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Subscription Model Progress and Update

Because some of you have asked — out of concern or curiosity or both — and because we’ve been so open about this transition, we wanted to provide an update on how the subscription model has been working out. Now that it has been a full four weeks it seems like a good time to do so.

1. Number of subscribers

As of this writing we are at 7,500+ subscribers. This number is both amazing but also a long shot from the 300,000+ average unique visitors per month we have had in the past year — more on this in #3 below — which is not a complaint in the least but important to highlight in this context. Of these 7,500 subscribers, 79% are on an annual subscription and 21% on monthly. Within those 7,500 we have provided 93 free-access requests — we can accommodate more of these, so, please, if for any reason you can not afford the subscription, reach out and we’ll let you in. Some people have told us their life stories when they ask, some people just have a subject line — everybody is accommodated regardless.

2. Ideal number of subscribers

The minimum goal we set for ourselves when we decided to do this is to reach 10,000 subscribers, which seems very reachable at this point. The goal of, um, our goal is not get more money in the door but to have a substantial audience on the site that can support other initiatives when we launch them, whether it’s First Round, the Brand New Conference, or anything else that might come up in the future. Hopefully we will get to 10,000 by December. We would love to double that as we move into 2021, pending the world not getting more disgruntled than it is. If we were to get into the 20,000 subscriber range that would really open up the ability to invest not just more of our time into Brand New but also resources of different kinds, from lighting and video equipment so that we can move into more video-based content, to perhaps paying for writing contributions, to other things we might dream up.

3. Crazy insane number of subscribers

Of those 300,000 average unique visitors a month that we’ve had regularly for the past 3-4 years, only 90,000 are recurring visitors. (This, according to our Google Analytics.) Would we love to have 90,000 subscribers? Absolutely yes but we also know that that’s a bit unrealistic so if we cut that in half, to 45,000 subscribers, that would be crazy insane amazing but, perhaps, realistic. Ambitious but realistic. If we managed to hit that number, that would certainly be a game-changer on many fronts but, to be honest, we have not thought that far ahead of what that would mean. So, if we were to get closer to that number… we’ll see. For now we are focusing on reaching 10,000.

4. Money in the door

If you were to do some very quick math, you would think “Hey, these people just made $150,000 in four weeks”. Yes and no. 79% of that money has to be spread all year as they are the annual subscriptions from whom we don’t see any money again until next September when (and if) they renew. Also of those 7,500 subscriptions, about 350 came from The Follow-up podcast subscriptions and if they paid annually at $50, we transferred that payment into a 3-year subscription. Of all the dollars charged, between 8% and 10% go to credit card fees, currency conversion fees, and Memberful fees. Not to mention the 30% going to taxes. Anyway, this is not meant to be a sob story about paying fees and taxes because that applies to everyone but just to put in perspective that the quick math can be simplistic and that we are not filling our coffers with huge amounts of cash.

5. Are we good?

Compared to where we were financially and emotionally four weeks ago, yes, we are good. This definitely carries us for the better part of the next 12 months and we feel so grateful to everyone that has made this shift possible. There is still the looming concern of what happens in 2021 with our events and all the money wrapped up in venues but these four weeks have given us some peace of mind.

6. Decreased traffic

We knew going into this that our traffic would decrease. It has. From an average of 400,000 — 450,000 pageviews a month in the past 1 or 2 years, last week we had 285,000. It’s a concern, for sure, but at the same time, we know that a lot of the previous pageviews came from readers that ranged from “accidental” — someone that stumbled upon Brand New from a Google search — to one-time visitors that only wanted to read about one specific project. The bulk of the readership still comes from those who have subscribed and I’m also sure that there are a lot of people that still visit to see the before/after header images, check who designed it, and then go scope out the project at their website, in cases where the project is there. We have indeed lost some long-time readers who have made their feelings heard on Twitter and, while sad, it was to be expected. At this juncture in life we are okay sacrificing traffic for livelihood and, in a way, we now see it as a new challenge to grow that readership and convince people Brand New is worth $20 a year.

Related to the decrease in traffic you may be thinking that the comment counts have also been lower but that has actually been a trend ALL of 2020 where it’s been common for solid projects to get only 15 or 20 comments, so that hasn’t been affected by the shift. The Fiverr post would have probably gathered 150 comments instead of the current 77 count but, if memory serves you correctly, you’ll remember that whenever we have those 150-plus-comment threads, half of those comments are not the most constructive and are usually bulked up by the one-time visitors. Yes, it was often “fun”, but I think half the comments with better content is more useful for everyone than double the comments with a lot of fluff.

7. Increased morale

To be honest, I have felt re-invigorated with this shift as it has given me a new motivation to make sure that our content is unlike any other content you can get out there. A great example is the LA28 Olympics post… I spent a lot of time getting and preparing those images and presenting that project in a way that no other design website or mainstream publication did because, yes, you can sort of get the content for free somewhere else but nowhere was it presented as comprehensively as it was here. This isn’t meant to be self-congratulatory but to share that we are not taking the subscriptions for granted or simply as a way out financially but that we are really trying to make it worth it for you. Anyway… it’s possible that I am beginning to ramble. Point being, I feel excited, motivated, and challenged about putting posts together in a way that I hadn’t been before — not that I was coasting before but now I feel a certain responsibility to deliver.

8. What happens next?

We are still actively working on the x-number-of-free-posts-before-requiring-a-subscription feature and we might have that working in the next week or two. For the next month we are focusing on a First Round-related project that we want to get off the ground as it will be a way of bringing some of that content that had only existed in live events to your desktop/laptop. Spoiler: it’s not video but it’s a format that we are pretty excited about and we think you’ll get a lot out of. After we launch that, one goal is to redesign the home page to make the different editorial categories more accessible and highlight other things as well. About three people suggested a feature where you can mark posts as favorite and have your own personal archive of favorite projects — there appears to be a WordPress plug-in for something like that and that’s something that sounds like a cool feature to implement. Our goal is to have these two things completed before the end of the year.

Other than that, we’ll keep on keeping on with posts and if you have subscribed, THANK YOU, and if you haven’t… no pressure but I’m sure you would love to know what everyone said about Fiverr ; )



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