Also in this episode, developing Sneezies and its 3-year anniversary, the great app bake-off and viral (edible) marketing, burning out on Wall Street and founding Antair, Chinchilla and learning to choose your products, tackling BlackBerry spam, the old mobile world and the new mobile world, revenue peaks and office space, approaching new markets, Quintu and what’s next for Antair, decorating your office walls and celebrating milestones, what’s next for Retro Dreamer, BlackBerry PlayBook and Android adventures, the big Kindle Fire launch, speculating about piracy in the Android market, apps with ads, monetizing free apps, meaty games, and $0.99 pricing.
I’ve been practicing Bikram Yoga for a little over 5 years now. For those that aren’t familiar with this form of yoga:
Bikram Yoga is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques and popularized beginning in the early 1970s. Bikram’s classes run exactly 90 minutes and consist of a set series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (≈ 40.6°C) with a humidity of 40%.
My initial draw to Bikram wasn’t the pursuit of spirituality or the many health benefits, but simply finding an “efficient” exercise routine that I could fit into my busy schedule. Before Bikram, I used to frequent a gym, occasionally run, and meditate. Even at 90 mins a class, Bikram packed in a workout, meditation, and sauna in one. I gave it a shot and have been hooked ever since.
As my practice has deepened, I have drawn many parallels with my practice of yoga and my practice of entrepreneurship – particularly lean.
Synthesis is Innovation
Yoga like entrepreneurship is a big (and daunting) topic especially to a beginner. Bikram curated 26 poses from a collection of close to a thousand, added heat, and created his own unique contribution to the yoga world. This wasn’t without controversy as he also managed to build a highly profitable franchise built on the merits of creating a copyrightable compilation.
Lean Startup also evoked a similar reaction by some in the early days (and maybe still does today). Many felt it was just a compilation of “best-practices” that was already common knowledge to more experienced entrepreneurs. But they missed the point.
The true power of innovation through synthesis is that it reduces previously fragmented and seemingly unrelated bodies of knowledge into an actionable framework – one where the sum is greater than the parts. The simplicity of the framework allows the practitioner to “just practice”, communicate with other practitioners using a common language, and contribute back to the framework.
Everyone is a Practitioner
It’s fairly common to find yoga instructors (or guides) lined up next to you in class. Everyone is a practitioner and it shows. There is a basic script (or dialog) used to lead the class but every instructor fills in the gaps with their own experiential knowledge. This provides the student with new ways to interprete and experiment with the poses (asanas).
Lean Startup’s success/popularity as a movement is, of course, largely attributed to Eric Ries – I believe not just for codifying the methodology itself and tirelessly traveling the globe (for 3 years straight), but just as importantly for actively fostering the “everyone is a practitioner” mindset.
Retain Only Rigorous Practitioners
I’ve always appreciated the “sign-up flow” at my yoga studio. Unlike my previous gym membership experience which felt like dealing with a used car salesperson, the sign-up process at the studio is simple and straightforward.
You are presented with two options: a drop-in rate of $14 or an introductory special of $20 which gets you unlimited classes for 14 days. The guides don’t “sell you” and actually warn you that this yoga isn’t for everyone. You’ll either love it or hate it by the end of the first class which is often amusing to see. Most newcomers start the class with smiling happy faces probably expecting a relaxing retreat. Half-way through the class the smile has worn off and they are struggling just to keep up and drinking lots of water (too much) which only makes it harder to do the poses.
After the sign-up period, there are many pricing options from pay-as-you-go, monthly, and yearly plans. The point is they are not interested in tricking or “guilting” you into a long-term contract but retaining serious practitioners – a sound philosophy for retaining both team members and customers.
I’ve found it amazing that even after 5 years I haven’t gotten bored of doing the same 26 pose routine. Every class is the same yet different. Yes you enter every class with a different mind/body state and the rotation of instructors add additional variation, but the real reason it feels new is that there is constant learning and discovery.
For instance, something I had to unlearn early on was keeping a bent knee during the poses. In every other sport I’ve done, keeping a locked knee is asking for injury. In yoga though, a locked knee is the foundation of a strong core and until you (can) lock your knee, the pose hasn’t even begun. This is surprisingly hard to do and all you need to focus on at first.
