Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Welcome, Google

Nine days after updating the Scorched Earth web site, Google is the first search engine out of the gate to start sending traffic to the new URL instead of the old page, which is now a redirect. Congratulations, Google!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Web Site Changes

Just a quick note: the official Scorched Earth home page has moved from ClassicGaming to my own site, whicken.com. Thanks to ClassicGaming for hosting this for many years. I'm hoping to aggregate a bit more of the information scattered across a few locations into whicken.com over the next few months, but don't expect anything to happen too quickly.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whicken's Greatest Hits

From time to time, I check Google Analytics for the blog here. It's not too exciting, typically sitting around 20 visitors per day.

Although there aren't tons of posts here to wade through, there are a few posts which do attract the lion's share of traffic. Under the assumption that those are the subjects people are most interested in hearing about, I will dedicate the next several posts to further exploration of what I call my Greatest Hits.

Which is appropriate, since one of the most popular blog posts I've ever done was actually over on the Hear Here blog, back in December of 2006. This post covers the top 100 Christmas songs. Every year, right around Thanksgiving, traffic starts going up for this page - getting stronger and stronger until December 24th. On the 26th of December, the traffic goes back to zero.

In 2006, that page got 355 hits.
In 2007, that page got 4,095 hits.
In 2008, that page got 6,669 hits.

On this blog, the most similar item comes in ranked at number 7, my Valentine's Day playlist from Feb 2006. Although not nearly as popular, it does get a small spike every February (and here's a hint - don't play it for your Valentine's sweetheart unless you're breaking up).

So, what are the other Greatest Hits for Whicken's Blog? Stay tuned and find out. And just maybe I'll create some new favorites...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Let's call a spade a spade

I've been following the new administration more closely than I have politics in the past, due to the new white house blog. Kudos for that. One bit of political double speak dribbled through today, though, from the Office of Management and Budget. At issue here is a proposal to limit charitable deductions made by the extremely wealthy. Regardless of how one might feel about the proposal, it's double speak like this that makes me unhappy:

Third, there’s a question of fairness. Non-profits play a critical role in our society (indeed, I have worked at several of them in the past). But let’s look at how the tax code treats two different contributors to a non-profit. If you’re a teacher making $50,000 a year and decide to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross or United Way, you enjoy a tax break of $150. If you are Warren Buffet or Bill Gates and you make that same donation, you get a $350 deduction – more than twice the break as the teacher.

So, let's unravel that.

Under the current system, if you donate to a non-profit, then you don't pay taxes on that money. It's more or less like you never earned it. In the first example, the teacher would pay $150 taxes on the $1000, and gets that $150 back. Warren would have paid $350 on the same $1000, and so gotten his $350 back.

While on a strictly numerical level you could say Warren got twice as much back as the teacher, it's only because he paid twice as much up front. Calling that "a question of fairness" seems to me completely preposterous.

If the real issue is that the country needs more money, and the only people that can afford to pay for it are the extremely wealthy, then let's just call a spade a spade, and add another higher tax bracket. Games like this just complicate the tax code, and serve no real purpose other than to create a shell game for government revenue.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Now with extra brains

Just enabled a new widget for the blog: outbrain. This lets you rate your favorite posts, and find other stuff based on your prior ratings, and the content of the posts you like (or something like that). You can see the widget right under this post. My hope is this will help make the blog more useful to people who are just dropping in to look for a particular topic. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

My Tips For Selling on Amazon

Although I've only recently started selling things through Amazon, I think it's been a productive week. In this post, I'd like to pass on a few more tips.

First up, a quick status report. In less than one week, I've posted 134 items. Of those, 47 have now sold. This leads to the first tip on this post (which is an obvious one, but may be useful for new sellers).

Tip #1: If you are going to sell more than 40 items per month, sign up as a Pro Seller. Normally Amazon will charge an extra 99 cents per sale - paying 39.99 per month waives this fee. If you aren't sure, you can wait and play it safe - but if you're going for volume, go Pro.

I attribute most of my success to the quality of my collection (my CDs are all in very good condition), and to my method for listing. As mentioned earlier, I only list items where I can profitably list at the new lowest price. This keeps items which are worthless from cluttering up my store, and makes sure that people looking for used CDs will find mine first.

