The New Web Order-How
the Internet Has Brought
Opportunity to Everybody
My first KaChing moment was not a pleasant sound. It was more
like a thud than a ring. It wasn't the tinkle of a bell, and it wasn't
even the pleasing sound that the cash drawer makes as it opens.
It was the sound of a cardboard box landing on the kitchen table.
But to me it was sweet music.
The year was 1994, and I'd already been playing around with
computers-the simplest kind, the type that are less powerful than
today's MP3 players-since 1980.
Of course, when I say "playing around" what I actually mean is
I'd had all the right intentions when I bought my first computer.
I'd looked at the manual that explained how to create BASIC code
and tried to write a few simple programs. I even got the screen
to show "Hello world!" and felt very proud of myself. But I also
discovered that to play a game all you had to do was stuff a floppy
disk into a slot and wait for the program to load. That was so much
easier and so much more fun.
I never did learn programming. In fact, I can't code my way out of
a paper bag. I leave that to those who are far more knowledgeable
and talented in that arena. However, I have always had a love for
Games cost money, and back in the mid-1990s, I had the sort of
income that meant every penny had its place. My career until then
had consisted of a mixture of disc jockeying at weddings and bar
mitzvahs and selling encyclopedias door to door. I couldn't really
justify feeding my hobby with every new game that came out. That
was when I spotted my first computer-related business opportunity.
It happened while I was reading reviews in a computer games
magazine. I realized that the reviewers were getting their games for
free. They got to play all the new games, and they didn't have to pay
for any of them. I liked the sound of that. I was all for getting free
games, especially if all I had to do was write my opinion of them
But I didn't have any writing experience then, and I couldn't
see a magazine hiring me to write reviews-even in return for free
games-just because I liked playing them. So rather than hit the
phones and hear a series of rejections, I created my own games
The Dallas Fort Worth Software Review was never the most
popular publication in the world. Some of the early editions might
even have had a readership of ... one. Two if a friend came over
and happened to pick it up.
But when I called the software companies, told them I was
a writer for the Dallas Fort Worth Software Review, and asked
if they'd like to send me review copies of their new games, one
question they never asked me was how big my readership was.
In fact, the only question they asked was, "What's your mailing
When that first game was delivered to my door, and I laid the
box on the kitchen table, I knew I'd had my first success. It wasn't
money. I still hadn't made a dime. But I had a plan, the plan had
worked, and I was off and running.
Soon games were pouring in from all the major software companies,
and I didn't have time to play them all, let alone review them all.
So I put an ad on an Internet bulletin board system-there were no
forums back then-offering free games in return for reviews. That
meant the games could continue to come in and I could continue
to produce my little games magazine without breaking too much of
a sweat. The small readership, however, was a problem.
That problem was solved by the Internet. When the Web really
took off, I was ready. Playing with computers made me aware of its
growth-and its potential-so I took all of the game-related content
I had collected and put it on a new web site called WorldVillage.com.
I also invited other writers to come in and submit content on any
subject that interested them.
Today, WorldVillage is still going strong and continues to enjoy
hundreds of thousands of visitors each month.
That's one Internet success story. As you'll see, it's not without
its stumbling blocks-no business story ever is-but it has two
key components that are essential for understanding (and duplicating)
online success. They sum up the opportunity that the Web has
brought to anyone with even a hint of entrepreneurial spirit.
The first is that online business success is open to anyone. I am a
shining example of this. I'm not an expert. I still can't program. I still
hire out the writing on many of my sites as well as their management
to people who can do these things better than I can. I've always been
interested in computers, but I'm not what you'd call a professional
The point is you don't need to complete a course in advanced
programming. You don't have to know what HTML is, what a server
looks like, or that Ruby on Rails isn't the name of a grunge band.
Knowing those things might help-at least on the technical side.
But you don't need to know them. I've met plenty of Internet millionaires
who think that style sheets are programs handed out at
fashion shows. It hasn't stopped them from creating successful site
after successful site.
The second key component to the story of my first online success
is that I still play computer games. They're fun. I might play
them less now than I used to, but I still sit with my family sometimes
in front of the screen as we battle monsters together. I am pleased
to say that I am a Level 80 Warrior in World of Warcraft.
