SHE WORKS HARD FOR THE MONEY
I really love putting together the newsletter every Friday. But it's drawn so many subscribers that it's starting to cost me** more than my own time to produce it. I was okay with the newsletter being a labor of love. I am not okay with it being a labor of debt. And so I've decided to try to bring in some revenue.
I thought about doing an NPR-style pledge drive until I raised enough to cover my expenses. But I was bored by that idea. This newsletter has always been an experiment—why not try a more adventurous way of making money? Also, I don't like asking for money without offering something in return. So instead of taking donations, I'm selling things. Namely, classified ads and paid memberships. Here's what's going on:
I've been trying to figure out how to let you guys talk to each other directly through the newsletter rather than route everything through me. Starting December 4, my newsletter will have a paid classifieds section. I know that, in an old-media context, classified listings are a sad vestigial advertising form. But I'm not a newspaper, and I have a hunch they'll work a lot better in my weekly email. My dream is a classifieds section that combines the allure of private job-listing boards with the thrill of finding a weirdly perfect Etsy store with the hilarious self-loathing of London Review of Books personals. In other words, I'm pursuing an advertising model that's based on several small ads that are interesting to read rather than a boring banner from a single wealthy sponsor that you ignore every week.
I also want a way for people who can't afford a classified (or who don't want to participate in my throwback advertising scheme) to financially support this newsletter. So I'm offering an annual membership for a minimum of $5/year—though you can choose to pay more if you really like what I do. Starting December 11, only paying members will receive my pie charts. I repeat, this newsletter is becoming pay-to-pie. The archive will stay up on my site, but all new charts will be sent to members only. (I may or may not release them to the wider public a few weeks later. We'll see.) Members will also get occasional discounts on classified ads, exclusive writing from me a few times each year, and my undying affection.
Maybe both of these things will work. Maybe neither will. I'm going to give it a few months and see what happens. I'm sure there will be a few bumps along the way, so I'd appreciate your patience as I figure out what the hell I'm doing. And hey, thanks for being a part of this with me. I wouldn't be doing it if it weren't so much fun.
** A few notes about the costs: MailChimp is giving me the first year free of charge. (THANK YOU, MAILCHIMP. Hero status.) But if the newsletter continues to grow at the rate it's been growing, it will be pretty expensive once I'm paying out of pocket—$2,880 per year—and I want to have a source of revenue by then. Then there are a few smaller expenses: I receive a lot of newsletter-related email, which means I need Google Apps so I can have a separate business email account rather than route everything through my personal Gmail. I need a P.O. Box because MailChimp requires a mailing address and HELL NO, I'm not putting my home address at the bottom of an email to tens of thousands of strangers. I need Squarespace for its commerce functionality—because apparently you gotta spend money to make money. And finally, I'd like to compensate myself for my time, and pay my assistant Laura, who is FABULOUS, much better than I currently do. We deserve it.