Inside Dimensions Online...
Doing a large website can be a very time consuming thing... Here are some of the issues we're currently faced with.
Unlike the printed magazine that appears every two months, the website needs to be updated constantly in order for people to come back. Some people complain that we're not updating the site quickly enough. The problem is that Dimensions Online is basically an "additive" site, i.e. we keep on adding features but rarely remove anything, so it's sometimes difficult for a visitor to see that we've spent many hours updating this and that. Instead of presenting visitors with this huge archive of size-related stuff, should we perhaps just offer a few entirely new pages every week or so, and hide the rest?
The sys admin finally gave us unrestricted access to cgi-bin. So we installed all sorts of nifty cgi scripts (chat, boards, randomizer, search engines, etc.). Turns out that those scripts can really bog down even a big server. Between Dani's BBWQT site (which we're hosting) and Dimensions Online, we hogged almost 75% of the server last week. The sys admin wasn't happy and we had to cut back on some of the scripts. Sorry about that.
The $64,000 question is still how websites can be profitable. Dani's trying commercial banners but I'm not sure yet if the revenue is worth the hassle of having all those annoying banners both for you and me. We've been trying to make the site self-sustaining by selling high quality scans of images from the Dimensions photo archives. Problem is that FV fees are high, that not everybody has (or wants) a FV account, and that sales don't come close to paying for the site.
Should we operate the site on a subscription basis? I'd really hate to do that because half of the fun of the web is to share information with everyone who's interested (the flipside is that people expect to get everything on the web for nothing, a proposition that just can't work in the long run). Our plan was to do Dimensions Online basically to get people interested in subscribing to our incredibly wonderful Dimensions Magazine. Everyone'd be happy: We'd have more subscribers, and thus revenue, to do both the mag and the website. Readers would be happy because we not only offer the magazine but also the website. Unfortunately, we seem to be doing such a nice job with the site that most online visitors don't subscribe to the magazine as well. I am convinced that the future of publishing is electronic. The potential is totally awesome, but somehow we've got to find a way to make it pay the bills.
Our long range plan is still to move all our operations on our own Apple Network Server 500 and make it sort of a "size acceptance central". We upgraded the machine to 64MB of RAM and 5GB of disk. We also installed the Apache webserver and got it to run. Unfortunately, my UNIX skills are a bit rusty and I still haven't figured out how to install the gcc C compiler which I need to install Pearl 5 which I need to run scripts. Sigh.
One really interesting thing is that people seem to be much more tolerant of "shocking" stuff on the web than in the magazine. I'm not sure why that is.
Speaking of tolerant, I just found out that Dimensions is no longer sold in Barnes and Noble bookstores. Seems they found a tiny bit of nipple showing in one of our issues. Pow, we're gone. By that standard, half the magazines they sell should be banned. They probably consider fat women showing off their bodies as shocking and obscene. Smells of discrimination to me.
Hey, we have two terrific new videos, one of Cindy and one of Zsalynn, our models in the current issue. One of my goals is to put short video clips of all of our Dimensions Wide Angle Video Pictorials on the site so that folks can see which ones they want to buy.
Well, back to work...