In Lean Startups, you similarly have to unlearn a lot of things that are surprisingly hard
- reaching for the compiler versus the phone
- building perfect products versus testing with “just-enough of a solution” proxies
- furthering your beliefs versus communicating learning objectively
After a while you begin to appreciate that every part of the dialog and routine was carefully chosen which reveals itself in layers. Some words suddenly start making sense from one day to the other – such as “sips of air”. When you first start Bikram, everyone brings in a bottle (or more) of water to class. The room is hot and uncomfortable and people reach for the water bottle whenever they can. You are instructed to drink water only after the fourth pose and thereafter only between poses. Here’s the thing, you can’t absorb water that quickly and the water ends up filling your belly, making it hard to move and breathe…
After coming for a while, you realize that it’s not water you need, but air. The key is keeping your breathing steady and under control and the discomfort quickly passes away. More advanced students only hydrate before class, don’t bring any water to class, and instead drink sips of air.
In a startup, money is like the water. You need just enough to get started. Drinking too much or refilling constantly will slow you down. You should instead chase those “sips of air” – customer learning.
The one pose for me though, that captures the process of starting up is the standing bow-pulling pose. This is certainly one of the harder poses to realize fully (not the hardest) but it’s the most fun – for newcomers and experienced practitioners alike.
The initial challenge is just setting up correctly and getting into the pose. It’s easy to get started and everyone falls out of the pose which is part of the fun. The first objective is finding balance and then holding it (survival/runway).
After practicing for a while, you find yourself able to balance and hold a pose comfortably forever, but it’s only a 50-75% realization of the full pose (the dip).
In order to get to the full realization, you have to continuously work at it – simultaneously kicking your leg up and stretching your arm forward. It can take years to achieve. In my studio, there are only 2-3 people who can fully realize this pose. I’m not one of them, but it’s the journey as much as the result that makes it worthwhile.
Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives
I received the following question from a reader a few weeks back:
I’m considering creating a mobile app and I want to know quick/effective ways to validate some of my assumptions. Is it more effective to put out small experiments that test your assumptions, or are surveys of the possible users a better approach?
My answer: it depends on what you’re trying to test.
In general a survey is going to give you decent results for little effort. A survey takes 20 minutes to put together (SurveyGizmo or SurveyMonkey), email it, and you get some info. It’s a simple approach that doesn’t take a lot of time.
However, it’s nowhere near as accurate as putting out experiments. Experiments that ask someone to buy something, sign up for a list, or perform some kind of behavior are the only real way to know if something works. But these kinds of things take so much longer to put together that you have to balance this level of effort with the value they provide.
If you had unlimited time I would always recommend experiments. But surveys save you time, so you’ll inevitably have to rely on them or you’ll never start building your app.
Two things you can’t get from surveys: actual conversion rates and pricing info. You can ask “would you sign up for this list” or “would you pay $x for this” but these are useless questions.
If you need this kind of knowledge, do an experiment. For most other information, surveys can be a solid, time saving approach.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I got a tip from Anna-Jayne Metcalfe of C++ and QA specialists Riverblade to check out Cppcheck, a free static analyser for C and C++. I ran >100 kLOC of PerfectTablePlan C++ through it and it picked up a few issues, including:
- variables uninitialised in constructors
- classes passed by value, rather than as a const reference
- variables whose scopes could be reduced
- methods that could be made const
It only took me a few minutes from downloading to getting results. And the results are a lot less noisy than lint. I’m impressed. PerfectTablePlan is heavily tested and I don’t think any of the issues found are the cause of bugs in PerfectTablePlan, but it shows the potential of the tool.
The documentation is here. But, on Windows, you just need to start the Cppcheck GUI (in C:\Program files\Cppcheck, they appear to be too modest to add a shortcut to your desktop), select Check>Directory… and browse to the source directory you want to check. Any issues found will then be displayed.
You can also set an editor to integrate with, in Edit>Preferences>Applications. Double clicking on an issue will then display the appropriate line in your editor of choice.
Cppdepend is available with a GUI on Windows and as a command line tool on a range of platforms. There is also an Eclipse plugin. See the sourceforge page for details on platforms and IDEs supported. You can even write your own Cppcheck rules.
Cppcheck could be a very valuable additional layer in my defence in depth approach to QA. I have added it to my checklist of things to do before each new release.
