Special Blog Post:
Open Thread and Miscellaneous Matters
Other side work includes the addition of an add rate card in the sidebar. That separate Webpage will show up tomorrow night, along with a brief informational post about it. Several matters have prompted this. First, I was going back through very early posts from this blog and found that, long after the articles had sunsetted, spammers had gone in and put all manner of ridiculous ads in the comments: everything from promotions of stocks to links to pornographic Websites. In the past, the stock promotions I have usually managed by sending formal letters to securities regulators; I have almost always dealt with the pornography ads by using an old method of Internet punishment directed to the pornographers' sites. (And this doesn't mean I'm in favor of censorship of any kind; it means, quite simply, that I have no interest in promoting an art form that involves women trying to look behind them to see what's making them pretend to be in agony and men who've had one too many genetic therapy sessions involving horse genes).
Not anymore. The ad rate card will provide the legal notification so that ads placed without permission will be billed at a special rate for the time in 24 hour increments that they're viewable until I find and delete them. These rates will apply to any ads placed without permission after the ad rates notice is posted. And I will take collection of the bills quite seriously.
More generally, the ad rate card marks a passage of this Website complex. Until now, most advertisers have had their ads placed here with agreements that ad revenue I earn comes from sales made by "click-throughs." That type of agreement is almost always to the clear advantage of the advertiser, since very few visitors to any Websiteand this is especially true for a Weblogclick on ads and purchase products, particularly in the time frame in which the affiliate cookie in the buyer's computer ensures that a sales commission will be paid to the owner of the Website. Advertisers get company, brand, and/or product exposure, but a Website owner in a commission-based affiliate program gets little more than a chunk of his or her cyberspace real estate taken over, along with a noticeable increase in page loading time because of the ad graphics. Once the ad rate card is posted, most of the advertisements in the sidebar will be removed and replaced, as agreements are made, with ads by companies that pay flat rates. Oh, yes, the Webmaster also has to expend time on ad rotations, editorial oversight of content, and related matters.
Enough with the commission-based affiliate programs, their breathless but usually worthless bonus incentive plans, their frequent lapses in renewing graphic content, their blinky-blink ads, their spyware that has to be peeled out of their ad code, and/or their rather curious lack of grasp that the Internet is more than just a passing fad that every retailer has to do but that only a few companies will really ever need to embed as a central feature in their business models.
Eliminating advertisers from this Website is not the goal; it is, instead, to move from commission-based ads to paying advertisers; but the types of advertisers will remain the same: there will be no ads for pornography or for dating services, no penny stock deals, no severely high-risk investment schemes (I've pushed that rule too far, I think, with one of the advertisers over in the sidebar right now), and no ads for stupid things (unless they're really interesting stupid things).
There will be a few exceptions to what is otherwise going to be a major, fundamental overhaul of advertising here. For one thing, advertisements from charitable organizations and causes will be featured from time to time as requests are made and editorial approval is granted. That's not sentimentalism; it's good business.
Also, a few legacy advertisers from this current era of The Dark Wraith Forums will be retained for a couple of reasons. As noted above, commission-based advertisements almost always work to the advantage of the advertiser; however, when the advertiser is very well recognized and perceived favorably by consumers, the association of the Website with that company confers a degree of legitimacy upon the site, itself. Moreoverand taking the business decisions to a somewhat more personal levelmany legitimate, well-recognized companies rejected my proposals and applications for them to advertise here; but there were some striking cases where my proposals and applications were not rejected. Representatives of those companies came here, read the material, and determined thatdespite the low traffic in those days and the somewhat quirky nature of the subject matter and writing styleThe Dark Wraith Forums was a legitimate advertising platform. In my judgment, that counts for something.
