Why Project Wonderful both Fascinates me and Depresses me.

My friend Brushmen recently sent me to check out a somewhat new-ish site called Project Wonderful. (Note- if you have adblock on, the site will require you to make an exception to see it properly.)  In simplest terms, it’s an online auction house where people can bid to advertise on websites that have ad content supplied by Project Wonderful. One of the neater aspects of the site (besides that you can bit $0 and win, getting free advertising if nobody else wants the space at that moment) is that as you look at the different websites available to advertise on you get to see both their statistics for the last month and how much people are paying to advertise on that site.

This is especially interesting because the sites are grouped by wide categories (as well as tags) and you can literally use it to see what is working and what isn’t working online in different categories. For example, Webcomics can make a lot of money! The more popular webcomics are getting hits in the hundreds of thousands, and the top webcomics have hits in the millions. This translates to respectable cash ($50+ a day in most cases, up to $100+ a day.) from single ads on their sites and creates a simple formula hits=money. And on Project Wonderful, the money earned is for time that space is rented to advertisers, not by the click, so they really do get that money or more a day.

It goes without saying that most of the top webcomics have a sexual element or are about sex, it sells after all. (Although oddly enough, the top Webcomic on Project Wonderful, MS Paint Adventures, is totally devoid of sex in the extreme.) Also, naturally, the vast majority of webcomics are getting less than a dollar a day at best in advertising because of their low hit numbers.

After webcomics, I decided to check out the writing/publishing options.

It turns out the top Writing/Publishing sites (mostly sites which tend to host stories by various people) on PW get hits in the tens of thousands, and tend to make a few dollars a day. It quickly drops to the thousands of hits, and a few cents a day. Not enough to make a living, but definitely enough to cover web costs. Of course these aren’t all sites (most are probably using Google Adsense instead) and there are likely ones out there doing much better, but it’s still a reasonable sample to work from.

But if you want to see low numbers, then go into the Podcasting section! (This is where it gets depressing…)

The top podcast site on Project Wonderful gets just a few thousand hits a day (compared with millions for the top webcomic) and gets just a few cents in advertising.

It seems podcast sites (like KFAT) tend to suck it the hits department, probably because most of their content tends to be accessed without going to the site. (Podcatchers and iTunes mostly.) After seeing how other sites did, I checked KFAT’s records (I use Google Analytics, have for years.) and discovered that my hit rate is actually pretty steady. (30-40 uniques a day) And that has only slightly gone down in the past year, despite the lack of new content for Audio Drama.

What’s sad is, that I still get 6-7000 downloads a month (and was in the tens of thousands at one point). If those were actual site visits (like a webcomic) then I’d be rolling in advertising money right now. Twin Stars alone would have been profitable, and likely actually made enough to justify continuing it. But the disconnect between the podcast content and the site completely kills any chance of making it profitable. 🙁

Sadly, I think this is what will keep podcasts from really evolving into viable money-making projects on the internet. At best they can bring in enough money to cover web costs, plus a little extra, especially if they do in-show advertising. This keeps them as a hobby, and makes it hard to take them far beyond that, while Webcomics can quickly become money-making machines if they catch on.

Who said comics are dead? (Although that’s not a depressing thought at all!)

Rob