Replanting My Roots

September 1, 2009 Posted by Tyler Cruz
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Most people know me as a make money online blogger, someone who dabbles in the affiliate marketing world, or even as a domain flipper. But the fact is that I have always made the majority of my money from my network of content-related websites.

For example, PokerForums.org, PublisherChallenge.com, and Movie-Vault.com have brought in over a quarter million dollars in net profit. The rest of my network of sites hardly make anything, although they do add up due to how many of them there are. My blog actually does pretty well too, having made over $17,000 last year from private ad sales alone.

And while I also bring in some side revenue from other sources such as domain and site flipping, the fact remains that the main source of my income comes from my content-focused websites (I’m including PublisherChallenge there).

While I’ve never stopped building new content websites (PublisherSpot.com, MMAForums.net, MovieForums.org, etc.), my focus has definitely been on the webmaster industry for the past couple years. I now think it’s time to go back to my roots and focus on my existing network of websites; they’ve been neglected for far too long.

I had actually done quite a bit of work on my poker forum several months ago, so my focus now is on my movie review site: Movie-Vault.com.

My Long History with Movie-Vault.com

My first big site, I made my first dollar online with Movie-Vault.com, and it’s the site that made me realize the money-making potential of the Internet.

While I registered the domain on October 3rd, 2000, the site is actually a bit older than that as it had started as an assignment for my Information Technology 12 class and was originally called Movie Planet. It’s hard to believe that it is almost exactly a decade old!

I used incredibly work so hard on the site, and did all of the design and programming myself. Below shows the evolution of the site’s design over the years:

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You can view some of the past versions on Web.archive.org.

Movie-Vault.com was at its peak probably between 2002 and 2004 and actually did quite well. It has been linked on Yahoo.com, Movies.com, Excite.com, among other top sites. It has also been featured in newspapers and even a nation-wide television show (in Canada).

Movie studios (or rather the marketing companies they hire to represent them) used to send me hordes of movie posters, DVDs, and other movie memorabilia. They still would be if I hadn’t begged them to stop (my apartment was getting full of movie crap!).

I have personally interviewed fairly famous people in the film industry (behind the scenes) including John Ottman, Justin Zaharczuk, and Colin Cunningham.

But Movie-Vault has since fallen into great disrepair over the past few years. It is completely my fault and I only have myself to blame. My team of reviewers and staff have always been extremely helpful and the fact is that there would be no content without their volunteered help due to their deep passion for film and cinema.

I became too busy and started building more and more sites, and I simply couldn’t put enough time back into the site. The other issue is that Movie-Vault.com has horrendously archaic programming based on code I wrote for the site in Perl a decade ago. With such sloppy programming, a crunched design conformed for 800×600 resolutions, and outdated content, Movie-Vault.com has been pretty much been dead to the world for the past couple years. The only thing that keeps it going is the forum, the popular Name That Flick game, and people coming in to read reviews that are linked from the search engines.

The Failed Sales of Movie-Vault.com

And since I knew that I was too busy to give Movie-Vault the attention and time it deserves, coupled with the fact that I also knew that it needed to be reprogrammed, I put it up for sale.

After many failed attempts of selling it and realizing that people just didn’t see the value in the site, I decided to have the site completely redone with a brand new design and new programming from the ground up.

Before I get into that though, let me get back to the discussion of the failed sales.

Back in the day, there weren’t so many CMS options available and so people understood the value and potential of a site a lot better. If you take a look at the harsh and misinformed comments of my most recent failed sale attempt, you’ll see that these days most people are only willing to purchase sites based on a basic revenue formula – paying typically 12x whatever the site is making. If life was that easy and you could buy a big site based on paying only 12-18x their monthly income, that would be the easiest investment ever.

My asking price was only $12,000 for a 10-year-old site with thousands of movie reviews, volunteer staff writers, and established community and I never got any bites. I’m obviously biased here but I find that pretty fascinating and unbelievable. Somebody actually offered me $1,000 for it. I guess potential accounts for nothing these days and all anybody sees is what a site is currently making.

Granted, Movie-Vault.com only made $1,000 during the past 3 months, but if that’s all you can see then I feel sorry for you. Sorry, ranting here a bit :-)

The Revamp

Since I could find nobody else who saw Movie-Vault.com as the old diamond in the rough it is, I have decided to go all-out and bring it back to life.