Filed under: C++, QA, reviews, software, tools Tagged: C++, Cppcheck, free, QA, software, static analysis, tool
However, every once in a while, I come across someone who consistently corrects other people's mistakes. Someone who seems to get it. And who am I to complain if that someone happens to be a giant robot dinosaur named FAKEGRIMLOCK? As it turns out, FAKEGRIMLOCK is a writer and artist with a unique style. This guest post has been authored entirely by him, and views expressed are his own.
What follows is FAKEGRIMLOCK's perspective on the importance of vision in a startup. He understands that vision and iteration are allies, for there can be no science without vision. Only vision is worth testing. I'll let him take it from here...
STARTUP MORE THAN BRAIN, MORE THAN MONEY, MORE THAN WORK HARD.
STARTUP IS VISION.
STARTUP IS MAKE FIST OF CODE, PUT IT THROUGH THE WORLD.
VISION IS PUT FIST IN RIGHT PLACE, BREAK WORLD IN HALF.
FIRST THING DISRUPT SELF
EVERYONE GOOD AT SEE CAN'T. EVERYONE LIVE IN WORLD FULL OF IMPOSSIBLE.
EVERYTHING THAT MATTER IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL SOMEONE DO IT ANYWAY.
STOP BEING EVERYONE. STARE AT WHY NOT UNTIL IT GIVE UP AND BECOME HOW TO.
STARTUP IS DO THING EVERYONE HAVE EXCUSE NOT TO.
VISION IS STOP EXCUSES, MAKE FUTURE INSTEAD.
NOW GO BIG. THEN BIGGER
WHAT YOUR PRODUCT CHANGE?
IF ANSWER NOT "WORLD", GO HOME. WORLD HAVE ENOUGH LITTLE IDEA. GET OUT OF LINE, DO SOMETHING BIG. NO CAN HAVE VISION LOOKING AT SOMEONE'S BACK.
WHAT IF ONLY HAVE LITTLE IDEA? SMASH IDEA. THROW AWAY DETAIL. THROW AWAY FEATURE. THROW AWAY CAN'T.
INSIDE LITTLE IDEA IS BIG PROBLEM HELD DOWN BY CAN'T. SET IT FREE.
STARTUP IS SOLVE PROBLEM NO ONE ELSE WILL.
VISION IS SOLVE PROBLEM NO ONE ELSE SEE.
SET COURSE TO AWESOME
SMART STARTUP BUILD, ITERATE, FAIL FAST.
WITHOUT VISION FAIL FAST IS JUST LOTS OF FAIL.
VISION NOT HOW. VISION IS WHERE. TAKE EVERYTHING YOU DOING THAT NOT MOVE TOWARDS VISION.
STOP DOING IT.
NOW EVERYTHING MOVE IN RIGHT DIRECTION. TOWARDS WIN. EVEN FAIL.
STARTUP IS FAIL INTO BUILD IMPOSSIBLE.
VISION IS FAIL INTO WIN EVERYTHING.
TEST TODAY, NOT TOMORROW
TEST IMPORTANT. TEST TELL YOU IF BUILD THING RIGHT. TEST ABOUT DETAILS.
ONLY WAY TEST VISION IS WIN.
VISION NOT A BULLETPOINT. NOT GO IN SPREADSHEET. THERE NO ALGORITHM FOR AWESOME.
DETAILS IMPORTANT. FOR ENGINEER. BUILD TOMORROW NOT SAME AS WHAT TOMORROW TO BUILD.
STARTUP IS SEE WINDOW, START BUILDING WINGS.
VISION IS JUMP OUT WINDOW, TRUST WINGS HAPPEN BEFORE GROUND.
NOW MAKE FIST
INTERNET FULL OF WAY TO MAKE THINGS BETTER. LOTS OF STARTUPS OUT THERE MAKE THINGS BETTER THAN YOU.
ONLY YOU FULL OF SEE WHAT THING TO BUILD.
VISION IS SEE WHAT OTHERS NOT, DO WHAT OTHERS WON'T, WIN WHEN OTHERS CAN'T.
VISION LIKE STORY WITH MOUSE AND CHEESE. SOMEONE MOVE CHEESE, MOUSE FORGET CHEESE, INVENT MACHINE GUN AND EAT CAT.
BE THAT MOUSE.
This is a guest post by Mark Anderson, owner of lifestyle business Andertoons which produces all the awesome cartoons I use on this blog. He created a custom cartoon for me, and I thought it would be interesting to get a behind-the-scenes peek at how cartoons are created.
