzard6 years ago
As soon as all the features i currently have get taken away, ill close my account and leave. There are many teenagers on instructables who just cant pay for a membership.There are many other ways of generating money, but this is a truly bad idea.
i agree with you
I'm a teenager and I'm not complaining. To me they're quite trivial things they're taking away and I don't mind it much at all.
stienman7 years ago

Well this is terribly disappointing. Reminds me of CDDB - get a lot of community generated content, then start charging for basic features.

Taking away existing, and arguably fundamental, features and putting them behind a for-pay wall is shortsighted at best, and bait-and-switch at worst.

Tell me what mechanism you now provide for people to print out instructables? None! One has to go to each step, print it out with a ton of headers, sidebars, comments, footers, etc. What a waste of time, paper, ink, etc, not to mention that the resulting printout is horribly difficult to use due to the site layout not being suitable for printing (go ahead and try the exercise, then laugh, then weep).

I get it, Instructables is a FOR PROFIT service, but the reality is that the advertising is horrible - and no wonder, you've spent all your time and employees on "Community building" and "Marketing."

The reason for failure?

THESE ARE NOT PROFIT BUILDING TECHNIQUES. Yes, getting eyeballs and contributors is important, but honestly! Adsense? Are you kidding me? That's the best you could come up with for advertising on each instructables page? Maybe a few larger sponsers?

So you now find yourself in the position where you feel the best solution is to penalize your content producers because their content isn't making you enough money to keep your "community managers" and "marketing" professionals in the black.

Fantastic. You fail, we pay.

Instructables has (or had) the power to become game changing on the internet in terms of hobbyists, and it has the content, users, and contributors to back that kind of change. But it appears a path of milking the content producers and users and stagnation has been chosen.

Take a page from Stackoverflow. Make the community self managing, and decrease the expense of the community managers. Hire an advertising specialist (or service) and put real power in their hands to bring good, high quality advertising to the site (including decent placement), rather than putting a single page up and hoping the advertisers come to you. There are a number of techniques you can use to attract not just the big advertisers, but attract and manage thousands of smaller niche advertisers who would target specific instructables, or subsets of instructables. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of good Instructable users who would do nearly all the community management functions needed for free. I know it's hard to let people go in such a tight knit company, but if you truly want instructables to become what it can be, you have to stop hiring people to manage the site when it could well manage itself. Either way, whoever is managing your current advertising is full of fail, or is not truly interested in making your site self-sustaining.

46 million pages views per month.

4 million uniques/mo

25k+ instructables

A diverse, well educated, well paid, gadget, tech friendly, and vibrant community of regulars.

And the person managing your advertising can't bring in the $75k per month your overloaded staff requires? This is the very definition of bungling.

But the path of least resistance, of course, is to turn to the people who made Instructables successful in the first place and say, "Thanks for everything you've already done, now pay up," and hobbling people coming from google from being able to use the content by restricting such a fundamental, necessary feature - being able to print out a clear set of usable instructions to take to the garage.


I agree with you.
As do I. I joined this site because you could find out how to do totally random stuff, print out instructions and then go ahead. And it was free. Start charging and a fair few members may go missing.
  • It's still free to join.
  • It's still free to browse.
  • It's still free to print (you just have to print the web page or spend a few minutes' with the copy-and-paste functions)
And it's worth $20 bucks to you to skip that? Plus we have to do it one step at a time.
I didn't turn pro to get allsteps, or the PDFs.

I turned pro to support a unique site.

Many people have threatened to leave, take away their content, start up similar websites, but I haven't noticed any of that actually happening.  Can you work out why?
i think the wrong message may have been taken here. that comment was rather badly worded. as a 13 year old, it is a bit hard at the best of times to be able to get a credit card or whatever and sign up. if i was able to, i would have been one of the first to sign up. i was surprised at the prices, i'm not suggesting anything, but i thought they would have been higher.
i think that us free users get a fair bit already, in that most sites of this nature would charge before you even saw anything, so the fact that we can still view the projects is nothing to complain about.
i really should start thinking about my wording when i'm actually typing. Hopefully i've cleared a few things up.
That's fine.

