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Marketing Instructables Answered

This site is the business activity of Instructables Inc, and as such has to turn a profit (or break-even at the least). I don't know how the books balance or who has how much equity in Instructables Inc, but we do know that paid memberships (Pro accounts) have been introduced as an additional income-stream. Current Pro users number just over 600, so small money so far.

A lot of complaints have been made about Pro membership, mainly in relation to what will be denied to free members, but also with regard to perceptions of an "us and them" division.

  • If the site can successfully sell memberships and attract advertising revenue / sponsorship, it would not be necessary to annoy / nag free members by denying them basic features they won't or can't pay for.
  • This is it: How can the site better market what it has to attract paying users willingly, and maximise other sources of income?

E.g. gmjhowe's suggestion of Testimonials ("awesome" E Wilhelm)
E.g. changing the Pro badge
E.g. changing the "recent Pro users" on the front page ("interesting idea" E Wilhelm) taken up unless it's just coincidence that it appears to be that way

This topic is for constructive ideas around the introduction of new features and increasing site revenue, not for complaints (there are plenty of other topics for complaints)

Personally I think the marketing of Pro accounts could be improved in some areas?



I still don't get why there's nothing on the front page about pro accounts. There should be an easily visible area describing them with a link to the order page. On the big slide show, the instructables book has a spot, but not pro accounts, how does that make sense?

It's a bit subtle, but there are the recent Pro members, so there isn't absolutely nothing on there. I think the idea is to allow people free access so that they can see what the site has, but to be reminded (nagged) that it's a better experience if you pay for extras. This is sensible for passing traffic & new users, but having an upgrade button on your non-Pro you page might be a good idea?


I thought that's shat it is, but it just says, "Members." Because I'm pro, I don't know how much they're nagged or confronted by go pro stuff, but I still think there should be something on the front page. I'd also like an easier to find link for going pro, so I can retrieve it whenever people make topics asking about it.

Slap me down if I'm being naive, but how about some kind of share scheme in Instructables Inc. or would that conflict with US trade regs?

Instructables Inc would have to change their Articles of Incorporation. That way Eric and the board (is there one?) at ibbles can set out the limits as to how the issue of stocks/shares affect the day to day running.

If I have got this right Instructables as a private company can issue shares that can have really restrictive rights applied to them - so no risk to EW of share battles or a takeover.

What form do the shares take - maybe patches, a cyber-certificate - and the warm glow of pumping a bit of capital into something that's in our interests to keep healthy.



We already have a board of directors, and have already issued shares of stock. The company is private, so you cannot buy those shares. Issuing shares is a normal way one starts a business and raises capital through private investors.

Could you issue another tranche of shares, maybe even have it so one could pay in installments? Say for example Instructables shares are $50 each but you can elect to buy them using Poopal as-and-when you get a bit of spare casch. If you have to login before you can do this would this equate to private shares? btw that's the first time I've ever seen a Corvus eating a Squalidae. Cheers.


I do not want to see ibles go corporate. You have a board running it, and forget it! I've no trust for a board of investors running the site - I'd leave faster than hot grease can spit.

In your comment you mention board, then board of Investors.

The about page has a small section listed as "Instructables Advisors & Board Members" with one Mark P. Jacobsen listed as a Board Member. Maybe part of a Board of Directors?

To clarify, both times I meant a board of impersonal investors (the image in my mind being a bunch of people just out to milk the company for as much as they can strip-mine out of it. Yes, that is a mixed analogy. :P ).

...oooh yeah... Try heating up some grease to just below the point where it starts smoking. Then toss in something slightly moist, like potato slices. For the most convincing results, wear something brief and sleeveless for this exercise. (No, I'm not really recommending anyone do this, especially the "heat grease to just below point where it starts smoking" part.)

Oh, I suppose you're right (having worked in a restaraunt for a summer, this was one of the painful parts of work)

I witnessed a demonstration where they dropped a frozen turkey into a vat of hot oil and it nearly exploded, the flames from the overboiling oil falling on the fire literally enveloped the one demonstrating (thankfully they were in heavy duty protective suiting).

Having done that precise same thing with potato slices I can assure you it does spit!

Ditto, only I was putting in fish fillets and managed to put down the furthest part first, so as they landed they shot the hot oil out of the pan onto my bare forearms.. I had "anti-freckles" of burn on my arms for a while :)

oil, if heated to the fry point will, if a drop of water, or tiny piece of ice is dropped in as it can cause some heavy duty splattering i.e. spitting. DON'T try this at home; but here is what is happening: oils / grease reach a higher temperature before boiling, and water can only reach a temp. of 212 F before boiling and vaporizing. When water hits the much MUCH hotter oil, it boils and vaporizes (and remember, the oil floats so the water sinks), then the vaporized water rushes to expand and escape, and you get a boiled in oil facial if standing too close.

