WaterBook.org and the disgust of an advertising business model

waterbook Yesterday I had the honor of consulting for WaterBook.org – a project which has the ambition to help inform the world of how to gather and retain potable water. This was the second time I was asked to talk with the organizer and project lead.

The project is amazing, and I wish I had some sketches to share of what is being created. The use of the internet, not only as a marketing factor, but also to facilitate a community of common purpose is one of the best leverages of our worldwide information market I’ve seen in a long time. Wait. Did I just use big words to say that the project is freaking cool? Yes, I did. Sorry about that.

Besides the fact that the idea is worthy of our environmental side’s applause, I’m pretty happy with yesterday’s consultation too – for business reasons.

A friend and I were discussing web sites and businesses the other day and he said something that I’ve been thinking about ever since. I already had it on my mind, but for different reasons. Advertising, as a business model, is not the silver bullet. Don’t get me wrong. I love what Google has done with Adwords, and that we have professional bloggers now. That’s awesome for them individually. But, there’s a trend occuring that says that if all else fails, put advertising on your site and you’ll float just fine.


Advertising is not a viable business model (except for Google/Yahoo search engines). The reason is because of it’s nature – the paradox. So, you want people to come to your site to do something (hopefully). But you put advertising on it to float you. So, people come to your site and you tempt them to leave with advertising? It’s a catch-22. You need the click for the dollar to keep your business going.

Let’s simplify: If you people don’t want what you sell, stop selling it. Advertising won’t help you.

So, what’s this rant have to do with WaterBook? Well, originally advertising was the main idea on how it would be self-sufficient as a non-profit project. Neither the project lead nor myself really liked that idea because of the rant/irony stated above. So, we came up with another solution – to give the visitors a bridge from the theory of potable water to the reality of making it happen.

Each idea about how to make consumable water included in the Water Book will be made out of physical materials. People have to get those materials somewhere. So, we give retailers/sponsors the opportunity to have exclusive rights to have their store be linked to in materials lists for each idea. For the great PR of supporting a project like this as well as the links to their websites, Water Book charges a monthly fee. Simple, efficient, not putting the emphasis on ROI. Instead, we’re putting the emphasis on emotional attachment, good will, and positive PR for supporting a project like this. But, they get a potential return as well; more as a bonus than an actual investment.

What do you think? Do you have a better idea on how to give a benifit to the visitors of a site rather than advertising and still make money? Do tell.

[tags]potable water, water, drinkable, waterbook, water book[/tags]

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

2 Comments on "WaterBook.org and the disgust of an advertising business model"

  1. Johan says:

    REally nice site. Congratulations Nate!!! :-)

  2. nate says:

    I love the amazing amount of quality and thoughtful comments I get.

    I’m sorry, I meant to say.. “thanks”.

    (I edited the spammer, but left the comment. just for fun)

More in Business, Design, General, Techie
I love Flash video players

CurrentTV, you know, the project launched by Al Gore, actually is pretty cool. I didn't give the guy much credit,...