It's Christmas soon - start dropping hints to your parents.
Osht, we don't get PDF's? I thought it was just customizable pdf's.

*cries in emo corner*
Have a look here for a compromise I have suggested.
Kiteman, it's not really free to print. The printing before was great, because it was all worked out for you. Printing the whole page is terrible, and I've tried copy and pasting instructables, it's a complete pain in the ass. I don't want to have my laptop in the kitchen trying to figure out how to make Brownies -.-
Not having read the entire thread, I was wondering where that 75k per month figure came from?
They have 9 employees. I'm assuming 100k/year each for salary, benefits, and overhead. Results in 75k a month to break even. The servers have an additional cost, but Eric already dismissed the operating costs of the website as negligible compared to the fixed costs (employees) in a previous comment, so we can dismiss them from the argument. It's a nice round estimate, but a website of this calibre and reach is capable of so much more, even in this economy. Look at their advertising page and you have to contact someone to get an ad on the site. No price listing, nothing is automated. They have very few targeting options. They should have a fully automated ad server with community flagging for offensive ads (again, let the community do the work) and an obvious and clear pricing policy. They should have ads targeted like keywords in searches. Companies selling nuts and bolts should be able to have their ads go on all instructables mentioning "nut" or "bolt" not on every instructable in a big category. They should be advertising their advertising when there are empty slots on pages, and working with several advertising agencies to get their clients advertising on here. The impulse buy factor here is very high, as shown by the huge interest in kits. Since they won't offer kits, show several ads on each instructable that cover many of the components needed. But above all, these are computers. Don't make humans do work that can be automated by a computer. I should be able to sell parts or kits on my website for any instructable, and then advertise on that instructable, or any steampunk related instructable across all instructable categories, for instance. Etsy shows there are tons of people in these little niches producing stuff, and there are thousands of small companies that believe "if you have to ask how expensive advertising is, then you can't afford it" You don't need huge leaderboards or blocks, and a lot of advertisers don't have the graphics ability to fill them anyway - give them a tiny box, put them in a row in the instructable and automate it all. "Advertise on this instructable! $1-$50/mo!" Make buying advertising an impulse buy. -Adam
I'm amazed you're still posting responses to everyone all the way down here. Your napkin calculation (75k monthly) is probably about spot on. Most importantly here, is that people need to look outside the instructables bound and look at other NON pay-for-sites, and how they're completely capable of surviving on just advertising. Look at Pandora.com, they play songs for you for free, you have to click their web page every 15 minutes to show you're still listening so they can show you a single advertisement and they just made enough money to pay for 15 minutes of music licensing. Am I to believe that instructables can't get enough advertising views to pay for their staff and hosting, yet Pandora can manage to drive their semi to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and pay for famous artists to play and they can give out free beer in their tent on their advertising budget. I was there and can tell you that they had about 10 staff sitting at their booth all day. Yet Instructables can't pay their staff. . . I don't believe it for a minute, someone in marketing is NOT doing their job, it's pitiful. *NOTES:* Before you tell me that "It's different. . . " Pandora has to STREAM MUSIC - this is hugely bandwidth intensive Pandora has to pay for each song played, this is a FIXED and constant cost Pandora negotiates and integrates its advertising completely into their page, taking into account users music preferences, age, sex, etc Instructables hosts mainly text pages, in fact I would venture that the advertising is actually the majority of the bandwidth. And if bandwidth was an issue they'd just cut down on allowable pictures sizes, I know everything I uploaded was 3+ MB, so bandwidth must not be the cost Pandora I've already established has a larger staff, so it can't be staff cost. Hmmm, what's left. . . looks like greed for money is a winner!
Are Pandora actually reporting a profit and if so can you back that up with something? Paying for "a semi to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and pay for famous artists to play and they can give out free beer in their tent" is marketing-spend - it shows they're after more business. L
2nd link on googling for "pandora profitable"

"Thanks to their highly targeted advertising" - If Instructables got on the bandwagon and had decent marketing surrounding their ads
Thanks for the source (I do like when people know what they're talking about). To pick from it:

"should reach profitability in 2010"
"Revenue may double this year to about $40 million"
"but negotiations have yet to finalized" (on royalties)

It does seem to be a different business, and it seems that it only operates in the US:
"We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative."

