"Online ad rates are still declining." Fortune Magazine
I thought you might like a peek behind the curtain, a little "inside baseball" so you could see how we operate.
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 professional website, the product of a team of paid professionals, and it is organized by topic. Six people work for you full time on AmazingRibs.com. It is our job. We take it seriously. It is our 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 we work very hard to be factual, accurate, detailed, informative, and innovative.
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. In 2016 we had more than 34 million pageviews.
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 and you can meet them all here. There are five fulltimers and numerous freelancers. It is worth noting that we are among only a few websites that actually pays its discussion moderators. Most other websites use volunteers. Click here to read more about these great people and the others.
Technical. On the tech side, we have a webmaster and four tech experts who keep us up and running and make the site safe and fend off Chinese attacks (yes, they have come after us).
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 development serve. We underwrite real scientific research, and we own lab testing equipment.
How we pay for it
We don't sell ANYTHING except memberships in our Pitmaster Club. This means our product reviews are completely unbiased.
On the revenue side, we are a four legged stool. Together they make a unique business model that allows us to pay people fairly and deliver great content.
1) Advertising. We're 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 use companies called "ad networks" to sell ads and we have a sales director who helps. Networks 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 produce 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. All paid for.
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) The book. "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling" was a New York Times Best Seller and on numberous Best Cookbooks of The Year lists in 2016. But we don't sell it. We send all buyers to bookstores and Amazon. Read more about it here.
4) Memberships. In July 2014 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 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. That said, members of the Pitmaster Club get numerous added benefits and the list of benefits keeps growing (not the least of which is they don't see ads on the site). If you like this site we think you will love the Pitmaster Club. Click the link to learn of the benefits. Join the fun!