Bob Chambers has established a hard-earned reputation for himself as the Multimedia Guy. In this exclusive Mequoda interview, he reveals how he got started in the video business, grew with the many changes in technology, and how he shares his knowledge on the very informative and authoritative member site FlashPublishers.com.
MEQUODA By way of background, what is your educational and professional background?
BC In my past life I was a systems engineer and program manager. My formal education included both an engineering degree from UCLA and a MBA degree from Pepperdine University.
But I always had the entrepreneurial desire so in the early 1990’s I started looking at doing video productions. Or as Bill Myers called it, desktop video. I got all the videotapes, books and other material available from Bill Myers as well as from Barb and Alby Besteni (Video File) to learn more about it. And in 1992 I left the aerospace industry to start my own video production business.
I was fortunate to know an Emmy-winning director and member of the Directors Guild of America, Leonard S. Smith, Jr. One of his numerous credits was as the Assistant Director of the M*A*S*H* Television series. Len spent time teaching me the business, from camera work to final editing. Believe me, that hands-on training was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I then spent about a year working with Bob Serling learning all about sales letters and information publishing. From there I started creating my own how-to videos and information products for my direct marketing business.
Finally, in 1997, I decided to get into the newsletter publishing business and spent a week with Bill and Sonya Myers in their first Newsletter Creation Workshop. Bill actually got me to start my DVEreview (digital video editing) newsletter during that workshop. He even named it for me. I published that newsletter for several years with a website on the Internet.
Because of the research I did to start my newsletter I became the first person on the Internet to teach people how to do low cost, high quality digital video editing. Since at the time most people though it would take $50,000 to be successful with digital video editing, I created a successful video, “How to Easily Build Your Own Low Cost/High Quality DVE Suite”, to prove my point. Plus, my website had the most successful discussion forum on that subject during that time.
MEQUODA What best describes your position with www.FlashPublishers.com? Was this website your creation?
BC This is truly a very small business and I do just about everything. My wife is a part of the organization but she’s mostly a consultant. One of the chief benefits I’ve found is that I can change directions, make a commitment or decisions quickly without having to go through a review with management. The bad part about it is that if it’s to be done I have to do it.
My website is maintained using MemberGate software. So while the look of my site is something that I did myself, how the software works is all taken care of by MemberGate.
But I have also created a fully manual members site that I maintained prior to MemberGate, another one that was semi-manual and looked much like my present Flash Publishers site, plus I’ve tried some of the other membership software. So I do know a lot about creating a membership site.
And I must admit that, while MemberGate is not perfect, it’s certainly the best choice I have found so far. I did use another software program but I kept comparing it to MemberGate and wanting it to do the same thing, which it didn’t.
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MEQUODA How did you come to start www.FlashPublishers.com?
BC As you might guess, after doing DVEreview for a few years, I had the newsletter bug. The only thing was that DVE was no longer a good place to be since too many others had jumped on it by that time. So I moved into information publishing and tried several different domain names, none of them being something I wanted to keep for long.
Eventually I found a new domain name that had just become available, ProfitProducers.com. This domain was originally owned by Barb and Alby Besteni, two of the people who got me into video productions. They had used that domain for their multimedia information publishing business newsletter (after using Video File for a number of years) but had released it when their partnership broke up.
I started my MemberGate membership site using ProfitProducer.com. My focus was multimedia, which was the same focus that Barb and Alby used with their Profit Producer newsletter. That was until Bill Myers told me that his e-mail filter was stopping my e-mail to him because of the word “profit”. To me, that was pretty serious, so I spent time searching the Internet for some words that would indicate multimedia information publishing. I finally found eMediaWizard.com, which seemed to fit.
I used that name for several years even though I felt a bit uncomfortable with the “wizard” title. But as a friend said, Microsoft uses wizards so it is not a word that would ever get black listed. That became my membership site until one of my customers told me she thought my focus was on audio!
So once again, I started my search for a domain name that would either have a benefit or a customer focus. I thought of using Flash since I was showing others how to use it. Well, I can tell you that most domains with the word “Flash” are already taken. But my search paid off since I found that someone had just dropped the domain name, FlashPublishers.com.
