Bob, one of the issues of forums, particularly niche forums
(which do not try to speak to a very wide audience) are that 65-75%
of people are now on smart devices and constantly bombarded with shit. I had new registrations disabled for nearly a year due to constant (constant!) hacking attempts. Nowadays this software is so weak and easy to kill, its completely senseless to try and keep it safe. Remember, everything I know and do is self taught. If I need help, it costs money. A good developer sets me back $100/ hour.
A forum is in essence the slow and hard to read version of Facebook, which is a pool of 30% or more fake users, trolls and political shit, mixed with 30% hidden advertising or self promoting pricks with an outrageous opinion. Forums and blogs experience very limited user interaction on their particular websites, because the one and often only thing connecting people online is Facebook
. It takes time to respond and with the constant overload of information, people are so unfocused that most of the discussions go under as white noise. Its just too damn much!
Even seaplane focused Facebook groups (equal number of members as us!) have very very very limited participation. New Realities Online
Seriously, we have aviation companies uploading their print adverts to Facebook to get any feedback on them, at all. Still, a large number of companies consider print advertising valid. More and more are looking into Online, Influence Marketing, Social Media and Events, some are moving away from display ads entirely. Now, aviation marketing and sales is a completely different animal from any other industry and many mistakes are being made by those marketing agencies and company marketing directors. But, I trust that the market will self- correct.
As you know, I make my money with media sales, ad sales and aviation media consulting these days, including corporate Facebook management.
I just turned down a aviation publishing house (print) which is in desperate need for a media and ad sales professional
to sell print advertising in a magazine that comes out 4 times per year. The former colleague who did the job prior to them approaching me, is the former advertising sales manager for a pretty successful and well funded monthly aviation magazine here in Germany, just like I was before I moved into navigation marketing and sales. In 7 months, he sold not a SINGLE ad into this magazine, which has (drumroll) 5000 subscribers!
Like me, he departed the print publishing business and is now on his own. He's 60 and just now stepping into the online world, where I have spent the better part of my life and am still behind the curve
. It costs significant dollars and effort to bring a website that is mobile ready, displays advertising nicely, has nice forms and features and integrates halfway well with social media.
Its literally impossible to keep up with the constant algorithm changes, reach limitations and various other challenges which impact marketing professionals (my clients, actually) on a daily basis. I spend an average of half an hour per day on SEO optimization and keeping my quota of never depending on Facebook for readers. In two years we have managed to get high unique visitor counts in 55 countries and growth and expansion have only started. Not two months after offering the first advertising spots we have secured two big sponsors who don't limit us in what we can do, but want to see the site succeed.
I know that other forum owners had to do several things to stay around and both of the ones I read at all are completely censored, diversified away from their own original an genuine purpose and very very protective of their supporter and advertiser dollars. If you say the wrong thing on one of those sites, your ass is out the door before you know it, for the risk of a advertiser jumping ship. The mighty dollar rules. For two of these ballerinas every single post on another forum is already an insult. Make no mistake about it, we're all in aviation and still, forum owners actually fight each other for the risk of loosing a few dollars.
I monitor our audience here and know what number of people read, but we have to see that all of these opinions and blustery statements are really worthless when it comes to attracting new blood. Young people are still very short on attention (you have an average of 2.5 seconds on Facebook to catch the followers attention) and we are fighting against net neutrality issues, filtering, delayed reach and throttled reach, every single day.
With Seaplanemagazine.com we did
hit a nerve. People DO want the up to date information. Companies want to see their news out in front of readers in less than 3 months and they certainly work with people like me (despite my alleged "past with the SPA") because they realize that these cronies are stuck in 1980 an bogged down by politics, greed and lust for power and my team and effort is genuine. Of course there are people out there who look down on us with a sarcastic smile and wonder how long we can keep it open, but I actually enjoy having raised this site to what it has become. I keep Seaplaneforum.com open because it is basically what allowed me to learn what I make my living with today. Its the mother-ship to Seaplanemagazine.com.
Chris and I had to make some tough decisions along the way and one of them was to diversify
. The U.S. & Canadian companies do not have the meat on the bones to keep a site like this filled with valid and relevant information, nor can they keep us properly funded. The reader is never ever
going to pay a single dime for anything they read on our page. Where does a 45 year old go to learn about seaplane flying? Google! Heck, some float manufacturers wouldn't respond to an email from us if we ordered a fleet of floats in our initial email.
There are TONS and TONS of things happening all over this planet, in Europe the water flying world is entering a renaissance and comeback period we haven't seen since World War II and there are movements and contacts behind the front page of Seaplanemagazine.com
that would make peoples ears ring. It takes time to develop these contacts and it takes time for word to spread if you do everything on a shoestring budget. Contrary to your favorite friends in FL, we don't have a $45000 travel budget and writing a big 0 into a clumped tax return while shoveling foundation millions around isn't an option. Neither can we operate on a net advertising loss, like the SPA is doing.
We consciously decided NOT to offer advertising until the first two years had passed. Our readers and guest editors have more influence on the course of Seaplanemagazine.com than anyone else. The 900+ completely ORGANIC likes
on Facebook are not purchased or the result of political shoulder rubbing, that is our readers spreading the word
. We are and remain open for guest editorials (even those saying that Jason Baker is the declared enemy of the state) but also receive more and more news. I promise, if anyone wants to submit a guest editorial, saying that our website is shit and should be shut down instantly, I will personally put them on their little soapbox to sing their sad song. I've got nothing to hide and still sleep like a baby.
In short: The positive feedback we get from our readers and now our first sponsors FAR exceeds the negative voices, fear and paranoia from the Floridians. You really have to measure your success by how many of the big turf owners and players out there try to make you disappear and ignore you.
Steven McCaughey could send me a email tomorrow morning and write: "Jason Baker, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met and I regret the day I met you! - but here is a guest editorial for your shitty website and for your idiot readers! They should all join the SPA today!" I would bring the article. After all, I am able to look beyond the ego and immature behavior of people and keep the big picture in mind. I am just the fucking messenger, no more and no less and how popular or unpopular I am with a bunch of backwards thinking cowboys is completely irrelevant to me.
We are and have always been stronger if we communicated and worked hand in hand.
Lets not make peoples lack of intellect and ability to do the same be your, my or this forums fault. We tried. It didn't work.
Our way forward is to work and expand on ideas like that from Klaus (even if we think it won't work) and throw the bone out there for people to think. How about a mechanic & pilot BBQ fest at your airport. Are enough people sticking around after flying to sit for a few minutes, or are we now all so damn special that we have to get out of the airplane, walk by 12 other pilots who all stare into their F'ing cellphone and then jump into our cars to drive off. Look around. We have children who panic and go into severe shock when you say hello to them. If its not on the screen, its not real.
Lets do a test: Get five pilots and five mechanics together for a meet and greet on a Sunday after their flights. Put them all on the table and let them "talk". The second one of them pulls out his cellphone ask him/ her to explain why that damn Facebook notification was so important that he/ she couldn't wait to see it. Then ask again why aviation is dying a slow and painful death. Everything under the sun is more important than sitting around and just... chatting. That's where aviation started. People sitting around in circles, wondering if there was a damn way to fly. Technology and Facebook will not help us, it will hurt us. Dependency and learned helplessness are terrible things.
Its what we do here. We get together (the few of us who are left) and chat.