Why did I decide to relaunch as an RC online magazine? Aren’t forums better?
I started working full-time on the RCadvisor calculator in late summer 2007. The website RCadvisor.com launched on January 2, 2008. I spent most of 2008 writing the interactive tutorials and adding features to the calculator.
At first, my only plan was to sell subscriptions to the calculator. I sold a few, but it became clear soon enough that online subscriptions are a hard sell. Since there are so many free websites, the general expectation is that all websites should be free. It is also hard to be sold on the idea to pay for access to something, as opposed to buying a physical product.
The idea for writing the books came out of nowhere. I wish I could say that I knew immediately that I had a big hit on my hands. Nothing could be further from the truth. I knew nothing about writing books, and I was about to become a book publisher. Heck, English is not even my native language!
As I typically do, I dove headfirst into the project. I loved it! It was a ton of work, but the sense of accomplishment is incredible. I decided to title the book RCadvisor’s Model Airplane Design Made Easy. I finished it in January 2009 and released it to the world.
As they say, the rest is history. It has been a top selling model airplane book on Amazon since it was released.
Having no time to waste, I immediately started working on my second book, RCadvisor’s ModiFly. The working title for the first book was “model airplane design in theory” and for the second it was “model airplane design in practice”. The two books were always designed to complement each other. I built and test flew about 50 prototypes of the ModiFly airplane design, which was very educational.
Shortly after I finished the ModiFly book I was hired as a consultant to design an UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) under a big budget military contract. I still do not talk about the project much, other than to say it was an amazing experience.
Ask the RCadvisor
I have been a guest at a few different RC podcasts. It is always an interesting experience and the hosts are great to talk to.
After being on The Crash Cast a couple of times, I really liked the way the host, Mike “Crash” Hancock, ran the show. He was always very professional and he was a real joy to work with.
Wanting to take on a new challenge, I proposed to Crash having a regular segment on his show. He was intrigued by the idea and decided to give it a try. We dubbed it Ask the RCadvisor, and the plan was to answer RC-related questions that I had been asked.
As I approach the 100 segment milestone, Crash and I have been getting more and more compliments on them. Whatever it is that we are doing, it seems to be appreciated by the listeners.
Putting together an interesting podcast segment on a weekly basis forces you to be really disciplined about keeping track of topic ideas. Before long, my “idea file” was overflowing.
I wondered. Could I sustain a website with an aggressive publishing schedule? I sat down and wrote a list of 50 article topic ideas without too much trouble. This list did not touch anything I had previously covered in my books or podcast segments.
Knocking out a couple of books in a row had done wonders to my ability to write well quickly. With some good time management, I figured it should not be too hard to publish an article a day.
It sure was looking like it might work.
Online RC Magazine
I relaunched RCadvisor in mid January, about two months ago. With one or two articles published every day, I’m almost at the 100 article mark.
Finding free RC-related contents online is easy, but finding high quality RC contents online is almost impossible. My goal for every article I write is to do better than the last one. Just like Ford, for me quality is job one.
Not a Forum
I have gotten asked a couple of times why I did not relaunch my website as a forum. A couple of years ago I tried running a forum as part of RCadvisor.com. I did not like what I saw happening, and quickly got rid of it.
The problem with forums is that they have to become popular to survive. A forum that is not popular is just sad. The only way to become popular is to have lots of posts. You will never hear a forum boast that they have the most intelligent conversation threads. All they ever boast about is the number of posts.
Contributing positively to a forum is hard work. Less than 1% of the posts in the typical forum really contribute to the conversation. The rest are either agreeing, disagreeing, or changing the subject. Unfortunately, the name of the game is number of posts. The last thing forum administrators want to do is discourage the members from posting, regardless of what it is that they are posting.
To encourage the forum members to post more, forums always prominently display the number of posts made by each member. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, members with high numbers of posts are seen by most as having more valuable posts.
I have many RC friends that simply refuse to visit online RC forums. They just do not have the time to work their way through all the silliness. Frankly, it has been months since I visited an RC forum myself.
Don’t misunderstand me. There are many excellent forum posts that are well worth reading. It is just that the lack of moderation makes it very time consuming to find them. It is a similar problem at online video websites like YouTube. Easily less than 1% of the videos are truly worth watching.
Where will RCadvisor go in the future? Here are a couple of ideas I’m toying with.
I have started working on two new books, but progress has been slow. Relaunching the website put me behind schedule, but I’m slowly getting back on track.
Honest Product Reviews
The gold standard of product reviews is Consumer Reports magazine. They pay full retail price for every product they test, and their magazine does not run advertisements. They also scientifically test every product, ensuring any personal bias of the reviewers is kept in check.
If you think there are RC product reviews of this high quality available anywhere, you need to slap yourself hard across the face. It is time to wake up. They are basically non-existent. The closest that I have seen were in R/C Report magazine. It was a great magazine. Too bad they went out of business about three years ago.
Don’t trust anybody that gets their review products for free. Don’t trust anybody that is more interested in a personal agenda than in an honest product review. If the name and logo of the manufacturer is prominently displayed in the review, watch out.
I am dying to do something about this situation. The problem is that I do not have the budget to go out and buy RC airplane kits with any kind of regularity. Could I somehow charge for these reviews to offset the cost of these kits? I do not know. Do you have any ideas?
Construction Articles with Plans
Pre-built RC model airplanes have taken over the retail market. But there is still strong demand for construction articles. However, traditional balsa model airplane construction projects require plans that are time consuming to draw.
Is there enough interest to justify publishing these articles and making the PDF plans available for a nominal fee? How else could I make this work?
What else am I not doing that I should be? I’m very open to ideas!