Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Uncle Squirrely, Blender, and Business Strategy

I run two web sites through Google Analytics. One is Uncle Squirrely. The other is Blender Python Tutorials, a site focused on 3D animation scripting. The differences fascinate me. Uncle Squirrely pulls 2 to 5 visitors per day on average. The Blender site pulls between 35 to 55 on any given day.

Here's why this is surprising. First, the Blender site hasn't been maintained in months. The interface is relatively low tech. The target market is very niche. Uncle Squirrely has been under heavy development and has a more modern infrastructure from back end to front end. Also, it caters to gamers.

On the other hand, competition matters. Gamestop, Walmart, and BestBuy have a huge presence in gaming retail both online and off. A Google search on “cheap video games” pulls up a lot of competing game sites many of which are very good. Uncle Squirrely is new and comparatively underdeveloped in comparison. In light of that, not pulling high in search engines isn't unusual.

Blender Python Tutorials doesn't have that problem. Few sites specialize in Python for Blender. Only one recent book dedicated to the topic exists to my knowledge. Consequentially, my tutorial site shows up near the top of Google search results for “blender python” and "blender scripting". Smaller niche means less competition.

As audience reach goes, priority on the Blender site makes sense. However, the business model has to be different. Uncle Squirrely is a game store. Blender Python Tutorials is a resource for writing 3D animation tools. It's not practical to try selling tutorials the way Nintendo sells Wii games.

Even with it's relatively tiny audience, abandoning Uncle Squirrely would be premature. The site's only been up a month and it does get a lot of Amazon clicks if not actual sales. The sensible thing to do is to keep working on it through the Christmas season. Even if it fails, it's still a good tech demo for prospective employers.

That means there are two sites to maintain from now to the end of the year. The Blender site needs new tutorials and a site redesign. Uncle Squirrely also needs maintenance. There's no shortage of things to do.

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