The cost of running Slugger…

Here’s some interesting figures from the site’s logs. So far we’ve shipped 41.15 Gig of bandwidth in August. That compares with: 89.27 Gig for July; 76.53 Gig in June; and 78.23 Gig in May. Some of that is reflected in the lengthening threads combined with daily visits of around 6,000 during weekdays (which is pretty high compared to previous summers). The deal we have at the moment means that almost £100 goes out of my account each month, just to keep this forum open. I guess we could close the comments zone, and downgrade the server, but… most of the time, that’s where a lot of the valuable conversation arises from…

Our advertisers certainly go some way to covering costs, but if you have had value out of Slugger (and if you are in the local newspaper business, you almost certainly have), please hit the donation button and send us a contribution (however large or small)!

  • al

    http://www.dream-hosting.co.uk/ultimate.php

    Use these guys myself. Despite the .co.uk the servers are actually in USA hence the rather cheap pricing.

  • Ahem

    People will think I’m aiming for, and indeed striking, a sour note, but I’m not, I’m just being boringly resident in the real world. Why should anyone pay for Slugger? If any form of price was attached to Slugger, it’s market worth would instantly be revealed. Which is to say, next to no one would pay anything for access. This is hardly an indictment of Slugger, rather it’s a brutal enough fact of life out there on the web: people will look, and comment, of course, for free, but unless there’s truly premium content, they simply won’t pay for any website. Which brings us back to whether those of us who look, and of course comment, but don’t actually produce or manage Slugger are ‘freeloaders’. Obviously we’re not, for none of us are forcing Slugger to appear. Rather those who produce Slugger do so for their own personal reasons, which are none of our concern really. They could be doing it out of the sheerest altruism, or they could be doing it for “personal brand enhancement”, or they could be doing it because they like appearing in other, paid-for bits of the media, or they could be doing it because they’re madder than a box of snakes. But whyever they’re doing it, it’s surely their affair, and, I’d suggest, their lookout: you want to produce Slugger, hoorah, but you pay for it. The rest of us hardly need to feel too guilty about not paying for it.

    This message was brought to you on behalf of the Thatcherite International: La revolución continúa!

  • al

    In principle I agree Ahem.

    I guess even a dozen people who read here often chucking just a few quid at Mick would cover a lot of the cost.

    I’m not entirely sure why it’s costing the guts of £100/month to send about 80GB of traffic. That’s called “overcharged”. As I pointed out in my first post there are companies out there who offer 100GB transfer for well under £10 a month, let alone £100!

  • Why would anyone wish to pay for a site which allows a Sinn Fein mouthpiece like Christopher DOnnelly to defame til his heart’s content?

  • Section 31

    Mick,

    Can help noticing that some of the huge threads involved the Irish Language and the proposed stadium.

    Surely if you simply put an end to discussion on both of these issues you would halve your costs?

    Does any benefit come from debating either issue giving the impossibilty of middle ground?

  • Ahem,

    Good point, decently made. I’ll try to answer some of your points further down.

    al,

    Well, we had to beef up the server because at certain times (polling day), but I am open to suggestions. One private emailer reckons there are design improvements we can make that would cut down the bandwidth transfer.

    But it’s the rate at which people refresh pages waiting for the next comment that does it. Can’t be helped, and I don’t mind in the least when the comments are focused and robust. But you can see why the flagrant breaches of protocol can get irritating.

    As for paying for the site, well for the most part, myself and the advertisers do that. It is free, and will remain free so long as I’m in a position to keep paying the bills. The point is that it does cost, even though some of our less scrupulous guests seem to think it’s absolutely free.

    In the end, I’ve simply asked people to work out what is worth to them and stick something in the pot, according to what they think it is worth to them. That’s a personal thing. For some it’s a passing amusement, worth no more than a fifty second belly laugh from a YouTube video. For others, well that’s not for me to say.

    ziz/leviticus/Jesus Christ/watcher:

    Glasshouse and stones come to mind!

  • Mick Fealty

    Section 31,

    I might cut bandwidth costs, but at the expense of making myself a live-in nanny to commenters who ought to be able to cut a more direct trail through the arguments on their own.