Appreciate the feedback

They have all of those advertising features already.
Then I must be missing something. I'm reading the page http://www.instructables.com/advertise/ and I don't see a way to post an ad right now, nevermind one that is targeted to all instructables having to do with steampunk.

I don't see a bunch of low cost advertising options that would appeal to a one-person maker or small business.

Instead I see a page which touts the site's huge audience and demographic, and says, "If you want to have an ad campaign or post a leaderboard, etc, then contact us. You can target your ads to one of our 19 categories."

Where, exactly, are the features I've suggested up above? Above all, instant pricing, access, and automation.

Further, the suggestions I have are just the tip of the iceberg. Let's assume they implement all those - they still have more advertising opportunities.

Instructables uses Google Ads. With google ads, you can easily create an advertisement for instructables with a very small min. investment. (You can start off with a $1, but it won't get much) With it, you'd get all of the things you mentioned: "instant pricing, access, and automation." Since google allows you to chose your keywords, you can easily target fine-grain topics like "steampunk." True, if you only spend $5 on an advertising campaign, the money will be quickly spent. However, this is a reflection of the cost of advertising: the "cheap" ads are quickly replaced with well-funded ads. If instructables were to offer lower prices, they would lose money.
Having lived in the ad world, I'd have to say that stienman knows what he's talking about. Adsense payouts are ridiculously low compared to what an Adwords advertiser pays for those ads, and given the lousy economy those advertisers are going to cut back on contextual and banner ads since they just don't pay the bills.

Direct deals are superior to anything DoubleClick can offer because you cut out commissions and maintain an actual relationship with your advertisers. Heck, even an affiliate partnership could provide better data and insight than Adsense (although, they do have great data). An advertiser will keep pumping money into the deal that's generates profit, especially in a bad economy, and the best way to ensure that is with direct contact with the advertiser. And the irony is that instructables is a great venue for direct placement. You could embed text links to retailers directly in the 'What's Needed' steps on plenty of 'ibles that would convert like no other.

While offering the pro-accounts wasn't inherently a bad decision, cannibalizing the sites current functionality to do so will most likely hurt traffic in the long run. Investing in the sites advertising infrastructure and staff should be a priority for the instructibles team - it's the surest way to profitability and subscriptions aren't going to be the bread and butter of their revenue anyway.
Show me a website with 4M monthly uniques that supports itself with Google Adsense. Nearly every website of this size has its own advertising team - beyond a few k per month in ad revenue and Google Adsense is not considered a good solution for advertising. Google isn't bad for the small site or blog, but they are very unprofitable for a site of this size compared to direct advertising. -Adam
I agree, but instructables still uses it alongside their FM ads & custom ads.
Let me clarify: they are currently using it.
I should make it clear that I'm not opposed to the "pro" account itself - I subscribe to Vimeo, Flickr, and other freemium funded services. But they don't force you to subscribe simply to use their fundamental features. All I'm asking is that Instructables reconsider at least two of these changes: 1) Secondary pictures are part of the instruction list. Re-enable them for everyone, account holder or not, pro or not. Without them, Instructables is delivering incomplete instructions. There are many instructables where something can only be understood with a picture. 2) Being able to print a usable set of instructions is important for most instructables if one is actually going to try them out. If PDF and All On One Page are removed, then at minimum a CSS stylesheet for printing needs to be added to the site so when one prints out a single step they get the instructable text, and the pictures at a reasonable size with the absolute minimum of headers, footers, and advertisements. Some is fine, but the instructable shouldn't be squeezed into a thin column, and the instruction itself should make up the vast majority of the printed content (ie, don't print 3 pages of headers and footers and sidebar with the instructable really only needing one page's worth of print area). Resolve those two issues and my complaint is baseless, though I'd still roll my eyes and grumble about having to print out each step separately. As it stands, though, these two restrictions are untenable. While I believe the site is severely under-monetized, and that proper advertising and marketing to advertisers could completely fund the site, that's really not the main point of my argument. -Adam
clide stienman7 years ago
I agree, without secondary pictures (and file downloads) my Instructables are pretty much unusable to free users. If free users can't use my Instructables then I'm not going to be using Instructables in the future. I'm not opposed to Pro Accounts, but I am opposed to how heavy-handed Instructables is being in trying to make people sign up for a Pro Account.
Kiteman clide7 years ago
If the second-image issue concerns you as a poster of projects, it is a simple thing to simply post one image per step, putting "secondary" stage images in their own, brief step.
To be blunt, that is laughable.