The custom cartoon began with Jason sending over an early draft for an upcoming presentation he thought might need some livening-up. The general topic was “honesty,” so after finding some quiet, I set my brain chewing on it.
The thing about writing cartoons is you never know when, how, or if you’ll get an idea. It can be frustrating, but I’m comfortable with it.
Normally I begin by taking a look at my topic from all angles:
When would the topic be bad? When is it good?
What are phrases that include my topic?
What rhymes with it?
Who is associated with it?
Can I combine ideas?
Where can I exaggerate?
How about animals?
Then you sit and stare and sit some more until ideas begin to come into focus.
I came back with these three ideas:
1) Manager behind desk to applicant – “Your resume says you’re distractible, you like to gossip, and you sometimes oversleep? You’re hired!”
2) Businessperson giving presentation with slide showing tube of “Anderson Wart Remover.” Presenter says “This ‘warts and all’ approach is perfect for us!”
3) Ad exec giving presentation for product with tag lines reading “Lowest Rating in its Class!” and “1 out of 5 stars” and “What a stinker!” Person at table comments “This might be taking that whole honesty thing a bit far for me.”
Number one conforms to the rule of threes, and there’s your reversal at the end. Number two relies more on the visual to set up the gag, and then the caption knocks it down. And number three is an example of exaggeration. These are all more or less standard jokes that you learn to recognize and create.
Jason liked them, but worried that they were wordy and might slow down the planned pace of his presentation.
He liked that idea and I continued work on a few additional concepts taking some different tacks:
4) Pinocchio with elongated nose sitting in audience says to person next to him – “This is the honesty in business seminar, right?”
5) Management type in meeting to employees – “Honesty is big right now. See how we can spin that.”
6) Businessperson giving presentation showing up trending sales says to workers – “Not only is honesty the best policy, it’s making us loads of cash!”
These gags play more with association. Pinocchio makes sense, he’s a nice visual, but the gag feels weak. Number six is good, but the greed is iffy. Number five, which Jason chose, is a reversal, and I was careful to keep the surprise at the very end (it’s the second to last word, in fact) of the caption. It’s also one of the shorter captions, and brevity is wit.
With the caption agreed on, I got down to sketching the art for the cartoon:
The goal is to quickly communicate the scene. Where is it? Who’s in it? What is this about? You learn a visual shorthand to get those things across and keep the read moving.
For example, the desk and chairs are only partially drawn, but there’s enough to set the scene. The person speaking is clearly indicated. The scene reads left to right smoothly. These are all things a cartoonist needs to consider.
I’ve been doing this a long time, so it only took maybe 15 minutes from my initial sloppy sketch (I looked for it, but apparently it’s been removed to the recycling bin of the ages) to the second cleaned up client-ready sketch above.
Normally my cartoons have a typeset caption underneath, but Jason suggested a cartoon speech bubble to allow for a larger font and easier reading. I don’t particularly like bubbles, but Jason has given his share of presentations, and if he’d prefer a speech bubble, that’s fine.
Jason approved the cartoon and I moved on to the final ink:
This part goes quickly because all of the heavy lifting of writing and sketching is already finished. The only hiccup being a slight skew in the speech bubble (see why I don’t like them?) that I fixed with a little Photoshop warping.
After the ink is the way I want it, I move on to shading:
When I’m doing cartoons for Andertoons’ inventory, I normally shade using markers. But for custom clients I use a set of sampled markers I created in Photoshop. It’s less organic, but when used in layers they allow for easier editing to a client’s taste.
After the ink & shade are complete it’s time for the custom cartoon cherry on top, the caption:
Normally I use Tahoma for a caption underneath, but that kind of font doesn’t fit a speech bubble. I used a font I had made of my own handwriting to finish things up.
After a final spellcheck, a double check of the dimensions, and one more good long look, the cartoon is emailed over and, hopefully, everyone is happy.
So that’s how it works. I hope you weren’t expecting anything wild or zany. The truth is comedy is serious business, and only those cartoonists who approach it seriously end up with a career drawing funny pictures.
If you’d like to commission a cartoon of your own, please check out my custom cartoons section at Andertoons.com. And thanks again, Jason, for the opportunity not only to draw you a cartoon, but to talk to your readers more at length than my regular captions.
