March 8, 2021

You’re the Boss: Does IndieReader’s Web Site Work?

Site Analysis

What’s wrong with this Web site?

For the first time since starting this column last year, I’d like to take a look at a content-driven Web site.

The most popular form of content-driven site is a blog, but the field also includes online newspapers, magazines and newsletters. Many content-driven sites are treated by their owners as hobbies. They want their voices to be heard, but they don’t really expect to make a living at it. There is a growing group of entrepreneurs, however, who believe their content will draw sufficient traffic and earn enough money to support a business.

Amy Edelman, the founder of, volunteered her site for a critique because she wants to know if the readers of this column believe her site has the kind of content that will attract and sustain a large enough audience for the site to be profitable. People who try to make a living by creating content-driven sites tend to be passionate about what they do, and Ms. Edelman, though she is keeping her day job for now, is no exception. She calls “the essential consumer guide” to self-published books and the people who write them.

It is Ms. Edelman’s dream that will be for readers and authors of independent books what the Sundance Film Festival is for independent film and what Pitchfork is for independent music. “My main goal is for to be a resource for book-loving consumers interested in finding great self-published books,” she said. “With no traditional publisher involved, there is really no gatekeeper for indie books, and our goal has been to fill that role.” The site’s most popular features, Ms. Edelman said, include its list of best-selling self-published books, its interviews with authors, and a feature that asks personalities to name a book that changed their lives.

There are a number of ways a content-driven site can generate revenue, and Ms. Edelman has tried a several. Advertisers will pay to be on such a site if the audience is sufficiently large and the right demographic for the advertiser’s goods or services. Currently the site has insufficient traffic — 4,283 visits in June — to get the attention of most advertisers. It does have a few independent book publishers advertising on the site.

Ms. Edelman has also set up an affiliate account with When the site mentions a book, it always includes a link to that book on Amazon. In return, it earns an affiliate fee from Amazon for every purchase made from the site.

In addition, Ms. Edelman provides a range of services to authors, including editing and copy-editing and distribution. Approximately 70 percent of the site’s revenue comes from these services. Ms. Edelman would not say what her total revenues are, but she did acknowledge that she has spent more on the site than she has gotten back in revenue.

So far, the site remains a side project for Ms. Edleman, whose main business is public relations. Most of the time and money she has invested has gone into getting the site off the ground — and not into search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising. The result is that the site can be hard to find through the search engines. Her biggest disappointment, she said, is that while she has been able to attract independent authors to her site, she has not yet attracted an audience of book readers.

Please take a look at and tell us what you think. Is this a site you would visit? Even if you are not a fan of independent books, do you feel the site does a good job of serving its target audience? What features do you like? What’s missing? What’s confusing? What needs to be improved? Please review the marketing efforts as well. Go to the search engines and see how the company fares. How would you market the site? Finally, is this a business you believe has a chance to succeed?

Next week, we’ll collect highlights from your comments, I’ll offer some of my own impressions, and we’ll get Ms. Edelman’s reaction.

Got a site or mobile app you’d like to have reviewed? I am always looking for volunteers. I am especially interested in hearing from businesses that are using smartphones, iPads and other mobile devices and apps as tools in marketing, selling and branding. To be considered, please tell me about your experiences — what works, what doesn’t, why you would like to have your Web site reviewed — in an e-mail to

Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design, development and marketing company based in New York.

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