I thought you might like a peek behind the curtain, a little "inside baseball" so you could see who we are and how we operate.
First of all, let's get this straight: This is not a blog. A blog is arranged by date, like a diary, and most of them are the work of one person, part time, really a hobby. This is a professional website, organized by topic, the product of a team of paid professionals. It is our job and it is a labor of love. 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 3,000 pages on AmazingRibs.com at the time of this writing, equivalent to more than a dozen books! And it is very popular. It is by far the largest barbecue and grilling website in the world. By far. It ranks among the top 25 most popular food websites in the US. We have almost 1 million visitors a month. In addition we have hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. We post a daily cooking tip on Twitter and Facebook, and send out notices of new content in our free email newsletter, Smoke Signals. No spam. AmazingRibs.com, has taught more people than anyone in history about the science of barbecue, barbecue history and culture, food safety, shared foolproof tested recipes, and steered them to the best tools.
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. 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 meet our team of great people.
Technical. On the tech side, we have a webmaster and two tech experts who keep us up and running and make the site safe and fend off Chinese attacks (yes, they have come after us). All our software is customized from the free part of the website to the Pitmaster Club. Nothing off the shelf.
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 server. We underwrite real scientific research (we were the first to identify the cause of the dreaded BBQ "stall"). We have a full time grill and smoker tester, Max Good, who maintains a searchable database with more than 500 cookers rated and reviewed. We have an electrical engineer, Bill McGrath, with special lab testing equipment who tests digital thermometers and publishes his ratings in a searchable database of more than 150. Clint Cantwell, winner of the Travel Channel's "American Grilled" nationwide cooking competition series, tests accessories, tools, and toys for us.
How we pay for it
We don't sell ANYTHING except memberships in our Pitmaster Club. We don't accept junkets. We don't accept paid articles. We have a rigid wall between editorial and avertising, a rarity nowadays. This means our product reviews are completely unbiased.
We don't have a big corporation backing us. No magazine, no TV network. We are self-sustaining. 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) Memberships. In July 2014 we launched the Pitmaster Club, a membership program. At the time this was a novel concept. It is the future of the internet. I call it "friends with benefits". We toyed with setting up a "paywall" like Cook's Illustrated 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). Members love it and that's why we enjoy an unheard of renewal rate of 83%. If you like this site we think you will love the Pitmaster Club. Click the link to learn of the benefits. Join the fun! Take our offer of 30 day free trial. We won't ask for your credit card. Just dive in.
2) 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 placing ads in articles so I confine all ads to the top, sides, and bottom of the page so they are not intrusive. If you look on the right side on the desktop version of the site, 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.
3) 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, so we link to them. 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."
4) Books. "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling" was a New York Times Best Seller and was called "One of the 100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living magazine, right up there with Julia, Jacques, et al. But we don't sell it. We send all buyers to bookstores and Amazon. Read more about it here.
We're here to help
Our team watches the comments on the bottom of every page and if you have a question, please ask. We're here to help!