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Daring the Membership

John Gruber talks about reasons why his blog's subscribers (just over 1000) may not have re-subscribed (only 551 so far), but he leaves one out.

Last year, when John was soliciting subscribers ("members"), he talked about how revenue from his blog would help to guarantee that he would regularly publish full, detailed articles. Last year, possible "members" were somewhat threatened by the fact that if they didn't subscribe, it increased the likelihood that John would only post the occasional short snippet:

Part of what makes me so anxious here is that the future of Daring Fireball is now largely out of my hands. This is not a threat — i.e. that if this funding drive falls short that I’ll pack up the site and turn off the lights. No, one way or another, Daring Fireball will continue. But if the income I derive here remains at the hobbyist level, I’m only going to be able to devote a hobbyist amount of time to it, which is significantly less time than what I’ve poured into it to date. In short, a hobby-level Daring Fireball will resemble much more a typical weblog — blurb-length posts, often only to link to articles elsewhere. No cat pictures, but still.

There’s a flip side, however: if this funding drive is successful enough that I can legitimately call this a career, Daring Fireball could get a whole lot better. Two of my favorite things to write are software reviews and developer interviews. But even though I’ve been writing this for nearly two years and have published over 200,000 words, I’ve only published a handful of reviews, and even fewer interviews.

That all leads me to one more possible reason why only about half of his subscribers have re-subscribed: perhaps some don't feel as though he lived up to the promise of providing more (or at least the same level) of insight, commentary, and content.

I am not one of those people (though, to be quite honest, I can't remember very many in-depth reviews or interviews in the past year), but it's possible that perhaps people are not renewing their memberships because they feel let down on this promise.

I think John could counter anyone who may think this by giving some facts, some proof, to show otherwise. I don't think numbers like "word count per month for the past three years" alone would do it (though they may help), but some proof, even if it's just linking to some of these "more than hobby-level" posts, may help turn the tide.

I offer this not as criticism, but as a suggestion to John.

7 Responses to "Daring the Membership"

  1. That is a consideration, but I'll admit I haven't worried too much
    about it. Perhaps I should. It is true that in the last two or
    three months, I haven't managed to produce anything seriously long.

    But it's also the case that year-to-date, I'm ever-so-slightly ahead
    of where I was in 2004 in terms of word count -- and that doesn't
    count the Linked List, which only started after the membership era
    began. Output is actually up, albeit slightly, although the
    perceived quality of that output is obviously in the eyes of each
    reader. Anyone who thinks DF used to be better than it is now is
    probably doing the right thing by not renewing their membership.

    1000 members at roughly $20 a pop was more than enough to keep me
    motivated to keep writing as much as I can in my off hours, but it's
    only a small chunk of what I'd need to support my family with this
    full-time.

    I'm pretty sure I make more money from Daring Fireball than all but
    a very few other indie weblog writers, and I'm tremendously
    appreciative of that, but at this level it'd make for a pretty skimpy
    full-time salary.

  2. John's article may have done the trick. When he wrote it he had 540 members. When I published this he had 551 members. Now, 25 minutes later, he has 560. I imagine the number will continue to increase steadily throughout the next few days.

  3. word.

  4. I love the content on Daring Fireball and really believe in what John's doing in trying to work out a business strategy for weblogs. Unfortunately, from my perspective (especially from my perspective as a student) the amount of content put out just hasn't reached the point where it becomes something that seems "worth it" to me.

    I really think it's close, however, and perhaps a relatively small increase in posting frequency would tip me over the edge into donating. Also, while the link list is cool, I don't think it's that much of an incentive, as there's tons of those kind of linkblogs around the web. What I personally read Daring Fireball for are the great insightful and well-argued articles.

    This isn't a criticism of John at all. I love his site and hope he can continue and I hope his subscribers increase. I just think that perhaps the balance point between price and content hasn't been reached. Once you hit that point perhaps more people will subscribe.

  5. This time last year, Gruber was putting out a bunch of very interesting articles - that's what prompted me to become a member (that and the groovy tshirt 🙂 )

    This time round.... I dunno. He hasn't put out anything recently that's blown me away with his insight. He's still a great writer, I still check the site often, and what he does write is still interesting, but the content on there at the moment doesn't seem to justify me signing up again.

  6. I renewed my membership. Initially I was reluctant to do so because it seemed like article output was lower. Thinking about it, I realized that since discovering DF around June 2004 and becoming a member around July 2004, I have read a large part of the DF archives this past year, which has skewed my impressions of article output.

    Would I like to see more articles? Sure, who wouldn't. But only if John keeps the quality high and doesn't start ignoring his real life.

    Also, being a student has forced me to cut down on the number of feeds I pay attention to, so any linkblogs that I read need to be good. I like the Linked List. So paying to get the Linked List and member feeds is something that I find worth paying for.

  7. I liked the shirt. I enjoy the articles, because they are thoroughly reasoned. I renewed because I have enough money to do it, and I think that it's worth paying for something I value.

    The Linked List and the member feeds are a nice bonus; in fact, the member feeds swung me last year. The Tiger feed was handy, too.

    I expect John to put out precisely as much quality content as he feels that his recompense is worth. That'll do for me.


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