Crowdfunding a review blog
December 17, 2014 12:17 AM   Subscribe

I have an idea to review and compare a category of product that is not currently widely reviewed. Reviews exist, but they are spotty and only cover a few items, not nearly all of them. I'd like to do a comprehensive review site. This would involve some sort of crowd funding, as I can't afford to simply go buy one of everything in this category.

The goal would be modest. I think $1500 would cover the products currently on the market, and I'd need to add money for a designer (see below) and possibly future new products if ad revenue doesn't cover them. But I have a few issues I can think of.

1. Perks. I have no idea what perks to offer if I'm basically funding a review blog. Ideally I would eventually give the products I review away, but that can't really be a perk for multiple crowdfunders. What sort of perks do review sites give away? I sort of hate to sell links on the site because then you never know what kind of spammy links you might get.

2. I would like to hire a web or graphic designer to make it look nice. I would also have to get their fee from crowdfunding. I think I would probably run the site on Wordpress. But how do I hire someone and say that the job is contingent on the project being funded? Will people go for that? (I already have a host and know things like how to set up Wordpress, a domain name, etc.) I would likely also want this person to be responsible for images and videos posted on the crowdfunding site. I can code in HTML 4 and CSS. But my sites are not pretty, merely functional.

3. How do I find someone who might be interested in joining me in this venture, whether it's the web designer above or a third party, without worrying about people stealing my idea? I wouldn't mind having a partner, and if he/she has experience with crowd funding and/or review blogs already, so much the better.

4. What am I not thinking of?
4a. I know that sometimes companies will give or lend a product to a blog to review, but these are typically bigger blogs like Gizmodo or Engadget. How popular would the blog have to be before companies would consider lending me review items? Would it help that the blog would be dedicated to their category of product alone?
posted by IndigoRain to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
What kind of editorial experience do you have with this? History of published reviews, outside credibility, experience working with manufacturers? The answer to a lot of your questions about how big you've got to be depends on what you're bringing to the table, and experience navigating review ethics and procurement would be a big help.

Are there fora that exist for these products already? What kind of enthusiast publications would these items normally be reviewed in? With the internet, it's rare to find something that doesn't have any enthusiast community.

Are you near any manufacturers? It's often easy to get a review copy of e.g. headphones if you can get them there and back same day/quickly.

Most products have a seasonal cycle — how will you deal with ebbs and flows of content?

As for kickstarter/crowdfunding: What kind of record do you have that will convince people that you can pull this off? How much money can you and your friends/family contribute to get this off the ground?
posted by klangklangston at 12:29 AM on December 17, 2014

4. What am I not thinking of?

Depending on the community, meaning people, retailers, marketplace, and manufacturers, you might find yourself partially hosting this community which may self-generate or incubate conflicts, anything from random catfights to lynch mobs around product shills or flaky retailers. Moderating this can eat up a lot of your energy, if you end up hosting an internet community and not just a letters column.

Dan's Data has a very clear and straightforward review policy. I'd consider borrowing liberally from it and from his practice of clarity and straightforwardness.

But how do I hire someone and say that the job is contingent on the project being funded? Will people go for that?

I'm skeptical.

If the kickstarter fails, they're doing unpaid labor for nothing; you're pushing the risk onto their plate. If you're confident the kickstarter will succeed, pay them out of pocket and refund yourself once the kickstarter has succeeded.

How popular would the blog have to be before companies would consider lending me review items? Would it help that the blog would be dedicated to their category of product alone?

I would guess the hard part would be getting started; but once you've got 10 reviews of stuff over 6 months a company is more likely to ship stuff to you.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:29 AM on December 17, 2014

Start small and do it yourself with a free Wordpress site, build a following and a reputation for honesty, build relationships with manufacturers, develop your expertise and presentation skills, and then go compete with ten thousand other review blogs for funding while a big corporate site steals your idea for an under-reviewed product (which is hard to imagine when there are review blogs devoted to salt shakers and pencil sharpeners at this point).

You are, in other words, getting ahead of yourself. Kickstarters mostly fail for a good reason, which is that no one wants to pay for something without proof the person they're paying can deliver on his/her promises.
posted by spitbull at 4:29 AM on December 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, how much of your own capital are you willing to invest? If none, rethink.
posted by spitbull at 4:30 AM on December 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Spitbull, it's not that the product is completely unreviewed. Let's use your pencil sharpener analogy. I can find about 30 "pencil sharpeners" on the market. Reviews either only cover one to three of these, or "here are 6 pencil sharpeners you can buy," without reviews. My goal is a comprehensive site comparing all 30 pencil sharpeners and future pencil sharpeners.

I guess I will start out by listing specs I can find out about them on the Internet, then buy them one at a time as I can afford them and hope a big site like The Wirecutter doesn't beat me to it.
posted by IndigoRain at 10:50 AM on December 17, 2014

It might be easier to pitch it to the Wirecutter first, then spin off your own thing after you've got that as a clip to point to.
posted by klangklangston at 7:51 PM on December 17, 2014

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