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Project Wonderful is NOT Webcomic Welfare

 Project WonderfulI've been seeing posts like this one lately -- griping about Project Wonderful in a way that really isn't constructive criticism or even very realistic.

PW is an advertising platform, not a link exchange or some form of webcomics welfare. No one has any obligation to buy any ads on PW at all. Certainly, there's no requirement that a webcomic site running a PW ad box also bid on PW ad boxes on other sites.

Why do higher traffic sites running PW ad boxes get higher bids (and probably more important to consistently higher bids -- get ads from non-webcomic advertisers)? Because they've got more traffic and more people reading those ads. Some webcomics also offer the double whammy of a large AND FANATICAL audience. As an advertiser you pay for results. If the result, for example, is getting someone to come check out your webcomic then although small sites ad box prices may be cheaper, the price at large sites, measured in terms of actual person coming to check out your website, is often going to be cheaper still.

Does PW need to attract new non-webcomic advertisers (and publishers for that matter) to grow? Absolutely. There are many ways that could happen and I hope it's on PW owner Ryan North's list. But even when that happens it's probably not going to change the way small webcomic sites experience PW.

As a publisher selling ad space (what you are when you add a PW ad box to your site) be realistic about what type and size audience you have to offer. As an advertiser (what you are when you buy a PW ad somewhere else) be realistic about what you want to achieve with your ad dollars. Plan out ahead of time what your marketing goals are and then focus on achieving them. That may include PW ads, but it may not. There are many, many ways to market a webcomic.

PW Mass Bidding

I've always maintained that a mass-bidding option would help out PW's economy to no end. I've created a (very) primitive tool to enable mass bidding via Project Wonderful, and you can find it here. This is the first version, just uploaded tonight, and to be honest it sucks pretty hard - but it does pave the way for improvements.

It would be a nightmare.

Erg's picture

All clicks aren't equal. You need buyers to be able to target different audiences in a way that is impossible with mass bidding. it would depress prices across the board.

Yes and no.

I agree with you that all clicks are not equal, and that a major draw of the PW system is the ability to target your advertising with precision. However, I disagree that adding a mass-bidding option would result in a depression - an official mass-bidding system would run alongside the existing system, not replace it, so users always have the choice of placing individual bids or mass-bids.

What the mass-bidding system aims for is to reduce the hidden price of advertising on smaller websites. The smaller sites generally get a better CPC rate, but people go for the higher-traffic sites because even though the cost per visitor works out more expensive, the cost in time invested is greatly reduced. The mass-bidding system addresses that problem.

What you're describing

Joey Manley's picture

What you're describing sounds like another Keenspot.

Perhaps.

Time will tell. If the system ends up causing more harm than good, I'll discontinue it. If it brings more money to people in general, then it'll have proved a valuable experiment and maybe Ryan will create an "Official" version within the PW system. It's early days, yet.

Just a spectator...

mooncity's picture

Currently, I'm just a spectator in this whole debate about income. After submitting a request quite some time ago, I have yet to actually get PW to gimmie an adbox code. That's my only complaint about PW thus far. I find it rather frustrating to see brand new sites sporting the ads, while I've been working almost a year on my comic. I guess maybe I'm just too small a potato to bother with.

As an advertiser though, I have seen upticks in traffic from using PW. I can't swear this directly translates into new, loyal readers, but I guess the chance to grow an audience is out there if you choose sites to advertise on wisely. I like the idea of looking for similar comics, as they may have an audience similar to my own. I also take a flyer from time to time and put an ad on one of the larger sites just to get a few curiosity seekers to visit.

Mooncity

Autumn Lake

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

Mooncity

Autumn Lake

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

You should send Ryan and

Chris Jeffery's picture

You should send Ryan an email. The same thing happened to me and he said it must have gotten caught in my spam filter, and sent me my code.

 

And yeah, I did check my spam box, as I'm sure you have, and I never got it, so I'm guessing it's just the occasional kink in the system. But like I said send Ryan an email and you should have ads up by tomorrow.

Chris Jeffery
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cartridgecomics.com

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Chris Jeffery
Cartridge

D'OH! Yeah, good call.

mooncity's picture

D'OH! Yeah, good call. Sounds just like what's been happening to me. No reason I can't send the guy an e-mail, I guess.

Mooncity

Autumn Lake

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

Mooncity

Autumn Lake

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

A different way of looking at things...

Erg's picture

The way I see it, there are a couple things here people don't like about project wonderful, and I think I have some ideas on why some of those things are the way they are.