Flash Publishers is focused on showing people how to create Flash multimedia without knowing anything about the Flash software. It also includes material on multimedia information publishing. Plus, I create a number of multimedia projects and I show my subscribers how I do my projects.
Basically, my multimedia content includes my on-going research in the field, what I’m doing with my projects, the tools and techniques that work today, and my discussion forum. I plan on adding audio interviews with people involved with multimedia. My members get Flash movies showing them how to use various tools.
Recently I conducted a test of several microphones and audio mixers. The results were posted on the site and helped a number of subscribers choose the right equipment. And I use the equipment that I recommend to create my multimedia products. I have a regular multimedia recording studio right here with my desktop computer.
MEQUODA How long has your site been active and what is your subscription fee structure? What is included with a subscription?
BC My Flash Publishers site has been active using MemberGate software since November 2001. As I mentioned before, I started with ProfitProducer.com, moved to eMediaWizard.com and finally became FlashPublishers.com. I have been running a membership site in one form or another since late in 1999 when my newsletter went online.
For a time I was running a mirror image of eMediaWizard.com on another site, eMediaWiz.com. That site looked like my MemberGate site but was maintained semi-manually using some software and templates. And I can tell you that maintaining a site with MemberGate is much easier.
My fee structure has changed over the years until now I have only one fee of $19.95 per month. That fee includes full access to the entire site, plus members get special discounts for any of my products on my site. The discount is usually $20 so that means someone can join my site for $19.95, buy one of my products, and basically get their membership free for the month.
Plus active members get special offers for any product I develop during their membership. As an example, my InstantAudioPro audio software is selling for $67. Members get it for $47. But when I first released it I offered the software for $19.95 for a limited period.
MEQUODA You originally published www.emediaWizard.com but changed the name to FlashPublishers.com. Why did you re-brand your content?
BC As I mentioned, I actually started my site with MemberGate as ProfitProducer.com and later changed to eMediaWizard.com. Of course, while today it’s FlashPublishers.com, all three domain names are still active on my site. Any of those three domain names will get you to my site. The reason I changed from eMediaWizard.com to FlashPublishers.com was because of one of my customers. She was from Australia and decided to unsubscribe because of a change in her business. She told me she liked my site and would recommend me to any of her friends that were interested in using audio. Since my focus was multimedia I decided to re-looked at my domain name. I figured out that no one seemed to know what “eMedia” was.
I talked to Bill Myers about making the change since he has to handle the website’s software. He suggested using either a customer benefit or focus. That’s when I decided that I needed something with Flash in it. And fortunately I found FlashPublishers.com that helps clearly define my website. But my content didn’t really change all that much since I had been reporting on multimedia and information publishing all along.
I like to say my focus is on Multimedia Information Publishing. Of course, that’s been my business since 1992.
MEQUODA Now to the technical details. To build your site, what tools did you use, and how long did it take?
BC My first web host was a student going to school in Arkansas. I met him at Bill and Sonya Myers’ Newsletter workshop. I used to have to talk to him between classes. But he created a software program on the Y2K subject, sold it for a lot of money, and went to England to work. But while I was with him he tried to get me to code HTML using Notepad.
I can tell you that I’ve used just about every software HTML editor I could find until I finally started using Macromedia Dreamweaver. I’m not sure how long I’ve been using it but even today, when I create content for my MemberGate site, I still use Dreamweaver to do it.
Building a site is an on-going task. Since I took the time to learn HTML, I find I can decide to change my site and actually do it myself. I have never used anyone else. That is both good and bad news. But I do like to be able to see a problem with any of my sites and fix it right now. I just checked and I have 11 active sites and only one of them is my membership site. The rest are single or multiple product sites. Some of them are listed on my corporate site at http://frontiergold.com. A few are on-going projects.
And I have another 50 or 60 domain names for projects I’ve thought of but haven’t started yet.
MEQUODA How easy, time-consuming, etc. is the process of adding new content?
BC One thing I’ve found about adding content is that once you’re into the groove of creating content you find material everywhere. In fact, recently I found a stack of material I’d clipped and was planning to include in my site. But after a year it was still sitting there and was very obsolete. Yes, every so often I just can’t think of what to write about. But usually I’ll come up with some good ideas when I first wake up in the morning or while I’m out walking the dogs.
