The Real Singapore or The Rich Singapore? Evaluating the $40,000 monthly revenue claim

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The Real Singapore or The Rich Singapore?
Profiting off Singaporeans' discontent with the PAP, one ad click at a time.

As someone with a little online marketing experience, I was quite surprised when someone pointed out that The Real Singapore (TRS) was potentially making US$983 a day. So I decided to do a little digging myself and find out if that's really true and what that means for Singaporeans like you and me (are you gonna stop reading if I'm not?).



I will comment on the arrest of the TRS' editors in a separate post because I think the two issues should not be confused. Whether or not the TRS editors committed an act of sedition, whether or not the Sedition Act should be used to prosecute them, and whether or not we should read local news that is written by foreigners; these are questions that are important, but which have very little bearing on the factual question--how much does TRS make--and on whether their financial gain is our loss.


How should we estimate site revenue?

There are many ways to estimate a website's revenue. Here are the three main ways:


1) Direct estimate. 

You could let something like siteprice.org give you a direct estimate. The problem though is that you often don't know how they arrive at that estimate, and you have no way of knowing whether they have taken into account the nature of the website, the ad provider (Google Adsense in this case) and the placement of the ads (which is ugly betty style--all over the place).

TL;DR: Direct estimates are made using opaque methods so I don't trust them.


2) Multiply pageviews by your own estimated revenue per mile (RPM).

First, some definitions. RPM here doesn't refer to the speed of your car engine, it's your estimated earnings per thousand pageviews, or impressions. Page views, for those of you who don't know, are not the same as visits. The same unique visitor may log several pageviews if he chooses to go to another page on the same website. However, this creates a huge problem. Estimating the chances that a visitor will convert (which is a nicer way of saying, to click on your ad)

So, to get estimated site revenue, simply multiply estimated number of pageviews by the estimated RPM. But how do you get an accurate estimate? For pageviews, short of planting a tracker on their website, we can only rely on estimates provided by site analytic providers like Alexa or SimilarWeb

To get the estimated RPM requires an immense amount of guesswork, especially for users of Google Adsense. This is because telling people how much you earn through Adsense is against Google’s TOS and can result in them withholding your payment. As a result, such data is quite scarce. TL;DR: Very hard to make proper estimates because there is not enough data.

TL;DR: Very hard to make proper estimates because there isn't enough data.


3) Ask the owners of The Real Singapore

The easiest way would be to ask them directly. However, they probably wouldn't tell you because they’re definitely making at least a few thousand a month off TRS and there’s no easy way to tell Singaporeans, “Hey, we make a few thousand a month ranting about stuff we have no stake in, and no personal experience about, while you sit in your 4 by 4 cubicle and sweat your butt off to pay CPF. #dontyoujusthateforeigntalenttoo”

They also wouldn’t want to risk having their Adsense account suspended by Google, so we’re left with either option 1 or 2.

TL;DR: The owners of therealsingapore.com won’t tell you how much they earn so don’t bother.





Option 1: Direct estimate

The US $983 per day estimate came from cutestat.com and is one of the higher estimates I’ve found so far. Web tools like these are pretty unreliable in general  and you usually wouldn’t rely on them if your money depends on it. Nonetheless, I’ve done a comparison of the results from 12 different websites just to show you how much the results can vary. (Where the monthly revenue is not provided, I multiply the daily revenue by 30.4.)

Here are the results (all figures are in USD):

Tool used
Daily revenue (USD)
Monthly revenue (USD)
siteprice.org
264
7,918
freewebsitereport.org
269
8,061
websitelooker.net
270
8,222
siteworthchecker.com
277
8,421
siteworthtraffic.com
284
7,442
checkwebsiteprice.com
285
8,664
siteworthit.com
328
8,936
webuka.com
381
11,590
cutestat.com
983
29,883
MCJOnline.com
1,023
31,099
worthofweb.com
1,417
42,510
urlrate.com
2,880
87,552

(I’ve also created a jpeg for the revenue table in case it doesn’t display properly)

And here’s a graph of it.


As you can see, the highest estimate is ten times as much as the lowest estimate. Nonetheless, eight out of twelve sites give an estimate of a monthly revenue of between US$8000 to US$9000 (S$10880 to S$12240). That is less than what I initially saw, but it’s still a lot of dough. At the same time, it is also somewhat unbelievably high. We’ll have to evaluate this using the second method.