I have invested close to $10,000 on the revamp and it is truly a revamp from the ground up. It is getting a brand-spanking new professional design and is being completely reprogrammed from the ground up. It will great to say good-bye to my pitiful old Perl code and hello to new clean PHP and AJAX.

This post is already starting to get pretty long so I’ll save more of what is planned for the revamp for a future blog post.

I’ll leave you with a preview of what the new design looks like.

Current Design

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New Design

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The screenshot above doesn’t quite give the new design justice mainly because you don’t notice just how much wider it is since it is built for 1024×768 resolutions as opposed to the 800×600 the current design was made for.

You can view the full screenshot for a better view. It’s pretty amazing how much a site can be improved by just be increasing the resolution from 800×600 to 1024×768.

But like I say, the new design is only one improvement. The new programming and features will bring the site back into this century (literally, haha).

It would be great if I can get the site going again and have it generating a few thousand dollars a month just so I can stick my nose up at all the people who said it worth nothing.

It is difficult to give an ETA for when the new site will go live, but it should be sometime this fall – hopefully by the first week of October.

I’ll be keeping you guys posted on the revamping process of Movie-Vault.com as it goes along as it is currently my main focus.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment below, subscribing to my RSS feed, or following me on Twitter.
Posted: September 1st, 2009 under My Websites  

76 Responses to “Replanting My Roots”

  1. MyBrute Game says:

    Looks good! Are you outsourcing all of the work to the same people who created PublisherChallenge?

  2. BuildAndEarn says:

    FINALLY! Getting back to making relevant posts on real projects. This is why people read your blog to begin with… keep up the good work making posts like this.

  3. Griffin says:

    Awesome post, Tyler. That new design really does look amazing, can’t wait to see the final product.

  4. Smaaz says:

    Selling a website can be a pain in the ass – most people today don’t even want to spend 12x income.

  5. Paul B says:

    The new design looks great. It’s got a PublisherChallenge “feel” to it.

    The thing is I can’t believe that people want to sell an aged domain? In the NWO of the internet with age comes respect and that’s one of the easiest ways of ranking content. I’m serious, any 10 year old domain that’s kept its nose clean should be easily making $1000 a month if not a hell of a lot more. I’ve picked up a few expired freebies recently and they are doing VERY well.

  6. Loved this post, more like this please!

    But yeah the new design is looking sharp, it still holds the look and feel of the old site while putting a more fresh spin on it, the only thing really that needs a tweak is the logo.

    And as for the failed auctions, they are pretty daft, If I had a spare 12k I would have snapped this up.

    Good luck with it man, oh and get MovieVault a Twitter account!

  7. Greg Ellison says:

    The new design looks really good. I can’t wait to see the finish product. Thanks Greg Ellison

  8. Jami says:

    Affiliate marketing kicked your little butt, eh? ;)

  9. Geiger says:

    When I look at the main page of Movie Vault, I can’t figure out what the site is about. I think that needs to be fixed first. Primarily, it seems to be a movie news and review site.

    There’s a lot that can be done here. Each “In Theatre” review should have a link to Fandango. http://www.fandango.com/affiliateprogram

    Out of Theatre movies should have a Blockbuster or Netflix link as well as an Amazon.com “Buy Now” link.

    Secondly, I would get your reviews and news onto Google News. It takes a while but it isn’t that difficult.

    Kill some of the AdSense ads. The affiliate links serve your viewer better and might bring in a lot more revenue.

    With just a little work, this could snowball big time. If was written in .Net I might have made an offer on it!

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      I’m definitely removing the AdSense ads (were you perhaps confusing the old design with the new one?) and will be integrating dynamic related products with Amazon.

      I actually didn’t do too bad before with the amazon affiliate program, selling DVDs and VHSs (now to be DVDs and Blu-Rays), even on older and classic films so I won’t limit it to the new in theatre movies.

      I’ll show you how the movie review pages look in an upcoming post.

  10. MLDina says:

    I think Movie-Vault is my second favorite project of yours (behind affiliate marketing, of course). My background is in film and advertising, so it’s a nice change to keep tabs on a combination of some of my favorites. Looking forward to seeing the overhaul.

