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Have your say in the future of 4x4earth!

Discussion in 'General 4x4 Discussion' started by Patriot, Jan 21, 2017.

  1. Patriot

    Patriot Administrator

    Hello earthers!
    I am putting up an update just to let people know where we are now with the 4x4earth community, what is going well, what is going not so well and where I want to see the site going. I am looking for your input. What do you want? What is it that you want to see happen? Do you want to help? Would you help?

    Firstly about about where we are today -

    In the history of the forum we have had 12,038,513 sessions, 6,523,829 users, 50,551,595 pages. The 50 millionth page was in mid December!
    So one of our claims to fame is that we have helped well over 1,000,000 people find a good route!

    Here is some data from the new site. The exciting thing was that last week was the second best traffic week in the history of the forum, but the first highest was a week when we sent an email out that got 8,000 visits, so this is our highest unsupported week. The site is growing quite nicely!

    The Facebook page is growing very nicely as well. One thing that amazes some people is the engagement. Unfortunately some companies out there build their Facebook following with cheap likes from Thailand and the Philippines, but struggle to have meaningful conversations about local topics. 4x4earth's Facebook page is really good at generating engagement, with nearly 400,000 people reached in the last month.


    The podcast has been a massive highlight for me. I've got to speak to some amazing people and the number of people I meet all over Australia who listen to the podcast is really amazing.

    The Podcast has had over 100,000 podcasts which is huge in the podcast world.

    We are in the top 5% of all podcasts by downloads, which is pretty amazing for a podcast with a predominantly Australian audience.

    Two of our episodes are in the most popular automotive podcasts.

    We are currently the Number 5 Automotive podcast (Dammit, should have got this picture yesterday - we were number 3.) But we are the largest Australian Automotive podcast.

    Which brings us to the money.

    So the headline figure is that the site has bought in $93,000. There is other much smaller lines of revenue. We have started running a few bespoke ad campaigns, but this is probably 85% of the revenue that we have bought in. The downside is that this is 10 years worth of revenue.

    The costs to build and maintain the site are significantly higher. Then there are legal costs, we've stopped going to the Brisbane show because we couldn't justify the number of new members we got for the cost of flying to Brisbane. It is a lot cheaper to run an ad on Facebook and pick up another 200 members that way.
    On top of that there are the legal fees (thank you very much 2 camper trailer companies whose name I will not spek in this hallowed forum!) and other sundry costs with running a company.

    We have struggled with getting engagement with the big 4 wheel drive companies which is something that I am pretty frustrated with.

    This thread has been seen 143,000 times and it is usually from Google that people find this thread and we can see that a lot of people read a large number of the pages about this. When you distill it down, the ARB product isn't too bad, but they have issues getting them fitted - this is an industry wide issue. However, I shudder to think how many people have decided not to purchase an ARB locker. If only 10% of these people didn't buy a locker, that is $20 million in revenue. (They turn over $356,000,000)

    I think that lack of meaningful support from corporates is a big issue. Patrol 4x4, which was always the big 4 wheel drive forum when we started was sold to a European company and the peaked in 2013 and have slowly shrunk since then.

    There may be a significant opportunity here. One thing that a lot of the 4 wheel drive industry is not doing is worrying about track closures. The work that we have done out at O'Tooles with Grumpy and the Gippy Crew, I think, is a model for the 4 wheel drive community moving forward.
    We have reached out to most of them, usually on multiple occassions, but none have really seen any value in the work that we do, or the community that we have - which is something that I really find quite amazing. We are here, educating, organising and inspiring people to go out offroad (which means they need to buy their products, and yet our contribution is viewed as virtually worthless.)

    People like Dave Manning and his team run probably Australia's largest free weekend away. This is a massive acheivement and these events are where people learn about the modifications that they should be buying for their car. On top of that, every track closure I think will decrease all of TJM's, ARB's or Ironmans revenue. A major sponsor would make a big difference in the number of events and trips that would be organised.

    And of course I got to get out and explore some of our amazing country and have some awesome times!

    Some not so awesome times!

    It has been great to get outdoors with the family and camping is one of the thing that our two kids really love.

    And along the way we have met some of the most interesting, friendly and skilled 4 wheel drivers in the country - you!

    It is becoming increasingly difficult to run a forum these days. We are lucky, given that I run an online marketing business and have access to some awesome web developers. Without the ability to draw on those guys, we would never have survived, but it needs to be done on a economic basis. It is very hard to find great developers, we never have enough of them and there is always a lot of work on, so it is difficult to get time to build major features, like the tracks database or other new and exciting features, when there is no very little money coming in.

    Which leaves us with want do you as the users of 4x4earth want and what are you prepared to pay for?

    We have had multiple offers to buy the site. I don't know for how much because we have never really been interested in selling it. The site needs to stay in the hands of people committed to helping people to enjoy the great Australian outback and more important to ensuring that the next generation of 4 wheel drivers is taught how to drive responsibly. If we don't get more 4 wheel drivers, we will never be able to keep the tracks open, and never be able to start talking about track openings.