I have 50 images in my 20 step instructable. A 50 step instructable for this process is ludicrous.

Further, if I did that, it would take 160 pages to print it out, since every single step takes a minimum of 3 pages (try it out). Right now it takes 70 pages, but the ideal form (demonstrated by PDF) takes 20 pages.

It's fun to read the founder's story, http://www.instructables.com/id/How_to_Start_a_Business_1

I realize it's just a business, and they are free to kick their users in the teeth if they so desire, it's just an amazingly self-destructive move that I don't understand how they can do that without understanding the outcome.

Honestly, the site's been around for over 4 years now. These very basic features have been around for nearly as long. By charging for them as 'premium features' they are openly admiting that they haven't added any compelling new features to the website in 3-4 years.

I'm very afraid that Instructables will end up being one those great sites that disappears after a short heyday. It would seriously set back the online making community as it was an awesome resource for makers of all ages, incomes, and ability. Someone will fill in the gap, for sure, with an undoubtedly better site and overall user experience (and a significantly lower overhead), but it'll still cost years and thousands of instructables will be lost in the process.

What will make it worse is that the subscriptions that have already come in aren't going to float the site and the employees. They're going to face the music again in a short few months, and they'll have to make cuts, which will make it harder for them to undo the damage done by the change to a closed model. They'll make another call to the community to support them, but how can the community trust a company that's already placed a fence around the community's contributions and started charging admission?

I'd love to be proven wrong, but they've got awesome employees, all of them have a good 5-15 startup ideas, and once this ship starts taking on water it's in their best interest to leave while it's still considered a good company and site.

Of course they'll blame it on the economy, it's a convenient scape goat, and it's apparant that if the economy wasn't bad they wouldn't have to do this, but the reason they're doing it is not primarily due to the economy (as you read later in this thread they indicate they'll continue this model even past necessity when the economy recovers) it's merely the straw that broke the camel's back.

New features have never been the driving force behind this site. I am a long-time member, and I have seen almost every tweak and improvement be welcomed with complaints about how the site was better the old way.

New members don't care whether the feature they are using were installed last week or on the day the site started. None of the content has been rendered unuseable. You don't have to pay to join, you donn't have to pay to post.

The site is driven by two things - content and community.

The the quality of the content is not decided by fancy tweaks, it is created by the community.

If you don't like contributing to the site (I see one Instructable in three years, and an average comment rate of once every three weeks on your profile), then nobody is forcing you. If all you want to do is take from the site, to exploit the hard work of others, then what is so unreasonable about expecting a little recompense to keep things running?

The economy is not a scape-goat here, the site was a going concern until the crunch took a lump out of the advertising income. If they continue past the point of absolutely necessity, I don't blame them - I would do exactly the same thing, because I would be concerned about similar future downturns coming from other unexpected angles. It is the same for all free-to-use sites. Facebook is having to consider charging members, YouTube is in the red.

