It’s been exactly three months (plus one day) since we made the switch to subscription — can you believe it’s been that long?! — and I wanted to post an update, especially given that it is Thanksgiving week because, as corny as it may sound, we feel so grateful and thankful for the support and trust you have placed on Brand New.
1. Number of subscribers
As of this writing we are at 12,500+ subscribers. That is a 5,000 increase from the last update we posted two months ago in September. Back then our expectation was that we would hit 10,000 by December but we reached that milestone much more quickly — 20 days after — and it took us by surprise. We had originally planned to do some kind of big woohoo here and on social media but it came and went so fast that we couldn’t get to it. The next milestone is 15,000 and that may be achievable by early next year.
2. Free, no-questions-asked subscriptions
By September we had given out 93 free subscriptions but that number has now jumped up to 353 — a 280% increase in contrast to the 66% increase of regular subscriptions — which makes us very happy as we are able to literally pay it forward from paid subscriptions to help the designers (and non-designers) out there who are not in a financial position to contribute. The big jump came after a tiny improvement in the paywall message that appears for those who haven’t subscribed where I had failed to include our no-questions-asked free access — it wasn’t included because it didn’t occur to me at the time, not because we wanted to make it hard to find — so a lot of people weren’t immediately aware this was an option. Even though we don’t need reasons, a lot of people still include reasons and they can be both heartwarming and heartbreaking and I want to thank everyone that has written for being so candid.
3. Open access before paying thing
Yeah, this is a technical and coding nightmare, made ever more difficult by browsers’ incognito mode. If you can cheat The New York Times out of one free article at a time with it, we don’t stand a chance. We tried a couple of approaches but ultimately they were easy too easy to circumvent and/or an inelegant experience. So, for now, we have made it “easy” to get 24-hour access, which is what most one-time users want, whether it’s a designer or client behind a project featured and they just want to read that one post. Registration is required but pretty much everything on the internet these days requires it, so we don’t see it as a big hurdle. When we started the subscription model, people had to email to ask for 24-hour access but now they don’t as we have also added that to the paywall message. On average there are anywhere between 10 and 20 24-hour subscribers a day. I have an idea in my mind to make it easy (and elegant) for subscribers to share individual posts with clients but I have yet to make time to do it. Speaking of which…
4. Site updates
In September I had hinted at a few updates — mainly rejiggering the home page and ability to mark posts as favorite — to be done this year and, well, the year is almost over and I haven’t been able to start. Not to make excuses but, as an excuse, life in general continues to be more complicated and complex than in normal times with our kids taking classes online from home and the time and attention they need throughout the day adds up to reduced productivity. I will also admit that, amidst all this, we chose to make our lives a little more complicated by getting two puppies (on top of the two big dogs we already own) and that has been a surprising time drain because as cute as they are they also wreak havoc. Anyway… updates are still planned but I shall make no projections on when they’ll be done other than saying they are the top priority as we go into December, although December brings the end-of-year-lists, which take up a lot of time.
5. In closing
It’s safe to say that the subscription model is working. By all standards and expectations I can say it’s been a success personally for us as it has given us a financial, motivational, and emotional way forward for the next year and for that we are very grateful. We have no idea what 2021 will bring, since the world is literally changing almost every month. News of the effective vaccines gives us hope that full-capacity, in-person events will resume, perhaps not in 2021 but maybe in 2022, and we are still assessing what to do with our events next year but, as mentioned, having the stability of the Brand New subscription model gives us solid footing to figure out the best and safest way to do them.
For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving, we wish you a happy and safe holiday. For those of you just taking the time off, enjoy it. For those of you that this Thursday and Friday is just like any other Thursday and Friday, a loud high five just because. I’ll be back with regular posts on Monday.