The Online Darkroom Store

Monday, January 6

New plans for The Online Darkroom

So, a New Year and some new, exciting things planned for The Online Darkroom which I'd like to share with you. This post will be quite long but please bear with me.

First of all, I've got to start earning some money. I gave up my job as a newspaper reporter just over three years ago (at the age of 49) and have been basically living off my severance payment ever since. That was never going to be sustainable in the long run and it's approaching crunch time.

The obvious solution is to get a job. I spent 32 years in an office-based job that I was never enthusiastic about at the best of times and the idea of going back to that way of working brings me out in hives. The job option, from my point of view, has only downsides associated with it, apart from the extra cash it would bring in. And if it were to be a job, then which one? Reporters are only really equipped to do that job or one in public relations and, having had plenty of experience of PR at first hand, that holds no appeal at all.

If I did decide to go down the jobs route through necessity then it would have repercussions for The Online Darkroom. I'd still post but it would be on a now and then basis as it would be difficult to maintain enthusiasm or devote as much time to it. So are there any other options?

More Posts

There is one that would save me from office drudgery, keep The Online Darkroom in a state of glowing health and, possibly, earn some cash. It would involve "commercialising" this website, something I didn't anticipate when I started it back in September, 2011, with this post. It would also mean posting on a regular basis - at least three times a week - and that's not particularly easy for a one-man band. It's like having to meet the demands of a newspaper column a dozen times a month.

Crucially, it's also an option that, to a large extent, is outwith my control. I could puts lots of effort in, posting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but if my readers aren't willing to offer their support then the venture would probably not amount to much. I know that you all have busy lives as well and I've no right to expect that you would automatically want to do any more than you're doing right now, which is fine. However, if everyone who gains something of value from T.O.D. were to mention it to a few friends then the knock-on effect might be significant. Having said that, I'm very pleased and not a little humbled by the thought that this blog is already getting around 20,000 hits a month and climbing. It's not big by The Online Photographer or Ken Rockwell standards but it's still something that gives me a warm glow - or is that the red wine I'm drinking as I write this? :)

To begin making a success of the blog from a financial point of view, I would need to double or treble the monthly hits and that's not exactly going to be a walk in the park. Posting three times a week would help and I've embarked on a social media outreach programme to reach a wider audience even though it's not something I know much about. I remember someone once described Twitter as "blogging for the retarded" and, whilst I wouldn't go that far, I do wonder about the value of a 140 character message. Still, Twitter, Facebook and Google + appear to be here to stay so I'm trying to get up to speed.

It All Adds Up

With increased readership comes the opportunity to have some adverts placed on the columns either side of the main posts. It also makes it worthwhile to enter into affiliate deals with photo stores, the idea being that readers can click through to their favourite photographic outlet via The Online Darkroom. Every sale recorded in this way doesn't cost the reader anything but a small percentage of each sale finds it way back to my PayPal account. And, as we say up here in Scotland, many a mickle maks a muckle or, if you're a Tesco fan, you might prefer "Every Little Counts". Both of those potential income streams would depend on reader support.

A third form of commercialisation that looks set to go ahead is much easier to understand. Regular readers will have noticed that I've been reviewing Spur products for a while now. The German company were happy to send me some of their goods as they sought a bigger profile in English-speaking circles. They've also been thinking of expanding into the UK market in a bigger way. I've always found Spur's developers - film and paper - to be at least as good as anything else out there and often better.

Acurol-N, as both Omar and I independently found, is a cracking developer. I love Spur's HRX film dev and their print developers, too. So, a couple of months back, I suggested to Spur that, since a Google search for their products will more often than not place The Online Darkroom high up on the first page of results (a search for Spur Acurol-N places T.O.D. second behind Maco Direct) then it might be a good idea for me to start selling their products - become their UK agent, so to speak. Spur agreed and we're in the process of working out exactly what that will mean for us both.

Something for Everyone

Again, though, the success of this venture will depend on readers feeling encouraged to order Spur products from a source they can trust. Believe me, if I didn't think Spur chemicals were on a par or better than anything else then I wouldn't touch them! I'm a bit like Victor Kiam who, you might remember, told us back in the late 1970s that he liked Remington shavers so much he "bought the company", The good thing is that the products I'm thinking of stocking have their own USP (unique selling proposition, as advertisers love to say) so each brings something different to a table already groaning under the likes of D76 and Rodinal.

That's where I stand at the moment, then. Starting this week, I'll be posting three times a week, probably on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (you deserve a weekend off!) for as long as I can manage. It's possible I'll have to drop back to twice a week if I start to run dry or I might even post four or five times a week if I can think of enough things to write about.

If I continue to attract new readers, I'll approach some companies I respect with a view to taking advertising space - something that will not be easy in today's economic climate. Then, probably within a matter of weeks, I'll sort out an online store for The Online Darkroom and start offering Spur goodies in the hope that you will be willing to give them a fair crack of the whip. That's all I can ask for. I'll post more on all these developments as they come on stream.

Yes, 2014 is shaping up to be an interesting year. 


david kirby said...

All the Best Bruce! Boldly go!

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks, David. Nothing like starting a New Year with a leap into the dark!

Omar Özenir said...

Good luck Bruce. I hope it works out.

