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Sep 17, 2002
Interview Reveals Which Content Sites Make Ancillary Profits Selling T-Shirts, Mugs & Mousepads

SUMMARY: Yes, Blogs from former Star Trek actors do well. However, Dilbert as well as weird sites by college students can also profit.
350,000. That is how many Web sites, the majority of which are content sites and/or ezines, that are making ancillary profits from a store.

Now, we are not advising for or against your selecting However, we thought it was worth calling up VP Sales & Marketing Maheesh Jain to learn how to make more money through them, or through whatever method you choose to sell products such as self-branded t-shirts, mugs and/or posters from your site or ezine.

He told us the mouse pads do better than you would think. Just do not try to sell them with your logo alone. That is a common newbie mistake, sticking logos on stuff and expecting all your visitors to be thrilled to buy it. You really have to give them some type of art, either funny or beautiful, beyond your logo to bring in the bucks.

Also, do not just stick "store" on your navigation bar and expect hordes to come shopping. Put some product graphics and other text pitches on your home page and ezine to convert more eyeballs to shoppers.

Interesting examples of content sites that do pretty well with sales now:

-> Ok you saw that one coming. Jain says Salon is a great example of a site that uses art to sell products (most of the others rely on humor or "Please help us survive" pitches).

-> Wil Wheaton Dot Net: Yes, the former Star Trek Next Gen star has a Blog and according to Jain, "His site sells quite a bit of merchandise." It is not just the fame thing, Jain thinks any popular Blog-writer could do well following Wheaton's tactics.

The key is to create a product around a story (or personal life event) you are covering in your Blog. "People find the story funny, they buy the merchandise."

Jain says he is also psyched about an upcoming product launch from, "We're working with them to set up a mousepad printed with Blogger user tips and tricks."

-> United Media's Of the many comic sites with deals, Jain praises in particular because they've integrated the sales pitch so wonderfully with their content.

Example: Each emailed issue of's Dilbert comic strip goes out with a clickable link to purchase that particular day's strip printed on a variety of items (mug, etc.). When one really, really tickles your funny bone, you can get it in a more permanent format. We can see how some readers would feel this campaign moves over the line from marketing to public service.

Jain notes it took a bit more back-end work on's part to make this possible. They are happy to do it for free however, if you have at least 100,000 readers who seem like good enough sales prospects.

The bigger sites also have an advantage because they get volume discounts. If you sell more than 500 units in your store (does not matter what) per month, you get volume discounts.

-> NStorm/Commotion Interactive Online Games: Some of the most popular online games, such as 'Elf Bowling' and 'Frogapult,' support themselves by adding a routine link to a store at the end. "Here's the score, and if you liked the game check out the merchandise link."

-> Three Brain: Nobody we know is exactly sure who is behind Three Brain. Jain thinks it might be some college students. Some college students who could teach the grownups a thing or two about merchandising.

"They make up these funny songs and create Flash videos around them. After you see it and you're dying of laughter, they Flash the t-shirt. It may be a really bizarre shirt - like one with a squirrel running around on it. A ton of people bought it. It had to do with the song and they thought, 'God I have to get that shirt - it's so funny."

Hey, it is better than delivering pizza for a living.
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