Why Does The Bead Site Have Its Own Bead Store?
Revised 24 August 2001
Links in the text are internal and take you to footnotes.
I don't need to justify having a bead store on The Bead Site, but some may be wondering what this is about. It is a glimpse into the development of the Internet.
Is TheBeadSite.com becoming "too commercial?" Duh! Until some billionaire comes along and pays me for the hours, months, and years of work I have put into this site, it has to pay for itself.
TheBeadSite.com is a microcosm of the Internet, which has recently undergone a steep reversal of the euphoria that greeted its inception. The Internet is not in danger, but many sites are because of bad business models, lavish spending or dumb execution.
Our Own Bead Store is the most popular page on TheBeadSite.com, except for the home page. People come here because they want to buy beads. You can read about my struggles with "store fronts" and affiliate programs below, but for now this page is changing its look and mission.
Our Own Bead Shop is a showcase for the products offered by our advertisers and affiliates. As a customer you will be looking for certain beads and we now have enough advertisers to offer you almost anything you might want. I have grouped their products into easy-to-find categories.
If you are reading this in August-September 2001 you should know that Our Own Bead Store is still being built. I expect to have it done soon.
Expectations and Results
When I started TheBeadSite my initial impulse was that I didn't want to "give away the store." I deal in information. I make my living by writing and selling books, giving lectures and workshops and consulting. My inclination was to keep information under wraps so that people would have to pay me for it.
But I quickly learned that this is a bad model for a web site. After all, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web and never made a penny from it. The unofficial motto of the Internet comes from Yoda of Star Wars, "Give, then take."
So I have been giving it away and it has worked like a charm. This is the most popular bead information site in the world. It fits all the buzzwords (the Internet has a lot of them, and they are constantly changing). We are the bead destination site, the bead portal or whatever.
In time this humble little site (nothing compared to AOL or MSN) has begun to pay for itself. Sales of my books are doing better than in the old paper catalogue days (and are much more efficiently handled). Most advertising space is filled up. In these days of dot-coms dropping like flies, TheBeadSite is making a small, but growing profit.
Why? Because it is a service. It is content-rich. It is a voice in the bead community and is a forum for other voices. It has always been a shopping service for bead books. It is now becoming a shopping service for beads through our advertisers and affiliates.
The lesson is this: few sites that try to be all things to all people are going to survive. Some of the early leaders like Amazon and eBay and maybe Priceline and Yahoo! will make it. Otherwise, the best business model is to find a niche where you are good and build loyalty by treating your visitors with respect.
The History of Our Own Bead Shop
One business model is the "Store Front." Sign up and build a storefront on the other guy's site, taking products offered there. When something is sold, you get a commission.
One of the largest such programs was Affinia. In March 1999 I built a "storefront" with them (it took far longer than the 5 minutes they said it would). It offered bead kits and beaded curtains. It was very slow in taking off.
It had lots of visitors, but it was slow in revenue returns. Such programs don't send you a check until you have reached a certain amount. With Affinia it is $25 (at around $.03 a visit) and a year later I was close to, but had yet to receive my first check.
In early July 2000 I visited Affinia and realized that: 1.) Quite a lot of people were visiting, which meant there was a demand for many of the products. 2.) Most of the same products are sold by Amazon. 3.) Amazon gives out a lot more information and often feed-back about the products.
Amazon runs on another business model: an affiliate program. The concept was invented (it is actually patented) by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com. Sign your web site up, put a link to them and you will be paid a commission for someone buying something.
It is a clever idea. Amazon has become the biggest on-line book, music and video seller with a zillion affiliates. There are lots of affiliate programs and several markets that combine affiliate programs for web site owners.
A lot of visitors to TheBeadSite buy books from Amazon. But no one bought beads. Why? Because they were in the "toy" section. I took what looked to be the best of these products, grouped them by type, wrote little descriptions and listed them along with our advertisers. An instant bead shop.
Well, not quite instant. It took two full days. It worked, though, especially in late 2000 when they had a sale. Instead of three US cents I made 5% or so from a sale.
Within two months of starting the Bead Store with Amazon, Affinia went out of business (August 2000). They sent me a check. Another casualty of the shaking out process of this new industry.
And then there was trouble with Amazon. It is having its problems and the "toy section" has undergone changes (they have partnered with Toys "R" Us). The changes in stock on hand meant that their offerings came and went quickly. When I checked them recently 75% of those I had were gone.
I have still left the links up to products available, but this has become a minor part of Our Own Bead Shop.
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