How AmazingRibs.com Works And Why We Need Your Help
"Online ad rates are still declining." Fortune Magazine
Since we are asking for your financial support through the Pitmaster Club, I thought you might like a peek behind the curtain, a little "inside baseball", so you could see how we operate and how we support the site. A little transparency to help you make up your mind.
First of all, this is not a blog. A blog tends to be the work of one person, part time, really a hobby, and it is usually arranged by date, like a diary. This is a serious website, the product of a team of paid professionals, and it is organized by topic. Founded in 2005, there are now more than 1,000 pages on AmazingRibs.com at the time of this writing, some of them almost book length. And it is very popular. It ranks among the top 25 most popular food websites in the US.
It is different from a lot of other websites. We do not have a newspaper or magazine or TV network behind us. We do not exist to augment another business. This is our only business.
I own AmazingRibs.com and I work for you full time. It is my job. I take it seriously. It is my mission to make you a better cook and have your family and friends worship you. If you spend any time on this site you can see that I work very hard to be factual, accurate, detailed, informative, and innovative.
You would be shocked if you knew how much this enterprise costs to run. Do the math in your head:
Content. I have a team of people smarter than me who help. Max Good works full time kicking the tires on grills and smokers for our equipment reviews section. Ryan Udvett is a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and he works full time helping me develop and test recipes. Dr. Greg Blonder is a physicist and food scientist who consults with us and does original research that we commission. Dr. Tony Mata is a meat scientist who answers questions, checks facts, and also does research. Bill McGrath is an electrical engineer who tests thermometers. Sarahlynn Pablo is a researcher and fact checker. Lisa Lynott does all the illustrations. In addition, we have four superb moderators, David Parrish, Jerod Broussard, Aaron Lyons, and Candy Sue Weaver who answer questions and solve reader problems. We try not to leave any brisket behind.
Technical. On the tech side, Jim Maivald is our webmaster and he directs a number of experts who keep us up and running and make the site safe and fend off Chinese attacks (yes, they have come after us). Although he is a freelancer, he works for us most of the time. Paul Huntsberger is an amazing programmer, server whiz, database expert, and process guru. Kris Coppieters is another programmer whose speed and agility rival anybody in the NBA. They both put in a lot of time, and there are about four other specialists who pitch in when needed.
Business. On the business side, Jonas Halpren and Andrew Miller help with advertising and strategic guidance, reeling me in often. I have a great accountant and an attorney who speaks so I can understand him.
All these people are paid, even the moderators (most websites rely on volunteers). Click here to read more about them and the others.
Other expenses. We spend tens of thousands every year on grills, smokers, thermometers, tools, toys, books, food, and software. We have a big server, a backup server, and a lot of our data resides on servers distributed around the world so that if one goes down, there is redundancy. We underwrite real scientific research, and we own lab testing equipment.
How we pay for it
On the revenue side, we are a three legged stool, and all three legs keep us stable. They make a unique business model that allows us to pay people fairly and deliver great content.
(1) Advertising. I'm old school. I actually went to journalism school and came up in an era when there was a wall between advertising and editorial. I do not like concealing links to ads in articles, and I don't even like placing ads within articles. So I confine all ads to the top and side of the page so they are not intrusive. If you look on the right side, a lot of what appears to be ads are really my recommendations of products I love that I know can help you become a better cook. Click on them and they take you to an article on this site, not to a manufacturer. Also, some of them are for charitable causes.
Neither do I sell ads. I don't even talk to the advertisers. I use companies called "ad networks" to sell ads. They typically take about 40% right off the top. Lately ad rates have been declining rapidly. Websites and blogs who depend on ads are hurting.
One more important thing: We do not accept sponsored content. Sponsored content is the way many websites earn money. A sponsor, let's say Big Grill Manufacturer, pays the site to write an article about them. Or perhaps to write about an event they sponsored. Or sometimes they have their own writers write an article on, say, cooking a steak, and the photos are all of their grills and the article drops their name prominently. Here's an example: Click the link to see what happens when you search for Grilled Ribeye with Knob Creek Bourbon BBQ Sauce. This stuff is bread and butter for sites like GrillingWithRich.
(2) Affiliations. A big part of this site is our unbiased equipment and product reviews. We love playing with toys and we have no problem calling them the way we see them. Some companies, most notably Amazon, pay a finder's fee if a reader clicks a link on AmazingRibs.com and buys a product from Amazon. When we find something we like, chances are it is on Amazon or one of the other sites we are affiliated with, so we link to them. These finders fees are our largest source of income. You may have seen us say the following. "If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link http://tinyurl.com/amazingribs and use it every time you go to Amazon. It works on everything from grills to diapers, Amazon never tells us what you bought, it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And before you buy, click our links. If the price is competitive, use our link. It helps a lot. If the local hardware store is cheaper, then don't waste money on our links."
(3) Memberships. In July 2014, due to the costs of our rapid growth and declining ad rates, not to mention some ambitious new plans, we launched the Pitmaster Club, a membership program. I call it "friends with benefits". We toyed with setting up a "paywall" like Cook's Illustrated. You must pay to get access to their pages. But they have several magazines and TV shows to support them. We don't. And we didn't want to lock away our helpful info where you have to pay to see it. We all get huge pleasure from the many comments we get telling us how much we have improved your lives. Helping you eat better really is our mission.
Another option would be to ask for donations like PBS. I liked that idea, but I wanted to give you more than a totebag or coffee mug. So I set up a few special features for people who love the site and want to support it. Members of the Pitmaster Club get a free temperature guide magnet, access to a members only forum called The Pit, monthly videocasts with top pitmasters, access to past videocast archives, they get their name thrown in the hat for monthly Gold Medal Giveaways of gifts worth up to $1,500, and 5% of the membership fee goes to support Operation Barbecue Relief, a 501(c)3 charity that brings mobile kitchens to disasters and feeds first responders and survivors great barbecue. Hence the name friends with benefits".
If you love this site and want to support us while we support you, please click here to read more and to join the Pitmaster Club.
This page was revised 7/30/2014
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