I have been running the culture/entertainment website Culture Creature for roughly six weeks. It has been an absolute blast. Three weeks after launching it, I hit a traffic milestone of 1.5k visitors in a day thanks to my Snapcase interview. This week, I doubled that number when I got a member of heavy metal band GWAR to review the horror movie The Witch. Here, I intend to write a brain dump of observations about running this type of website with the ultimate goal of monetization. Thank you for reading!
1. Facebook is (Not) the Internet
The first thing I noticed while seeking traffic for Culture Creature is that it’s easy to feel like Facebook is the Internet. People like to interact with content within the closed environment of Facebook; it’s hard to get them to leave. That’s why an image/headline combination that someone will ‘like’ on its own merit as a status update (i.e. one that doesn’t bury the lead so that you have to visit the article to get the idea) can be so successful within Facebook. This led to the style of ‘You’ll never believe this…’ or ‘Number 28 Will Shock You…’ style of headlines that force you to click outside of the social media platform.
Facebook is the Internet for millions of users, and you could spend an entire career perfecting a Facebook content strategy. However, when I found some success by posting on the Reddit Hip Hop Heads forum (I posted my 100s interview and my list of Beastie Boys facts), I was reminded that Facebook is (thankfully) just a big part of the Internet. In other words, it has been a helpful relief for me to aid my Facebook strategy with other traffic outlets and sources.
That said, I will be appreciative if you like Culture Creature on Facebook!
2. Advertising Requires a LOT of Traffic to Be Lucrative
After monitoring traffic/income with just a few ads on my site, I have discovered why the Internet is cluttered with a billion ads: it’s really hard to make any money from advertising (I am using Google Adsense but haven’t seen any meaningful income yet). There are many ad networks and strategies, but I think all of them require a ton of traffic.
3. Digital Advertising is in Turmoil
Most popular websites are clogged with overbearing ads because A) it’s hard to monetize a website and B) greed. Internet users have responded by using ad blockers, which have crippled the income of some websites. There’s an incredibly insightful piece on ad-blockers at Smashing Magazine (my old publisher and friends). Basically, it’s time to rethink monetization from square one.
4. Pop Ups Don’t Do Shit
Those pop-up ads that appear two seconds after loading a webpage? They don’t do shit. Internet users are so used to them that they swat them away like a mosquito without even a glance.
5. Many News Websites Prefer Quantity Over Quality
Item number 2 on this list partially explains why some culture and news websites are not in the business of creating engaging new content – but rather, they are in the business of endlessly regurgitating the Internet’s news stories ad nauseum. They are in the business of quantity, not quality. It is an echo chamber where you see one story at publication 1, then you see it parroted by related publications over a 24 hour period. This is because their goal is to churn out dozens of URLs per day to gain page impressions and sell advertising. It has been a challenge for me to figure out whether I want to engage in that echo chamber, how much, and when, etc. Work in progress.
6. Be Nice
Running a media site is a community-building thing. Conducting an interview is an intimate act. So it’s important to be kind and generous. As Zach Galifianakis said, “Take the high road, there’s very little traffic on there.”