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Instructables Alternative Revenue Strategies Answered

At least once a month, we do an internal brainstorming session where we think up new things for Instructables. The focus of today's session is "alternative revenue strategies." Currently, Instructables is supported by a mix of brand and contextual advertising. If the economy goes into a state where fewer people are willing to spend money advertising on Instructables, how should we pay the bills? Would you pay for a "pro-account" that had reduced advertising, or other features? What features are worth how much? How about if you could leave a tip when someone answered a question really well? Are you interested in kits or deals on supplies for projects? If so, where do you currently go looking for kits or supplies? Also, in case you're worried, we're in good shape right now, and already have a plan B (and even a plan C!). Here, I'm hoping to tap into the community for some new ideas, and hopefully come up with some new things we haven't thought of before.

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Derin (author)2009-07-06

I don't want Instructables to be like CP.In CP,whenever I click "buy" on a clothing item,I get a message saying "Become a Member to access this feature!"But Member sounds worse,as the rest get labeled non-member and they limit access to some party stuff to members!

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Lithium Rain (author)2008-12-19

How about just ramping the ads up? More per page, maybe bigger ones. Sponsored flash games with corporate characters/themes and liberally sprinkled video ads? I've seen other sites do it with phenomenal success (others, not so much). I play flash games fairly often on other sites, I'd totally play a Craftsman game. See how many of Kiteman's shed you can fix using Craftsman tools! How about mash the spacebar to hammer nails! Or something. High scores for the week/month get patches. Or just space invaders or pacman clones all prettied up and with sponsor messages? It could work.

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bumpus (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-19

It would also make me not want to be on ibles... I hate teh_adz..

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Derin (author)bumpus2009-07-06
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bumpus (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-19

I hate those things.. "Shoot 654981355546 birds, win an iPod, and rope your friends into the pyramid scam!"

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Lithium Rain (author)bumpus2008-12-19

Hahaha, it wouldn't be like that-more like the sponsored ones on, say, Nick.com (yeah, I go there sometimes. Deal with it. :P).

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Doctor What (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-19

I like the games! Like "How many ways can kiteman kill eric, presented by Craftsman".

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Lithium Rain (author)Doctor What2008-12-19

XD That would be hilarious.

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Lithium Rain (author)2008-12-19

I'm against the pro account because it inherently separates people into two classes. Once you remove the equality, it feels just like every other site where you have to pay to do the coolest things, and the free account doesn't get you all that far. I am all for helping support the site, but I'm very against this way of doing it. Previously we've given people non-quantitative, more qualitative rewards such as respect, as well as more tangible ones like ratings and contest prizes, and most recently, patches. I like that the only way to get these things is to earn them-you can't pay your way to the feature team, or to get your ible on the front page, or for patches. Once you can pay to be a higher ranking member, it becomes a situation where money, rather than pure merit, is rewarded. I suspect the site would go slowly downhill from there, into an impersonal money making machine. I think that goes against the basic ethos of the site, which is do-it-yourself. This way isn't doing it yourself, it's paying your way to the top. I've always thought that one of the greatest things about the site was that we (mostly) geeky people ruled it-not the rich kids.

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bylerfamily (author)Lithium Rain2009-07-05

I agree.That was well said.

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Lithium Rain (author)bylerfamily2009-07-05

Heh. Thank you, but several things have changed drastically since I made that comment - I now feel somewhat differently, and totally support pro accounts. (I've taken issue with a few of the specific aspects of pro plans but some of those have been resolved and anyway it's beside the point.)

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DJ Radio (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-20

agreed. I have a better solution- Instructables can make and sell noteworthy DIY projects posted on ibles (with permission from the author). They could sell wall-e robots, plushies, LED throwies, modded mini-mags, etc.

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Chicken2209 (author)DJ Radio2008-12-20

I think that gets more invovled in a kit No one is going to want to buy one when they just learned that they could make it for free and half the experience is making it yourself

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DJ Radio (author)Chicken22092008-12-20

Actually, many people may be too lazy to make it themselves, or they dont have the skills/ materials needed to make the project (like myself)

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Chicken2209 (author)DJ Radio2008-12-20

well the materials are covered by the kits skills are covered by the ible and i think the ible staff might be too busy working to make these

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Goodhart (author)Chicken22092008-12-20

It could be offered both ways :-)

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kelseymh (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-19

Thank you, Adrian! It's quite interesting to scroll up through your postings and watch this evolve from a (seemingly) knee-jerk reaction, to a well thought out economic/sociological analysis.

