630Views73Replies

Author Options:

We're running some experiments Answered

As the economy ebbs and flows, so does the advertising industry. Since Instructables' only current sources of revenue are contextual and brand advertising, our future has a few more question marks than it did a few months ago. We're currently engaged in a number of experiments to see how some of our ideas around alternative revenue sources pan out. For example, we're currently asking non-logged in users to create an account to access all of the large images in an Instructable. Whether we decide to make any of these changes permanent depends on how they perform, feedback from the community, and if and when brand advertising picks back up.

Advertising underwrites the creation, hosting, and distribution of a tremendous amount of awesome content. Keeping that content flowing when advertising has a down turn requires some creative thinking, and often requires business models that are not free. While we have no plans to charge our community to submit or get access to the Instructables content (because really, it's your content in the first place), we are experimenting and thinking about premium models around how that content is displayed and other features you may find valuable.

If you see something out of the ordinary, please give us the benefit of the doubt while we experiment to find ways to ensure we're around for a long time to come.

50 Replies

user
Ihatehavingtoregister (author)2009-06-16

I think this is foolish idea. This function makes understanding the instructions very difficult; as a result I have a feeling many people are going to stop visiting this site.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
BeanGolem (author)2009-03-06

Would it help if we actually clicked on the ads once in a while, instead of just dismissing them automatically as evil advertising? The trouble is that with contextual ads, you're getting ads for the things that you're trying to find on Instructables. They are not compatible. The whole point is that we would rather do something ourselves than just buy it. Would there be a way to have Instructables make money IRL, instead of only through the site? Perhaps they could offer more extensive fee-based classes or workshops.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
purduecer (author)BeanGolem2009-03-11

I must say, there isn't much I would "pay" for at Instructables (I'm a rather cheap person, sad to say). That said, I would happily pay for certain "premium member privileges". In particular, allowing premium members to directly implement the image macro and other formatting options (LaTeX text formatting anyone?) Also, BeanGolem's idea about offering classes/workshops is a good one (I think), and making the store more like makezine.com's Maker Shed would also be a plus. (I'd rather patronize Instructables than many other places, but Instructables currently only sells clothing and accessories, unless I'm mistaken. Do you guys even sell your own "Best of Instructables" book in the store?) Perhaps place a link to your store up top along with the Explore, Community, Answers, etc. buttons? The only link I see is at the bottom of every page, and many users may not get all the way down there...

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Marcos (author)purduecer2009-04-04

Instructables road show!! The show and tell sessions were very popular (in their day. Will there be more?) At the Maker Faire, the computer recyclers had a room full of parts with tools. It was incredible to see so many people intently and enthusiastically, spontaneously making stuff! I say mini robots, necklaces motorized flashing thingies. How about a similar thing at places like the Exploratorium, The Tech Museum and places like it? Show people how to make stuff in 3D, not just once a year at the Maker Faire. Quarterly Instructable Faires, linked by satellite, show and tell Instructathons, contests, marketplace etc. Ok, I'm getting carried away, but you get the idea. I'm going to go out and take pictures of dead weeds made that way by my last 'ible.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
laboratory424 (author)2009-03-13

I'm concerned about the restriction on image viewing too. We use our instructables to complement our printed plans in our kits. I feel that this restriction will discourage a percentage of people from purchasing kits. (Most seem to check out the instructable before purchasing.) What I like is the concept of a "Premium" paid membership. What if users can pay an annual membership fee to remove the PDF/image restriction on "their" instructables? That is, I pay to remove restrictions on my content for all viewers. Someone who has a free account saves money, but lives with the restrictions for unregistered users. Would something to the tune of $60/yr work? (I'd pay it in a heartbeat.) Cafepress, Flickr, etc. have similar models. I paid for them all because I wanted a "nicer" experience for all visitors that were browsing my content on those sites. Just a thought. Jeff

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)laboratory4242009-03-18

That's a really interesting idea. Thanks for sharing it. How many other users do you estimate are in your position? I am specifically interested in the desire to "open" their content to non-logged in users. Under such as system we would probably also offer "all steps" as part of the package. For the time being, you can hack the PDF part by downloading a PDF of your Instructable and uploading it to your library. The PDF won't have the latest comments, but I suspect more people downloading a PDF are more interested in a printable form of the project rather than the comments.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
laboratory424 (author)ewilhelm2009-03-20

