I don’t sign up for many email lists. Once I do, it takes a lot to get me to unsubscribe. But I wanted to share a recent experience of how one fellow author succeeded in upsetting me enough to make me unsubscribe:
I won’t name her here, but she’s awesome. I love her posts and she has a lot of great courses for authors. So I signed up. For several weeks, I got quality authorly tips.
Today, I opened my inbox to discover an email from someone else, not the person I subscribed to. Turns out she needed to take a medical ‘leave of absence’ from authoring/blogging/emailing. So she had someone else come in to take over emailing her list while she is out.
When I hit the Unsubscribe button, I was asked for a reason why. Here’s my response:
Don’t like getting emails from someone other than the person I subscribed to. If you need to go on leave, then go on leave. Or batch a bunch of posts and drip them out while you’re gone. Or rebrand as “Writers Tips” instead of [Author’s Name Removed] But handing the keys to my email inbox over to someone else is a violation of trust.
I understand the author wants to keep reinforcing her brand. She is using repeated contact to stay on “top of mind” with her audience and not let that connection atrophy. But there are two problems with the way this was handled.
She’s not just running a writing advice website. She’s running a site where She give writing advice. She’s branded herself as an authority to give writing advice. Her name is in large, capital letters on her website, email list, and all things surrounding her brand. In her training videos, she looks right at you and tells you how she is going to help you succeed.
I signed up to her email list. To get writing tips, sure, but to get writing tips From Her. There are about 50,000 writers tip lists out there. I chose her list because I trusted her, and she violated that trust.
Keep this in mind when you start any kind of online business. It’s called branding. And it needs to be consistent, or you’re going to lose people.
Consistency is more important than being top of mind.
You might be thinking, “Why you mad bro? That’s just like ‘guest posting’ on a blog, right?”
No, it’s not.
Your blog is your own playground. Fill it with the toys you want. Change the colors. Change the graphics. Let people post and comment away. It’s your house. When I come to visit, I’ll see whatever content you’ve chosen to decorate with, even if it’s not your own.
But my inbox is mine. And I’ll decide what goes there and what does not. And if I trust you enough to let you add content there, that doesn’t mean you can just let other people add things to that space. That would be like me inviting you over to play cards on Friday but instead, you send someone else in your place. Very not cool. Especially from someone who gives marketing advice to authors.
Respect the inbox of your email subscribers.
I don’t email my list unless I have real news to share, and there is definitely plenty of exciting news and free stuff coming soon. Sign up here for free ebooks and updates! I promise I won’t hand your email over to anyone else.
A new invention for social-media-ville is called a “social paywall.” You may have already seen its older brother (called a financial paywall) in posts and articles. A financial paywall looks like this:
Makes sense. You get some content for free, but if you wanna get past the wall, you have to pay to continue.
A Social Paywall is different. It looks like this:
With a social paywall, you “pay” to access content with your social media approval.
In the world of websites, social approvals (likes, +1s, shares, etc.) have a value. They are like votes. They add up to something called Social Proof, also known as clout, moxie, or influence. They also might help jack up a website’s SEO. (Search Engine Optimization) These results are so valuable to website owners that it’s easy to understand how they could mistake social approval for currency.
So now websites with social paywalls will expect you to share/tweet/+1/like before you can access the content. Because your +1 is just like money, right? And it doesn’t cost you, so you won’t care, right?
The Problem With The Social Paywall
In the physical world, we are used to paying for things in the form of an exchange. You can stop in at the local bar and watch the big-screen tv for free. Popcorn and water is free too. But if you want a shot of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, you’re going to have to pay for it.
That same business model works fine online as a financial paywall. Some content/info is free, but if you want something more, then you have to pay for it.
But that’s NOT how social media likes, +1s, shares and other social approvals work.
Social paywalls twist the function of likes, +1s shares, etc. corrupting ‘social proof’ as we know it. – [Click to Tweet This!]
Back in the physical realm, when you have a good experience at the bar – when the bathrooms are clean and the bartender is friendly, and makes your drinks so strong that they start to dissolve the glass they’re served in – then you leave a tip on the counter as you go. And you tell your friends, “Hey you should check out this great place.” That is your real-world social approval.
