The Future of AAC, morganscloud.com—Part 1

aac

Phyllis wrote about the process of life re-evaluation that we are going through. Obviously the future of this web site is entwined with that process and so we thought it would be a good idea to share our thinking about the site and its future with you, our readers:

AAC History

We started Attainable Adventure Cruising (AAC) as a simple home page to keep our friends and family up to date with our travels. Talk about the hobby that got out of hand!

AAC Today

Eleven years later:

  • Phyllis and I spend an average of about twenty-five hours a week, between us, creating content and maintaining the site. I’m not sure what Colin’s time commitment is, but it’s substantial.
  • Two years ago we spent three person-months porting the site over to the WordPress content management platform.
  • The three of us (Phyllis, Colin, and John) have created over 550 separate posts of original content. It’s important to emphasise the original content aspect. At many web sites, much, or even most, of the content is commentary on content created by others—they take in each other’s laundry.
  • About 25,000 readers visit the site each month and read some 50,000 pages. About 100,000 different people visited the site last year. Comparable readership to  many sailing magazines.
  • Since we migrated to WordPress, traffic has doubled every year.
  • An extremely smart and experienced group of readers have contributed some 4000 comments in the last two years, adding immeasurably to the value of the site.
  • The site is now owned and published by our limited liability company, Attainable Adventure Cruising Ltd.
  • We seem to have a tiger by the tail with the Adventure-40.
  • The site has developed real authority and clout in the marine industry.

AAC Finances

We believe in transparency, so here is the site’s financial situation:

  • The site has no income. The logos in the right side bar are those of companies that have helped us out with discounts or free products over the last 5 years, but the total amount of benefit is less than US$5000 and there is no ongoing revenue. Oh, and we did make just over $100 in Amazon referral fees over the last six months.
  • We finance the AAC site out of the modest revenue of The Norwegian Cruising Guide. While the AAC expenses are not huge, they are growing every year as the site expands, both in features and traffic.
  • Our expenditures on computers and camera equipment are substantial and most of our usage of that gear is in creating content for this site.
  • The AAC site contributes almost no traffic that results in sales of the Norwegian Cruising Guide.
  • We have been advised that we and the company should have liability insurance and that will add substantially to the expenses.
  • We tried a donation button about two years ago. No donations were made in the two weeks the button was displayed.
  • Since we have no interest in actually building boats, there is no clear path to making the Adventure-40 a revenue generator for AAC Limited.

Personal Aspects

Phyllis and I really enjoy creating content for the site and publishing it. We love the creative process, the focus, and the purpose it gives us. We also treasure the community that has grown up around the site and our connection to you, our readers. (I assume Colin feels the same way, since he has produced thousands of words of great content for AAC without getting paid a penny, but it would be presumptuous of me to include him in the above paragraph.)

The Future

We have lots of ideas for great new content and features for the site that we will be rolling out in the next year. And we should have more time to focus on AAC since we are nearing the end of the gargantuan task of publishing a new edition of the Norwegian Cruising Guide. Also, we are not planning any aggressive and time consuming cruises, like last year’s to the Arctic, for at least two years, further freeing us to focus on AAC.

The 800-Pound Gorilla in The Room

I’m sure most of you have figured out where this is going by now. More on that in Part 2.

Comments

If you have any thoughts or questions on any of this, please leave a comment.

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

51 comments… add one
  • Enno Jun 21, 2012, 6:06 am

    Hi
    I’m by no means an expert but I’d suggest the following:
    – Monetize your expertise. (You have got a reputation in the yachting community)
    – Advertising is no shame and I do not think it will harm your independence or user base.
    – I personally like the concept of the Norwegian cursing guide. (Reasonably priced PDF and no DRM.) So what about a “Greenland cruising guide” or en “Arctic cruising guide”?

    Btw:
    – I did overlook the donate button before I read the comment.
    – I agree with most others that pay per view is a bad option.
    – Great website with great information.

  • Daniel Aug 22, 2012, 4:29 pm

    As others have said very eloquently (Chris on June 12th in particular), monetizing the site through mandatory fees is very tricky. Besides advertising, I think there is a better way. You mentioned that you have tried the “contribute button” for a few weeks, two years ago. I wasn’t visiting your site at that time, but I believe that only trying it for a few weeks was not long enough to evaluate its success. Furthermore, people are generally laz\y and need to be reminded that a contribution would be highly appreciated.
    As a part time photographer, I regularly visit Ken Rockwell’s ite. Like yours it is free but is a great resource when it comes to photographic equipment. Ken does not share the financial aspects of his site, but I have contributed a few times becasue he reminds the readers about the lack of steady income for his site. At the end of every original content post, the following comment is added:
    “…Help me help you top

    I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

    The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and is this site’s, and thus my family’s, biggest source of support. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places always have the best prices and service, which is why I’ve used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

    If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

    If you’ve gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you’re family. It’s great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

    If you haven’t helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

    As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!….”

    Maybe if you tried the “please make a contribution button” again and made sure to repeat it like Ken Rockwell does, it might start generating income. I for sure would contribute.

    Just a thought.

    Daniel

    • John Aug 23, 2012, 9:03 am

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for the thoughts and the time you have put into thinking about this, much appreciated.

      There has been a “Donate Button” at the top of the side bars and at the bottom of each post for about two months since shortly after this post was written.

      We will be updating you, and all our readers, on the success of that initiative, and other ideas we have, in part two to this post, sometime in the fall.

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