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Lithium Rain (author)kelseymh2008-12-20

Haha, your analysis is absolutely correct-it was a rather knee-jerk reaction. After seeing other's posts in favor of it, I thought I should think about precisely why I believe it is a bad idea, to ensure it's a rational position, because it'd be dumb to reject it outright without good reasons.

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strods (author)2009-05-12

I would love to see an Instructables "store" area with merchandise... shirts, flash,sticks, etc.... I'm sure if you did search of the most popular items used in projects that would tell you good items to stock. Going off that search, I would go further to contact the producers of those products and show them the market that they could reach of people who already use their products and discuss business deals / sponsorship. As I brainstorm here this would be the perfect opportunity to discuss discounts for purchases of their products via Instructables. Instructables then gets some handler fee worked into the price and the result is we, the authors, readers, etc, pay either the same or less for supplies while supporting a worthy website. In addition, I would be fine with an upgrade to the creating and Instructable process... Say step one being a more form driven inventory page. Drop down menus and option boxes for commonly used components and tools. So long as you maintained and "additional items" area where authors can free write whatever is not included in the established list of supplies and tool, I'd be fine, and I would venture to say if a little form process like that keep Instructables going strong but not costing me, then most of your viewers / members would be fine too. Shooting from my hip, I'd lay money on Dremmel, Leatherman, Victorinox (Swiss Army Knives) would be some of the top people on a search of common tools.

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trebuchet03 (author)2009-02-07

Perhaps late....

But I wouldn't mind paying for a "Pro Account."

However, I want to make private projects such that I can choose who can view it. If I have a process/project for a few eyes only (say, my only people that work for my company) - I would like that capability. Then, once the project is done - if I want it to go public, that's my choice.

I've come across a few situations where I can't publicly share my work/research/documentation, but need to share with team members. If I can streamline that, rather than setting up a meeting and reviewing notebooks - that would be useful. I've looked at some project management software, but if I can use instructables for the documentation end, I would.

And, if there's a pro status icon... I'd want the ability to turn it off ;) Stealth :D


I think this functionality makes it different than the "contributor" sort of thing. The "Pro" business model has worked for flickr, yousendit, blip, paypal (business), google (business) etc. etc. I feel the key is finding that balance between pro features such that being a "regular" isn't a crippling experience.

And having a "pro" account doesn't mean there can't be a contributing member sort of thing....


As far as tips... integrate it into the questions/answers feature. Pick up where google left off... unless that turned out to be less than fortuitous.

But all that said... I don't know how much money there might be in direct sales to the user base will result in. Sorta like wikipedia and advertisements - things are quite established... And some people don't like disturbing the status quo - even when the status is not quo :p

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ewilhelm (author)trebuchet032009-02-08

There's a hack for sharing an Instructable without publishing it. The URL of the unpublished Instructable works, so you can send it to people. If you want a nicely formatted, human-readable URL, publish and immediately unpublish. Your new URL still works, but the Instructable doesn't show up on the site.

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Der Bradly (author)ewilhelm2009-02-08

But, you can still get to the unpublished ible by looking at a person's "Comments" on their orangeboard

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ewilhelm (author)Der Bradly2009-02-08

True. It's obfuscation, not true security.

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FaqMan (author)2008-12-27

If I were to purchase a intern what would be the benefits for me.

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Solderguy (author)2008-12-25

I really hope that plan B isn't you selling one of your interns.

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Lithium Rain (author)ewilhelm2008-12-27

I am very interested in purchasing one of your (used) interns, although I'm not in the market for a new one. I'm sure a mutually agreeable agreement regarding payment could be reached. PM me.

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Kiteman (author)2008-12-20
My two favourite ideas so far:

  • My own pay for a download of a PDF magazine idea*.
  • Nacho's Supporting Member idea (and there's more than one way to support - cash and kind (I'm thinking of those who are active on the feature team, or moderating the chatroom)).
  • If we did both, Supporting Members could get the PDF magazine emailed for free.

Do you agree? Or do you have a different favourite idea?

*If we did the PDF magazine, I'd happily volunteer to put it together (many years ago, I edited my university's newspaper).

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NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2008-12-20

. Both good ideas (if I do say so myself).
. I also like the idea of no ads for supporters, especially in the iBle PDFs (I suppose a few ads in the magazine would be OK).
.
. The more I think about, the less I like the idea of tips or other monetary rewards for posting. From Ibles About page: "Instructables is a web-based documentation platform where passionate people share what they do and how they do it, and learn from and collaborate with others." (my emphasis)
. Maybe they could work out some sort of RobotBucks that ppl could exchange for Ibles t-shirts, books, &c. Or a Rate-This-Member function and eschew all tangible rewards.