Online social approval is no different. Your facebook “likes”, shares, +1s, positive ratings, thumbs-ups, retweets, happy comments and blog posts are the equivalent of telling your friends “check this out! I like it!’ Social approvals are just that: Social + Approval.
But with a social paywall, you have to socially approve something before you see it. So how do you know if you “like” or “approve” of the information before you view it?
You don’t. You can’t. And that’s the problem with a Social Paywall. Those who use it are restricting content until AFTER you share it or AFTER you say that you like it. The social approval is given before the product/service has “proven” itself, which does not compute. Would you tell all your friends that you loved a book before you’ve read it, or tell them that a bar is a ‘thumbs up’ before you’ve even been to the place?
Social paywalls are an attempt to game the system. They fundamentally twist the function of social approvals, and will inevitably corrode the credibility of “social proof” as we know it. This has already happened to the book reviews on Amazon. Greedy folks gamed that system too, and it lost it’s usefulness.
There are other problems with a social paywall, (ie: not everyone has a facebook account, and social sites are sometimes blocked by corporate firewalls…) but these are pretty minor in comparison and mostly affect the website owners. But the damage social paywalls could cause to the existing system would unfairly impact all internet users.
The Executive Summary Version
Social approvals (facebook likes, google +1s, tweets, shares, etc) are the online equivalent of telling others about something ubercool that you experienced. Optional. Not necessary. They are intended to let your friends know what you believe are above-average products/services. But social paywalls demand your approval before you see the content, which makes about as much sense as raving about a product or service you’ve never experienced.
It doesn’t surprise me that someone would come up with the social paywall. And it won’t surprise me to see websites actually use it. But it’s beyond rude, and it ruins the simple and effective method of social proof by trying to twist it into an entry fee.
Web Designers: Quality content begets social proof, not vice-versa. Use a financial paywall if you think your content is worth it. Ask for email or account registration if you think your content is worth it. But leave the social media links at the bottom or side of the content. People will gladly like/+1/tweet/share/forward your content… after they read it, and after they decide that it’s worth approving/sharing.
Not to mention I tell you how to do it yourself for free, instead of hiring a marketing agency for eighty grand, like the person mentioned in the WSJ article. Glad to know that gaming the system hasn’t changed in the past three years.
Imagine a group of Hollywood fat-cats playing high-stakes poker, drinking whiskey that’s older than they are, and bitching about how this country sucks. Suddenly, one of them has a revelation about the real world outside their tiny microcosm…
“OMG,” one says, nearly spilling their drink. “We’re all on our own!”
“Damn, you’re right,” spouts another, the $50 Cuban cigar dropping from their mouth. “It’s all dog eat dog!”
“We gotta tell someone! Get Brad Pitt on the phone!”
I suspect that’s how movies like Killing Them Softly get started. And X-million dollars later, people in the real world can watch it and say, “No shit. Who signed off on this?”
Can’t remember now how I got roped into watching a movie that I didn’t know existed ten minutes earlier. It seems that the high-profile names of Brad Pitt, ex-goodfella Ray Liotta and ex-Soprano James Gandolfini were expected to be a sufficient marketing strategy. It wasn’t.
This was my first exposure to a film where there were more production company credits than movie previews. There are at least six production companies and about twice as many “producers” involved, Brad Pitt among them. Don’t get me wrong, I think Brad Pitt is an awesome actor, and while he doesn’t disappoint in this film, his presence isn’t enough to carry the movie. The plot is supposed to do that, but the plot in Killing Them Softly is weak. Other reviewers have called it “subtle” but the plot is actually thin. I mean thin, as in, a veneer for a political message: The “United” States is a myth. President Obama is lying to you when he tells you we are all one people. It’s every one for themselves.
Like I said, welcome to the real world, eh? But this is the movie’s message, repeated several different times. Killing Them Softly is a petition, and the list of producers are the ones who signed it.
After watching it, I’m not entirely sure what kind of movie Killing Them Softly is. There was too much Quentin-Tarrantinoish-off-topic talk for this to be an action film. All the plans made were shared with the audience and things generally went as planned, so it wasn’t a wacky, heist/caper. It’s no mystery because the audience knows exactly what’s going on the entire time. The only real mystery was why James Gandolfini appears in the film as a drunken, washed up hitman named Mickey, with a big debt and a heart of gold. His acting is superb, but his character had nothing to do with the entire film, except the fact that he was in it for about half an hour. Then he disappears, never to be seen again.