    I would like to make some money, so a) I didn't have to work so hard :), so that I could get more time to go 4 wheel driving and b) that we can add some of the features that we need to speed up the growth of the site.

    What are your thoughts? I am strongly against paid membership, because it is most important that the people heading out for their first trip have all the information, knowledge and people they need to go out and have a great first time so that they come back for a second time.

    Should we run a donations month like Wikipedia does?
    Would you buy a T-Shirt or other 4earth gear to support the forum?
    Would you buy other products if we created stores for them, eg recovery gear, lights, or radios?
    Does anyone know peopel at the major companies who would be interested in being promoted as a copany supporting the 4WD community and track openings? There are podcasts, tracks maps, trip organisers, all many of promotions that we could do. This in itself would be a huge difference.

    What have you seen work on other forums?

    I am really keen to make a bit of money to be able to push on with what we have all created here. The mods, trip leaders, popdcast guest, people who answer questions, have all helped so many people find a great route over the years, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I think some money to hire someone part time to do things like organise sponsorships, trips, events and the like would make a huge difference to.

    Keen to hear your ideas.

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
  2. lockee

    lockee Member

    Great post James.

    Interested to hear the feedback
  3. Wannabe4WDer

    Wannabe4WDer Active Member

    I would think putting the tracks and campsites behind a small paywall wouldn't be too bad. You could perhaps give forum members a couple of free views a month or something and if they want to see more they pay a subscription.
    Merchandise sounds good. A bit of variety wouldn't go astray. Stubby coolers, t-shirts, sun visors, strap dampeners and bottle openers are a good start. Starting a full on store to do lighting and other big ticket items is a whole other beast though. A lot more start up money required and admin as well.
    I am not sure if there is anything you can do with schools. In terms of education this might be a good thing. Get to kids when they are 14-16 in school and have a chat about looking after the bush and treating it with respect. Also some safety aspects of being in the bush.
    Perhaps a 4wd club with state chapters that is paid membership. Or try and link up with a couple of existing clubs in each state that contribute to the 4x4earth "brand" and in term 4x4earth pushes members there way.
    Tink and lockee like this.
  4. Patriot

    Patriot Administrator

    Hey @Wannabe4WDer - the education is about teaching newby offroaders how to go drive properly. I would have thought that over 100,000 people have had their first time offroad with a 4x4earth trip. Given the number of trips, the number of years and number of members we have, it would be around that number.
  5. Lantikka

    Lantikka Member

    Paywalls and merch should be approached with caution. Paywalls need some compelling content behind them; tracks and campsites are data readily duplicated on a free, community basis so probably not much value there (you need something like Game of Thrones to do paywall well). Merch is probably an easy one provided you outsource to a print/ship on demand outfit rather than being lumped with thousands of dollars tied up in stubby coolers no-one wants. Partner discounts and referrals (and then competition/promotions) are probably your best option, you have some compelling sales pitch in your report, hopefully potential partners are reading it. Anything you can do to get members to drop the 4x4 Earth name with vendors when shopping is worth considering.
  6. stevemc181

    stevemc181 Well-Known Member

    What about a paid member sponsorship option similar to, I just signed up over there a few weeks ago and have also elected to pay $20 a year for some additional features such as larger PM storage, more lines in signature, Custom Title, No ads etc.
    Telby likes this.
  7. 80lover96gxl

    80lover96gxl Moderator

    Id happily be a trip organizer James, love organizing trips, lost count of how many iv done on here over the past 6 yrs. Insurance would be the big hurdle to maybe consider i think.

    I know a few people that have had issues regarding trips where things have gone pear shaped and ended up a little messy with court proceedings required to sort the matter, none on this forum mind you as i think most people on here are willing to be responsible for their own actions, and dont point the finger if shit hits the fan.
    Gavo and Spooner like this.
  8. Tink

    Tink Well-Known Member

    James, I think a priority is getting the tracks database back up and running. Get people using it and talking about it again. Get some new tracks on it. Generate interest. Then, in six months or so, after increased use and activity, introduce a small subscription fee to access it. I have previously suggested creating a Tracks App but apparently creating an app is expensive. Maybe there are cheaper ways. As for the campsites database, there are several successful competitiors with databases of campsites already, Wikicamps, etc, so maybe it would be better to just bow out gracefully on this one and not bother spending more momey duplicating databases. Just my two cents worth.
    99pc chimpanzee and 80lover96gxl like this.
  9. Mifferz

    Mifferz New Member

    I don't mind a donation month like Wikipedia. If everyone donated a single dollar then that be huge.
    Penny Arcade stopped running ads on their website when they introduced donation targets. E.g. Reach $10K, no ads. Reach $20K more new different comics.
    They have a club/subscription with different offerings now
  10. Wannabe4WDer

