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The Good Old Days – Part 2

If you have not read my previous post, go here first before reading below: Part 1

So, after we had successfully registered our first domain name, we began building our first website. Again, we really had no idea what we were doing and were just making things up as we went. We taught ourselves the basics of HTML and used what very little talent we had in graphic design to piece together what at the time we thought was a masterpiece. Our site consisted of what we considered to be the most important content web surfers would want to see:

1. Netsearch (Apparently, the Google clan weren’t the only people who thought a tool to search around the Internet would be useful!)

2. Free Stuff (pretty obvious)

3. HTML Graphics (so others could build their own websites using what we learned)

4. Apparently, we were big Pearl Jam fans at the time

5. Celebrity Central (What website would not be complete without the latest celebrity gossip?)

There is a point to all this besides the humor of it. If you notice on the page linked above, there is a spot at the very top where a banner used to reside, and under it there is a link that says Commonwealth Network.

The Commonwealth Network was essentially today’s Google Adsense. It was a program where you could put banners on your website, and this company would pay you every time someone saw the banner. Of course, the whole industry was very primitive at that point, and the value of advertisements like that was still being figured out. If I remember correctly, the network paid its members 1 cent every time someone saw one of the banners. This may not sound like a lot, but if you think about it and compare it to today’s standards, it’s actually not that much different. It equates to about a $10 CPM.

We really had no idea what all this meant. All we knew is that every time we got someone to see one of these banners we made money. So we did the most logical thing, we figured out the most popular content people wanted to see and focused on that… celebrities in bathing suits. I know what you are thinking, “Yea, right, they were showing porn.” But that was actually not the case; we never showed any content beyond semi-clothed celebrities. Nevertheless, it took off like a rocket ship. In no time, we were having thousands of people come to our website every day, and each one of those visitors was looking through hundreds of pictures we had posted on our site.

We quickly realized that if we created a separate page for each photo and put one of the Commonwealth Network banners on the page we would get hundreds of impressions from each visitor. Multiple that times thousands of visitors per day, and you can do that math. The bottom line was, I was about 15 years old and starting to get checks in the mail for a couple grand each month! Needless to say our parents were convinced we were doing something illegal because all they knew was we spent all of our time up in my bedroom with the door shut, until we ran down to the mailbox every afternoon to see how much money came in.

When all was said and done I ended up with a bedroom a 25-year-old bachelor would dream of – complete with a big screen TV, reclining leather chair, surround sound, and every other electronic device that mildly interested me at Best Buy.

We had skyrocketed to the Top Ten on the Commonwealth Networks affiliate leader board. Unfortunately, the fun only lasted a few months until, if I remember correctly, the network essentially went bankrupt because the affiliates like us performed far better than I think they ever imagined, and they couldn’t support the volume with enough advertisers.

My plans for dropping out of school and living the high life off my celebrities-in-bathing-suits website had failed. Although that venture ended, the excitement and knowledge it gave me stuck. I took a minor break from the Internet marketing industry to study Finance in college (I minored in computer information systems.) But, I seem to have come full circle now back to where it all started. The concepts have become much more advanced, and the competition stiffer, but all and all, the foundation for the entire industry has remained largely unchanged.

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