Maybe the Hollywood fat-cats have a lovely explanation for Killing Them Softly. Maybe James Gandolfini is our repressed ID, Obama is our superego, and Brad Pitt represents the zeitgeist of a generation.
Or maybe I’m trying too hard.
The Occam’s Razor theorem says that the correct conclusion is usually the simplest. In that case, the movie was made by people with more political agenda and money than plot. If nothing else, it’s nice to know that we still have freedom of speech, and that anyone with an opinion (a couple million in cash) can make a movie.
For a movie whose only marketing plan is the public knowledge that it’s “Based on James Patterson’s Best-Selling Novel,” I went in to see Alex Cross with very low expectations.
Maybe they weren’t low enough.
Production-wise, Alex Cross was fine. Sets were great. Stunts were good. Effects were good. The sound was excellent. The only music I remember was a song about “drivin’ in my Caddy” which reinforced the fact that much of the film was sponsored by Cadillac. I forgot to look, but I’ll bet there is a “Cadillac Waxer” in the credits someplace.
This movie does threaten to steal the title of “worst camera work ever” from the Blair Witch Project. One person I was with walked out of the movie close to the end because the camera flopped around so much. It would have worked better if the director had actually stepped into the shot and told the audience to increase their tension. Yes, it was that bad. Face it Hollywood, shaky-cam takes people OUT of the movie. In this case, literally out of the theater. Get a tripod.
You’ll need to let go of any preconceived notions you had from watching Morgan Freeman play the character Alex Cross in Kiss The Girls (1997) and Along Came A Spider (2001). Tyler Perry’s version of Alex Cross in this 12th book of the series is a completely different creature, and many reviewers are not pleased by that difference. But according to a Today Show interview with James Patterson (who helped produce the film) Tyler Perry is more like the character from the books than Morgan Freeman.
Of course Tyler Perry is no Morgan Freeman, but I’m willing to let him make the character his own, and I had no qualms about his acting abilities. Tyler does a good job… with the script he had. In fact, this can be said of all the other actors in the film, which calls attention to the real problem – the writing. Alex Cross is daytime T.V. quality at best, and not Hollywood. As a writer, it pains me to see something with such a strong pedigree do so poorly on account of the writing – something that should have had quality established way before anyone shook hands on a movie deal.
I never read the story this film was based on, called Cross, but here are some issues with the movie version that make me wonder how it ever could have evolved from a bestselling novel:
This time, it’s (completely, unnecessarily) personal
Alex Cross is a detective/criminal psychologist. When a houseful of people are found dead, one of them tortured to death, Alex is brought in to investigate. He begins to track down an assassin nicknamed The Butcher, and also nicknamed Picasso, played excellently by Matthew Fox. Despite the fact that Alex is a detective and Picasso is an assassin who killed a house full of people, there’s an awful lot of time spent motivating Alex to catch/stop him. I won’t bore you with details, but things get personal, then things get More Personal, and then EVEN MORE PERSONAL to the point where you wish we could just get back to the real story of who hired this assassin and why he killed a houseful of people. Who hired him? Why?
Apparently we aren’t supposed to care about all that. All the global conspiracy and espionage are sidelined to focus on Alex and Picasso as they battle each other physically, mentally and emotionally. Every scene in the movie tries so desperately to elicit an emotional response that the film threatens to burst under its own emotional weight, while the more interesting storyline disappears until the very last few minutes of the movie, when everything is resolved in a long distance phone call. Talk about anti-climax.
Alex Cross… Psychic?
The astonishing leaps of deduction that Alex Cross makes would make Sherlock Holmes gawk in wonder:
A glance at a house full of dead people and Alex KNOWS the killer worked alone?
Two marks on the table and Alex KNOWS they were left by a laptop? And he KNOWS “…that’s probably what the killer was after.”???
A bowl full of severed fingers, and Alex KNOWS the person was tortured to get the password for the laptop? The same laptop that isn’t there?
Alex folds up a sketch left by the killer at the crime scene to produce two initials and somehow Alex KNOWS it’s the initials of the next person on the killer’s hitlist? Huh? How did he know it wasn’t the killers own initials? How did Alex know there was a hitlist?