The reason the Dallas Fort Worth Software Review and then
WorldVillage succeeded was that I was doing something I loved.
I didn't set out to make money. I set out with the idea of doing
something that I enjoyed. Because I enjoyed it, I was willing to put
time and effort into doing it well. And because I put time and effort
into doing it well, other people enjoyed it, too.
When that happens, there's always an opportunity to make
money, especially on the Internet.
That's what this book is all about.
It's about what happens when you take a passion, place it on
a platform that's open to anyone who wants to climb on to it, and
then plug in the pipes that bring in the cash.
The result sounds a lot like KaChing.
So, Just How Easy Is It to Begin Building
a Web Site?
To someone whose only experience on the Internet is reading the
news, checking the sports scores, or perhaps answering e-mail, the
online world can look pretty daunting.
Telling an Internet user that there's a fortune to be made online
is a bit like telling a moviegoer that there are millions to be made
in movies. Of course there are ... if you know how to handle a
camera, write a script, find the production money, hire actors, edit
the footage, and distribute the film. If you know how to do all that-and
can make movies that people actually want to see-then, sure,
you can make millions.
But creating successful web sites is not like shooting successful
movies. Creating movie blockbusters is complicated. Creating Internet
content is very, very simple. It was always meant to be simple,
and today it's easier than it's ever been.
You can now be online with a new web site in less time than it
takes to read this page.
And you can do it for free.
You won't hear your first KaChing right away. You'll still have to
stock the site with content, plug in the systems that will pour in the
cash, and let people know you're around. That will take a little time.
But it won't require any skills more specialized than the ability to
press a mouse button or choose an option in a drop-down menu.
It wasn't always like this. Although the Internet was always
meant to be a place that anyone could use and anyone could build
on, for a long time that really meant anyone who had the patience
to read a programming manual the size of a shoebox.
Today, the Internet really has met its promise of being a truly
democratic space. Those with a desire to earn and a willingness
to learn as they go can have the beginnings of a profitable online
business in minutes.
Usually, that takes one of two forms.
The traditional method has always been to create a web site
from scratch. You bought a domain name from a service like
GoDaddy.com, rented space on a hosting service, and placed the
domain on the host's server. Then you used a special program to
write the code and upload the pages. Whenever users entered the
address of one of those pages in their Web browser, your page
appeared on their screen.
This is still how most web sites work. It's how most of mine
work. Doing it all manually provides the greatest amount of flexibility.
But it's a little tricky, as it takes time to learn-or money to
pay someone who already knows how to do it-and it's no longer
Web developers have made complete templates available to anyone
who wants to use them. The prices vary. Some companies offer
them for free; others charge thousands of dollars for a template that's
unique, easy to customize, and filled with the latest Flash animation.
Whichever option you choose-and both types are no more
than a quick search away-once you've bought your domain, all
you have to do is upload the template and fill it with your content.
Alternatively, you can also use a content management system
like Joomla! or Drupal. These are free programs that act as a kind
of storage system for web site publishers. They sound frightening,
but they've actually simplified web publishing enormously. Once
you've taken the first leap of buying a domain and placing it on
a server-a process that will take even the newest of publishers
just a few nervous minutes-they'll allow you to add articles and
use modules and extensions to place all sorts of preprogrammed
goodies, such as RSS feeds, sidebars, and automated storefronts, on
your web pages.
The first steps might feel a little strange. But once you have
even a basic web site up and running, you won't be able to stop.
You'll be experimenting and playing, and in no time at all you'll have
become something of a web development expert simply because
you're enjoying it. It happens. And it happens because it's now so
Web site templates might have taken the sweat out of design, but
there's an even easier and faster way to get on the Web. When Evan
Williams, who would later go on to help create Twitter, launched
Blogger in August 1999, he continued a process of simplification
that cracked the Internet wide open.
A blog (short for "web log") is a very simple type of web site.
Instead of having multiple static pages, the content on blogs is
updated regularly and displayed in chronological order. That keeps
readers coming back to see what's new. Older content gets buried
but can be recovered from archives and by using searches based on
keywords and subjects.
