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The Great HackerNews Book-a-thon

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A few days ago I wrote a post pulling in books from HackerNews that hackers had recommended to each other.

Well, it hit the front page (thanks guys!) so I thought folks might be interested in seeing some real-world stats on how articles like this perform.


Hits Uniques
14,525 13,341

Entrance Sources

Source Hits
news.ycombinator.com 8482
direct 3429
jacquesmattheij.com 418
delicious.com 413
popurls.com 339
twitter.com 303
jimmyr.com 223


Source Amount
Adsense $3.60
Amazon Affiliate Link $56.29
Total: $59.89


Yesterday there was some concern that I was just posting a huge amount of links in order to make a quick buck. Well, for those of you looking to make a quick buck like this, it's not much of a plan. In return for spending an entire day typing in links, you get 60 bucks.

You'd make easier money working at the local McDonald's.

Also, for those of you looking to start a blog or startup, pay heed: tens of thousands of visitors, visitors who are interested in your product, visitors wanting to buy -- and you make maybe a buck for every 300 folks. And these are serious customers -- average time on site was over 5 minutes. In the real world you're lucky to get a minute.

This is reality.

Now for the good news.

Actually a buck per 300 folks isn't bad. It's a pretty good number. If this were a startup, the question here is whether or not you can drive enough folks to the website to pay for expenses.

Now just for a hobby -- something to kick around -- domain registration is maybe 20 bucks and server hosting another 30 bucks a month. (Prices can vary wildly here, but hosting a site is anywhere from free to around 50 bucks a month). How much traffic is reasonable to expect for a hobby? Assuming I do something interesting with the site one more time in the next year and the HN'ers like it, it looks like revenue could be 120 bucks. (stocks or gold futures, always so hard to decide) Subtracting out the domain registration, it probably makes sense, as a hobby, to move the list over to its own domain. Maybe add in sorting. Lots of folks wanted to be able to sort and filter -- just too many books in there.

As a startup? Mabye. Maybe not. I posted a question where I asked if people would be interested in such an app, and it got around 20 votes. A couple of people said they thought it was a great idea.

But it's easy to support something in word only, and it's also easy to wave your arms around wildly and believe that you have the next huge startup idea. What do I have here that is invaluable? Numbers. Hard numbers on how traffic would translate into sales. That's probably the coolest thing about the entire post (aside from the total awesomeness of the books, of course)

So I'll set up a small site with the same list. Perhaps I'll take a risk and spend some more time adding some functionality. Perhaps not. But each little step I'll be looking at numbers like this to decide what makes sense and what doesn't. Things run on numbers.

At some point, yes, your hobby can become a business. But a cool idea, even a cool idea with 15,000 people who are visiting, isn't enough. A real startup is a lot more than that.


How long after the fact will Amazon pay for a referral? For example, if someone comes to the site today, clicks through, adds a book to their wish list, and buys it several months later, will you still get paid? If so, there may be a long temporal tail that could make the initial exposure worth several times what you've made so far.


Nope. I wish this were true, but it's not. I think it's same day.

But there is good news, somewhat. Amazon pays referrals on _other_ things that people purchase when visiting, as long as they came through my link. So if any of you guys want to buy a new car on Amazon, click here first! LOL

Because of this, it looks like I was off by a factor of 2 or 3. Very roughly, the first day was 60 bucks, next day was 30, then 15, then 5. For the last couple of days it's been a dollar or two.

So the math still works out about the same. I'm busy taking this static list and moving it to a site where it can be sorted. If folks like being able to sort and such, and they come back, then I'll hook up the database to scour HN and automate the entire thing. But I kind of think that's a long shot right now. (But it's been fun making the static web site. Nothing like some basic HTML and JavaScript to relax)

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This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on October 5, 2010 10:56 AM.

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  • DanielBMarkham: Jeremy, Nope. I wish this were true, but it's not. read more
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Information you might find handy
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Recently I created a list of books that hackers recommend to each other -- what are the books super hackers use to help guide them form their own startups and make millions? hn-books might be a site you'd like to check out.
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