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Paid Advertising to Support WS: Discuss


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#1 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 14 January 2010 - 08:36 PM

Sometimes i'm oblivious.....but I am wondering is there some rule against forum members identifying themselves (clearly) as a producer or retailer?

Not at all. We have a number of producers and retailers registered. The retailers usually don't post often, but a good number of the producers are here and active. The makers (or brand managers) of Marteau, Pacifique, Leopold Bros., Clandestine, Delaware Phoenix, Jade, the Pernot line, Vieux Carré, Edward III, all post here. I've probably left someone out.

What is required to be listed on the WS main site in the "Buy Absinthe" section? Maybe that could stand some expansion.

It may be bad timing to mention this, but that list is probably going to go away. It started back when absinthe was hard to find and was intended to steer people toward retailers who sold the better products. Also to help support these tiny obscure businesses.

As it is, we've provided absolutely free advertising for over five years, with thousands upon thousands of click-throughs from the most-visited absinthe information site on the web.

The Board will be looking at various options for paid advertising in the near future. We will always apply our standards to any retailer and will not take sponsorship from businesses that portray absinthe inaccurately or which sell spurious goods. We'll also refrain from trashing the site up with ugly, annoying banners.

Now back to the F. Guy thread, already in progress...

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#2 Wild Bill Turkey

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 02:14 AM

Sure we can buy absinthe at Bevmo now, but some of the best absinthes can still be found only at the "tiny, obscure businesses" that have been selling it for years, and these places could be difficult for new buyers to stumble upon on their own. I thought the Wormwood Society was designed to be an independent not-for-profit information resource. Denying a listing in our buyer's guide to vendors who don't pay for it seems like a big leap down a slippery slope.

Edited by Wild Bill Turkey, 15 January 2010 - 02:18 AM.

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#3 Joe Legate

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 04:53 AM

I appreciate your concern, WBT. Those of us that contribute to keep WS running may have slightly different feelings. Selling ad space would not jeopardize our non-profit status but merely help pay the bills. Non-profit does not equal going-broke.

#4 Brian Robinson

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 05:37 AM

Indeed. Several people spend a lot of money out of pocket to keep this sight up and running, with Gwydion taking the large brunt of it.

I wouldn't view it as 'selling out' or anything of the such, since the strict standards we use to select vendors would still be in place.

For full disclosure, we haven't actually discussed this yet, so my opinion above is just an assumption.
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#5 Jen Dixon

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 06:19 AM

Thank you, AiO. I am new to the business but I aim to meet those standards. I want to run a shop I'd be happy to buy from- seems a simple formula to me.

I am very interested in the advertising discussion, of course, and would love to see a thread (or this one broken) to discuss it further, if it pleases the room :)




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#6 Ron

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 11:14 AM

It may be bad timing to mention this, but that list is probably going to go away. It started back when absinthe was hard to find and was intended to steer people toward retailers who sold the better products. Also to help support these tiny obscure businesses.

As it is, we've provided absolutely free advertising for over five years, with thousands upon thousands of click-throughs from the most-visited absinthe information site on the web.

The Board will be looking at various options for paid advertising in the near future. We will always apply our standards to any retailer and will not take sponsorship from businesses that portray absinthe inaccurately or which sell spurious goods. We'll also refrain from trashing the site up with ugly, annoying banners.

I think those two are an absolute requirement. Thank you for pointing those out to everyone here. It should help to allay any misgivings about intent or purpose.

Overall, I think this is a solid idea.


I thought the Wormwood Society was designed to be an independent not-for-profit information resource.

Even non-profits have operating expenses. The mission of the WS has evolved, as Gwydion commonly points out, and that larger role and larger presence means larger operating expenses. It's not just a $30 domain as the only cost each year, and that's a fact. And since there isn't a business plan set up yet for this proposal, I can't really speak with any ground beneath my feet, but I would assume that the Board is not going to make it so that the price of advertising on WS would be out of the budget picture for retailers.