Jan Moren said...

Good idea! I don't suppose you will be shipping to Japan?

jonogmun said...

Hi Bruce

I wish you all success in 2014.
Your blog has been a source of inspiration to me and, I think, many othes.
Your reports on the SPUR developers were very useful and I have ordered three of them. All are great and the Acurol P is really exceptionally stable. I have left working solution in a dish for over a week, withoutt any problems (I cover it with shrink film after each session).
For somer strange reason I cannot order chemicals from the UK but can do so without any hassle from Germany. Perhaps Scotland will have different regulations, after independence later this year! If so, I will order directly from you.

Best regards,

salihonba J said...

way to go! Bruce. all the best!

Bruce Robbins said...

Thanks for the good wishes everyone.

Jan, if I can ship to Japan at a competitive price I'm certainly happy to do so.

Jon, where are you based?

Jonogmun said...

Hi Bruce,

I am quite close, in Iceland.


Bruce Robbins said...

That's within sailing distance, Jon!

Kenny Wood said...

All the best with this Bruce, I wish you every success. You might also consider offering training or workshops as a means of supplementing your income. However it might not be your thing though…just a thought:)

Hernan Zenteno said...

All my best wishes in this new page. From Argentina I am not able to help, we have strict controls and lot of taxes for foreign purchases, but I will read with interest all the articles about analog process in the actual world.

Paul Glover said...

Best of luck!

marty said...

Good news, Bruce. Looks like you found a way to reconcile your interest in traditional photography with a job opportunity. Well done,

Good luck!!

Bruce Robbins said...

Hopefully that will be the case, Marty. Fingers crossed anyway!

Juha H said...

Greetings from Finland. Thanks for your blog.

Oscar said...

And greetings from Sweden as well. I think you are doing a great job and I hope you can find a way of making some money out of this.

Dan Bronson said...

This blog has way too much good information to diminish. The news that you will be posting 3 times a week is good news indeed! I wish you the very best and hope that this community of readers will grow and thrive along with you!

Anonymous said...

Great news on the more frequent posts. I love reading this blog and I get excited when I see new content is available.

I'm slowly piecing together equipment for a makeshift Kitchen/bathroom darkroom and will come back to this blog for tips. With regards to twitter there are quite a few film tweeters so getring them to re-tweet you might be an option and there is a lot of film stuff on tumblr too.

Anonymous said...

Bruce, be careful. Follow your dream, but know it might be a rocky road ahead. Carefully consider your financial situation beyond retirement when you'll be relying on savings, pensions, inheritances and hopefully mortgage free accomodation.

You're 49 now and must be aware that by 55 you'll be unemployable if you remain'out of work'. Minimum wage, short hours and doing something that you'd never choose to do.

I was 54 when redundancy came along and for the last 9 years I've done a mixture of consultancy, photo training for a camera maker, post processing training for dealers and individuals and 15 wedding shoots a year. I'm now financially secure, but nowhere near the level I'd have if I could have retained my executive role. I definitely wish I'd gone back into business, even if I'd had to start near the bottom and rely on my skills to build a new future.

We all hope that you can make this work cos you're a nice guy and we like a connection with the way we used to work. The sector you've chosen is not expanding, eg Ilford is now on 3.5 day weeks, but nobody seems to be concentrating on darkroom and done well, you'll carve a niche for yourself.

Competition for readers is fierce and nobody wants to pay subscriptions, or click through to purchases that are not the very best available. I once paid a subscription to Sean Reid and will never pay another. I was a regular reader of Mike Johnston and Steve Huff, but gave them up because they produced so much stuff to wade through each week. Steve Huff sold his soul to click-thoughs and minor product reviews to the degree that his opinion has very little credibility.

Good luck with your decision and I really do hope it all works for you. :-)

Leica Man.

Richard G said...

Good luck with this. I visit TOP regularly, maybe twice a week. Ctein's guest column there is always interesting. You already have Omar doing some thing similar. One thing I value in TOP is the quality of Mike's writing and his incredibly tight editing. I have hardly ever seen a typo or a grammatical error. As a former journo maybe you could emulate this: I do think it matters. For instance it is Kiam, not Kaim. Might seem a small and irrelevant thing, but ultimately a blog is writing and detail matters. I usually don't hesitate to read even one of the longer pieces on TOP as I know I will be informed and entertained. If you post three times a week you can't be revealing core insights into darkroom practice with every post I wouldn't think. Bringing in things like those Antarctic photos is great for your site. You'll need a lot more things of the sort to take the pressure off yourself. I think it could be worth having a regular film v digital topic, including fusion like Peter Turnley's prints by Mitrovic from digital via an inter-negative. People who find their way to your site might not yet be film converts at all and a regular or a sticky constant reminder of the basic advantages of film could help grow traffic.

Bruce Robbins said...

Re Kiam/Kaim, well-spotted, Richard. Now fixed. I certainly try my best to pick up typos but I can't promise to catch every one. I hope that if you went through the posts I've published you'd find very few.

steve said...

That's great news Bruce. I hope you can also ship all the way down-under to Australia.
Best of luck for 2014, I enjoy reading the blog and since reading the glowing reports from you and Omar I'm keen to try some Spur developer.