    Besides, I do think there are incremental changes wrought in some of these exchanges. Sport certainly seems to give rise to some of the most inveterate fantacists, like the guy who tried to ‘throw his voice’ from every side of Windsor Park in other to falsely tarnish the reputation of NI fans.

    But, even here, I think we grind onwards however slowly…

  • fuiseog

    Mick,

    Why not investigate a mobile SMS and short code system http://www.txtlocal.com/short-code.php
    that allows you pay by txt say at a pound a month to comment on slugger, there are numerous options and then people can decide if they want to particpate by commenting that they reasonably must pay for the option.

    Fuiseog

  • Mick Fealty

    Interesting… very interesting… what say others?

  • Ahem

    You’ll certainly solve your bandwidth problems if you do down that route . . .

  • Mick Fealty

    Same thought occurred… 😉

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  • Dewi

    Brilliant Dr.

    I’ll give when I can Mick as it’s certainly worth it. One suggestion. I was a Town Councillor for 4 years and we had some money available to donate to good causes. I don’t know the set up overthere but a letter to your equivalent bodies (Parish Councils maybe) could be worth a try.

  • Mick, you could also try, or integrate into Slugger a vBulletin forum https://www.vbulletin.com which looks like it only costs @£48 per year.

  • Pounder

    There are free BBS’s providers out there. make it the site of bloggers comments and leave slugger itself for the main stories.

    Also I have had severe reservations about Paypal, can I send a cheque instead?

  • No problem pounder… you’ll find the address on the contacts link on the top left…

    Dr:

    Nice one! http://tinyurl.com/yrs7nx

  • Dewi

    Mick:

    A bit of a more profound post:

    Slugger is a product and it’s popular therefore it should be making money.

    I get annoyed at Pete’s Viking spaceships but recognise the time and effort spent on everything – time and effort that is reflected in the amount of hits (business).

    What is missing I suppose is the business model of how to create revenue.

    Have to ask the question “who likes the site and who would pay for it ?”

    How about the political parties ? Would Sinn Fein and DUP contribute ?

    Dunno but this is absolutely the industry that creates competitive advantage – nowt like it anywhere else.

  • Rory

    Ahem makes a cogent point of the need for sites to stand or fall on their “merits” in this rapacious, dog-eat-dog web world.

    But these “merits” are then judged solely on their ability to stand commercially and so then are judged through that prism of “knowing the cost of everything but the value of nothing”.

    I am, as I trust fellow visitors to Slugger are, well aware of its value to me. Ashamedly, I must admit, I blinkered myself to the cost.

    It may be true that the main contributors do so for less than altruistic reasons – ego, the hope of being picked up, insomnia perhaps – but that’s by the by. I have my reasons for visiting and contributing from time to time and they are not always so pure either and I am a mass a contradictions, like most humans I know, trying to make sense out of a confusing world. My time on Slugger doesn’t necessarily help to dispel that confusion and indeed often adds to it, but it does at least provide the consolation that I am trying and that there are others out there also trying.

    The funny thing is that if Slugger were obliged to shut up shop I should miss it. But funnily, of the main contributors, I should probably most miss not the ones like Chris Donnelly with whom I share a broad political perspective, but those whose viewpoint I rarely share – Pete Baker, Fair Deal, Michael Shilliday. I mean where the hell is the pleasure in trading ideas with an intellectual and cultural clone who thinks just as you do? And what progress in thought through the challenge of one’s own ideas and preconceptions could possibly develop?

    The older I get and the more I reminisce I realise that much as I dearly miss my absent friends I often miss my old enemies even more and find a warm blessing of goodwill arises in my heart for them.

    Anyway, a firm pledge for a modest monthly donation henceforth which I shall deduct from the usual tip to Mlles. Fifi and Trixibelle.

  • Dewi

    Rory – apologise to accountants and learn deconstructionism !

  • merrie

    I have said before that Slugger is special because it allows almost equal access to so many contributors who respond to the threads. And, as Rory said, it has enabled people from different viewpoints regarding NI to share and disagree (sometimes very heatedly). And turn a topic into an irrelevant rant (but sometimes quite interesting). And also, occasionally, bore…

    Mick, how has the existence of the Slugger website benefited you? Has it enabled you to diversify into other work for example at QUB?