Indeed. Several people spend a lot of money out of pocket to keep this sight up and running, with Gwydion taking the large brunt of it.

I wouldn't view it as 'selling out' or anything of the such, since the strict standards we use to select vendors would still be in place.

For full disclosure, we haven't actually discussed this yet, so my opinion above is just an assumption.

It's definitely not selling out, it's just good fiscal sense.

Of course, another option could be a paid subscription model for an advertisement free experience whilst supporting the WS mission, but we can all see how well that would be received. I think Gwydion is smart to push some form of revenue based system onto retailers rather than onto WS membership.

EDIT: I can already see this is going to probably need it's own thread, so perhaps a split now before it takes over this poor F. Guy convo?
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#7 peridot

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 12:15 PM

Of course, another option could be a paid subscription model for an advertisement free experience whilst supporting the WS mission, but we can all see how well that would be received. I think Gwydion is smart to push some form of revenue based system onto retailers rather than onto WS membership.

I think Gwydion has intentionally avoided that previously. We temporarily had a skin for the main page that asked for donations and had ads, and even though you could change the skin so that it didn't, people hated it. I like the subscription system as it is, especially that I can keep my monthly donation amount private.

As for the distributor list, actually I'm totally for it. Requiring a fee eliminates what could be viewed currently as doing free favours only for friends. Keeping the standards that are currently in place prevents the perception of it being an "anyone gets in for the right price" thing.

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#8 Ron

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 12:24 PM

As for the distributor list, actually I'm totally for it

You meant the current, non-paid one or the proposed paid one?

Here's my thoughts. The list as it is currently could give the good-ol-boy impression. That WS is pandering to chums. Under the table type stuff. In my opinion that could send the wrong message. Also, it really is just giving free advertising. I don't think anyone will dispute that some of the WS suggested retailers have made lots of money from WS members. And in that respect, the WS almost becomes an agent of the retailers that benefit from our membership.

By removing the current setup, it really does level the playing field, so that other retailers don't get ignored simply because they're not on the preferred list. For instance, new retailers such as Jen may not see the same volume of sales, even though she carries the same products. By offering the ability for all vendors to request ad space, it would appear much less biased and much more fair.

And I think Gwydion's intentional public display of policy in regards to approving those requests should negate the sentiment you closed your post with, in the eyes of those who would try to see it that way.
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#9 peridot

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 12:28 PM

You meant the current, non-paid one or the proposed paid one?

The proposed paid one.

I think you said everything I said, just more elaborately.

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#10 Babble

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Posted 15 January 2010 - 04:21 PM

I have no problem with paid advertising on the site but I do think a recommended vendors list is very helpful for newcomers. For example, right now the only place you can order absinthe in Canada is Premier Wine and Spirits. If Premier does not have paid advertising on this site (for whatever reason) then Canadians who come to this site to find info on absinthe in Canada will have no idea that Premier Wine and Spirits exists. Of course there are other ways to find that out but there are also other ways to find almost all the information on this site. This site exists to make that info more accessible. That's just one example.

#11 scuto

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Posted 16 January 2010 - 07:15 PM

Maybe a pinned thread in "Absinthes around the world," could be where the current recommended vendors are listed. Also, including a link to that section of the forum from the vendor list could help those who would like to do further research/see what else is out there.
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#12 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 12:54 AM

I thought the Wormwood Society was designed to be an independent not-for-profit information resource.

It is, but I'd like to elaborate a little on what Ron, Joe and Brian said earlier.

Many people don't understand the difference between a not-for-profit business and a for-profit one: a for-profit exists specifically to be a means of income for its owners/stockholders. It asks: "How can we make money?" The margin between income and out-go is called "profit", and it goes into the pockets of the owners.

A non-profit org exists specifically to perform a public service of some kind, for the betterment of society. Any margin between income and out-go is reinvested in the org and supports its growth. It asks: "How can we fulfill our mission?"