These are just a tiny taste of the impossible leaps of intellect the audience has to swallow in one short scene of the movie. The entire movie was filled with them, and the only possible explanations are that Alex Cross is psychic, or that James Patterson is a lazy writer. It must be the latter, because any detective with such strong psychic abilities should have been able to figure out the killer and the motive over their lunch break.
I can’t imagine that fans of crime fiction would tolerate plot gaps chained together by magical deductions of this magnitude. Audiences have to suspend their disbelief, but this is like putting your disbelief in a gimp outfit and locking it in a closet.
Alex Cross… Rogue?
There is a short scene in which Alex and his partner bypass security and break into the police station, and then beat up two cops to steal evidence. The scene is ludicrous, unnecessary and so absurd that audience members were snickering, myself included. Why didn’t he just bribe the guy in the evidence dept with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts? And where did Alex Cross suddenly learn police security system hacking? Why not steal a nuclear bomb and blow up the whole city? Then you’d get the bad guy for sure!
Executive Summary Review
It’s clear that James Patterson wants to raise his character to a name-brand franchise like James Bond or Jason Bourne. The problem is that those films are plot-driven, while Alex Cross tries to be character-driven, and unfortunately, the personality just isn’t there to support the film. Some reviewers are blaming Tyler Perry for this, but I blame the writer. I went to see a story about a cop trying to stop an assassin hired to kill off high-ranking businessmen in a global conspiracy….
…and instead, I saw a story about a boringly bland, psychic, daddy-cop who gets a half-movie’s worth of motivation to catch the bad guy he was assigned to catch anyway, and then in the second half of the film, he breaks almost as many laws and kills almost as many people as the bad guy. And at the end, the real bad guy behind all of this is nothing more than an afterthought, wrapped up with a two minute phone call.
There are many people who encourage authors NOT to self-publish because of quality issues. I don’t generally agree, but here is a shining example of an author self-producing his own movie, and the results are embarrassing. You can watch the movie Seven (ironically starring Morgan Freeman) to see what I think James Patterson was trying to accomplish, but don’t waste your time on Alex Cross. I can only hope the books aren’t this bad.
I am legally required to tell you that “I was invited to a pre-release screening of The Devil Inside by Paramount”, which is how I’m able to review it before it’s technically released in theaters.
Good thing too, otherwise you might actually have gone to see it.
I am not legally required to tell you that I actually watched the movie as research for the story I’ve been working on about Demons and Demonslayers, called Evil Looks Good.
I feel ethically required to tell you that the movie is a joke, and it actually makes The Blair Witch Project look good.
Review of The Devil Inside
Believe me, before seeing The Devil Inside, you’ll want to get a few spirits into your own body. I recommend Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. One quart should be sufficient.
First of all, for a movie about demonic possession, it’s about as frightening as tepid queso dip. Here’s a hint to producers wanting to make a horror movie: if you feel the need to have something jump out (be it person, car, dog, cat, bird or whatever) to keep the suspense up… guess what? Your writing sucks. Try adding suspense to your story, and you won’t have to rely on stuff-jumping-out-at-you tactics as a crutch for your lame writing.
Also, is there some law that requires indie films to be shot as a “documentary”? Sure it worked great for Trollhunter, but no one fell for that bullshit with The Blair Witch Project, and no one’s falling for it with The Devil Inside. This story would have been much, much scarier if it were scripted, filmed and cut together like a regular horror film, using the exact same resources. Remember, there’s not much difference between a “documentary” and a “mockumentary”.
The heart of the story was not bad, but parts of the story were so bad that they were able to actually detract from the movie and scream “SCRIPTED”. For example, why did the cameraman follow the priest to a baptism which had NOTHING to do with the plot of the movie? Ah, that’s right, otherwise we would have missed an IMPORTANT PLOT POINT. Wow. Good thing the cameraman was there, or the screenplay writer(s) would have had to write that plot info into the script some other way. Who has time for that?
Why did a mom have to move her daughter to the basement of the house before calling the exorcists? Guess her daughter’s bedroom had too much lighting and not enough grungy textures and peeling paint in it for an exorcism. No, I’m not kidding. Moved her demonically-possessed daughter to a bed in middle of the fucking basement. Wow, good thing, because that dingy, poorly-lit basement was much creepier than any kid’s bedroom.