  11. jason says:

    you could of had a chance at making that site big 9 years ago.. but obviously it dint end up that way. Be real with yourself tyler a movie review site just doesnt cut it in todays dot com era. we got IMDB and rotten tomatoes and all those other sites. the chances of ever getting movievault up to a point where your making 1,000 a month isnt worth the time….

    thats exactly why nobody buys your overpriced websites. anyone can say there website could be the next best thing and try and sell it on hopes and dreams…

    if you see so much potential in your site why havent you done anything with it in 10 years? what makes you think its got any better chance nowadays? your sites are dying and i know you feel the pressure. You wouldnt even buy your own site for 12k minimum.

  12. You should go with a lighter theme…most people don’t like the dark websites.

  13. paul says:

    There is a lot of competition for movie sites. Too bad you didnt maintain it because it could have been huge today.

  14. BuildAndEarn says:

    LMAO. You wanted thousands for that piece of crap and everybody laughed at sitepoint. Now that you are making your “huge revamp” I wonder how much you would aks for it. Knowing your lame way of thinking I guess 3 or 4 million?

    What a tool

  15. Jeff Klein says:

    Congrats on the redesign Tyler. The site is looking good. I notice some design similarities with your Publishers Challenge site which I am sure is by design.
    Keep up the great work and posts.
    Thanks

  16. nice theme tyler! good job.

  17. I like the move vault website. I was thinking about making a free movie site, but I haven’t got around to it. Maybe someday. I am more interested in creating websites that stick. You know ones that nobody has come up with before.

  18. John says:

    but life IS that easy. businesses are valued primarily on their current income and assets. “potential” is an abstract concept that is highly dependent on a number of fluid factors and has little business in a valuation. generally, people/corporations buy businesses as a multiple of current income – this is reasonable and expected (and 12x is actually pretty high. you’d be hard pressed to find people willing to do that). These are basic ideas at the core of all business transactions, online or otherwise.

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      In the brick and mortar world it’s a lot more common, yes.

      Hell, YouTube sold for 2.1 billion when it wasn’t making a dime. It’s still deep in the red but the fact is that potential seems to account for much more online, IMHO.

      If you know of a lot of good or big sites selling at 12x revenue please let me know as I’d like to snatch them up.

      • From my understanding revenues don’t mean anything. Earnings (profits) do.

        In the corporate world I think the Earnings to Price ratio can be anywhere from 2:1 (or even less) to 500:1 (or even more) usually depending on the sector the business is in, but that’s ANNUAL, not monthly.

        So if you have a business that makes $100,000/year gross profit, and you get a 2:1 P/E ratio, you should be able to sell it for $200k.

        Higher P/E ratios usually correspond to higher risk/reward sectors. For example, a technology company with a lot of potential will typically command a higher P/E ratio than a company that’s in a more “bricks’n’mortar” sector.

        However, this is all when you’re talking about big business. In small businesses, like Movie Vault, it’s way harder to establish what something is worth.

        My guess, however, is that the main reason you weren’t able to sell your site is because there is a huge shortage on cash right now in the marketplace. Banks and lending institutions are very strict on lending money right now so it’s hard to find extra cash out there from investors.

        I wouldn’t take it personally, it’s just a shit market right now for everything. The market will shift and people will be dying for an opportunity to own a site that’s already generating income.

        Especially since the first $100-$1,000/m is the hardest to make on most websites. You’ve already done the hard work getting it to that point IMO, so I bet when the market improves and you’ve got the new site up there you’ll sell it a lot easier for a lot more money.

      • John says:

        YouTube: 1) please don’t compare movie vault to youtube, it’s absurd. 2) Google was purchasing youtube’s assets: users & brand. Youtube was the first to successfully exploit a disruptive idea/technology and google wanted to command those millions of eyeballs. Is that paying for “potential”? Maybe, but at least youtube had already done much of the legwork to cultivate an exceptional brand (youtube is and was a commonly known brand fully integrated into pop culture) and build a massive user base. It wasn’t like the guys behind youtube built a bare bones site, had no users or content, and somebody from google just stumbled over it one day and decided “gee, we sure could make that site into something!”. Quite the opposite.