In both cases there are expenses incurred: property costs, salaries, utilities, insurance, outreach, taxes (unless you're a 501c3) and whatever else it takes to perform the service. Even an all-volunteer org has to pay real money for rent.

WS has been very casually operated for six years now, in spite of our (read: "my") rather ambitious vision for it.

... I would assume that the Board is not going to make it so that the price of advertising on WS would be out of the budget picture for retailers.

Definitely. It's in WS and our members' best interest that the appropriate businesses get exposure as well as validation for not taking the low road.

It's just that in the past, the members benefited and the businesses profited and the Wormwood Society becomes a haggard old breed-sow with sore saggy teats.

I think Gwydion is smart to push some form of revenue based system onto retailers rather than onto WS membership.

Thanks. I prefer to keep member donations entirely voluntary.

Here's my thoughts. The list as it is currently could give the good-ol-boy impression. That WS is pandering to chums. Under the table type stuff. In my opinion that could send the wrong message.

It has and does. Only I think you mean "Old Boy" as opposed to "Good Ol' Boy". ;)

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#13 Alan Moss

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 01:39 AM

The Board will be looking at various options for paid advertising in the near future.

Do the options include paid advertising from absinthe producers too?
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#14 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 02:10 PM

Good question. Probably not, which may be unfortunate, because producers have marketing budgets.

The most obvious reason not to take advertising from producers is that of jeopardizing our freedom to publish unbiased reviews. I know if I paid a big chunk to advertise Marteau here and then Brian or Peridot ripped it to pieces, I'd feel... uncomfortable. Sponsors have been known to pull out because they didn't like content. Network TV is crap for this very reason. Just ask Mark Aleister what's-his-name.

I wouldn't rule it out completely, pending discussion, but I don't think it's likely. There are a lot of considerations before we go forward with any of it. We do welcome all perspectives on the topic though.

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#15 Mat B.

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 02:27 PM

I for one wonder what percentage of our 1869 members actively donate? Perhaps another option would be (another) call to WS’ers for help in the department. I know a select few already fund the lion’s share of this place. I would never endorse paid membership, but if you really value this place (as we all do) lend a helping hand :wave2:
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#16 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 03:29 PM

I for one wonder what percentage of our 1869 members actively donate?

0.0042 percent, for a monthly total of $130. It pays for hosting, my connectivity, monthly software licensing, domain renewal and the occasional Thai ladyboy hooker.

But who's counting?

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#17 peridot

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 03:58 PM

That's what, 8 people? I'm really surprised by that.

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#18 Nonmouse

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 04:25 PM

Well, one thing that seems like it would make donations increase is to make the option to donate more obvious- I noticed it yesterday, poking around in my control panel, but I don't recall seeing anything on any of the main or forum pages indicating that the option to donate even exists. Just now, it took me a couple minutes to find the subscription page again, because I'd forgotten where I saw it.

Maybe a discreet tab at the top of the page or a small sidebar box? Just my 2¢.
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#19 peridot

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 04:45 PM

Huh. I could have swore even recently that I saw an option for making a donation on the main page. But I don't see it now.

Edited by peridot, 17 January 2010 - 04:45 PM.

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#20 OMG_Bill

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 04:53 PM

Maybe a discreet tab at the top of the page or a small sidebar box?


I agree and it would be a nice reminder also.

A reminder is what I need, honestly. :twitchsmile:

Peridot, I just looked around the front page and if it's there.......it's not easy to spot.
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#21 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 04:53 PM

I could have swore even recently that I saw an option for making a donation on the main page.

There was for like a day or two, but it made the page all wonky. I have no problem putting the link at the top of the forum pages, since that's where folks hang the most.

I wonder how many people we have in the forum that still don't know we have a main page?

Well, one thing that seems like it would make donations increase is to make the option to donate more obvious- I noticed it yesterday, poking around in my control panel, but I don't recall seeing anything on any of the main or forum pages indicating that the option to donate even exists.