And the ending? The audience laughed out loud. And I heard several people actually say out loud: “Oh no they did-int!” and “Aw, hell no!” and there was even one “That’s it? Really? You gotta be shittin’ me!” Wish I were kidding. It was the cheapest, “We’re out of time, so let’s wrap this up! Cut! Print! Where’s the Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey?” that I’ve ever seen. And the end credits were an exercise (pun intended) in patience, crawling across the screen slower than the credits in Pray For Daylight, and that had to be a challenge.
This Review of The Devil Inside Is Not, I Repeat, NOT Sanctioned By The Catholic Church
So much for the review. The movie sucked. But what I really want to talk about is the marketing genius of the promotional/street team who were on hand to introduce the movie The Devil Inside, because they were far, far more intelligent than the screenplay writers.
Just before the film started, three prim, young people stood up in front of the audience and made an announcement. A clean-cut kid dressed as a priest, wearing a banded collar and flanked by two Polly-pureheart-puritan girls. He produced a notecard, and in a head-down, self-conscious monotone, (soliciting some “louder” and “we can’t hear you” responses from the audience) he read off some gibberish about how he did not condone the film, and he would be available for discussion after the film.
Now these three were even more fake than film itself, if that were possible. He never said he was a priest, but that was obvious. No priests are that young, and they aren’t shy in front of crowds. They introduce themselves by name, and by religious branch, including the location of their place of worship. They know to project their voice. And they don’t read off notecards.
And the Polly Purehearts? They ain’t that pure. I checked.
But, the very idea of having people dressed as religious authority stand up in front of the entire theater audience and tell them that they DID NOT CONDONE your decision to watch the movie? That they did not endorse the movie content?
Sheer marketing genius? Definitely. But I can do better.
Here’s a Million Dollar Idea:
If you want people to remember your movie, you should have “plants” in the audience – members of the street team disguised as regular theater patrons, who scream, puke, and/or pass out at strategic moments during the film. I could have slept through The Devil Inside, but if someone near me barfed or passed out? Now there’s something to blog about!
Remember, you heard it here first. Drop me a thank-you if this idea works out for you.
And don’t waste your time with The Devil Inside. If you want to see a real horror movie, check out The Thing remake instead.
Like the film Snakes On A Plane, you should know what you’re getting into when you buy a ticket for a movie with a title like Hobo With A Shotgun. Unfortunately, that isn’t quite the case.
As someone who fondly remembers Rutger Hauer from his action-film heyday in the 80’s between Blade Runner and Blind Fury, I was saddened to see him reduced to a homeless old man. Furthermore I was warned that the movie was both loaded with preposterously violent content and bad writing, so I thought I was well prepared. I went in expecting to write this film off as one that you could guess your own review before you even saw it, then turn off your mind and go along for the ride.
I was wrong.
About halfway through the film, I realized that it wasn’t just the campy, schlock-horror gorefest I’d expected. The makers of Hobo With A Shotgun seem to be trying for some kind of retro, “bad” cult-movie status, like Chopping Mall or Jack Frost. Or taken to extremes in Asian films like Tokyo Gore Police or Vampire Girl vs Frankenstein Girl. This is a different formula than Snakes on a Plane. These movies have more than just a zany concept, they embrace their own bad scripts, overacting and overuse of low-quality FX, while still managing to entertain. They transcend the standards of normal movies and somehow become “good”.
Like I said, it took me half the movie just to recalibrate my expectations. Once I understood the formula, I tried to tune out the bad parts and enjoy the movie for what it was.
It didn’t work.
Just because I understand what recipe the chef was “aiming for” doesn’t mean I like the way it tastes. There’s just too much unnecessary depravity in Hobo With A Shotgun; the kind of 13-year-old writing I’d expect to see in a Quentin Tarantino film:
A man dressed as Santa Claus jacking off in his car while watching little kids in a playground.
A guy who gives homeless people money if he can videotape them getting beat up and chewing glass.
Topless girls laughing as they beat a man hung upside down like a pinata.
Feeding a girl’s hand into a lawnmower. Slowly.
Pimps playing poker for crying girls strung up from the ceiling like bloody cattle.
A stripper dancing in a shower of blood that spews from the neck of a recently decapitated man.