That would only happen in the event of the company going Public....as I understand Eric, it already has a BOD although the company is a private one.

I hear you, but one of the points I was making is that EWilhelm I think should be able to contrive it so that restrictive shares can be issued it isn't a corporation.. it's a private company - no board.
Hmm I'm off to scratch my head and find an example.
In the mean time how about thinking along the lines of a Co-Op?

Investors have put money into the business. But the problem with this approach is that you eventually run out of equity to offer in exchange. The Co-Op will return you some share of profit, but you have to be generating profit by spending money there. L

True you can elect to re-invest your dividend within the co-op or choose to withdraw it - the famous Divi. Ibbles could alter this model to tie down the investment to a plan long enough in term to see it through the tough times? i.e. you can't have your divi back for another 5/7/10 years, rest assured it's being used to keep our heads above water in the meantime or you can choose to gift it to the ibbles foundation :)

Investment is only of use if you can expect to appreciate in value, which requires making money rather than getting people to invest it. I should think that enough investment has been done by now, it's long-term profitability (or a sale) that is needed? You can't gift to Instructable Inc (as discussed elsewhere).


Workers co-ops are dreadful if not smoothly managed because there are so many equal says, however Eric and co. can issue shares as a private company without becoming a corporate entity, also they could well impose their own rules, though they'd either have to sell them on the basis of dividends or control and though dividends wouldn't make sense now when the company does profit the owners of the shares get a portion, though likely very small unless someone really does bale the company out. One issue would be fixing or determining the value and lifetime of the shares...

I hear you too brother killerjackalope no workers co-ops it is then.
How about an anarcho-syndicalist commune?

Seriously though, I'm still plodding through the web looking for other ideas.
How about Information Arbitrage, where product developers can pick the brains of the creators of ibbles of interest to them. In order to do that they have to pay a subscription to Ibbles Inc.?
Or weld a market research interface onto Ibbles >Gags<
I can't believe I just wrote that.
Here's what go me thinking along those lines....
Unusual business model

(I thought so) "Help! Help" I'm being repressed! With regard the other, Pharma has billions to spend, tossing a few pennies to a small site is nothing. L

Idea: Free membership for KNEXers. They sign-up for a KNEX membership, they can only post in KNEX, but they get everything within there. You're unlikely to get many KNEXers paying for membership or spending money on advertised content, but you've got people in who may eventually move into paid memberships.
"Sowing-seeds, reaping harvests later"


that sounds like a pretty good idea(though i plan to get a pro account anyway, since i do like the other parts of instructables). i already realized that the pro accounts could easily kill the KNEXer's since our instructables are way to tedious without all steps. though one problem might be if the accounts are restricted to knex, how would they see any of the other community?

also,how will the knex be separated?

you are right dsman, like yourself , i am a knexer ,also......I also like to look at the occasional rocket or ice cream recipe , and myself i see no purpose at all for this segregation from the outside world of music and go-carts! Absolutely no purpose AT ALL!!!

I hate to be a naysayer to everything, but I very much dislike this idea also. We've worked so hard to try to convince the knexers that we are one, that they are not a segregated group, and there is no divide - this could split the community even more than pro would.

I've really no earth-shattering ideas of my own to share, but I don't like this one...

I had another idea for general marketing.

There are websites that will publish books in the smallest of runs (for a price).

Why not enter into a deal with such a site so that people can order bound copies of whichever projects they fancy?

In an online order form, the customer lists all the ibles they want to be in the book, in the order they want.

Software automatically selects the customised PDFs that are missing comments and contents pages, generates a contents page from the titles, prints and binds them.

The cover image could be a stock image, especially drawn for the job, maybe selected from a range, and the title could be whatever is entered by the customer.

Yes, such a deal would be relatively expensive (but compared to the cost of a new set of coloured ink cartridges after printing out several dozen projects?), but you make the service available to all, members or not, so that they could be given as gifts or used as fancy archives by those members with lots of projects.

Such books could also be offered as prizes (the top so-many entries go in the book and get sent to the winners & runners-up).

Prices would be reduced with larger runs, so maybe copies could be prepared and offered on a regular basis, and kept for sale from a growing library (The top twenty rated projects of Spring 2009, or Ed's Big Book of Cookies).

It wouldn't be enough to run the site, but it would help maintain its profile, especially if the service was also linked to from sites that sell the "proper" Ibles book.

I like this idea. while i dont have the money right now for a PRO membership, i could see myself getting some cash together to get a book of instructables that i enjoyed.

