Let me re-phrase that. I think it is difficult to make money online, but most people make it far too difficult on themselves. When starting an online venture, you should ask yourself “can I make money right away?”. Not when you’ve got 10,000 or 1,000,000 members. Not when you’ve got 5,000 people subscribed to your premium service. Right now, by the time you have 1/5/10/20 customers.
How do I know this: because I’ve made the mistake as much as anyone. SportsLizard makes solid money, but it’s taken 3+ years and it’s still not enough for one person to live off of. Contrast that with people I know in the collectibles industry that solely sell on eBay who make a decent living for themselves. You need to get a lot of advertising/affiliate sales/people paying $5 a month for a Price Guide to come close to the money you make actually selling sports collectibles. I guarantee that if I started in 2004 with the sole purpose of being a card/collectible dealer I would have SportsLizard pulling in the kind of money Detailed Image does.
And you can repeat the same story for iPrioritize. Both sites have had pretty measurable success and have trouble making any kind of real money. I’m not saying this to deter people from making “cool web 2.0” sites, just that it’s really really hard to get people to pay you money to use one of those sites because the expectation level has been set that web 2.0 sites are free. There are a very small percent that can make substantial money selling ads or with premium subscriptions.
Hell, Music-Alerts is by far the most viral site I’ve ever started and still gets more traffic than any of our other sites. Wanna know how much we’ve made off of MA so far? About $12 in affiliate sales. All the PR and traffic in the world doesn’t necessarily = money.
In my experience, there are 2 sure-fire ways to make money in the web world: e-commerce and design/development services. If you sell a product people want, it’s hard NOT to make sales online because almost everyone these days starts their purchasing process with a Google search….and you have built-in ways to reach customers from day one with zero marketing effort in eBay and Amazon. And there will never, ever be a lack of available design/development work out there because every business – new, old, and future – needs a web presence of some sort. Put your own special spin on one of those two industries to give your company a competitive advantage of some sort, and I find it hard to believe you can’t build a million dollar company in 5 years or less.
I guess my point is this: don’t create new ways for people to spend money, instead find better ways to profit off of how they already spend it.