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The Kindle Fire is live and it’s a huge success. Even before launch, it was clear that this would be a hit, an Android tablet device at this price point, coming from Amazon.
I figured this could be a nice extra channel to sell our existing Android apps.
About a month ago, as a test, we created a special build of our CLZ Movies app and submitted it to the Amazon Appstore for review. Approval took 2 weeks, but it got approved in one go. So we quickly prepared builds of our other 4 apps and submitted them too, hoping to get them all live before the launch of the Kindle Fire on November 15. We just missed that deadline, but still, on November 17 we received the OK on the other 4 as well.
After which I proudly announced to my Facebook fans that our Android apps were now available for the new Kindle Fire. Some customers had been asking about apps for Kindle Fire, so I told our support guys that they could tell them the happy news.
In the meantime, we had already sold some copies of CLZ Movies through the Amazon Appstore, so things were looking good.
But then we started receiving questions from customers, why they could only find CLZ Movies in the Amazon Appstore on their Kindle Fire device. Huh? All five had been approved so where are the other 4? The Appstore Developer Portal shows no difference in status between the apps, they’re all listed as “Live”.
Andrey Butov, a fellow mobile app developer, had similar results: His app, designed for Kindle Fire only, had been approved but was not available on the Fire, apparently because it had not been specifically approved for Kindle Fire yet.
So I submitted a quick question to Amazon Support, from the Devportal:
All my five apps have been approved, but my customers tell me that only 1 of them (CLZ Movies, the first one that was approved) is available in the Kindle Fire Appstore.
I can’t figure out why my other apps don’t show up on Kindle Fire. I heard that there is a separate approval process for the Fire? Is there anyway I can see the status of that?
Thanks for contacting the Amazon Appstore.
I’ve asked our content team to review your app again for Kindle Fire. Please note, however, that we are considering each app on a case-by-case basis for Kindle Fire and not currently offering all apps in the Amazon Appstore on the device. I will follow up with you once I’ve heard from the content team. Thanks for your patience.
What? Does this mean my apps are not guaranteed to be selected for Kindle Fire? What’s that about? My only reason for submitting my apps to the Amazon Android Appstore is to make them available on Kindle Fire (and I suspect that it’s the same for most developers).
And why is this so unclear? Why not just list the Kindle Fire approval status separately in the Developer Portal. I thought the Android Market Developer admin was clunky, but this is even worse. iTunesConnect suddenly doesn’t look that bad…
Well, I’ve been trying hard to resist the�avalanche of Black Friday deals today, but I fell for one, and you should too:
The megatrend is towards realtime web data and for good reason: the whole point of having a site is engagement. By the way, had to straighten out a few issues due to expired trial account, but thanks to James at GoSquared I’m all set.
James was able to work the problem with me live (there’s that realtime meme again!) using oLark. While I prefer snapengage.com, it’s vastly more satisfying a tech support experience being able to interactively get a problem handled than going the whole submit a ticket and wait routine.
You’re reading A deal I could not resist… from: 47 Hats. If you like this post, there’s plenty more! Want more sales for your startup? Stop by and let’s chat, or consider a Microconsult with Bob Walsh.
So I’ve hung around with SEOs for the last couple of years, including ones who pay the rent based on their ability to convince people to click on AdSense ads, and I’ve learned a trick or three. One that Google will actually tell you in as many words is to make the ads seem less garishly out of place on your site. In the words of an Internet buddy, “You want to not look like an ad at the first glance, but to look like an ad on the second glance.” This way you avoid banner blindness, the phenomenon in which Internet users mentally tune out portions of a website which look like advertisements.
We’ve outlined a few strategies below that are designed to decrease ad blindness, the tendency for users to ignore anything that’s separate from the main content of your site. By making these changes, you’ll be making your ads more visible to users. The goal isn’t to confuse users into thinking ads are content, but to get users to see and read the ads so they can click on those that interest them.
That’s why if you buy ads on Google itself, they’ll look something like this:
As you can see, the top ad is styled to resemble the main content on the page, with a bit of a subtle yellow background and the notation that it is an ad there, if you take a gander for it. (Note that a lot of users think that yellow is used for marking the best results. Non-technical customers, yay. If you don’t believe me, watch someone who can’t program Google sometime.)
