Ted Landau is the webmaster and writer of the extremely popular MacFixIt website. MacFixIt, for those who have never visited the site, is a great resource for Macintosh users. It’s updated almost every day with the same great reports and fixes to all your Macintosh problems. For instance, you may find a fix at MacFixIt for your fax software problems, the latest release of QuickTime, or what’s causing a strange crash on your Mac every time you run Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Ted is also the author of Sad Macs, Bombs, and Other Disasters, one of the first books I ever bought for my Mac.
I had the chance to ask Ted a few questions recently, and his responses are both informative and intriguing, especially his forecast on the future of the Internet and Mac websites, as well as his thoughts on advertising dollars.
Many thanks, Ted, for taking the time to share with us your thoughts and to provide some information on MacFixIt. To begin, when did you start MacFixIt and what was your intention?
The origin of MacFixIt was a document I originally created as an update to the second edition of my book (Sad Macs, Bombs, and Other Disasters). The document was intended to provide readers of the book with new information that came out after the second edition was published. Initially, I posted the document as a file to America Online and CompuServe, updating it about once a month.
By March of 1996, I decided that it made more sense to make this update file available as a web page. As a bonus, I could also use the website to post the shareware/freeware utilities mentioned in the book. Prior to that, the utilities were available to readers as part of a separate MacFixIt floppy disk (not included with the book).
So the website began as the “Sad Macs Update Site.” Over the months, the updates to the site became more frequent, and the focus of the updates became more generalâ€”not simply items directly relevant to the book. As a result, in October of 1996, I formally broke the link between Sad Macs and the website. The site was renamed MacFixIt.
So has MacFixIt grown larger than you ever expected it to?
Has it ever!! When I began, I had no plans to have MacFixIt be something that I worked on nearly every day. Nor did I plan to use advertising to make money from the site. Nor did I ever consider that I would gain greater recognition from the website than for any other single thing I had done! It was just supposed to be something I did in my spare time to help gain awareness for Sad Macsâ€”and provide some extra value for owners of the book.
How many users, on average, do you think take advantage of this great website?
According to my logs, several hundred thousand different people visit MacFixIt each month.
Wow! That’s a lot of Macintosh users needing help. With its popularity and your past book writing endeavors, has MacFixIt led to other Macintosh related jobs or projects for you?
Not really. It probably could. But the truth is that MacFixIt takes up so much of my time that I have almost no time for any thing beyond MacFixIt. So I wind up rejecting various offers.
What was your inspiration for creating MacFixIt?
I am not sure what you mean by this. Certainly, I was “inspired” by the other sites on the web at the time, especially MacInTouch. Ric Ford and I frequently communicated with each other in those early days and he was a big help in getting me started. By the way, I never viewed MacFixIt as a competitor for MacInTouch (I viewed our approach and target audiences as different). But many people (probably including Ric!) seem to view it that way now.
Beyond that, my inspiration, if you want to call it that, was simply to use MacFixIt to help develop my web authoring skills, to jump aboard what was clearly the “next big thing” in computing (e.g., websites), and to use the web to help further my credentials as a Mac troubleshooter.
Where do you see MacFixIt in ten years time?
My fantasy is that MacFixIt will continue to grow to the point where I can hire even more additional staff. At some point, I hope to hire staff that can essentially take over the bulk of the daily research and writing of the site, leaving me to become more of an “administrator.” With MacFixIt then able to survive without me, I would be in a position to “sell” MacFixIt to someone else. I say this not because I am eager to stop working on MacFixIt nor because I want to “sell out for the big bucks,” but as a realistic self-evaluation: There is no way that I can continue to work at this pace for 10 more years. The only alternative to selling the website at some point (or at least taking a back seat in the running of it) is to abandon it altogether and let the site simply fade away. I hope to avoid that.
A related possibility is that a big “shake-out” of Mac websites will occur over the next few years (maybe even months!). These days, at least several dozen sites are considered good enough to attract a decent audience. It seems unlikely that advertising dollars will continue to support that many sites. Eventually, all major Mac websites will probably fall under the umbrella of just a few (three or four) parent sites. I don’t see MacFixIt becoming one of these parent sites. Instead, either MacFixIt will join under one of these umbrellas, or I will be forced to give up doing the site. To be blunt, if the revenue from MacFixIt ever dries up, so will the site itself. There is no longer any way I can justify spending the time it takes to produce MacFixIt without getting some compensation for doing it.
On balance, I expect that MacFixIt will continue, in some manner, as long as the Mac platform continues to be successful and there is a demand for troubleshooting information. In other words, I expect MacFixIt to be around for the long haul.
Thanks again, Ted, for sharing your thoughts and answering some questions for us.
If you are having trouble with your Macintosh, do yourself a favor and drop by MacFixIt and take a look. Chances are they will have a solution for you. And, while there, if you see a problem you know or have a fix for, let them know and share your knowledge with the rest of the Mac world!