        And sorry, but if you’re paying more than 12x earnings on site acquisitions, then you’re getting your face ripped off. Either you have the magic touch when it comes to drastically increasing your acquired sites’ earnings in a short period of time or your ROI horizon is incredibly long.

  19. Good luck with the new site design Tyler.

  20. Griffin says:

    You wanted thousands for that piece of crap and everybody laughed at sitepoint. Now that you are making your “huge revamp” I wonder how much you would aks for it.

  21. Michael says:

    You shouldn’t take people offering less money than what you think your site is worth so personally, it’s just business.

    The bottom-line is that a website is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

    • I see it slightly differently from your point of view. A website is only worth how much someone is willing to pay for it *IF* you are desperate to sell it right now for cash.

      If you factor in financing into the picture, it could be worth a lot more. For example, lets say I’m selling a website…ABC123.COM for example.

      Look at these two scenarios:

      Scenario 1
      Site: ABC123.com
      Price: $12,000
      Profit/month: $500/m

      Scenario 2
      Site: ABC123.com
      Price: $450/m Payments x 36 Months
      Profit/month: $500/m

      Assuming that the $500/m was verifyable income, and it had a proven track record over a period of time, wouldn’t more people be more interested in Scenario 2? I mean the minute you buy the site, you’re already making $50/m profit, for 36months and then you’re making $500/m profit after you pay off the site.

      So even though you pay $16,200 total in Scenario 2, I think it’s an easier option for people to accept.

      Locally here, a local bed place is now offer 0% financing on mattresses. Why? Because people don’t have cash right now, so instead of lowering the price of the mattress, they just offer financing.

      -Paul

  22. Barry says:

    Tyler,

    The site looks great. I know with a little hard work you can get this site up and running with out a problem. Once the coding is upgraded the possibilities are endless. The new design is great. A lot more modern. Great advertising spots too.

    When the site is recoded I dont see a problem with it doing very well. The search engines will like it alot more and you should get more search traffic. Also it has more of a community feel to it then lets say IMDB. Sure everyone goes to IMDB but there is nothing saying that movie vault couldnt be bigger than IMDB some day. Just look at yahoo before google created its search engine and it became mainstream and like the million of other examples out there.

    Keep with it tyler and you could surprise a lot of these negative people leaving negative comments.

    Barry

  23. Darren says:

    Hey Tyler, congrats on doing this. I wish I had my first content site still… it was a sign it did not sell. I saw what people were saying when it was for sale at SitePoint and it was sad they would think that way about the quality of the site. Good luck and I know you will feel really good about pouring an investment into your true passion site.

  24. Adrian Hurwitz says:

    I’m really pleased you’re doing this, Tyler. I think it’s a really good idea. For a while, you, as you acknowledge, abandoned the webmaster vocation. You’ve pointed out that this is your return to your original focus, et cetera. That’s not why I think it’s a good idea, though.

    The reason it pleases me is that your little dalliance with affiliate marketing and the like was a real break of character. I think it started around the time you brokered that domain and made a bit of money. You started focusing entirely on the money making aspect of what you’re doing. Money is a necessity, and I don’t pay any heed to those who curse it off entirely. But what made you worth ten Shoemoneys and twenty John Chows in character was that you knew that acquiring wealth was not the most important goal on the planet.

    But that lapsed a bit. You fell into the trap of site flipping, domain brokering, and then the ultimate evil, affiliate marketing. That’s perhaps harsh of me to say, but it’s worth considering. Even if affiliate marketing does no evil, it certainly doesn’t contribute to any good in the world. And is that really how you want to spend your life? Is that how you want to be remembered?

    So your return to MovieVault signifies, to me, more than a reorganization of your time. It signifies, rather, that you really do want to do good in the world. That even if MovieVault is not a universal panacea, its net effect on the world is altogether positive. You’re adding value to the internet.

  25. Jessica says:

    best of luck with the site, Hope it gets to the peak!!

  26. Not knowing that you were having that website as you didn’t talked much about it and I hope it will bring more success to you with new designing.

  27. The screenshots look great. I hope your investment pays off.

  28. Cpvr says:

    Good luck TC – I’m sure your sites will flourish again[if they ever slowed down, traffic wise].