A school bus full of kids torched with a flamethrower.
And this list just scratches the surface of sick, depraved crimes committed in the sick, depraved town. But fear not! All of this evil is about to be avenged by…?
You guessed it. A Hobo With A Shotgun.
I can tell you that Rutger Hauer is the only believable character in this film, and his acting is very good, even when straddled with cheesy lines like this:
Hooker with a heart of gold: “You can’t solve every problem with a shotgun.”
Hobo with a shotgun: “It’s all I know.”
The rest of the characters are stereotypes: the corrupt cop, the sociopathic bad guy, the hooker with a heart of gold. The low-budget, real-world FX were a refreshing break from years of watching CG FX.
The target market for Hobo With A Shotgun is clearly 13-year old boys with anger management issues. They would LOVE this film. But they can’t (and shouldn’t) be allowed to watch it. If you are over 18 and you enjoy Rob Zombie movies and you are willing to explore the depths of human depravity, then you can probably enjoy Hobo With A Shotgun.
If there was an editor on hand to cut the bad ideas and bad dialog (easily half the movie) Hobo With A Shotgun could have been an enjoyable “Death Wish” derivative. But it seems the writers/producers were intent on trading fame for infamy.
Guess Del Rey Books missed the news that Virtual Products are not Physical Products. I really don’t want to see the publishing industry fail, but if this is your business model, then I’m looking forward to your funeral.
I’ve been coding, registering, hosting and managing websites for over ten years now, and in that time I’ve worked with many companies. Since GoDaddy.com first came out, I’ve held my tongue. I understand the need for a provider that can be operated by people without a Computer Science Degree, even if they are the McDonald’s of Web Host Providers.
Over the years, GoDaddy has filled that niche in the market and gone gangbusters with their tasteless Super Bowl advertisements. I bet they are the one of the few web hosts people know by name. But as Thomas Umstattd Jr. points out in his post 6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid GoDaddy on authortechtips.com, it’s pretty safe to say GoDaddy has gone to the dark side. I will only cover a couple of his points in more detail here, and I can add a seventh reason why you should look someplace else for a web host provider.
Thomas’s second reason to avoid GoDaddy.com is that they are expensive. I don’t agree. Thomas suggests some alternative hosts that are cheaper, but seriously, to save One Dollar and Seventy Cents PER YEAR??? Like I said, it’s important to have a provider that caters to people who can’t even spell SQL. I’d actually expect newbie web-designers to pay more for the hand-holding that GoDaddy provides. Less than a buck per month to keep your name registered is not “expensive.”
However, he does point out that GoDaddy makes it sound like web hosting is going to cost less than it really does, and then they come in with the upsell. This is completely accurate. GoDaddy has become a master of the upsell. Because their target market are newbies who don’t know their DNS from a hole in the ground, GoDaddy baits its users into purchasing services they don’t need. Authors especially are likely to be intrigued by GoDaddy’s marketing, promotional, and web-optimization products which are nothing but Virtual Snake Oil.
Difficult to use
Thomas’ third reason not to use GoDaddy.com is that it is “hard to use.” This is like saying wiping your ass with a chainsaw is “uncomfortable.” Their attempts to make webhosting ‘simple’ for newbies only make it frustrating for people who know what they are doing. It’s like trying to browse the internet using AOL. Like Thomas, I roll my eyes every time I have to work on a client’s site via GoDaddy.com.
What generally happens is that Joe User wants a website, registers a domain name at GoDaddy.com, purchases a year of hosting, and then….? Contacts someone like myself to “make it work.” Unfortunately, GoDaddy isn’t made for people to use, it’s made to sell extra services. What should take two clicks takes twenty. And digging through page after ad-laden page to get to what you want requires the accuracy of playing a First Person Shooter. God forbid you don’t get a headshot on the link you wanted, or you’ll probably end up buying something.
Thomas’s sixth argument against GoDaddy is that “GoDaddy Uses Smut to Sell.” Let’s be honest, that pretty much exemplifies Marketing 101 here in America. So while it is a valid point, it would be a pretty long list of products and services we wouldn’t be buying if we used that as criteria.
For extra credit, listen to Stuart Davis’ song Sex That Sells from his album Big Energy Dream – a marvelous mock of the subject.