The interesting thing is that I'm not the only one doing this (naturally). After about a day, almost 30% of my inventory is no longer listed at the lowest price. The marketplace is actually more dynamic than it might seem from just browsing the Amazon site - there's a fair amount of competition driving prices down. If you want a used CD, but aren't in a rush, wait a few days and it might be cheaper. On the other hand, cheap items sell fast, so you may risk losing an item by waiting.

Tip #2: Review your inventory regularly to make sure your listings are competitive. In my case, I do so about once a day. Generally I'm perfectly happy to drop a few cents or a nickel to get the lowest price. For a high proft item, I'll gladly drop a buck. On the other hand, when I see someone competing with a price too low for my preferences, I'll review other offers, and sometimes bring my price up - once the competitor sells this puts me in a good position for the next customer.

I'd also like to note that Amazon has really excellent support for their sellers. Just push a button on the web site, and you will get a phone call from their support immediately. This bypasses the usual security questions since you are logged in to your account to initiate the call. All the support people I have talked to were very friendly and helpful. So, kudos to Amazon. If you have any questions, feel free to call them.

If you're interested in buying quality used CD's, please check out my store front.

Finally, I've found a new outlet for those CDs which I just can't get any value for no matter what - promotional CDs, overstocked junk, whatever. These are going to go to a local artist, and be recycled into various art projects. If I get a chance to see any interesting pieces created out of the donations, I'll try and post pictures.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Economics of Selling CDs

Hopefully someone out there is interested in these numbers - my hope is these details may be useful for anyone thinking about selling their own CD collection. With that in mind, here are some concrete numbers after my first batch of CDs was processed. This post will focus mainly on the associated overhead - at the moment, I'm only shipping in the US, so these numbers are all limited to that context.

When you sell merchandise through Amazon, you receive a credit to help cover the shipping costs. These are fixed by Amazon, so will not necessarily correspond directly to your own costs. At the moment, I'm getting a credit of $2.98 for each CD I sell, regardless of the CD.

My costs depend on the supplies I buy to ship, and the postage. In my first batch, I picked up the supplies from the post office. To ship a double CD set costs me $1.99 for a small box and $2.70 for postage - that means I'm losing $1.71 against my selling price. In other words, I want to make sure I'm charging more than $1.71 on those sets, or I'm losing money.

For a regular single CD in a jewel case, I pay $1.09 for a card sleeve, 16 cents for bubble wrap, and $2.02 for shipping. That's a total of $3.27 for a loss of 29 cents. On the cheaper side, for CDs which come in cardboard sleeves, shipping drops to $1.85.

After running the numbers, I decided to get some cheaper supplies. At Target, I can buy CD-sized padded envelopes for 65 cents each. This means I will actually be making a small profit against the shipping credit for most CDs, and only losing on the larger disc sets - which tend to have higher selling prices anyways.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Selling CDs Online

This is a follow up to my previous post, with some notes on my experience so far selling off some of my music collection. First off, it's amazing how many CDs you can buy on Amazon for 1 cent. Of course, there's shipping involved, which is where the margin is - but that's pretty much rock bottom for physical media. So competing in that arena is not something I'm interested in.

At the moment, I've gone through one legal box full of CDs. This is about 150 CDs. Of those, 35 were worth listing on Amazon at the new lowest current offer price. Withing 24 hours, 5 of those CDs have already sold, at an average selling price of $10 per disk. Of course those were some of the more collectible disks, but it's still a good start.

Of the remaining 115, I've decided to add another option to my process: SecondSpin. They are willing to buy most of my CDs, ranging from (so far) 5 cents to 5 dollars. Of the 18 CDs I've checked so far, I've decided 5 of them are worth going this route, which is a pretty decent percentage - getting me on average 2 bucks per CD.

I may post a list of whatever's left here on my blog - $2 each + whatever shipping is appropriate for the set. I wonder if that would get any traction?

One other point: a lot of these disks have upwards of 18 tracks. At 99 cents a track for a digital copy, that's 18 dollars to buy lossy digital copies versus 1 buck to get the physical media which can be ripped to get perfect, DRM-free copies of all 18 tracks. If I were a record label, I think I'd be all over the digital model in this marketplace.