I would say that any user who has produced 2 or more instructables rated at 3+ has something to gain by opening up their content to the general public. The fact they've produced more than one instructable tells me they are determined to be a contributor. The rating of 3+ suggests they are making quality content. These users can generate opportunities with their creative work. Opportunities such as being linked by Make, Wired, Boing Boing, Digg, etc. This buzz may lead to 15 minutes of fame, licensing/writing/speaking opportunities, employment, or a spot on Oprah (who knows). Making their content more accessible by the general public will increase the likelihood that this buzz will flow smoothly. In turn, it can create future opportunities for them and increase traffic to instructables. The $60 (or so) is a great investment. Offering "all steps" as part of the package would be perfect. You could also offer another tier of premium membership for people who want to sell kits (or include it in "the package" for simplicity). For each instructable have a field the user can enter a URL to the parts kit store, page, etc. If this field is filled out, a bright badge will display at the top of the instructable that says "Parts Kit Available" (or something similar). Clicking the badge takes the user to the specified URL. It would be nice if the badge image would show up layered on top of the thumbnail for the instructable too. This way browsing/searching will communicate that this instructable has a kit with it. Much better than throwing a link in the body of the instructable. Jeff

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Marcos (author)laboratory4242009-04-04

It is sort of annoying to "suddenly" be unable to see the larger photos without being logged in. I feel a little better knowing the reasoning behind it.

Regarding income:

How about a shareware model, where people (who are logged in, of course! ;-), can hit a button and make micro-payments in increments suggested by Instructables Robots, and the authors. Maybe it's a 60/40 split author/Instructables. Whatever is fair, and is simple enough that the delivery does not cost more than it generates.

"Instructables Marketplace" (CC lic. on that for now..." could do a couple of things (others prolly have more ideas), offer shareware instructibles, and premium instructables and products.

Say the lucky laser cutter winner has a nifty duct tape wallet he can crank out and sell for a few bucks. They post it on the 'ibles store by checking the box when first publishing, and a "Buy Now" button turns up on each step of the 'ible.

Products with no instructable, and non-shareware 'ibles (requirements TBD) are in the store. Those who don't have time or inclination to make their own darn duct tape wallet can buy the wallet and have it shipped to their sister's kid in another place (extra charge for a card and gift wrapping?). Instructables and the author/wallet maker split the profits, something along the lines of ebay, without the auction, or the listing fees.

...Come to think of it, maybe there -is- a listing fee on products above $150 or something reasonable.

I'd be interested in selling my yet to be written worm-bin maintenance manual on Instructables. What better place than on the very same pages that made the bin famous in the first place.

I think it would also garner some great publicity. "Teen Knex hacker pays his way through college with Instructable!" It'll take a lot of marshmallow guns to get 'em through MIT, but you get the idea. The iPhone App Store could also be a model. I've heard of several developers who quit their jobs because they are making so much money from one application they can afford to. Wouldn't it be great if Instructables and it's members could pull off something similar?

Sheesh, maybe I should be putting this idea in the laser cutter contest. I think it's worthy, don't you? :-D

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Spl1nt3rC3ll (author)2009-03-07

Here's a thought. With the author's permission, make an Instructables store (I know there is a store already, but hear me out). The instructables on this site are fantastic, but some people either don't have the time or the means to build them (example, something you need a laser cuter for, or a very complicated-yet-awesome Instructable). I know I have looked at more than a few Instructables and thought man, if only I could make that! You could set up a store online or, even better, a physical walk in store, and sell pre-build Instructables or kits. You could offer a Lazer Engraving service: pay this much and we will engrave anything for you. There could even be free build stations around the store, and possibly a cooking section where one could buy some of these amazing foods and learn how to cook them. I would gladly allow my trip mines to be sold as kits or a completed product.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
LinuxH4x0r (author)Spl1nt3rC3ll2009-03-07

Yes! We could have stores where ibles gets a percentage. We could also have a way of renting out services (cnc cutting, etc) in the community. If i have a cnc and you need a part I could mill it for you and ibles would get a percent.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
PKM (author)LinuxH4x0r2009-03-25

Exactly the suggestion I was about to make- I think a lot of the content generated on the site (electronics kits, textile patterns, even some code) lends itself to microsales. I have written batch files and simple programs for myself more complicated than some "rename a bunch of files" products that sell for $5 or $10 online, and I know that people would pay not to have to replicate the work people do working out measurements for solar collectors or whatever.