One thing is people don't like that bigger comic don't only get more money, but they get more money per page view. Why does that happen? I have a couple ideas. The first is that people don't trust the project wonderful's stats. But they know the larger comics get hits by reputation alone, and this drives a greater number of bidders to larger sites because the risk makes each reported page view more valuable there. There is another information problem for smaller sites. There readers are often a loose collection of friends, family, fellow creator friends, etc. They are not a solid demographic. This makes targeted advertising more difficult. Finally, and in my mind most importantly, there is a another hidden cost to doing business with the smaller sites. They are harder to find. Generally speaking, we are talking about very small sums of money being spent here. The time it would take to use Project Wonderfuls search mechanism to find the right smaller sites, as well as simply using the search mechanism that way, may in fact cost more in time the the transaction itself. Which means relatively few people are going to go through the trouble. Most small sites probably get bidders because the bidders read there comic, not because they were sought out for advertising. It is cheaper (assuming we act like economist and assume we can assign a dollar value to our time) and easier (which can also be assigned a value) to simply use the search engine to find the most popular sites and bid that way. Not only that, but they have more readers, so there are more people aware of the comic, so they get more reader generated bids. In other words, larger sites don't just have a better product, they have a larger pool of of potential customers aware of the product. This drives up the value of their page views.

The other beef I want to talk about is the whole "Why do big sites not use all their revenue to advertise?" I point to the above as a partial reason. There is alot of value from going from small to big, but not so much from big to bigger. So each dollar of advertising has less of a return for you. Additionally, given the small size of most PW transactions, they would use up quite a bit of time and energy spreading the bread crumbs to smaller sites thanks to the large number of bread crumbs they have.

Finally, the beef is that project wonderful is now less lucrative than it was at its inception. That is easy to explain. project wonderful experienced a bubble. THe hoopla following its release along with people gathering information about the efficacy and reliability of the service artificially increased demand at launch, but now that people have more information and their is no hoopla, the bottom fell out of it and the prices corrected themselves.

Or so is my speculation. Maybe I will write a story fleshing out some of this? Heck, even do *gasp* research? What do you think, peanut gallery?

"the beef is that project

Gordon McAlpin's picture

"the beef is that project wonderful is now less lucrative than it was at its inception."

This is not universally true. After a small dip in January, Multiplex's PW profits have increased steadily all year (based on a month to month comparison) -- and while my readership has also been growing, it hasn't grown THAT much.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

If the current prices are

If the current prices are the "corrected" ones resulting from sensible, non-bubble bidding, why are they so dramatically less than the prices of advertising outside PW? Even the big sites on PW get CPMs of at most approximately $0.10; but sites that sell ads outside of Project Wonderful charge in the $0.50 to $5.00 range. (That is CPM - price per thousand hits - and I emphasize that the correction for "large sites have more traffic" is already factored in, because that price is per unit traffic.) A site that's currently getting prices like those is not going to want to switch to PW.

I think you made some very

Chris Jeffery's picture

I think you made some very good points. Your post also causes me to think that an impartial mass bidding system that will place ads on any site for a certain rate per view would benefit smaller sites much more than any sort of incentive to keep larger sites from withdrawing money. A mass bidding system would remove the effort needed to seek out smaller ads and therefore allow sites to recieve bids that would otherwise not be worth the effort.

Chris Jeffery
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cartridgecomics.com

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Chris Jeffery
Cartridge

My god, that article was an

Chris Jeffery's picture

My god, that article was an ignorant load of bullshit.

If you want to make money off of Project Wonderful, stop spending money on advertizing. If this means you won't get any traffic, and therefore, no bids on your own ads, then you have nothing to sell. As Xerexes pointed out, when you have ads on your site, you are selling a product, your traffic. Big sites have lots of traffic to sell, small sites have little to none. So obviously, the only ones making a significant profit are the big sites. Don't blame Ryan for getting all of your money when you are handing it right back to him.

It seems as though the fact that Project Wonderful will allow you to spend money in your account without taking it out has fooled you into thinking the system is supposed to have some kind of internal economy. All advertisers I have used before PW send you a check or deposit your money into your bank account, and if you choose to spend it on ads from the same system so be it, just as well as if you chose to go buy some groceries.