You have to remember that I’ve been writing a newsletter since the middle of 1997 so I have gotten used to sitting down and just writing right on the computer. I have found that I must print out what I wrote to proof it. I can not read my material on my computer’s monitor and catch my mistakes. Of course, I don’t always catch them when I print it either. But I do a better job that way.
While I write most of the content on my site, sometimes I do add content from what I call my “Guest Authors”. These articles are in my public area so anyone can read them. My content is the only material in the members area as far as I can remember.
At one point I was adding content nearly everyday. I usually was putting up six articles per week. But recently I have dropped that down to about three times per week. I found that I was overwhelming my customers with that higher level of content. According to my records from MemberGate I presently have some 590 articles posted. And that doesn’t include the previous four years of newsletters that I did before creating this site. So I probably have nearly 1,000 pages of content on my site with all that material.
MEQUODA What’s the single greatest tool that helps you get your new content out every week?
BC I guess it’s the filter in my brain. I’m always looking for information about multimedia and information publishing. I find interesting products in catalogs, articles and products in trade magazines, e-mail announcements for products. Plus, when I see someone doing something I always try to figure out how they are doing it. And usually I look at various software programs and try to find new ways of using them.
My background is systems engineering. I know that not a lot of people will know what that means so let me explain. The world has a number of very specialized engineers, like mechanical, electrical, electronic, software, civil, etc. They are very good at doing one thing well—their given specialty. But the systems engineer is the one who puts it all together. And to me, that’s the most fun of all.
My systems engineering comes in handy when I’m looking at how to use something in a way that no one intended it to do.
My other background is program management. My job was to interface with everyone, including my customers, the engineers, manufacturing, etc. In that job I had to translate what was being done so that everyone understood. From that I learned how to explain technical work so that any non-technical person could understand.
As you might guess, that has helped me take a technological subject and explain it in simple terms. My video tutorials show how to get results using an approach much like the idiots’ books.
MEQUODA Marketing and promotion seem to be a great challenge for most subscription website publishers. How have you approached this task, and what kind of results have you experienced?
BC Like many engineers I often get more interested in producing products instead of marketing them. However, one of the best parts about MemberGate is that it allows the search engines to enter the members-only area and rank my members-only content. I don’t know how Bill Myers did that but to me it’s really magic.
I had one customer join after doing a search for some term about Flash. She found my discussion forum message was listed as number one in the search engine no matter where she searched. And she had to join to get inside the members area to read my answer.
I have had success with getting members by giving a special discount for the various products I offer. I’m planning on using Google AdWords to help drive people to the products I have on my site for those products.
Right now, I consider marketing my weak point in my site so I’m starting to focus more of my efforts in that area.
One of the directions I’m taking today is labeling myself as “The Multimedia Guy”. I have just started a multimedia newsletter at http://TheMultimediaGuy.com that will help with marketing my products and website. I have been publishing an e-zine in the past but I’ve now redone it as a complete multimedia newsletter. I know that the future of newsletters is going to be in multimedia and since my focus is on multimedia, it is logical that I take my newsletter in that direction.
I’ve also added audio to my site to show people how multimedia can be used. You can hear my welcome message on my home page at http://FlashPublishers.com.
MEQUODA How do you find new subscribers, or how do they find you? What’s the process like for increasing sales and memberships?
BC Right now they find me by the search engines. And since my topics are Flash and Multimedia which are becoming hot items on the Internet, I expect more and more people to reach me that way.
Another process I plan on using is publicity. I met Paul Hartunian at the Mequoda Conference in Orlando and bought his material. His approach is very logical and should work well for me. Especially since I’m now branding myself as “The Multimedia Guy”.
MEQUODA For Mequoda members who are devising premium content strategies for their online properties, any advice you would offer?
BC I believe that the future on the Internet is going to be Multimedia. In the next two years you’re going to see multimedia take over the Internet. And those who don’t learn and use multimedia are going to be left behind.