It could even work like elance.com, a site that lets people find freelance coders to do simple commission work for them. Who wouldn't like to commission a personalised GMJboard weapon? :P

The site already invites questions on how to do stuff and guides on how to do stuff- why not get the two together, and put "who has plans for a go-kart?" in touch with "I have plans for a go-kart"?

There are a lot of hurdles- liability, tax issues, the work required in coding an online shop- but there would be more incentive to provide quality content, prolific Makers could get paid for their work and the site gets a cut.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user

"Laser cuter". Hahaha! :P

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)Spl1nt3rC3ll2009-03-07

Insert snarling, untrained dog, laser trims off the non-cute parts, leaves small adorable stuffed* toy.

*Just don't ask what it's stuffed with.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Rock Soldier (author)Kiteman2009-03-07

What is it stuffed with?
I don't listen very often

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)Rock Soldier2009-03-08

It's stuffed with the bits they trimmed off.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Rock Soldier (author)Kiteman2009-03-08

that's a lot of bits. Or a few big ones. I don't know

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)2009-03-10

Are there any indications whether the experiments are working yet?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)Kiteman2009-03-18

Daily registrations have doubled, and traffic to the site is flat or up.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)ewilhelm2009-03-18

I'd take that as a "yes", then?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Putzer (author)2009-03-18

While funds are running low is Instructables trying to grow, shrink or remain the same?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
saintstoffel (author)2009-03-14

Hey look at me, I'm contributing! I'm not going to say much more than what's already been said. --Get rid if the "registered only" restrictions on secondary photos, it'll drive away a lot of first timers and occasional lurkers. --I don't care about the pdf's, but it'd be interesting to see the amount of play those are currently getting. --Where the hell is the donation button? This is a must. --More items in the store. I especially like the idea of kits for popular projects. There are plenty of people out there that like DIY, but finding specific components of projects is sometimes difficult. --The donation badges on message boards I'm on or frequently lurk seem pointless. I don't care if someone paid more (or less) money than me to be a part of a community. They could have the "super uber highest grand farking I-love-the-smell-of-my-own-gasses" award and be an utter troll. I notice long time members by their contributions not their internet donation awards.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Scubabubba (author)2009-03-12

My problem with the concept of signing up to view content is that the user has to add another username and password to an ever-growing list. How many passwords would we have to manage if we needed one for every site we visited regularly? From the user perspective, passwords and usernames are for protecting personal data and accessing content that we pay for, and every one of them is a bit of a security risk. James

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)Scubabubba2009-03-12

What do people think of Open ID, Facebook connect, or Google ID?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
NachoMahma (author)ewilhelm2009-03-13

. I don't trust 'em. Probably being overly paranoid, but that's the way I feel.
. I'm not sure what it would take to add that to the site, but if it's reasonably easy/cheap to do, why not give ppl that option? It may increase sign-ups from those that are already using those services.
.
. I understand Scubabubba's "another username and password to an ever-growing list" (my emphasis). I've been online forever and have accumulated a LOT of un/pws. Banking, CCs, forums, bills, ... I've started using KeePass to keep track of all of mine; certainly makes it easier, but it's still a PITA.
.
. I don't know if blocking some of the larger pics has affected sign-ups, but the response from the community doesn't seem to be that bad. The vast majority seem to understand that changes are needed for Ibles to grow. A few complaints, but most of those are coming from ppl with unreasonable expectations. And any change is going to upset a few ppl.
. Like many of us who have been here for a while, I don't really like that iBles is becoming so big - this is my playground and it's getting crowded - but I can't stop that so I'm looking forward to seeing what Robot can do with all these folks.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Scubabubba (author)ewilhelm2009-03-13

Facebook is blocked at work for lots of folks.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Scubabubba (author)2009-03-11

Eric, Instructables is a cool site, but what you've really invented is a presentation and documentation tool.

Are you marketing that to other web sites? Like "Search Powered by Google," I'd like to see "Presentations Powered by Instructables" everywhere I go on the Internet.

But the real market might be corporate intranets: "Work Methods Powered by Instructables". In the technical design and engineering world, work methods are a huge effort and are almost always very, very poorly done, often because of format limitations. Ever since I built my Instructable I've been trying to figure out how to use your format at work, and I can't do it. Big companies spend a pile of money on software to power internal processes. Internal or secure external versions of the Instructables tool could be a big seller.