The book idea has potential, but I think it might be more practical run slightly differently.
From -generates a contents page from the titles- The customer prints the pdfs, and binds them (They're makers, they can do a bit of basic binding).
Give price-breaks at 10 & 25 downloads, offer a set of 10 covers by mail?
"Download your own Instructables library"


Maybe both? The book idea is more about maintaining the site's profile than generating site-running income.

Whatever is decided, there is one core thing I believe;

* Pro benefits should be features, not content.

My take, tweaked since first posted elsewhere:

Free membership:

  • Post projects in the current format.
  • When reading projects, have full access to images, no matter who or how they are published.
  • When reading projects, have access to basic PDFs
  • Access to non-pro forums.

Pro membership - all the above, plus:

  • Access to customisable PDF downloads.
  • Patches
  • Access to Pro forums
  • Private publication (projects only visible to those who are sent the URL)
  • Mass-mailing (eg, to all those members who subscribe to you, or to whom you subscribe)
  • Early notification of events and contests.

For an extra fee (I was going to call it "pro-plus", but I think that's a medication):

  • Post projects without advertising.
  • Power to moderate comments on a project.

(It's hear, hear - called out in crowded meetings, meaning "hear this speaker, heed his words". I suppose in more modern phrasing it would be I hear you, bro!)

Good call. Very good call. I'm just worried that the k'nex community will go down the tubes, seeing as they are mostly young people with not a lot of spare cash to spend.

Patches and T-shirts are often offered as contest prizes, could we perhaps offer, say, 6 months of pro-access as a contest prize to someone who doesn't already have that access? That way, people who offer up good instructables get a chance to try the pro accounts and may wish to buy them, moreso than if they had to buy it up front without trying it first.

Sponsor a Robot in Need.

The Save The Robot Foundation has now made it possible for you to personally sponsor Robot for as little as six-and-a-half cents per day.

Robot's life will be changed for the better as a result of your sponsorship. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, we will work with Robot and all the admins to develop the entire staff's ability to maintain the website. Robot will benefit from much-needed cashflow enabling him to pay for his data bytes and electron charges. Admins will benefit as well, through economic opportunity programs providing salaries that will help them buy groceries and pay their rents.

The second life that is changed is yours. How can you not be touched by the emails ... the comments on your orangeboard... the cute little thumbnails of Robot? You'll see Robot's face stay just as yellow and friendly as ever as the Instructables site keeps getting happier and healthier - thanks to your caring and commitment.

When you become a Robot sponsor, it may not change your own life all that much, but it will help continue the life of Robot and the Instructables website. And knowing that you help keep Robot alive is a pretty darned good feeling.

(The above is heavily plagiarized from www.savethechildren.org, to which I don't really mean the disrespect that I am nevertheless showing here.)

Lonely Robot.jpg

Sponsorship / donation has been ruled-out previously. But robot-kits of some sort? L

Yeah, I guess "sponsorship" is the wrong word (and I knew that plagarizing "Save The Children couldn't really be right :). But some sort of "Become Robot's Special Friend" (definitely need a better term than "special friend") deal, with extra quasi-personalized e-mails from Robot (and e-cards on Friends' birthdays, maybe?), access to Robot's blog, pictures of Robot doing this and that, and any other fun low-cost-to-Squid Robot stuff that can be dreamed up.

Special friend XD How about making a few small changes to a chatterbot and calling it Robot? Chat with Robot!

Chat with Robot is excellent - that'd fit right in. ("Special Friend" was my alternative to rejected-out-of-hand "Psychic Friend"... I obviously need more coffee... :)

My apologies first off, since I haven't taken the time to read down through all of this thread, so I hope I am not being overly repetitive; but MAKE mag is working on opening a MAKER'S store, unlike the one they have now. It will be individual store fronts on their site, with products made by those with the store, products that will be pre-approved before being offered; products that: instill the maker concepts, the hands on approach, the learning of new skills, as well as various tools, toys, and etc. It is set to launch sometime in July, so for those that frequent the site (because they have subscribed to the magazine), watch for it. I am not sure if such a concept would be feasible in our setting though; thoughts?

I'm still thinking that breaking the features up could work, while keeping the pro package I think far more may be willing to pay for only the features they'd like. I also suspect that this would be effective in the publishing department, though pro members should be getting a certain number of fully featured 'ibles per month/week/year...

No way! If you pay for featured, there's no point to any of this. Featuring has always been for good projects - not for people who pay. You couldn't buy front page space for your projects. In the old way, what was valued was skill, and craftsmanship - not money.

I'm not talking about home page features dear... As in the features that you get with publishing...

What do you mean by "pro members should be getting a certain number of fully featured 'ibles per month/week/year..." then...?