TL;DR: 1000% variation is a dead giveaway that this is an unreliable source.



Option 2: Multiply pageviews by RPM

This is where it gets really tricky because of the number of factors involved and the absence of reliable data. The best estimate for pageviews is Alexa, and it shows 12.9 million monthly pageviews.

For RPM, we’ll first have to consider the niche that The Real Singapore is in. Certain niches give you much higher returns because there’s a lot more competition among their advertisers. Niches like news tends not to do as well because the kind of keywords they use aren’t the kind that match the ones most businesses are looking for.

Let’s analyse the data from SimilarWebs and from Alexa and you’ll see what I mean. So, looking at the top keywords which bring the most traffic to therealsingapore.com, this is what I found.


therealsingapore.com keyword search terms (SimilarWebs)


therealsingapore.com keyword search terms (Alexa)


As you can see, this is what people are looking for in The Real Singapore:

  • Jover Chew
  • Mobile Air
  • Sex (???)
  • Keanu Reaves Charity
  • Lee Wei Ling
  • Edz ello
Now we use Google Adwords Keyword Planner to take a look at what those keywords are worth in terms of ad revenue (location was set to Singapore).

TRS keywords in adwords

As you can see, advertiser competition is low, and with the exception of “sex” and “edz ello,” those keywords don’t have any advertisers bidding for them. (“sex” is just the root keyword, and it is probably used in conjunction with “the real singapore” to find sex related news on the site. It still does say something about the focus of the website though.) “edz ello” only has a $0.14 suggested bid which is very low.

Compare this to the following search terms: “insurance Singapore,” “lawyers in Singapore” and “car repair Singapore”.

High value keywords in adwords

The revenue that TRS would earn from advertisements that match these search terms is thus much higher. However, these advertisements are only going to show up on their site if their posts contain these keywords, and are relevant. But even if such well-paying advertisements do show up, visitors are highly unlikely to click on them because they’re not really looking for any of those things.

For example, if you’re reading TRS’ latest diatribe against foreigners, you won’t have any interest in insurance, lawyers or car repair, and unless you mistakenly click on the advertisement, you most probably will just skip past those advertisements.

There are many other factors which influence RPM, such as geography. I’m not going to go into detail here, but you can bet that in general, there’s stiffer competition in online advertisement in the US than in Singapore. It still depends on the niche of course, but this means that we’ll have to lower whatever estimate we take from a US based site.

With this in mind then, I’ve looked at the reported earnings of a couple of other sites (like this one) and I estimate that therealsingapore.com has an RPM of between 0.2 and 0.5. Multiply this by the monthly pageviews and you’ll get an estimate of the monthly revenue.

Lower estimate (USD):
$0.2/1000 x 12,900,000 = $2,580 (S$3,508) 

Upper estimate (USD):
$0.5/1000 x 12,900,000 = $6,450 (S$8,772)


TL;DR: After lots of guesswork, here’s my educated guess (see below).

Estimated monthly revenue for therealsingapore.com (in SGD)

Range
Unrealistic estimate
Web estimate
My estimate
Ask the owners
Lower estimate
$40,640
$10,880
$3,508
Not possible
Upper estimate
$119,070
$12,240
$8,772
Not possible

(Image of the table here)

So there you have it. It’s not as much as the $40k (SGD) a month that I initially saw, and definitely much less than some of the more ridiculous estimates provided by shady web tools, but it’s still quite a decent amount. Is it something to cry foul over? I don’t think so. I’ll explain why in the next post.

Edit: I just checked out The Real Singapore again to make sure I didn't miss out any other advertising revenue sources. It turns out that I totally missed Taboola which hides 4 of its ads among the "More Like This" section at the bottom of each page. This is something which alters my estimate radically.

It seems like I will have to add between US $0.37 and $1.12 to my RPM estimate. This potentially triples the estimated monthly revenue, making it:

Lower estimate (USD):
$0.57/1000 x 12,900,000 = $7,353 (S$10,000)

Upper estimate:
$1.62/1000 x 12,900,000 = $20,898 (S$28,421)

Range
Unrealistic estimate
Web estimate
My estimate
Revised estimate
Ask the owners
Lower estimate
S$40,640
S$10,880
S$3,508
S$10,000
Not possible
Upper estimate
S$119,070
S$12,240
S$8,772
S$28,421
Not possible

If you have something to add, feel free to leave a comment below.








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