And of course, you could use that money to keep giving us a free ride! I'm sure that the free public instructables community would continue to contribute improvements that could be rolled to the commercial side, and act as advertising and familiarization for it as well.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)Scubabubba2009-03-11

We've been thinking about various models in this vein, and will hopefully have something to show for it in the near future. For the time being, there is a hack for private projects. When you finish the process of authoring an Instructable, there's a publish step. If you never actually publish the Instructable, it never appears on the feed of new projects, but its link is active and people who are given the direct link can access it and comment, if they choose. When you publish, you get a nice, human-readable URL rather than an ID, but you can immediately unpublish, retain your nice URL and still have your project obfuscated and effectively semi-private.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Scubabubba (author)ewilhelm2009-03-12

I considered the publish/unpublish option for a personal use, but I didn't want to take undue advantage of the site. An unpublished Ible wouldn't bring in much in the way of advertising dollars! James

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
ewilhelm (author)Scubabubba2009-03-12

It's ok, you have my explicit permission to do so!

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
NachoMahma (author)2009-03-06

. Random thoughts: . If you limit what non-members can see too much, that will deter many from signing up. If I come to a site that requires signup to see anything, I go back to Google and search some more. . Charging for PDF downloads should go over reasonably well. Probably not feasible on a per-download basis, but should work well with a premium membership. . I would like to see voluntary donations make it possible to keep the site as open and free as it has been. Any charge for access will affect the younger members the most. I'm not a K'nex fan, but I'd hate to see them leave because they couldn't afford to stay. Gold/Silver/Bronze Supporter badges (Featured-style ribbon on avatar?) for, say, $50/25/10 donations? If you decide to go to a pay system, donations could be applied to a premium membership. . member@instructables.com addresses for premium members. May require too many resources to be profitable. . Advertise the Ibles store more. Add more items (coffee mugs, &c;). Probably not a big money maker, but every little bit helps.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
xACIDITYx (author)NachoMahma2009-03-09

I like the @instructables.com idea, as well as PDF downloads with a premium membership.

Building off of your idea, why not have 'ibles allow donations? I bet there are plenty of people here who would donate in a heartbeat if they heard that instructables was having financial issues. On top of that, if you did add a ribbon sort of thing for donators (I think it should be below the avatar, imho), that would "entice" one to donate; I know I would if I could have a gold bar below my beloved pika pika.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)NachoMahma2009-03-06
Last time we talked about money-raising, I mentioned the idea of a cash subsciption for a PDF magazine with no adverts. The idea seemed popular, and here's an extra thought:

I subscribe to a weekly newsletter called "This Is True". It comes in two editions.

  • The free version, which has four main stories and some regular bits ("honorary unsubscribe" is always interesting - not very famous dead people), plus a few adverts between the articles.
  • The Premium version, which has twice as many articles, no adverts, and comes out three or four days earlier.

The premium version costs $24 per year.

There are 300,000 subscribers to the Instructables Newsletter - what fraction of those would have to sign up to a premium newsletter to make it worthwhile?

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
NachoMahma (author)Kiteman2009-03-06

. I like that idea. I seldom do more than scan the present one, but if it will help the cause...
.
> what fraction of those would have to sign up to a premium newsletter to make it worthwhile?
. I have no idea where to get any kind of estimate on what participation rate might turn out to be, but I'm guessing 3-5% is the max. Wouldn't be too surprised if 1% is high, especially with the younger demographic Ibles has. I'm not sure where the worthwhile point is, but if we assume 1% participation at $10/yr, that's $30K/yr. 3% @ $20 = $180K. That should be enough to feed a few interns.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
gmjhowe (author)NachoMahma2009-03-06

Yes, another great idea. I agree.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)gmjhowe2009-03-07

As well as PDFs of selected proejects, the newsletters could include articles or commentary from The Mangement, invited regulars, or established specialists. (For instance, an edition themed around LED projects, with an extra comment from Star, beer-related recipes and a comment from somebody at Anheuser Busch)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)Kiteman2009-03-07

This is the newsletter I'm talking about, with the different levels of subscription described here.

The site claims a "six figure" circulation, and the income generated off the subscriptions, merchandise and adverts in the free issues (rates) pay the owner's way, plus he has at least one employee.