    Once updates come in – your traffic will go up and organic search rankings will rise.

  29. Bidet says:

    Wow its good to see that you are revamping it and putting so much money into it. Hopefully you will see returns from it soon. Im sure it will be much better now.

  30. this site has developed amazingly

  31. EarningStep says:

    look like you love to watch movie just like me ..

  32. lucky smith says:

    that’s the downside on investing something in the net. you can never sure how long will stay, this is unpredictable business. i just wish it will goes online again and more better than before.

  33. Melvin says:

    Well Tyler its really hard to blame people for commenting that harsh. My take is just delete their comment if it has nothing to do with them buying your site or totally unrelated or they would just piss you off… I mean you have the editorial power anyways because you were the one who created the listing.

    just my 2 cents

  34. used tires says:

    Glad to see that you are not giving up on your movie vault website, I like the new design, looking forward to hearing more updates on this =D

    Till then,

    Jean

  35. I have noticed that people are only willing to spend about 6x what it’s making in today’s market. Also good luck getting 3x what your sites making on the digital point forums, they don’t want to pay almost anything there.

    Anyhow your new design looks great.

  36. Melvin says:

    And tyler I thought Jon from wickedfire have already purchased this site before?

  37. Dave Starr says:

    Great update, Tyler, And as several others have mentioned, it’s really nice to see you haven’t deserted your original roots. Overall I am still convinced building sites of value is the most satisfying aspect of online earning, even though other short term money generation is tempting. Best of luck.

  38. WP Themes says:

    I don’t see this project being successful. I’ll probably be similar to your publisherspot. Lots of Hype in the beginning and then it dies down. I think publisherspot is 100x easier to gain traction than MovieVault

    Maintaining a quality movie review site takes a lot of work. You’re hoping that you will get a lot of volunteers to write reviews and get traffic. That is the only way to succeed but it is almost impossible. Well nothing is impossible but still.

    There are just too many quality movie review sites out there. I personally would choose to fight a different battle.

    • Tyler Cruz says:

      There is certainly a lot of competition out there, that’s for sure.
      On the other hand, it’s a HUGE market. Everybody watches movies. That’s the one thing that’s going for me (other than an existing userbase and content).

  39. Jared says:

    Tyler, I’m glad you’re intending to focus more on your content websites, because that’s what drew me to your blog all that time ago. Affiliate marketing is comparative to a smiling assassin in my eyes; no doubt you’ll have more fun making money with publishing.

  40. [...] with content-driven sites and that’s where he’s going back again. Tyler has decided to replant his roots with the pending relaunch of Movie Vault, one of the first websites that he ever developed, [...]

  41. Melayu says:

    This post is very good for me.. i can get many tips and trick on this blog.. thank’s for u’r information my friend! this is my first time to visiting to your blog..

  42. Sadly web 3.0 is just around the corner :(

    -Mike

  43. Briefcases says:

    Good luck with Movie Vault. It may be a blessing in disguise that it didn’t get sold. Hopefully you’ll be able to transform that into a very profitable website.

  44. Yes, definitely keep us updated on the progress of Movie-Vault’s relaunch.

    I myself have a site to relaunch soon and Movie-Vault’s progress could be a good learning experience. :)

  45. I’ve followed quite a few of your past auctions on SitePoint and by the comments you used to get it was apparent people had no idea what your site’s real value was.

    -James

  46. Rudz says:

    The design is pretty amazing.. Like it so much….
    What platform are you using on that?

  47. You know what I think is kinda funny… before I attempted an auction at flippa, I ran across your movie auction and it was pretty amusing all the negative comments you were getting.

    I guess people just love to hate, huh?

    Jay

  48. That screenie of the progession of the caches of your site is the most revealing. You may have made a fair bit of money but it was through hard work and updates. So many people expect to nip on the internet and make loads of cash instantly, and it doesn’t work like that (unless you’re doing something illegal!) and it’s nice to see someone who has obviously worked so hard for what he has.

  49. cool design This post is very good for me.. i can get many tips and trick on this blog.thanks for posting it

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  50. [...] is Really Starting to Take Off April 2, 2010 Posted by Tyler Cruz Paid Advertisement Last September I promised how I was going to take my old movie site from the brink of death, and turn it back into [...]

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