You can try taking the moral high-ground if you want, but you'll find it a long climb without many much more-positive contributions to the site to support you.
clide Kiteman7 years ago
"...None of the content has been rendered unuseable...." Really? Have you tried signing up for a non-pro account and using Instructables that require templates or a sequence of images to explain a process? You have several papercraft Instructables where templates are used. On the paper catapult it looks like you had to go back and add a step with the jpeg image of the template to make it usable. If you didn't have those images or even just had them as secondary images then your Instructables couldn't be used with a free account. Many Instructables have been rendered unusable and not all of the authors are still around to fix them.
Kiteman clide7 years ago
But they can be fixed - it only took me a minute to sort that. Future projects I do will be single-image steps or secondary images will be not so vital.
And seriously- what the point of Instructables making us pay to download files or view secondary images, if we'll just make ways to get around that?
If you do come up with a way around it, don't forget to post an Instructable...
No, I meant like what you said: changing your Instructables to not have secondary images. Then all members still see the images, and Instructables hasn't got anyone signing up for Pro to be able to see them.
clide Kiteman7 years ago
Who is going to fix the Instructables made by people that no longer use their Instructable account? Why should people have to jump through hoops in the first place just to make their previously usable Instructable usable again? Another example would be your rubber band powered butterfly. It is very hard to follow step 2 without the secondary images. I wouldn't call it unusable, but it is certainly crippled. Yes I'm sure you can fix it, but it seems ridiculous to me that we have to in the first place. Much of Instructable's appeal was how nicely it presented the information. If you have to kill the presentation by cramming together images into one big image or add a bunch of steps just for images then Instructables loses a lot if it's appeal. The other part of the appeal of Instructables was the community, but I have a feeling they will be losing a lot of that as well after the 3-month trial is up and people realize how crippled a free account is.
Kiteman clide7 years ago
(Secondary images is the one thing I've disagreed with Eric over this issue.)
I figured eventually you'd run out of good arguments and start stating openly that you believe people who haven't contributed much shouldn't have an opinion on this subject. I was going to ignore it, except the irony of this statement is wonderful: "to exploit the hard work of others" Inferring that I'm the one exploiting the community. I'm glad you've found an outlet - a home of sorts - here on Instructables, that you welcome these changes, and that you don't mind changing a few of your more highly visited instructables so people can actually reproduce them. I hope you are right and this doesn't result in an overall decline of Instructables. From my perspective, though, hoping won't be enough, so I'm also requesting that Eric and others involved in this decision reconsider a few aspects of it. -Adam
I'm not denying anybody the right to an opinion, but at the moment it seems that your opinion is all you have to contribute.
As to the printing, it's not very hard to remove ads and layout the page to have multiple steps printed on the page. And in the same breath you say that instructables underutilizes its advertising space and complain that there is too much advertising on instructables.
There is a difference between too much stuff on the printed product (note I didn't single out advertising) and using better advertising techniques on the site.

When you print it out and you have one page of instructable and 7 total pages of stuff - that's ludicrous. In the best case a single small step in any instructable will take at LEAST 3 pages due to the way they have things laid out on the site. Printing my instructable takes over 60 pages.

It's "not very hard...to have multiple steps printed on the page" but it's not very easy either, is it? I suppose a technically inclined user could do that quicklyfor each step, but some 90+% of users aren't going to bother - they'll just move on to another site that is actually usable rather than pay for such a 'feature.'

Have you tried printing yours out? Is that what you think most of your visitors would like to see if they decide to try http://www.instructables.com/id/Screwdriver_with_triangular_head/ ? Do you find it acceptable that 90+% of the people that visit that instructable won't be able to read the notes you took time to add to the secondary images? Are the thumbnails useful, given the small parts in the images?

>>but it's not very easy either, is it?

Um...it is for me...but the point is the ability exists. For many users aren't technical enough to change the wallpaper on their desktops - what are you supposed to do about that, make a graphical assistant that pops up every now and again and offers a choice of new desktops (oh wait, that's right, it's called altavista popups xD ) ? There's only so far you can go to accommodate that sort of thing.

>>Do you find it acceptable that 90+% of the people that visit that instructable won't be able to read the notes you took time to add to the secondary images? Are the thumbnails useful, given the small parts in the images?

I'm not terribly happy about it, and would greatly prefer that the secondary images were available. I completely agree it cripples the average instructable. I think this is unacceptable.

However, we are, as is perhaps apparent ;) a DIY site - I strongly suspect people will begin to use simple workarounds to overcome these limitations.
It occurred to me that Instructables is owned by Squid Labs. I'm very curious if Instructables is actually doing well enough to support itself, but it also has the burden of supporting Squid Labs to some degree as well? Looking at their other companies, I suspect that the others are hurting far worse in this economy than Instructables. Hopefully their consulting is supporting them, but even when they had 5 people in 2005 they were only pulling in 500k/year, and that had to cover not only their salaries, but all the overhead and capital costs. Since then they've added many more people, and I know that consulting is very depressed right now as well. It is bad enough that Instructables is extorting their best contributors, but it would be worse if it was instead to support a failing parent company. Of course, it would be even worse if financially everything was ok, but they knew that they would be better off using the economy as an excuse to start this program rather than making the change later when people might not be as sympathetic. I suspect that people wouldn't be defending this decision as much if it was made not out of necessity, but purely for additional profit. Given that they don't intend to undo this change later when the economy recovers, it's essentially the same result, just with a lot more community support than would be expected for a pure money grab. Of course this is all rampant speculation, but several things don't quite match up and it makes me wonder... -Adam
"It occurred to me that Instructables is owned by Squid Labs."