  • Pete Baker

    Rory

    There are very few real enemies to be found in an attempt to try to make sense out of a confusing world.

    But those real enemies will always be certain of their truth.

    Dewi

    My “Viking spaceships” annoy you?!! *rolls eyes*

  • Turgon

    Mick,

    I have very limited understanding of all this tech stuff. Can I ask a couple of really stupid questions

    Why does refreshing pages cost more?

    Those strange messages which appear advertising Viagra etc. what are they?

    I am aware this makes me look very thick (probably true), and I am sorry to waste money (albeit not much) by asking but this seemed the time to do so.

  • snakebrain

    I wonder why more sites don’t use text payments, especially since it makes it easy to pay small amounts without having to divulge credit card info. Those that do are amongst my favourites. A quid a month or so each would go a long way towards paying for bandwidth. The combination of convenience/security is hard to beat.

    That said, it could be argued that those who run the site have a nice little number to pop on their C.V. as well as all the other benefits of exposure, professional reputation, etc.

    Re: the refreshing of pages to see updated comments. I know Facebook and a host of other sites can update your inbox and so on without refreshing the page. Chat with your web designers maybe?

    I’d pay a quid a month, though I increasingly can’t be bothered to comment amidst the parasites who chip in with bullshit in every thread. Still worth it for a good read.

    Keep Pete on the stars and ships. Definitely a refreshing alternative to bitter wrangling over the definition of truth etc. And can we see more literature Pete?

  • Dewi

    Sorry Pete – I try to read everything but find the space stuff hard – I’ll try and learn honest.

  • Pete Baker

    I’ll keep throwing them into the mix, snakebrain, along with other issues that catch my eye.

    No apology necessary, Dewi. As long as you meant confused rather than annoyed. ;op

  • Sean

    Well since I am not allowed to troll and don’t have a pay pal and am cranky about most things I will do my bit by trying to remember not to hit the refresh button

    By the way Mick is multiple visits a day to your benefit to you or not? To witt does it increase your ad revenue or does it just cost you more for band width

  • Sean

    Snakebrain
    I wonder why more sites don’t use text payments, especially since it makes it easy to pay small amounts without having to divulge credit card info. Those that do are amongst my favourites. A quid a month or so each would go a long way towards paying for bandwidth. The combination of convenience/security is hard to beat

    Would this not tie Mick into a fee for services relationship that would require him to follow a very strict consumer code of conduct and therefore tie him up in red tape if trolls(like me) had him called before some kind of trade board(not me, I think the government should keep its nose out for the most part, just thinking of certain type of people who revel in this stuff)

  • Mick

    In the past, I would have thought that the pay-to-read or pay-to-comment model might have been the best option for Slugger, but now I’m not so sure. If you started to charge, I’d reckon readership/commentary would drop significantly. The way to make money from Slugger is through advertising.

    You have an enviable amount of traffic coming through everyday, and if only 1% of them clicked on well-placed, relevant ads, you would go a long way towards making a profit, never mind just covering your costs. Have you ever sought advice on this? I’d reckon if you went to an advertising agency and showed them your visitor stats, they would jump at the chance to sell space on your site.

    The other thing to consider is design. I started reading Slugger about four years ago, and in that time I can’t remember a significant redesign of the site. It’s all about striking a balance between clear presentation of content and delivering targeted advertising. Again, some time and money spent on a professional design company would repay itself in a very short space of time.

    Finally, if you are paying £100/month for 70-80GB of bandwidth, you’re not getting value for money. I host my sites on Siteground in New York, and they offer 500GB webspace and 5 terabytes of bandwidth for six bucks a month.

  • Harry Flashman

    Aw fer heaven’s sake throw a tener in the hat folks, you know you couldn’t live without this place.

  • USA

    Hi Mick,
    Here in the States NPR and PBS (National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service) are ad free public information services. Kind of like your BBC 2.
    Anyway, they run “on air” fundraisers to generate revenue to produce their high quality shows. I would suggest you try the same, more frequent requests for donations, a link to a youtube ad perhaps. Like PBS and NPR I don’t give money everytime but I give in January along with my charitable contributions. This is a very successful model for these national organisations. You should run it in conjunction with your current advertising and google ads. Also a site redesign with revenue generation as an identified goal may be something you could consider. Given the weakness of the dollar against the British pound I would recommend Panoptic Design.
    I will get a “small” check in the mail to you.