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Kiteman (author)NachoMahma2008-12-27

The way the magazine works in my head is to be free of adverts on the main pages (ie, not like the screen I am looking at now), but it would be possible to have single-sponsor issues, with a theme ("The Woodwork Issue, brought to you by Dave's Timber"), and maybe articles contributed by said sponsors (which wouldn't have to be projects, but linked to the theme ("The Advantages of Timber-Frame Versus Brick-Built Houses").



Related question (yes, I know I could google it) - is it possible to download a PDF and then edit it with freely-available software, or does such a task require commercial software?

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NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2008-12-27

. I really shouldn't be doing this, but here ya go.

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Kiteman (author)NachoMahma2008-12-27

I suppose I asked for that...

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NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2008-12-27

. Try going to Sourceforge and search for "PDF editor".

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Goodhart (author)Kiteman2008-12-27

Not many of them are really free; as a lot are either online or they are free to try

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Lithium Rain (author)2008-12-22

=O

I make a suggestion for a hammer-in-the-nails game, and a day later I see a game in a banner ad precisely as I described! Coincidence? I think not!

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Goodhart (author)Lithium Rain2008-12-26

That's Google Ad-sense for you :-)

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Lithium Rain (author)Goodhart2008-12-26

But not on this page, on the front page.

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Keith-Kid (author)2008-12-26

Kits would make a nice touch! Perhaps use intructables as a way to sell kits for an instructable. For example, someone makes something like the LED throwies, and theres an additional step or option right in the instructable, "buy kit" and it takes you directly to a page to buy it. No need to use any other service..... Instructables could charge to set up the whole thing!

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crestind (author)2008-12-26

Pro account seems bad. Maybe you could earn it for submitting enough featured a year? Plus with AdBlock, removing ads is kind of irrelevant. A question, do the contest sponsors approach Instructables, or do you guys approach them for sponsorship?

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Doctor What (author)2008-12-19

Would I pay for a pro account? Not really. No. I like the way that it is right now, and I don't mind the advertising. I love Instructables just the way it is, advertising included. If you took away the privileges that members have now, in favor of giving them to paying members, even though I love Instructables, you wouldn't be seeing me for a while. Would I leave a tip when someone answered a question really well? No. I'm sure I can find an answer just as easily somewhere else. I come to Instructables for the environment, and the creativity. Would I be interested in kits and deals on supplies for projects? You're damn sure. If you made and produced, or at least bought and sold kits, I would buy them, if they interested me. I would also be interested on deals on supplies for projects. Like, if you partnered with someone who sells LEDs, or EL wire, or really awesome watches. I would also be interested in buying laser etched items. An idea or two on making money (I'm not an expert or anything, just some thoughts): Get more users. I would be willing to go recruit more users if you made a forum topic or a contest for it. It'd be fun! Even without a contest. Advertise, in a different way. For instance, do a public project that would draw a lot of attention, but make it for specific advertisers. You've seen the steampunk telescope that goes through the earth (kind of), right? Well, how much money could they have made if they had put "telescopes by meade" on the butt end of that thing? Start selling things. Like Canida's mouse mouse. Some people want the items, but won't do the project, either because of time restraints, intellectual restraints, or because they don't like the idea of skinning a rat. People buy all sorts of crafts and products on etsy, for that reason. And, with a name like Instructables behind it, I wouldn't be suprised if you got quite a bit of revenue.

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8bit (author)Doctor What2008-12-21

Definately some public event. Like I said, something to bring it to the community IRL. Perhaps my full ideas were a little extreme, but nothing wrong with having grand corperate tie-in events. (ala the Edward Bernays comment.) On a related note, some kind of faire, like Make has could be interesting. For a while, I thought Make and Instructibles were closely related somehow. There are also plenty of DIY blogs, hackedgadgets being one of many. Maybe they would consider some sort of tie-in. I would definately consider donating to instructables and also to individual people who have posted instructables that have helped me financialy Don't know if I would tip for a comment though. . . probably not.

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Doctor What (author)8bit2008-12-21

I don't think anyone would tip for a comment.

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Doctor What (author)8bit2008-12-21

Make and Instructables are closely related. Not like partners, but connected.

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Doctor What (author)Doctor What2008-12-19

And, if people made good products through instructables, like blinkybugs, madylights, etc. You could work out a deal to sell those things too!

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DJ Radio (author)Doctor What2008-12-20

I already mentioned that idea...

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