No, it is not. Instructables is a spin-off, separately owned entity.
Well that's good. I wonder why squid labs still has it listed as one if its companies, and why instructables still lists the squid labs community as part of the about page... -Adam
From my third party perspective, squid labs still exists in the sense of the community that it was. To my knowledge (which is not first hand), Squid Labs doesn't exist on paper anymore, but is instead an abstract made of the people/companies that came out of it however many years ago.
'So you now find yourself in the position where you feel the best solution is to penalize your content producers because their content isn't making you enough money to keep your "community managers" and "marketing" professionals in the black.' Do you actually have any grasp on just how much work all the staff members put into this site? More hours than they get paid to. Thats for sure. On top of that, Eric ricked everything to set this site up, AND he is risking it all again to keep it going. 'But the path of least resistance, of course, is to turn to the people who made Instructables successful in the first place and say, "Thanks for everything you've already done, now pay up," ' This is a two way deal, Yes, we make instructables sucessful, but truth is, without instructables, and the hard work put in by the staff, then we would not have any success ourselves. My closing point, take a moment to look at the people arguing for pro accounts, look at their projects, and how much they have put into this site. Were actually going about giving something back for what has been an excellent service, and a great community. The cost of an advert is almost half as much as is was a year ago, hence, half the money being brought in. You seem to have picked up this 'idea' that people at hq get paid a large amount, and sit back and have a fun time, when actually, they work their ass off for this site, and this community. How insulting of you to make such assumptions. This comment is a factual correction, not an argument, you need not reply. Thanks for your time.
I have no doubt that they work hard, and it shows in what the site is and has become.

However, removing basic functionality behind a pay wall is going to hurt them more than help them in the long run.

Look, it's a business, and they're facing a hard time and making tough choices.

They've determined they can't cut staff, they can't raise enough money via ads, and there are no other reasonable options aside from charging the people who make this site great.

Fine. It's a business decision.

But the basic function of the site is to provide quality instructions for doing things.

If they are changing the site so that you have to pay for that, they are going to kill the site except for a much smaller community that keeps it alive. It will stagnate.

The instructions are incomplete without the full size with notes secondary images. They are nearly useless printed out without better print formatting.

Here's an example:


Oh, I have to pay to see the fine detail in this instructable? Oh well, I'll just go back to google and search for a steampunk gun that I don't have to register on a website to look at, nevermind pay a fee for.

On second thought, it can't be that bad, I think I'd like to try my hand at duplicating it. I don't want to have to run back and forth from the garage to the computer for each detail, measurment and step so lets print it out.

Ah, I can only print out one step at a time. I'll print out the first step. Oh look, 7 ... pages... wow... Well, it's mostly comments I'm sure the next step will be better.

Hrm. Three pages. And not even one full page of content. And I can't quite make out any of the thumbnails.

On the other side - contributing instructables as an author:

I have just one instructable. Why I haven't made tons more since then is another topic entirely. However, it's not too shabby of an instructable. I spent many, many hours beyond the original project to make a good instructable. I spent a lot of time adding information to the 'secondary' photos. Some of it is fluff - funny comments for instance - but many (perhaps most?) of those notes are useful information for the person trying to duplicate my effort.

The audience reach of my instructable shrinks significantly if people can't see the images without paying, or print it out so they can follow it while doing the project without paying.

As an author, knowing that any new effort I make on this site, regardless of whether I pay or not, is not fully available to ALL 4 million unique visitors per month - well, that puts another damper on creating great instructables, and I can't be alone in that feeling. Others that now contribute may decrease their participation if they know that more than 90% of the people who visit this site won't be able to see or use their instructables easily and fully.