  • USA

    Why the feck do my hyperlinks never work?

  • Donnacha

    Is there a bank account we can sling a few bob into? Or would the text-payment work for us poor eejits overseas? I’m more than happy to slip you a lazy tenner every so often to repay some of the enjoyment (and frustration) I receive from Slugger, but don’t like to divulge CC details over the net.

  • The Dubliner

    To help out, I’m prepared to sell my body to Slugger readers (female only, please) for a modest fee, with half of it being donated to Mick.

  • nmc

    I think that it’s equally understandable for Slugger to make money as it is for it to be free. There are straightforward benefits to both, on one hand Mick’s pocket on the other there is a forum where anyone can have a voice, (within the rules set).

    If making Slugger even marginally profitable were to be the objective I would recommend the idea of charging by text if possible. Aside from anything this would be a small (and simple to make) payment that even the teenage commentors can handle. Another benefit would be those people that drop by who want to comment for a day or two, then on they go to another forum. These people are unlikely to wade through pages of credit card details etc, but a simple text to get their say might appeal more.

    Turgon,

    every time you refresh you download the info on the page, or put another way Slugger uploads it to your PC. If loads of people refresh the same page over and over, the Slugger’s server has to upload it to all those machines. It soon adds up.

    As for the ads, that’s a computer that posts on forum’s for profit. It’s like advertising for the scum of the earth.

  • Thanks for this guys. It is much appreciated. I’m offline today, going to a family wedding, as it happens, but I’d like to pick up on some of the lines raised here (The Dub, rather have your brain than half your body!)

    Thanks for the leads for other providers. I’m afraid I’ve got a bit burnt on price before, since at times we get big surges and we end up off line for days, and all manner of worries about whether we can actually get Slugger back or not.

    There have been some outtages with these guys, but mostly they have ridden the crises with some grace. I’m working with a developer in Dublin who may well smooth out some of the design problems.

    Perhaps a sponsor might be the way forward?

    Slugger has been good for me, certainly, though I’ve probably not been sharp enough in exploiting the ‘fame’ commercially. The QUB job (entirely honorary guys, just like Slugger! ;-)) was probably as much for my research work as for what we were doing with Slugger, but I’m sure it had an important effect.

    Thanks for the good natured response, and for not pulling your punches!

  • Prince Eoghan

    As I am probably one of those annoying bastards that you refer to who are always wasting your bandwith Mick. I feel that I am duty bound to put forward an idea. All who wish to take part simply organise a standing order for say a pound(more if you wish) a month. Not many of us would miss a pound a month but we would miss slugger.

    Slugger to me is part great entertainment, part educational tool. When the cut’n’thrust is allowed to run it’s course it is enthralling and often hilarious. Sure one or two get on my tits, but it is the running to teacher to get other posters in trouble that annoys me the most.

    Anyway for what it is worth I am happy to do my own wee bit, hope that others will join in if that is acceptable to yirsel mick.

  • al

    I may be wrong Mick, but I’d have thought a lot of the traffic to the site is via index.php. Simply cutting the number of stories displayed on the first page to say 5 could cut out a lot of text from older stories that tend to be dead after a couple of days hanging around at the bottom.

    Another thing might be, during commenting, to just have the logo at the top, the story, and comments…dispensing with all the garnish on the left and right sides.

    Again they might just be trivial things that only save a few kilobytes per view but it could add up after a while.

    Personally I’ve always prefered a forum based system for discussions rather than blogs. No idea how the bandwidth compares…it might turn out more expensive to run the site in a forum based software rather than a blog based one

  • Animus

    People who are considering sending cheques: just use PayPal. Mick doesn’t lose money on commission changing the currency and your details are safe. Donnacha – giving credit card details over something like PayPal is probably safer than giving your debit/credit card details by phone.

    I don’t like the idea of charging by text – I use a work phone and I don’t think work would like paying for me to comment on blogs when I should be working as it is.