This is where you, good readers, come into play. Whether you have been reading this blog since its inception or are a more recent regular visitor, I want you to give me your input regarding retention of legacy advertisers. Taking into consideration the legitimacy some of the current advertisers might be conferring upon the siteand also taking into consideration the character and quality of the advertisements that have appeared in the rotationswith which companies, if any, should I retain commission-based affiliate relationships as exceptions to the new policy of working only with flat rate-paying advertisers? Below are the companies with which The Dark Wraith Forums is currently in commission-based affiliate relationships:
◊ A&E/The History Channel (DVDs, books, collectibles)
◊ Adobe (professional and personal productivity software)
◊ Barnes & Noble (bookseller)
◊ CallingCards.com (multiple-vendor calling card seller)
◊ eBay (consumer products)
◊ e-Forex Gold (online currency exchange service)
◊ Elisabeth by Liz Claiborne (plus-size women's apparel)
◊ LegalZoom (discount legal documents and services)
◊ Liz Claiborne (apparel, primarily women's)
◊ Love and Pride (gay jewelry)
◊ MotherNature.com (natural health and beauty products)
◊ Richart Chocolates of Paris (imported chocolates)
◊ Signature Wines (wines via Internet orders)
◊ Sirius Satellite Radio (satellite radio broadcast and electronics)
◊ Starbucks (coffee)
◊ Virtual Bank (online money market and mortgage loan services)
As a final note, the companies above that have generated revenues for The Dark Wraith Forums are Barnes & Noble, eBay, and Starbucks. Total commissions have been less than $50.
Let me know your thoughts on this weighty issue of entrepreneurial capitalism.
Now, on to some of the moment's meaty matters. The stock markets have made a two-day bull run resulting in a recovering of losses sustained early in the week. However, this means only that the market right now is displaying quite a bit of volatility without much in the way of overall gain, sort of like a car spinning around in a circle on ice: the fact that the car is twirling means it's not dead, but neither does it mean that the passengers are getting any closer to their destination for all the gyrations they're enjoying.
In other news, the Federal Reserve Board has released the minutes of the most recent meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee (which determines the direction of monetary policy), and analysts' suspicions have been confirmed in that the minutes clearly indicate (and signal) that the Fed has no intention of letting up in its nearly two-year fight against inflation. Several months ago, certain members of the Fed were floating the possibility of a pause in the upward push on interest rates the central bank has been sustaining since the Summer of 2004, but it now looks like the Fed will be continuing its record string of rate increases at least into the Summer of this year and possibly beyond.
This could be bad news for congressional incumbents seeking re-election, especially if the rising interest rates throughout the economy finally trigger a snap in consumer spending, business activity, or both. The counter-balance to this will be that, if the dollar continues to sink toward Third World currency status, American exports will get pretty darned cheap in foreign markets, boosting output in industrial sectors that sell overseas. The downside of this is that, as foreign imports get more and more expensive here because of the greenback's weakness, consumers are really going to feel the pinch, especially those who rely on discount stores like Walmart to keep household budgets from sinking heavily into the red. If prices of consumer items here in the U.S. start to skyrocket because of exchange rate adjustments, people will definitely start to feel the effects of inflationary pressures that have actually been present but held at bay in the economy for quite some time.
It's a complicated situation that's evolving, but here's the bottom line: as has been the case for much of the Bush Administration, the economy will appear, at least for a while longer, to keep on growing, even as poor and middle-class households suffer further deprivation at the mercy of markets that favor investment-based income earners over labor-based income earners.
As always, let the good times roll.
Pull up one of the easy chairs here in the lounge, say what you need to say, and take you mind off your troubles tonight. Keep in mind that it is entirely possible that the world as we know it will end tomorrow or soon thereafter; but you can do nothing about it, so you might as well spend what might be your last hours here at The Dark Wraith Forums enjoying the company of others who are equally doomed but no less committed to enjoying what time they still havebe it an hour or a centuryin glad and fine company.
The Dark Wraith closes the blinds so no one has to see the Rapture proceeding apace.
Update at 17:30:00 EDT on 06/02/06
The message board has been repaired. A few coloration and theme matters still have to be addressed, and those will be handled over the weekend. Other than those minor issues, The Dark Wraith Forums Message Board is once again as operational as it was before the fiasco. In fact, if you look around, you might find a few subtle improvements. Nothing much, mind you; but a few very small features have been upgraded.
The Dark Wraith avows that doing the repairs was a lot like work.