Honestly, is this a user experience that will GROW the community?

Again: Yes, make a 'pro' tag. Put NEW features behind it. But don't put necessary or fundamental features behind it.

Im not gonna argue and choose a side, because I would be talking about what I dont know. I dont know anything about business, or what goes on at ibles. However, I will say that I question the whole secondary images thing, I believe that one should have been kept regular....
Ok then, well you seem to be fluent enough in the English language, how about you make your future response alot less flaming, a bit more constructive, and not backed up with what seems to be assumptions. You make some valid point, ones that i agree with, especially on the second image front. But nonetheless, you seemed to have developed an opinion about the staff, which all of a sudden changed the minute I pointed out how much they put into this site.
Yes, my first post uses very strong language. This is a site that I feel passionate about, and I believe it's my duty to knock people about the head if they are doing it wrong. Keep in mind when you're reading this that they are just words. Test them out yourself, and see if they are not reasonable. They may be more prickly than flowery, but given they've rejected everyone else's argument against the change I knew I had to take a different tack. The assumptions I made still appear reasonable upon yet another reading. My opinion of the staff has never changed. The only thing I say that could be considered negative about the staff in my first post is that 1) They do not know how to advertise (which can be verified by the way the site is setup) 2) They focused on community building and marketing the site to the detriment of profit and revenue 3) They haven't automated as much of the system as is reasonable, nevermind possible, thus their workload and fixed costs are higher than they should be I'm quite certain they are all very capable intelligent people, and it's very obvious they've poured their blood, sweat and tears into this site and community. I know that they are more capable in their respective fields than I am. However, that doesn't absolve them of the mistakes they've made, and as they are in the center of the storm they may not have a very clear view of what it looks like from the outside. I'm sharing one perspective that they may not have considered fully. But it's their baby. As much as they trumpet a site for the makers and by the makers, this is their IP and they are free to do with it as they please. I believe they are stunting its growth in a significant way, and I'm speaking out about it. If my strong language offends then it is likely because it's being misinterpreted or because it hits close to home. -Adam
bumpus stienman7 years ago
If you would rather type a damn essay opposing the pro accounts, do it somewhere else, and save some server space for everyone else. Go home.
stienman bumpus7 years ago
So you want people who are passionate about the future of Instructables to just go away? Interesting point of view.

Either way, would you mind contributing something useful or interesting to this discussion?

Perhaps you could tell me that you are glad that people coming from Google can't print out http://www.instructables.com/id/Light-Bulb-Lamp/ or view most of the images you obviously put a lot of work into for http://www.instructables.com/id/How_to_Thank_Instructables/ except in tiny thumbnail format.

But if all you have to add to the conversation is, "If you have a long and detailed response to the change in instructables, kindly leave the premises" - well, thanks for your other contributions.

bumpus stienman7 years ago
If you've noticed, which you haven't, I've been posting forum topics, suggesting different ideas to generate revenue. Instead of fighting the changes, suggest other ideas, deal with it and pay up, or leave.
stienman bumpus7 years ago
Are you sure a restaurant will support the company? They've rejected all the other options, and this is the path they are taking. I wonder why you keep suggesting idea when they clearly aren't interested, and yet encourage me to shut up about big usability issues? All I'm arguing for is keeping the basic functionality of the website free so it's usable. There's two things they are taking away from free users that severely limits usability, and worse makes it so complete instructables are not available. I understand that they may ignore my reasoning and go this route anyway. If so, more power to them. The options you are asking me to choose from are useless to me. Holding a discussion about the two big usability issues this change introduces will be far more productive than telling them how else to make money, shutting up, or leaving. At any rate, I'm very glad that you are happy with the direction they are taking, and supportive of them. As soon as they fix these two issues, I'll buy a two years subscription. I don't see a point in investing in a site that has such bad usability problems. -Adam
bumpus bumpus7 years ago
Besides, if you gave the time write it, you must feel that instructables is worth keeping around..
stienman bumpus7 years ago
I'm arguing that the changes are actually detrimental to Instructables, and will ultimately cause it to 'die'. Of course I want to keep it around, but this path obviously and logically leads to self-destruction. -Adam