Announcing WCN Free
Submitted by Joey Manley on November 12, 2006 - 09:47
I'll bet you're tired of me and my big changes.
Webcomics Nation has done pretty well. Its revenues are in the low five figures. It has reached the top 40,000 of all websites consistently (per Alexa), outperforming most other webcomics hosting sites, even those owned by big corporate concerns and hyped in, say, the New York Times. We've yet to even get close to The Service Formerly Known as Keenspace's numbers, but they've got nearly a decade's head start on us.
I am pleased with WCN.
I want to be more pleased.
I've decided that the way to be more pleased is to really go after the "Flickr and/or LiveJournal and/or Blogger of webcomics" position.
I am aware that, in terms of graphical elegance and user-friendliness, there's a long way to go to match those services (especially, say, Flickr, which is the best of those 3 for what it does).
I am aware of that.
But the first step is opening up free accounts to the world. That's the way those services built themselves up. I was going to wait until I had all the fancy-dancy new features set up. I've been working on lots of fancy-dancy new features. But then I thought to myself, every second wasted is a second wasted. Go ahead and do it.
So that's what I'm doing.
People can now get free WCN accounts. They just don't know it yet. Except that you, now, know it. There's a link at the bottom of this post if you want to just jump there and get one. Or you could keep reading for more of my thinking behind this change, and what it means.
Free WCN accounts are going to be called "WCN Free" accounts. That makes sense, right?
The differences between WCN Free accounts and traditional WCN accounts are simple. I was tempted to make it all complicated, add bandwidth limits or storage limits or number-of-series limits or number-of-uploads limits or whatever. But I decided to keep it simple. The fact is, I'm currently paying less than 1/10th the price for bandwidth (per tera) than what I was paying just three years ago -- and the bandwidth part of my monthly business expense column is about to halve again, when I move WCN to its new server setup (my actual hosting bill will go up, because I'll be paying for more, and more proactive, human technical support, but the part of that bill relating to bandwidth is being cut drastically).
Bandwidth just isn't an issue like it was a few years ago. Don't let anybody tell you it is.
Storage prices are dropping, too, but not as quickly. Neither of those things is a real business issue anymore.
I decided not to base my business on those things which are not business issues.
I thought to myself, "What are people paying for? These people who are paying? What do they really want, these people who pay?" I came up with a couple of things. Given that decent hosting and automation for webcomics can be had for free in other places (albeit with banner ads plastered on the pages), it wasn't the hosting and automation (even though it is the best hosting and automation service out there).
It seems to me, after talking with many paying WCN members, that these are the most important things that separate paid WCN accounts from standard free webcomics hosting and automation accounts, for most members:
1. WCN doesn't put ads on the pages of people paying for accounts. Many people don't want any ads on their pages. I totally do not blame them.
2. If they want, paying WCN members can put their own ads on their own pages, and keep all the money for themselves. There are other ways to make money, too -- like subscriptions, the Swapmeet, and so on. I don't think that anybody is making a million bucks or anything, but the ability to monetize your own comics is something that the free hosting and automation services do not encourage, or, I think, allow. They keep all the ad money for themselves. Right?
3. The complimentary advertising and promotion of their WCN comics across my large network of websites (like TAC, GNR, and on the Modern Tales websites). This alone is worth the ten bucks a month. This is the real key. It's more advertising than you can buy for that amount of money anywhere in the webcomics world. I know it's not true of every WCN member, but the majority of the ones who are paying for accounts, who have spoken to me on this subject in the last few, are paying more because of that one feature than anything else. For that reason, I intend to pump up this feature a bit soon -- more info later.
So, but, yeah, anyway, the free accounts don't have those 3 features. Those are the only features that the free accounts don't have. Specifically, the free accounts are exactly like the paid accounts in every way, except:
1. WCN will put ads on the pages. Probably just ads for other WCN comics. Or maybe Project Wonderful ads (which will also, mostly, be ads for other comics -- at least until that service breaks wide, which it will). Honestly, I haven't decided yet. That isn't the priority for me. It's definitely there, though, so you need to be aware.
2. WCN Free members can't put ads on their pages, and they have no access to subscription services or the Swapmeet.
3. WCN Free comics are not advertised and promoted across the Modern Tales/TAC/etc. network of websites.
Other than that, it's pretty much the same. It's exactly the same.
It's also very, very easy to upgrade from a free account to a paying one (well, okay, it *will* be easy to upgrade, once I get the upgrade script written, probably a little later today) -- your URL won't change, and you will still use the same publishing system to upload your comics. You'll just have more raw power at your disposal. So this is a chance, if nothing else, to try before you buy. If that's what you want to do.
And if you never end up wanting to buy, and just want to use the free service, well, that's cool, too.
But enough of the hype already. I want it to go slowly. Build a few new accounts at a time. Make sure the server can handle it. Also, there's still some things to do (for example, I've coded the ability to create a free account, but I haven't yet created the page to upgrade a free account to a paid one -- yeargh -- also, I don't have any ads on the free pages yet, just placeholders that say, "Top" "Bottom" "Left" and "Right" -- how's that for slickness?).
So, but, yeah. People can now create free accounts. They just can't find where to do so yet.
Oh, and those of you who received free accounts previously, due to being on Modern Tales/Girlamatic/Serializer/Graphic Smash at the time WCN launched: don't worry. Your "free accounts" are of a different category than the free accounts people can get now. Yours are the same as paid accounts. No stress on that front.
Invite a friend or two to join WCN Free, why don't you? Or maybe join yourself? It's the best webcomics hosting and automation system out there. To my knowledge, we're the only automation system that allows for multiple comics. We're the only automation service that can handle multiple-page updates. We're the only automation system with support for PSP download packages. I'm fairly certain we're the only well-known automation service that has automated RSS feeds for every comic, and tooncasts, and automated management of fan-art, and, and, and ... and, well, it's only going to get better. Try it out maybe. Up to you. We'd love to see you stop by, and maybe stay a while.