    I will definitely throw in a tenner myself, I often mean to, but usually forget. I certainly don’t think there’s any harm in reminding us to donate. Talk may be cheap, but the cost of maintaining a website like this certainly isn’t. I know I wouldn’t visit as often if I didn’t get to throw my two cents in.

  • mook

    On the home page and subsequent index pages, if each thread had a link to its last page of comments, as well as the first, it would save both time and bandwidth by removing the need to always open the first page of threads to get to last.

    I agree that at least some of the content in the left and right hand columns is probably unnecessary to have on every page, again wasting bandwidth.

  • joeCanuck

    Mick
    There are obviously a lot of good suggestions here to follow up on.
    Personally, I don’t understand the texting bit, but presumably the young’uns do. I wouldn’t be happy to give money to a third party though.
    To take up on a couple of points made:
    Your reminders to throw a few quid into the jar are probably too infrequent. Do it every 2 or 3 months.
    I also like PE’s idea of a standing order. Is it possible to do that with Paypal?

  • al

    Another possibility is to have the actual news stories and comments hosted in one place with necessary bandwidth and then have the other “pruck” like the header logo and stuff down the sides added as “includes” hosted in another place. If you can get hosting for £10/month as i’ve suggested in earlier posts you can do it pretty cheaply and end the bandwidth issue once and for all.

    Anyway if I remember later on when i’m paying another bill with paypal i’ll chuck a few quid over as I enjoy reading the site 😀

  • hi Mick,
    on another thread John East Belfast complained that I’d posted a hyper link about UDR murders. Probably not that he didn’t like reading the information but because it would tie up your band width and cost you money.!?!? (you know there’s irony in there, right)

    I think JEB should be a good one for you to touch up for some cash as he’s SSOooooo concerned about your cash flows.

    I’ll tell you what… I’ll match any funds coming from JEB (subject to verifiation & origination). You know I’m good for it.

  • Wilde Rover

    RE: Refreshing.

    I had no idea.

    I must admit I am a chronic offender.

    This practice will cease forthwith.

    I propose a Time Allowance for Silliness, where someone’s comments can appear and appear to look quite silly because someone has contradicted it twenty minutes beforehand and we don’t jump down their throat for looking silly.

    Let’s call it the Don’t Refresh Don’t See Policy.

    It will take a period of re-adjustment, but I know I can do it.

    (Just one more, and I’m finished with it, I swear)

  • DC

    Slugger is a great conduit for a diverse range of local news but it is largely kept clear of any visible political agenda by its main posters; but the opinions of its readers help to provide that agenda steer immediately.

    I agree it has been part fun, part educational, thought provoking, idea-forming and very inspirational for all of us at the DC.

    And I guess us bloggers need Slugger for exposure and are grateful for the opportunuty to comment aided by the dedication of its own team.

    But one thing we want to know: is Shilliday just used as a wind-up tool? His recent quip about DLA surely provided Slugger with good exposure but it gave many of us a real good laugh also.

  • Harry Flashman

    In other blogs they have a set-up where the posts are on the main page and you click on the comments link to read all the comments all in one pop-up box, no need to refresh, “Haloscan” or some such I think it’s called would that help?

  • Joe Dyke

    Your provider is probably not the best in the business. You do not eat much bandwith.
    The cheap providers, some of whom have already been mentioned, give terrabytes a montn. The cathc is you are sharing the line with others.
    So, you might get 3 terrabytes a month for $30 but there might be 500 others trying to use their Ram at the same time. So dleays happen. You get wahtb you pay for.
    As part of their deals, they give one click installs of bulletin boards, blogs and the rest.
    A major problem with Slugger is its design sucks and is at least 10 years behind. You don’t have to pay for design though. They provide basic templates free and others are easy to nick. No need for designers.
    This leads to another problem with Slugger. Perennial and popular threads get relegated. Lets face it if you want traffic, you have to have Celtic and the Huns, how the IFA are sectarian wankers and how Peter Bury and Sam Wilson are the heart of the Reformed Church. The same goes for pictures of Cat Ruane making out with Michelle. They get you traffic. And that costs. But until you are better organised, you should pay. More perv pics of Butch Provos please. Mary Lou in centrefold with Brannigan and few other “volunteers” would be a start.