It's in my sig line too.

That's what, 8 people?

Yep.

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#22 peridot

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 05:20 PM

That's what, 8 people?

Yep.

One fewer than a year ago. Wow.

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#23 Nonmouse

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 05:32 PM

It's in my sig line too.


You have a sig line?

Oh, there it is... :shock:

I almost never read sigs, frankly, and I suspect I'm not alone in that.
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#24 Gwydion Stone

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 05:47 PM

That's what, 8 people?

Yep.

One fewer than a year ago. Wow.

They come and go, but that's about the average.

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#25 Brian Robinson

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 06:16 PM

Yeah, Minott finally understood his Diamond subscription wouldn't garner favor for LTV. ;)
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#26 Joe Legate

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 07:28 PM

the occasional Thai ladyboy hooker.

Brian still hasn't returned her/him has he?

I like the donation tab on the front of the forum idea. Seriously.
I also like tasteful advertising. I think the Absinthe Vendors need to be revisited anyway.

#27 baubel

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Posted 17 January 2010 - 11:05 PM

I was about to post that I had seen one there already.



I don't know if it was my imagination or vision. I think it would work though.

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#28 Alan Moss

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 12:12 AM

The most obvious reason not to take advertising from producers is that of jeopardizing our freedom to publish unbiased reviews.

In addition it's possible that those who can afford bigger advertising budgets are also those with bigger global sales and with lower production costs. They wouldn't care too much about the bad reviews (which are there anyway), but would see the site as a good location to target newcomers to absinthe.
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#29 Joe Legate

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 09:16 AM

Add to that, with the number of Producers/WS Members, it could quickly look like some pretty intense inbreeding.

#30 Jen Dixon

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 01:54 PM

Thinking, drinking (appropriately enough, François Guy), and typing...

I am certainly interested in advertising, and even more than that I'd love to earn a WS recommendation link. Both are valuable, but one speaks more highly on a personal level than the other. If I purchase an ad, I'm a paid sponsor of sorts. For the sake of being broad on the subject, a disposable undergarment company could also purchase ad space and it would make my ad look less meaningful by association on the page. WS is not likely to accept any old ads, I know, but say Really Rubbish Alcohol Beverages Warehouse Superstore buys a block... And I'm next to them... Granted, my ad might look classier than theirs, but that's not certain and sometimes doesn't matter.

This is where a personal recommendation speaks volumes. It's still a valuable incoming link to my shop just as the ad would be, but the link would 'mean something' by comparison.

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to discuss ad rates when the table is worked out, but I'm also prepared for it to be a proverbial can o' worms for WS to manage.

For a recommendation link, I know I need more of a track record. I'm building a business from scratch and I know these things take time, so sure, short-term: I'd buy an ad right now. Paypal at the ready, where do I sign. But in the long-term, would it be as good as a personal recommendation? I'm not sure.

Also (as I keep the brainmeat thinkin') ad size - in my opinion - would be most fair if only, say, standard 125 x 125 ad were available. That keeps advertisers with huge budgets in the same space as the little guys. Everyone gets a fair chance at the potential customers. Looks tidy too. Even if it raises the price for a 125 x 125 a bit for everyone, at least everyone is guaranteed to not be the sapling under the trees fighting for a ray of sun. Democratic and puts the onus on the advertiser's own customer service, etc...

Another bit... I ran a non-profit animal shelter for years and never did go 501©3. I also went massively in debt with it. I never had ads in my newsletters and donations were minimal at best. I know WS should take on advertising to cover some costs, but as a member first, I wouldn't find the ads meaningful. An ad doesn't say anything to me, but a recommendation does. When I recommended a product or a vet or another service to people coming to me for advice it was because I had something positive to say about it. I would have felt a little funny if I had flyers for (or ads in my newsletter) a major pet food company or medicine. They would've been relevant, but meaningful? Not so much...

Just some first-round thoughts...
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