So there I was with a screw holding my shoulder together after a stage 5/6 A/C separation and a Tendon from my wrist used to replace the ones I lost in my shoulder. The surgery wasn’t the worst I had, but I was pretty bummed knowing I was going to miss most of the season.
Even worse in the previous season the gear whoring bug burrowed into my brain and forever changed the way I think. I sat there plotting my return, with my right arm in a sling, riding my mouse fakie and geeking on different boards that I wanted to ride when I got back on the hill.
The more I read the more I realized many sites were paid by the manufacturer to write the review, or I couldn’t find any sites that could answer my questions and help me narrow down the mountain of choices.
Solution: A Personal Gear Whore Journal
When I got back on the hill I started comparing every board ridden in an Excel spreadsheet so I could figure it all out myself and have the best time on the hill possible. I started learning everything I could about how different boards ride and spending every measly penny of my paycheck on snowboard gear to learn. My quiver of gear kept growing and so did my obsession. My friends started asking me advice and that’s when I decided to start posting this information online.
The Goal: An Objective Review Site For The Consumer
The goal was to create an independent consumer focused site where people could compare and contrast the general personality of snowboard gear free from the pressure of writing paid reviews by the manufacturers or accepting advertising from them.
There were many stories filled with sighs that could be told from the series of mistakes I made over a few years but through a lot of hard work (not smart work) I finally found a format that worked. I started to dream about making a living off of my site instead of doing it in my free time despite my friends still telling me I was smoking board resin.
How To Make Money With Minimal Compromise
Then the search started to try to monetize the site without damaging the site’s integrity. I didn’t want advertising from manufacturers or get paid to write reviews, like many do. So the problem was how to stay objective but still make enough to do this as a real job. I knew I wanted a specific search at the bottom of my reviews to help people buy when the gear was right for them, because that’s what I wanted when shopping. I was trying to work with a few different affiliates to create the kind of API I wanted but it wasn’t working. One late night at about 3:00 AM I found AvantLink.com and the API example was exactly what I wanted. I applied and by Friday I was approved. I was also approved to every major store I wanted to link to. CJ had these stores too but would never approve (or deny) me which was horribly frustrating. The goal was to be store agnostic and present as many options to buy as possible.
The Dream Might Fu#*$ng Happen!
After years of committing most of my free time to the site it started getting some decent traffic and making a little extra income. The API from AvantLink was kicking the banners from CJ’s ass. Also with AvantLink it was just there to download and with CJ they wanted to charge me 5k to build one. It would have been tragically funny if AvantLink didn’t exist. That’s when I knew the Avantlink API Affiliate revenue model worked. I could voice my opinion from an objective perspective and if the readers felt gear was right it helped them find a place to buy it. It’s exactly what I wanted when I was the consumer.
The Office Space Moment
Fall of 2010 the site suddenly grew and became my full-time job. It was unreal and that first winter was magic driving around the country, demoing gear and riding with my friends. That’s when my boss said you have been missing a lot of work and I got to say “Can’t say I’ve been missing it.” I told him about the site and said you might want to fire me because I won’t be doing much work as a 1099. For the first time I was mixing my passion with work and also helping people at the same time.
AvantLink vs. AdSense
Now that this was how I made a living, I thought it might be a good idea to try and create some additional revenue that would work with my affiliate model. The first thought was Google Adwords but there were a couple of major issues:
- There’s limited control of AdSense so I wasn’t sure exactly what was showing up on my site. Content control for the reader experience was too important to mess with.
- I found that instead of giving me additional revenue AdSense cannibalized my AvantLink revenue. Even worse the payout was less with compared to the affiliate model.
These two issues were enough for me to remove AdSense from my site and stick with the affiliate model. Now that I was doing this for a living I had more time to learn about gear and make my reviews better so instead of looking for another revenue source I could just focus on my reviews. Also with the API, I have complete control on who shows up and where. Knowing the Merchants who advertise on my site also makes me comfortable that my readers won’t go to some shady store. Don’t get me wrong, the AvantLink / affiliate model is not perfect. I would love a better, easier way to bring on smaller local shops to round out the shopping experience on my site. I hope AvantLink can help pioneer this type of relationship one day. Also, I hope they expand to Europe.
AvantLink and The Good Ride
So all in all being connected to an affiliate network, like AvantLink, helped me monetize without annoying my readers with intrusive crappy adds. This allowed my passion to become my job.
Now if they could just expand to Europe…they would complete me.
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