I buy a lot of ads on the Google Content Network, but I don’t get a say in how they are presented usually. Since I pay per click, it is in the interests of webmasters to make the ads look content-esque, so that they catch lots of clicks. They occasionally get clicks with less-than-true-user-intent volition behind them, but that is a cost of doing business for me.
Anyhow, I’m always experimenting with different ways to advertise profitably for my businesses other than Google AdWords, which a) are expensive (I spend something like 50~60% of my gross on a sale at the margin) and b) have limited volume. I recently was inspired to try something new when listening to a (paid) Mixergy video with Ilya of Mixrank, whose blog you should really be reading if you are interested in online advertising. The gist of the video was to try negotiating direct deals with advertisers with access to the right targeted demographics, and I’m going down that route as well, but for the moment I wanted a get-my-feet-wet option that was more self-service, so I went with BuySellAds.
BuySellAds basically lets you pick a website (in their network), pick a particular type of image ad inventory on it, and pay the displayed rate for advertising there for a month. Sadly, their options for inventory appropriate to teachers are rather lacking, but I found one wonderful website accepting ad placements through them: BusyTeacher. BusyTeacher takes 728×90 image ads on their category pages, like this one. So I went into Paint.NET to exercise my meager pixel-pushing skills, slapped something together, and submitted it for their approval. After they approved the ad, my credit card got charged for a month of placement ($135 for an estimated 500k impressions or thereabouts), and it went live.
Let’s Play “Spot That Ad”
You can click on the photo to see the full size version.
You probably saw-but-didn’t-see the “Get A College Degree For Easy Loan Payments of Only…” spammy ad in the middle. If you routinely surf sites visited by middle-aged women, you’ve seen-but-not-seen so many thousands of them that you tune them out. But you probably didn’t automatically tune out the Bingo Card Creator ad.
Spot it yet? Hint: it’s the row without the Facebook button.
Is This Evil Or Just Evil Genius?
Once upon a time I was an engineer totally scornful of effective marketing, but I have gradually gotten over it. After thinking it over, this is aggressive but within my comfort envelope. The ad is honest about being an ad, makes a straightforward commercial proposition (“Sign up for a free trial”) to an audience that I think will respond well to that, and is pretty true by the standards of marketing copy. It is designed to catch clicks only from people interested in signing up for a free trial of Bingo Card Creator, and sends them straight to a landing page where they can do just that.
I wish there was a way to dynamically generate the image such that I could provide a more exact star valuation, but in the context of a sponsored placement, “Rated 5 stars by lots” is both non-specific and true. Lots of people have used BCC, and when I ask for star ratings in internal surveys I get something like 4.8 on a volume of hundreds or thousands. I think this compares favorably with “9 out of 10 dentists agree” and other pretty banal marketing copy.
So Does It Work?
Oh heeeeeeeck yes. That ad has a 2.2% click through rate (astronomical by the standards of banner advertising), generates about 500 views of my landing page a day, and of that about 11% or so convert to the free trial. (This is lower than my landing page average by quite a bit, but that makes sense. Most people who come to one of my landing pages just got done searching for e.g. “make bingo cards”, so they’re clearly in a bingo mood. The user here was just looking at a page about generic teaching activities then shown the bingo option, and might not be totally sold on bingo for her classroom yet.)
Anyhow, at about $5 to run on this site per day, the CPA (cost per action = how much money do I spend per free trial signup driven) has been running somewhere in the 8 cent region. Yowza. I pay Google closer to 30 ~ 40 cents. At typical conversion rates to a trial of about 1.8~2%, that means that this costs me $4 or so to generate a $30 sale rather than $20. Sold!
I just wish there was more inventory available. Many of the sites in the teaching niche either only do Google AdWords, so I’m already saturating them (and paying a cut to Google), or they only accept advertising through large networks, which tend to favor e.g. brands with $X00k marketing spends and not guys who want to experiment with a few hundred bucks at a time. I’m following up on the advice to get in touch with smaller sites directly, but I need to hit the sweet spot of “Small enough for my $X00 to matter, large enough that they send me enough traffic such that my time in negotiating an ad buy and preparing a creative is worthwhile.” For an experiment that looks like it will net in the neighborhood of $1,000 a month in sales for $135 and ~10 minutes of pixel pushing, this one is going in the win column. I hope to get bigger and better results later.
Anyhow, check out BuySellAds, direct ad buys, and ad blending. They can be made to work.