Back in the year 2000, Bill Myers wanted me to move my newsletter to streaming video. I even got eWebVideo.com and wrote my first newsletter on the subject. But then I decided to go a different way and didn’t get back to streaming multimedia until recently.
But since my entire background is in multimedia I find it only natural to be in the middle of this technology. And because I am, I’ve spent some time looking to the future, and believe me, multimedia on the Internet is coming fast.
I’m living proof that you can add simple multimedia content to your membership site. I have both Flash audio as well as screen capture Flash video on my site. And since the technology is not hard, I suggest anyone with a membership site look into doing the same thing. It adds a new dimension to the content you offer your members.
MEQUODA What’s your best advice to Mequoda members who are seeking to develop additional revenue streams outside of advertising for their online business?
I believe it’s adding your own products. I find that having products on my site as well as having them on separate sites helps bring more customers to all my sites. I have two different affiliate programs, one for FlashPublishers.com and the other at Frontiergold.com. I find someone signs up for one and very quickly they sign up for the other. And when they join one of my mini-courses on one site, soon they join another mini-course on another.
I am a firm believer that having a number of related products on separate sites and also listed on your membership site is another way of getting people to join. The more places you are on the Internet the more people find you.
Plus, I like the idea of branding yourself. That’s what I did with my “The Multimedia Guy.” I put my picture on nearly all my sites and I now sign most of my email as “The Multimedia Guy.” And that’s how I announce myself in my videos. I don’t know about my customers but I’m sure beginning to believe I’m “The Multimedia Guy.”
MEQUODA What has been your greatest challenge to date, doing business online?
BC Without a doubt, getting a clear focus on my site and marketing. I spent a lot of time with domain names before I found a name that I can focus on. Now that part is done I need to focus on marketing.
One of the ways I’m looking at increasing my marketing is through my latest Multimedia Toolbox video series. The first volume shows how to use Camtasia to create great looking screen capture videos. By having that product on my website I can advertise it and get people coming to my membership site to follow up. And since that traffic is tightly focused on multimedia, they just might consider joining my Flash Publishers site.
MEQUODA What tips would you pass on to aspiring publishers who want to start a subscription-based website?
BC Find a starving niche audience that has money to spend and wants answers to their specific questions. But before committing yourself, make sure the subject is something you really enjoy. I’ve been publishing newsletters since 1997. Imagine if my subject was something I didn’t like. What a drag that would have been. So make sure your subject matter is something you have passion about and would be willing to write about for free.
Why free? Because sometimes you end up writing and losing money until people start to realize you know what you’re talking about. So it can take some time before any serious money starts coming in.
Another suggestion is to be flexible. As you publish your niche market will probably change so you need to be flexible enough to change with it. And the way you find out when it’s time to change is from talking to your customers. Learn their needs and answer them. That’s one of the reasons we need to have discussion forums. Notice what topics your customers focus on and you know where the hot topics are.
MEQUODA What’s the best or smartest thing you’ve done? What’s the worst?
BC The smartest thing I did was getting into video production. I learned the trade while I had the right teacher. Now I have a lot of video production experience that really applies to my work in multimedia. And of course, with my technical background, I can understand the technical side as well. Today I have an audio recording and edit studio, a video recording and edit studio, and a screen capture recording and edit studio all in my desktop computer. That allows me to create multimedia whenever I want.
The worst thing I’ve done is not spending enough time marketing. I started learning marketing over 25 years ago. I studied with some of the biggest names of marketing at that time. But what I forgot was to actually use those skills to market the products I have been creating.
MEQUODA What subscription-based websites do you subscribe to and/or recommend?
BC I subscribe to Mequoda, Bill Myers site at http://bmyers.com, and to several of the joint venture sites, http://www.jvAlert.com and http://www.jvgold.com. The first two are where I get the best information for my business and I recommend them. The other two are useful for finding joint venture partners for my products.
MEQUODA Which of the above is “doing it right?” (marketing their product, building a subscriber base, providing value, etc.)
BC I believe all of the membership sites I belong to are doing a good job or I wouldn’t have joined them. Why spend money for a membership unless you get value?
MEQUODA What question have I neglected to ask you that you want to answer?
BC Are you kidding? 😉