    Wannabe4WDer Active Member

    Maybe to get vendors interested we might be able to organise some sort of group buy? Like Maxxtrax. See if they will do 100 units for $200 each and you get a $5 kickback from each unit. That would get them advertising and sales and you some cash James. (Obviously just an example, I have no contacts in this industry unfortunately)
    Jason Hayden, Telby and komaterpillar like this.
  11. hiluxdriver

    hiluxdriver Well-Known Member

    I've mentioned previouslyconducting driver training through the site using members as the trainers, training other members in driving, recoveries, bushcraft or whatever. Profits go to the site, members mix with other members and better overall skills are developed.
    Start pumping businesses for sponsorship. How is Runva not a sponsor given the advertising they get for Swaggies thread? And what about the free plugs given to businesses in the bargains and deals thread?
  12. Croozer

    Croozer Well-Known Member

    Just putting this up here. So I remember for Sunday.
    I think the thought of a club donation would be a good idea. For one thing that part could be considered as a club option donation and would also class a part of the site as a club. (A separate section) I know a lot of our members join Earth so they don't have to deal with clubs or there politics but I think it could be a possibility of a income to earth. It could also open the doors to a number of things in the future like possible affiliation with 4WD Vic to obtain areas we need permission to go to and cant get just as a forum. Even classic club rego for some classic older rigs owned by members. Clubs do get a few more options from different groups and affiliations that we will never get as a forum.
    It would also make us possibly able to run fund raising events as a lot of clubs do to get cash flow back in to the group.
    It would be great to walk out of Bunnings and grab a snag in bread from an 4X4Earth member :)
  13. rogerazz

    rogerazz 4x4 Earth Contributer

    G'day James.
    Not sure if you are prepared to disclose, however I will ask the question.
    What is a ball park annual estimate of the amount of funds required to run the site at a modest profit?
    On a different note, I do have some contacts working in an large Australia wide reseller and supplier of automotive parts and accessories aftermarket and will make some enquiries as to possible discount for members in return for some kickback???
    Worth a try.
    Will P.M. you asap.
    abw likes this.
  14. Madlandy

    Madlandy Active Member

    I love this idea and have thought about it also. However, the "forum" would need to be an RTO and the "trainers" would need to hold the applicable TAE, otherwise I doubt you would get insurance from anywhere. The cost associated with this would be huge and would have to be recouped via "course fees" if the group is not full, all of a sudden it becomes a loss.

    @Patriot, a forum merchandise/product store is a great idea if you have the time to build and administer it.
    If there is something In the future alonh the lines of the above mentioned training/RTO etc, I would be happy to be involved with that in a trainer capacity.

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2017
    boobook and 80lover96gxl like this.
  15. Madlandy

    Madlandy Active Member

    I think we touched briefly on the affiliation with 4wdvic somewhere didn't we? I think we both agreed it was a mint idea. I had forgotten all about that. Lol
    But that would be an excellent revenue stream to tap into. A paid membership to "4x4 earth off road club" (for eg) would work well. Especially given the people who would initially be involved would build it with a culture that doesn't include 4wd club politics. the benefits for membership could be huge for the member and very little cost to the forum.
    Jason Hayden and 80lover96gxl like this.
  16. Mr Rum

    Mr Rum Well-Known Member

    Okay, this idea might be a bit out there, but what if there was an annual vehicle sticker that members could buy to show they've made a contribution.
    In essence, an overpriced sticker ($50-$100?) that contained the year, and stated "financial contributor to 4x4 Earth" (or similar).
    Those that aren't into putting stickers on their fourbies could stick them on their drinks fridge, collect them in a folder, or whatever their thing is.
    I'm envisioning a "Where did you put your sticker?" thread too.

    Whatever one chose to do with it, it would give them something to show for their involvement, and over the years, they could be collected to show ongoing support. Almost like badges of honour.

    I suggest this instead of just adding "financial member" (or similar) to members profiles, because that could put new forum users off, making them feel less important. Any chance for an "us vs them" is bad in my experience.

    Anyway, I hope that all makes sense. It just sort of came to me, and I haven't thought too much about it, so perhaps it's flawed. Feel free to pick it to pieces, but I'd buy a $50 sticker every year without hesitation.
  17. Spooner

    Spooner Well-Known Member

    Id just bite the bullet and put a yearly membership fee to the site , forget all the other crap about being affiliated with 4wd Vic etc etc etc
    Either that or put up a Faceache crowd funding page.
    Easy fix , do it :)
  18. ian.c

    ian.c Well-Known Member

    Maybe a try before you buy type system, free trial period to get you interested , people don't want to pay for something they haven't used yet, I would pay for use because I know how good the site is , I'm sure other users that are regular here would agree to pay membership fees, but I do know that it doesn't help attract new members, of course the track data thing needs to be fixed or deleted , it's been too long , almost like false advertising IMO
    shame dysart and Spooner like this.
  19. Spooner

    Spooner Well-Known Member

    Id just delete it really , is more trouble than its worth and in real terms opens you up for trouble in the future.
    Tracks constantly change due to weather conditions everywhere.
    Its a grand idea , but really a waste of time and money doing it.
    ian.c likes this.
  20. ian.c

    ian.c Well-Known Member

    Yep for longer than I've been here it's served only as bad advertising, delete it and add a new version later if and when funds allow. At the moment it just frustrates new members.
    Superdad, Albynsw and Spooner like this.

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