Just because PW chooses to give you the option of spending the money again without taking it out first does not in any way mean Ryan is obligated to give his advertisers some sort of discount for not letting the money escape the system. All you managed to prove in your article is that the current system allows big sites to make more money than small sites. HOLY SHIT! Does this mean Wal-Mart makes more money than the lemonade stand on the corner? Could this be because Wal-Mart offers more? Maybe we should force Wal-Mart to make less money off their products to encourage them to buy from little businesses like that little lemonade stand! That would be fair!

Chris Jeffery
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cartridgecomics.com

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Chris Jeffery
Cartridge

The real Wal-Mart gets huge

The real Wal-Mart gets huge sales not only because it's big, but because it has lower prices per unit - so buyers prefer to go to Wal-Mart instead of small stores that have higher prices.

Project Wonderful is different because the big sellers actually have higher prices - that's per unit, not just because they get more traffic. It would be like choosing to pay $2 for a loaf of bread at Wal-Mart when the neighbourhood Mom'n'Pop store sells the same loaf for $1.50. So it's surprising that buyers choose to go to the big sites anyway, and pay the higher per-unit prices, when they could get more bang for the buck bidding on small sites. I'm trying to figure out why they do that. Note that this isn't about "You're morally obligated to change your ways!"; it's about "Why are you choosing to do something that looks like it's to your own disadvantage?" It's a question, not an order.

As others have pointed out, part of it may be the convenience factor. If you have $100 to spend on advertising, it's much easier to spend that on five bids and get 10,000 clicks, instead of spending it on 500 bids and getting 20,000 clicks, even though the lots-of-small-bids approach gives you more bang for the buck. Mass bidding could change that - and it would be good for buyers (because they'd get better prices) and good for sellers (because most of them would also get better prices).

After seeing the numbers you

Chris Jeffery's picture

After seeing the numbers you posted, it seems more like you just had bad luck with bidding. I've never paid more than $0.005 per click, and I've advertised on at least 20 different sites. I do often find that in order to beat the highest bid (which is often a reasonable price) on an ad on a popular site I would need to pay much more than what I consider a good rate. This is when you move on and choose a different site, because that one has reached its max potential.There is more competition for the ads on the big websites, and therefore prices are automatically pushed to the max CPC sellers are willing to pay, because there are always many more advertisers waiting for that spot. Small websites don't have as many advertisers competing for that spot, and so the prices are not driven up. This isn't a fault in the system, it simply means you are failing to attract advertisers as strongly as a huge website.

Chris Jeffery
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cartridgecomics.com

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Chris Jeffery
Cartridge

To clear a few points up

I'm the author of an article called "Project Wonderful as an economy," but to be honest, the comments above seem like they're written about something completely different from my article. I wonder who actually read it before commenting. To clear up a few misconceptions:

* I'm not anti-PW. On the contrary, I'm an enthusiastic user of PW. It's far preferable to alternatives like Google AdWords. I've received favourable feedback on this article from ProjectWonderfulTalk and from Ryan himself; they seemed to perceive it in the spirit I intended it, of thinking about why the system behaves as it does and how it could be changed to make it behave in a more useful way. Suggesting practical ways to improve something is the definition of constructive criticism.

* The gap I'm talking about between large and small sites is NOT just the fact that large sites get more traffic. My site, which currently gets about 5000 hits per day, currently gets bids in the 5-cent range. A site with 50000 hits gets bids in the $2 range. That's 40 times as much money, but only 10 times as much traffic; the price per unit traffic is four times as much. It's even more true when you try to correct for click rate, because bigger sites tend to get fewer clicks per impression - the 50000-hit site ends up costing 5 or 10 cents per click, whereas my site costs less than 1 cent per click. And it's also true further down the scale: it costs less money per unit traffic on smaller sites, beyond just the fact that smaller sites have less traffic to sell. A 500-hit site, one tenth the size of mine, just doesn't get paying bids at all on average; its hits and clicks are valued at zero. The smart buyer will advertise on lots of small sites instead of a few big sites, and that's what I do, and I get good value for my money... but the people with big budgets aren't doing that.

* Who said anything about anyone being obligated to buy advertising on Project Wonderful? It is my belief that most small-time sites *do* spend their revenue on more advertising instead of cashing it out, but I'm not saying that's how it should be, only that that's how it happens to be right now. It is also my belief that Ryan would make more profit if the big-time sites spent their revenue within the system instead of cashing it out, so I think he would benefit if he made it more attractive for them to do so; but, again, that is not a moral judgment. It's about what would make a bigger profit, not about what would be morally superior.

