As we all navigate these crazy times, I’m trying to touch base every week or so to let you know how we’re doing here at AJ. The short answer, at the moment, is that we’re fine. We run AJ extremely lean: no outside office, little overhead, print in the USA, ship magazines from our home office, keep extraneous costs down, and spend on the quality of our journal. We’ve had a few subscribers cancel because of changed financial circumstances, but for every one of those, we’ve had a new reader step up and subscribe.
Like any micro-business, though, I am spending a LOT of time thinking about threats, especially existential ones. We don’t see any on the horizon, so I won’t get into the details of what they are and specifically how they’d affect us, except to say that my biggest concern is a loss of ad support from the outdoor industry. We have amazing brand partners, but times are tough and changing, and nothing is guaranteed. AJ’s future is reliant on reader/supportors, and primarily reader/supporters, that’s why I have long asked you to help shoulder the load.
Many of you do, but let me give you one data point: If just three percent of our monthly visitors subscribed to AJ in print, we could afford to run the website and print the magazine even if we never sold another ad. We could be completely reader supported, weather any storm, and bring you AJ as it is for the rest of our lives, which is the dream. Instead, just 1.2 percent of our monthly visitors subscribe and we’re only 40 or so percent of the way there.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to reveal more about how we structure the business, how we see digital vs. print, and even what it costs us for certain things. I will be as transparent as I can, without giving away proprietary details.
I will close with two final items:
• We finally have established our Patreon program for all those of you who’ve offered to support us through patronage. Our program is very much in beta, as we haven’t designed our rewards yet, but if you want to help us build it, give us feedback, and become a supporter weeks before the public launch, you can check it out here. You can also see the folks who are first on board to support us here.
• We are strongly considering adding a digital version of our print quarterly, not replacing print, both to make it accessible to international friends and to open those sold-out back issues to people. However, the only platform we’ve found that gives a great reading experience is an app that costs $16,000 a year. We’d need to sell nearly 300 new subscriptions at $60 just to break even. Could we pre-sell that many, then launch? Would you be psyched to read AJ quarterly on your phone or tablet? Would existing print subscribers want both versions? I very much welcome your thoughts on this.
Thanks, everybody. I believe that we have something unique here, and I know that it’s a special group of people who make up the AJ family, from our subscribers to our industry colleagues to the brands who’ve been vocal and material supporters from day one. Your kind words and support mean the world to me, Joni, Justin, and the rest of the AJ team.