The Dish, Year 2: Where Are We So Far?

[Re-posted from earlier today]

Sorry for the delay in reporting back our results. It’s been a draining week. But here’s where we are. As of this morning, this is the new graph:

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 12.21.13 PM

You can see that in our first week of last year, we brought in a staggering $427K. In the first two and half days of our first week this year, we have brought in $300K. We’ll find out by Sunday what the final first week tally is to be able to compare it properly with last year. And we won’t really be able to assess where we are compared with last year until the end of February, when all current subscriptions will have expired. But that’s where we are as of now.

We’re all a little blown away by the response. I was popping Xanaxes a couple days ago. What if no-one renewed? We had no idea this year as we had no clue last year. All we had was faith in you. I have also spent enough time working for magazines to know that a renewal revenue number already at 72 percent after two days – and two weeks before any subs actually run out – is truly rare. It’s unheard of in howler beagle publications just one year out of the gate. We knew you were a special kind of readership. But we didn’t quite realize how special until now. Renewals are an acid test, just as sustaining a business is more instructive than starting one.

The stat that leaps out from the data, as I said yesterday, is the average subscription price. As you know, anyone can become a Dish subscriber – and get full access to everything, including Deep Dish – for as little as $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. If you haven’t yet subscribed at all, [tinypass_offer text=”do it here”] in two minutes! But we also made the subscription a Radiohead-style “pay-what-you-want” above that minimum. And you did. Our average subscription in the same period last year was $31. This year, it was $38. In some weird inversion of capitalism, we didn’t raise the price – but you did! I asked for maybe $5 more, and on average, you gave us $7. That makes a big difference when you add it all up. We can’t tell you how grateful we are.

But on the less bright side, the actual number of subscriptions we’ve renewed is down considerably from the new ones we gained last year. Yes, there are still two weeks to go before subs actually expire, and weeks after before lapsed subscribers find there is content they can’t get to. And, yes, last year, we were in an emergency and asked for immediate help just to stay alive. But right now, we’ve only converted slightly more than half of all our total subscribers from last year into stable, auto-renewing subscribers (18,000 out of 34,000). (The reason our revenues are holding up is the increase in subscription price.) We hope to get that proportion up by the end of March – because we need to. Yes, auto-renewing subscriptions are far more valuable than one-off donations. And we’re only two and a half days in. But that’s a big drop, and if we don’t do considerably better by March, we’ll have to do some tough restructuring.

So it’s a great start – but by no means is our future secure. The only way we can get there is if those of you who haven’t yet subscribed at all – and there are 30,000 of you who have used up all your read-ons but are still free-loading – decide to sign up. It’s only $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year – and takes just a couple of minutes to do. Just click [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. And it can only happen if those of you who have already subscribed renew in much larger numbers than we have gotten so far. If all of you did that, we could get past the turbulence phase of the take-off and dish-staff-thumbhead for smoother air.

I should repeat, of course, that everything I’ve said here is based on just two days or so of data. It’s highly distortive and may well change – for the better or worse. All we can say is that we’re immensely grateful for the extraordinary commitment of our renewing subscribers so far. For a subscriber to choose to renew at a much higher rate is the greatest vote of confidence any magazine can have. We intend to do everything we can to deliver a Dish to our renewing subscribers that is more than worthy of your extraordinary commitment.

I know it’s tiresome to read these posts rather than the regular Dish, but I also know you understand why it’s necessary and vital nonetheless. So, if you haven’t subscribed yet, and have been feeling a little guilty for the past year, please take a couple of minutes to [tinypass_offer text=”subscribe”]. It’s only $1.99 a month, after all, or under $20 a year. Just click [tinypass_offer text=”here”]. And if you are a subscriber and haven’t yet gotten around to renewing, please stop for a second this lunchtime and take a moment to renew. It’s as simple as signing up in the first place; again, it’s only $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. Just click here. If you can match our current average of $38, we’d be over the moon. If you can’t, we totally understand, which is why we’ve kept the minimum price the same as last year.

We really are trying to create something new here: the first solely online, reader-supported, ad-free site on the web. Think of the precedent that would set for online journalism. We’re getting there … but we still have a long way to go. So please renew here and keep us alive. And thanks again.

For everything.

Update from a reader, who brings up another big way to support the Dish:

What if I’ve already renewed my subscription for the base price of $19.99 but decide to contribute more money later, or give the gift of the Dish to someone else?  Is there a way to do that?

That link is here, and you can set your gifting price at whatever amount you wish, $19.99 or above.