* I have no idea what this has to do with "webcomics welfare" or where that idea came from.

Thanks for your comments

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Thanks for adding to the thread here. I linked to your piece as part of what I'd perceived as a trend of such blog posts so it's possible I read more of that into your post than what you meant to express. I do hope people check out your post instead of just what I wrote.

I wish I had time right now to respond (I don't) but one question that does pop up for me is what are you basing your comments regarding costs per traffic and costs per clicks for various sites on? I don't think PW aggregates that for the sites in its system (does it?) so it's not the kind of thing that's easy to know.

 

Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

PW's ad search screen shows

PW's ad search screen shows each ad box's traffic rate and average bid, so it's easy to calculate CPM (cost per thousand impressions). For instance, looking at 125x125 squares and 7-day average CPM, here are some numbers that I think are representative:

  • Questionable Content: 413215 hits per day, $11.76 average bid, CPM=2.8 cents.
  • BBspot: 50763 hits per day, $4.53 average bid, CPM=8.9 cents.
  • I-Mockery.com: 15869 hits per day, $1.75 average bid, CPM=11.0 cents.
  • (so far it looks like smaller sites are more expensive; but now look what happens...)
  • Kung Foo Rodeo: 3538 hits per day, $0.10 average bid, CPM=2.8 cents.
  • Afterstrife: 2725 hits per day, $0.06 average bid, CPM=2.2 cents.
  • August Jessor: 1691 hits per day, $0.04 average bid, CPM=2.4 cents.
  • The World Explodes: 461 hits per day, $0.00 average bid, CPM=0.0 cents.

Note that those are for 125x125 ads. I think the effect is actually more pronounced for the "button" ads popular on Web comic sites - but there are very few of those available on the biggest sites. Questionable Content is actually cheaper than I thought now that I look at the numbers. I remain convinced that there's a cutoff at about the 10000-hit-per-day level, above which sites get a higher rate. I emphasize, again, that this is NOT just because they have more traffic to sell. They are actually selling the traffic at a higher price per unit. It's also not just because smaller sites are more desperate, because the sellers don't set the prices - all these prices are set by buyers in a no-reserve auction so you'd normally expect buyers to put similar prices on all sites.

Maybe buyers are willing to pay more for big sites because big sites give better click-through? Actually, small sites give better click-through.

PW doesn't publish cost-per-click figures, and it would be hard to compare different ads' click rates, but if you are a buyer, you get statistics on how your own ads perform. I chose the examples above because I've bought advertising from most of them myself, and based on my own performance, here are some of my figures. To make the comparison as meaningful as possible, these are all for the same ad, my usual "button" (which is why I didn't include sites on which I've advertised, but not with that particular ad):

  • Questionable Content: 757067 impressions, 995 clicks, 981 unique clicks, $9.18 spent. CPM=1.2 cents, CPC=0.923 cents, CPUC=0.936 cents.
  • I-Mockery: 139426 impressions, 229 clicks, 212 unique clicks, $1.23 spent. CPM=0.882 cents, CPC=0.537 cents, CPUC=0.580 cents.
  • Kung Foo Rodeo: 76905 impressions, 87 clicks, 83 unique clicks, $0.50 spent. CPM=0.65 cents, CPC=0.575 cents, CPUC=0.602 cents.

My own data is skewed because I'm looking for bargains and tend to cancel bids that turn out to be too expensive. Collecting good data is hard because you have to actually pay for it. But I think it supports my claim: people are paying much more for clicks from big sites, and that's per click, not just because the big sites have more clicks to sell. The small sites get higher click-per-impression rates, but buyers price them lower anyway.

I'm not saying big sites are charging too much - compared to other ad networks (e.g. AdWords) these are all fire-sale prices. Questionable Content sells its banner space through IndieClick at a CPM of $8 last I checked; other large Web comics typically sell their non-PW ads at between $0.50 and $2.00 CPM. So PW ads at (at most) a CPM of $0.11 seem to me to be priced much too low... but small sites are priced even lower. Look at the costs per click, too - I don't pay more than a penny, but Google will charge you five or ten.

The only way PW is ever

sohmer1's picture

The only way PW is ever going to amount to anything really significant, is when it starts bringing in sites outside the world of webcomics. Until then, people are just paying for the same recycled audience.

Exactly

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I've mentioned that several times in posts and I'd be shocked if it's not something Ryan is thinking about.

Just off the top of my head, adding tools for mass purchases, possibly even "buy it now" type buttons like Ebay does to guarantee slots for a period of time, will help make PW more friendly to larger and more traditional ad buyers.