The benefit of blogs has always been their simplicity. While you
can now upload all sorts of content, including video and real-time
Twitter streams, writing a blog is not much different from writing
in Microsoft Word, then saving it on the Internet so that everyone
can see it. The attraction of a blog is always the content. If you can
say something interesting-about any topic at all-you can build a
Evan Williams certainly made a success of Blogger. Ten years
later, Google bought the site for an undisclosed sum, and now
Blogger is said to have 300 million active readers who consume the
388 million words uploaded through the service every single day
Blogger, of course, now has plenty of competitors. WordPress.org
provides a lot more flexibility. It's open source, which
means that anyone can build on it and create plug-ins that give publishers
even more options. But unlike blogs on Blogger, it doesn't
come with hosting. Before you can use WordPress, you have to buy
a domain name and place it on a host. You'll then need to download
WordPress's blogging program from WordPress.org and upload it to
your server. It's not difficult, but it takes just a little effort.
WordPress.com, on the other hand (as opposed to WordPress.org),
works exactly like Blogger. Your domain name will be
[yourchosenname].WordPress.com. It's free, and you won't need to
fiddle around with a hosting service. But you also won't be able
to place AdSense, Chitika, Yahoo!, or text link ads on the site. As
you'll see in this book, that still leaves plenty of other options, but
WordPress.com wasn't really built for moneymaking, and the people
behind it take a pretty dim view of revenue generation on these
The best option is to use Blogger just to get your feet wet. I
like to call it "blogging with training wheels." Then, once you have
a handle on blogging, move up to WordPress.org or MovableType
There's a good chance, though, that you're already online, either
with your own web site or a blog. You may have created them
yourself from scratch, or you may have paid a developer to create
your site(s) for you. Both options are fine.
I'm not going to talk you through the first steps of launching a
blog or creating a web site. That information is available everywhere
(including in my previous books), and it really is so simple now that
the best way to learn how to do it is just to do it. Go to Blogger.com,
register, and start writing. Don't be afraid to make mistakes, and
don't be in too much of a hurry. Just enjoy the experience. That
enjoyment will keep you moving forward.
At the beginning of this section, I pointed out that while you can
start developing web sites and blogs in minutes, it will take you a
little longer to start earning money with them. That's because you
need content and readers, both of which take time to build.
Installing a system that can persuade people to give you money
on the other hand is now quick and simple.
From Blogging to KaChing
Back in the old days, at the end of the twentieth century, there was
a very easy and almost foolproof way to make a ton of money with a
web site: You registered a domain, placed it on a server, and started
You didn't write content. You wrote a business plan, and in that
business plan you included the word advertising about three times
in each sentence. Then you bought a plane ticket to California, met
with a venture capitalist, showed off your business plan, and waited
patiently while he or she wrote a check for several million dollars
in return for 1 percent of your new company.
For some of those investors, that actually turned out to be a
smart move. The start-up would go on to attract lots of users and
would be bought by an even bigger company, making lots of money
for the developer and the investor. The company that bought it, on
the other hand, was often left with a big write-off.
The problem was that while everything looked good on paper,
no one had come up with a reliable way to turn lots of users into
piles of cash.
It was as though someone had invented the shopping mall before
anyone had invented the cash register. Lots of people were coming
into the stores, but with no way to spend their money, they were
walking right back out with it.
Google changed all of that. It did this in two ways.
First, it created a search engine that made finding content both
easy and accurate. Before Google launched in 1998, Internet users
searching for Web content through sites like Yahoo! and Lycos
needed to either browse categories or check results based on the
number of times a keyword appeared on a page. That didn't always
give them the best results. It meant that poor sites could game the
system by stuffing pages with keywords, thereby sending the traffic
and its benefits to the wrong people.
Sergey Brin's and Larry Page's idea of ranking sites according
to the number of times other sites linked to them meant that their
search engine didn't just deliver the right results, it also delivered
the best results.
Suddenly, the Web wasn't just a random collection of sites that
were difficult to navigate. It was a world that came with its own
tour guide, who could point out the best places for anyone to visit
regardless of their subject of interest.
If you wanted to know about stamp collecting, architecture, or
celebrity news, Google would tell you. And it would not just tell
you which site mentioned those things.
Excerpted from "KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays" by Joel Comm. Copyright © 0 by Joel Comm. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.