Instructables already has a six figure circulation for its current newsletter. They could automatically start receiving the free version, complete with adverts for an upgrade to the premium version and a similar "pass it on" request to the one used by Randy Cassingham.

(As an aside, I heartily recommend subscribing to the free version of True - pithy and amusing.)

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)NachoMahma2009-03-06

Have you had any sleep today? L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
NachoMahma (author)lemonie2009-03-06

. Not yet. Got the feeling I'm gonna crash soon.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
lemonie (author)NachoMahma2009-03-06

Yeah me too... (one more coffee) L

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
sansoy (author)2009-03-07

If you force people to register you are just putting a velvet rope in front of this site which could have an adverse effect. my company builds virtual worlds for toy companies and i'm speaking next week on how to measure & monetize user engagement.

1.Instructables is such a great property and i agree with one of the commenters here about having a more robust online store. You definitely need more items, including virtual ones. In your Best of Instructable's book i would include a unique code that would unlock some sort of virtual good on the site.

2. Recently you posted how to syndicate your content which is brilliant. Make this a permanent link on your homepage. Twitter and Facebook are powerful referrers back to the site. I think http://www.twitter.com/instructables is yours?

3. Provide a patent service with the US Patent & Trademark office.

4. A really good metric is the user to user interaction in the Instructables world. Here's a great, recent article about how one virtual world capitalized on this metric - http://tinyurl.com/aq2qoa

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)sansoy2009-03-07

Regarding number 4 - are you suggesting setting up an internal Instructables economy, with members buying something off each other and the site gets a cut?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against the site getting a cut of things, but what would we sell? Everything that this site values is already exchanged for free - advice, time, help. I recently re-wrote a whole Instructable for a new member. I don't expect a reward, and in fact I don't think the member had anything to "trade", I just did it because a fellow regular asked me to help. That's part of what makes this site so good - we are a community, not an economy.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
sansoy (author)Kiteman2009-03-07

My point was more about really understanding the user to user engagement as you and I are doing right now. the link was just an example of how one company was able to monetize their unique user to user dynamic. I'm thinking out of the box here so bear with me! I just checked out your site and found your "jet engine" very intriguing. I would pay you for a kit version of your idea even though its made with commonly available materials. My reason for purchase is my time is limited and i like the convenience of buying your productto give as gifts. other thoughts: 1. A question i would ask is what real world counterparts mirror the Instructables model, and how do they monetize? 2. Safari Books Online charges a monthly fee to access all O'Reilly books online. I love this model and use it all the time. Maybe Instructables could charge for downloading the pdfs or make access to the pdfs as part of a premier membership. 3. host all videos on youtube rather than incurring the cost of content delivery networks.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Lithium Rain (author)sansoy2009-03-07

They already do host all videos on youtube.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
sansoy (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-07

is this hosted on youtube or on instructables:
https://www.instructables.com/id/SR9ZJWBF1B3RCTD/

With my first instructable i loaded up my videos directly into their site. then a commenter suggested i reupload them to Youtube and link them into my instructable.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
xACIDITYx (author)sansoy2009-03-09

Yeah, that particular one is embedded from "Blip.tv", as I can clearly see my browser connecting to "blip.tv" when I hit play.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)sansoy2009-03-07

If it is a file you have to click and then download to watch, it is hosted on the site itself. If you can see an image from the video, and just click it to play, then it is a video hosted elsewhere (the one you chose is hosted on Blip.tv), but embedded here.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Kiteman (author)sansoy2009-03-07

1. I can't think of any material counterpart to this site, except maybe a hippy commune with power tools (not a model that is particularly interested in income!)

2. I have suggested a downloadable PDF / email in a similar vein to This Is True.

3. See below.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
Doctor What (author)2009-03-06

If you're going to make a premium model, make new features, not take away from what I already have access to.

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer

user
NachoMahma (author)Doctor What2009-03-06
"Whether we decide to make any of these changes permanent depends on ... feedback from the community..."
. What are the features that would cause you the most displeasure if you lost access to them? Which could you live without?
.
"While we have no plans to charge our community to submit and get access to the Instructables content..."
. It sounds to me like they want to keep as much content freely available as possible, but it costs money to run servers, pay programmers so we can have the features we do, keep Robot oiled, &c.
. I don't like that I may have to pay to use all of Ible's features, but I learned a long time ago that:
  • I don't always get what I want
  • TANSTAAFL

Select as Best AnswerUndo Best Answer