I'm counting on Ryan to come up with something much more brilliant than that though :)

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

are you thinking of

are you thinking of something like:

acme books buys $3,000 worth of ads please spread it around over 100 sites with a traffic higher then "x" and spending now more / less then "$x" on each site?

I'd like that as long as I had the option of turning down ads for things I didn't like.

============

The Gigcast

 

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The Gigcast

My Notion of Mass Buys/Sales on PW

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Your idea could work. It's different than what I was thinking of though:

Real quick - let's say new movie 8 Legged Dude 3 wants to advertise via PW. They need a way to get a lot of ad views cumulatively done in one swoop (no way they're going to bid on every site individually) - so PW needs some way to automatically aggregate sites for such a buyer and/or allow websites to voluntarily band together to sell their ads collectively to such a buyer. I don't know exactly how this works in practice - just that there has to be a way to do it.

The other point is that while the auction mechanism is great for getting efficient pricing - 8 Legged Dude 3 may be willing to overpay to avoid worrying about the auction process and some kind of "buy it now" like option would be a good thing to offer. (This would be a price point for a period of time that would essentially turn the PW ad box over to the advertiser regardless of competing bids. The buyer gets the benefit of guaranteed placement at a set price - the seller gives up the potential of higher bids during that time period).

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

Using the tags PW already

Gordon McAlpin's picture

Using the tags PW already has would be an easy way to aggregate sites.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Testimonial

Fabricari's picture

You know, even a negative post like that one is good for Project Wonderful. We've seen PW change over the past several month based on feedback. PW is still, really in the slow growth phase, i'm guessing. Eventually it will be noticed by larger companies, and more money will pour into the system.

And I have to say, I just pulled out cash from PW after several months of only posting sketches in my blog, while the comic's on indefinit hiatus - I paid for my hosting, and that's more than I was hoping for. I still heart PW.

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Steve "Fabricari" Harrison

Success Story

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

Hey that's good to hear.

Don't get me wrong - I've always said I like PW, heck I switched over the top ads here to it this year.

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

And while I'm thinking about it...

What would his cutoff be for "big time" site? How would he measure it? Number of impressions? Average bid? Current high bid above a certain threshhold?

Huh?

So this guy's got a grasp of the Canadian economy, but doesn't have a grasp of basic supply and demand* (notable at the point he starts talking about nominal bids on small sites rising to meet nominal bids on big sites... it, uh, doesn't work that way)

Plus, why would the big sites want to advertise on small sites? If I ran PW ads on ToG, why would sites like Girl Genius and Questionable Content want to advertise on it? The size disparity alone makes it a ridiculous prospect. And wouldn't people then complain that the big sites, who would have the cash to spend on advertising, are hogging slots?

* - Probably the wrong term, but I definitely don't think the system would work like the way he's describing. I never claimed to be an economics wonk.

Multiplex is no Girl Genius

Gordon McAlpin's picture

Multiplex is no Girl Genius or QC by any stretch of the imagination, but I do like to advertise at less popular comics than mine. I think of it more like a tip jar for liking somebody's work rather than advertising, though. And I'd bet some of other, more popular cartoonists do the same, too.

Multiplex is a twice weekly humor comic about the staff of the Multiplex 10 Cinemas and the movies that play there.

Nice thought

Xaviar Xerexes's picture

I think that's a nice way to use PW (although a tip jar works for that too) but I don't think that's what the blog post I linked to had in mind.

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Xaviar Xerexes

On second thought, let's not go to Comixpedia. It is a silly place.

I run this place! Tip the piano player on the way out.

I sometimes do the same.

Jamie Robertson's picture

I sometimes do the same. In one case I advertised on a site and then linked to that comic from my own site in hopes of driving the hits up just a bit more. So far it hasn't worked, mainly because COTC is no Girl Genius either. Still, this was for a friend of mine and was a personal decision.

As for PW it does okay for me, nothing great, but my hits have increased since advertising on a few bigger sites.

Clan of the Cats

That's a good point

Ok, I admit I hadn't considered that possibility. Gives me a bit more to think about in that regard.

Yep

robert's picture

He just kicked the gift horse in the mouth and bedazzled the poor creature's hide with its own molars. I don't believe I've ever heard someone be quite so victimized by a choice they made themselves to use someone else's optional service.

 

And I love how Ryan North is advertising right underneath that rant. Classic.