Go Daddy, Just Go
Short version? Go Away from GoDaddy. Honestly, if you can’t figure out website hosting and registration, then you shouldn’t be doing it. Find someone who knows what they’re doing and let them pick out a name registrar and host for you.
Thomas has recommendations for other website hosts in his post. Check them out.
I’ve been with dreamhost.com from day one, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. They offer an insane amount of bandwidth and storage space for a very reasonable price. The bells and whistles are there if you want them, but Dreamhost doesn’t push them down your throat. Dreamhost’s web interface makes GoDaddy look like the joke that they are. And NO snake oil. Click here to check them out. (Full Disclosure – This is an affiliate link. I get some $ if you sign up with dreamhost through this link.)
Remember when you wrote out checks to pay your bills? Those little slips of paper you stuffed into an envelope and mailed off? (Don’t forget the stamp!)
Nineteen Hundred and Ninety-X
Remember when the “Debit Card” was invented? Remember how most stores wouldn’t take it? They called it “funny money.”
Remember when ATMs were going to replace banks? There was going to be one on each street corner (next to each pay phone.)
Twenty Hundred and X
Remember Microsoft Money? Quicken? Programs that enabled you to pay your bills over the magic of the interwebs? I used Microsoft Money to monitor my banking transactions, categorize my spending, set budgets, pay bills, and administrate invoices and payments. It really simplified tax-time.
Eventually, utilities offered the ability to pay over the cell phone and the web. The gas, electric and phone bills were easy (and most were free) to check and pay over the phone and web. So I shifted away from Microsoft Money’s bill paying feature for the convenience of paying by phone.
Companies have been raising their fees, or charging a fee where there was none before. My phone company, which had free phone-pay system for a while now, recently added a FOUR DOLLAR FEE to pay your bill over the phone.
Let’s add this up:
Before: An administrative assistant opens payment envelopes, makes sure checks are properly filled out, matches them to customer account invoices. An accounting assistant keys them in to the ERP system, signs all the checks, and makes a ‘nightly deposit run’.
Now: Administrative and accounting assistants are replaced with one computer. Data entry is done by the customer, and money transfers directly into the business account. The company IT guy has one more computer to keep running /backed up (for the same paycheck)
For this new system they ADD a fee? For a service that costs them LESS to operate? Never mind the fact that YOU are paying them a fee so you can pay them for their product/service to begin with. The price of their service should have decreased to reflect the decrease in operating expense. The price could have stayed the same, and no one would have complained. They could have added a token fee of a dime or a quarter, even a dollar, and most people wouldn’t think twice. But Four Dollars? This works out to as much as 20% of some of my bills.
Why don’t businesses simply raise the price of their services? I would understand that. But to charge people MORE for a service that costs the business LESS to operate? That’s downright American. Who do they think they are, The Recording Industry?
Going Forward – 3 Methods I Use to Fight the Fees
I’ve decided not to tolerate unnecessary fees any longer. Here’s a handful of ways I have changed my system and saved myself over $400 per year:
No longer using payment types that require a “fee” – I will not pay fees to my utilities so that I can pay them… by phone or any other method. I actually considered sending them physical checks out of spite (even though those do set me back the price of a stamp.) Fortunately for them, my bank has a free online bill payment system.
Categorizing and Budgeting with Mint.com – I’ve read a lot of good things about mint.com, and the fact that they were purchased by Intuit (makers of Quicken) makes them even more attractive. Mint.com is a “read only” service, meaning it can only pull information from your accounts, it can’t move money around, or send money from your accounts. In that respect it’s very safe, but at the same time, it’s very limiting. If I trust a service enough to give them my account login credentials, then I would also trust them to make transfers at my request. So mint.com is worthless for bill paying and it won’t do invoicing, but it has plenty of features to help categorize my expenses for tax time, and set budgets and analyze spending patterns.
Invoicing using Freshbooks.com – I only have a handful of clients, so I can invoice using Freshbooks.com for free. Freshbooks.com is extremely intuitive and dead simple to use.
By using these three methods, I’m saving myself the cost of a Microsoft Money upgrade each year (around $80) and $32 per month in unnecessary “fees”. That’s not enough to save up for a flying car, but since I don’t think we’ll get any flying cars before the end of the world in 2012, I can still use that $400 for something to make the most of the short time left to this planet.