The thing about charging for access was...I really had no choice.  The site is not a corporate site.  It's a "one man band.   Just me in the corner of my living room.

The site started out in September of 1995 as a hobby and became a business. When it became popular two new terms entered my vocabulary: Thruput and Data Transfer. The site had a lot of graphics and pushed a lot of bandwidth. I remember the evening way back in '95 when this site was on my personal /~skremer space at my local ISP. The manager called me and told me my Thruput bill for that month was going to be $486! But they decided they liked the site so my ISP became my sponsor in exchange for promoting their dial up. In '96 I took the site commercial with PSI Net who didn't charge for Thruput, but did charge me $150 per month. I signed on with a nickel-a-click-banner company and was making $165-$170 per month. Big $15-$20/mo. profit!

As the years went by I kept adding to the site, the server bills went up to a top level of $498/month with 1.5 gig of thruput a day. It was OK because I made deals with banner companies who made the site good and profitable for about a year or so. Yes, '98 and '99 were the hay day (a term I have rarely written) of "free advertiser supported" Web content. It was not enough to make the joke site a full time job, but it did add to my income. In February 2000 I signed on with a group called eFront Media who was putting together a group of what became 170 high traffic Web sites. They would be able to negotiate fat contracts with the banner ad companies, all 170 sites would cross promote to drive traffic, they would do an IPO and we'd all be rich!   Unfortunately the ad banner business went bust at the end of 2000 and in February of this year I got the site back from eFront.

So after a year of letting eFront take care of the banner advertising, I had to go out and find my own banner advertising. I hit all the major and all the minor banner companies. Most of them didn't even look at the site. All you have to do is hit any of the Web business sites and read all the stories about how the banner ad is dying. Nobody is looking at banners, nobody is clicking them. I found out that the few companies that are buying advertising, don't want humor. I thought even if I got one ad company who would want to put banners on the site...even if it was just enough to cover expenses I could keep the site free. But no one wanted to do banners on the JokeWallpaper site at any price.

So at the beginning of March when I got my site back from eFront I decided to try the Amazon Pay Pal Honor system. The virtual "tip" jar for the site. You know the idea...shareware. This could work! On average 150,000 to 200,000 people visit the site a month. Surely I could get enough "tips" to cover the server bills. Well we hit March 15th and a grand total of five people had donated. Five people out of 75,000 and I was at $16 for the month. I was far from covering expenses so I decided to go the pay route. In late March I was laid off from my second dot com, so I am unemployed. Even if I was fully employed I really can't afford to operate the joke site at a loss. From early projections of how many people are paying, and how that might average out for a month I will now cover expenses, plus I will probably be back to the big monthly profit of $15-20/month.

I really wanted to keep the site free and advertiser supported just like I had for the last five years.  But things have changed on the Web.  I think the "free ride" is over.  For me and the site it was: "go pay, or go away".

I hope this explains a little of why I had to make a pay site.  I'd like to know what you think. Did I do the right thing? 

I got this funny, nice letter from Jon Roberts from the UK.  Thanks Jon!

Have Fun,

Steve Kremer

Hi Steve,

My name is Jon Roberts and I am a long time fan of your excellent site. I guess I must first have visited during 97-98 and have popped back once or twice a year ever since.

Of course, when I arrived this time I found not the friendly open door, cool beer in the fridge and warm welcome, but a rather large security guard with a hat, clipboard and attitude. He told me his job was to collect $2 or he could not let me in.

Boy did I go to town on him. I ranted about the unwanted capitalism of it. I cried over the lost good old days. I questioned the motives of his boss "Mr K". Then, when I took a breath, he handed me a small note written by the aforementioned "Mr K". The note spoke in quiet friendly terms of "thruput" and "banners" and "unemployment" and other thing of which I luckily know little.

I took a deep breath and apologised to the security guard, who I now realised was actually looking a bit awkward and wishing he could let me in for free actually. I fished $2 from my piggy bank and gave it to the guard who put it into a pocket marked "Amazon". I guess maybe he is planning a boating holiday in the jungle or something.

I entered the site and found that all was well. The lights were on, the sun still makes its way through the gates and the loss of $2 seems a small price to pay.

Not sure why I told you all that, but if you see Mr K. tell him I said "Hi, and keep up the good work".

Jon Roberts
Luton, UK


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