What up, people. I’m so excited it’s Friday. I’m more excited the air has finally cleared here, so I can get back outside without a respirator.
Oh, right. Thanks for asking. Yes, it’s an easy mistake, but no, I’m actually the one with the camera.
So, as the title says, I have a few random things I wanted to share, and of course I think they’re important (eyeroll). The first is that I want to address AJ’s growth and our future plans. I often ask that readers of our free website—that is, you—subscribe to our printed quarterly, and I have often referenced that we need 7,000 for long-term survival and really need closer to 10,000. But what does all that mean? Why 7,000?
That is the threshold where AJ can survive with zero advertising support and revenue only coming from readers, where unit costs drop enough that there’s an okay margin and enough cash flow and revenue to run operations without a constant scramble. Where the next pandemic won’t leave us gutted. At 7,000, our gotta-clear-it threshold, we can run on 100 percent support from you. For Joni and me, that would mean eking out a living, but we could do it. The ad market, media landscape, and outdoor industry are changing fast, and it’s impossible to predict what will happen. We’re coming up on ad contract renewals for print in 2021 and the situation for brands is incredibly dynamic. In most years, everyone comes back for the following year, and I THINK our partners are happy with their investment, but we haven’t had the 2021 conversations yet so I don’t know. Either way, we have to make AJ more resilient. We LOVE our ad partners and hope they’re always with us, but we have to prepare for a day when they might not be. This horrible, no-good really bad (even in Australia) year has taught us that.
So here’s the important part of this message (writing rule #1: don’t bury the lede): Once we get between 8,000 and 10,000 subscribers, we’re good forever. That’s all we need. Growth can happen organically, but we won’t pursue it. We won’t need more readers, we won’t need more money. If they come great, but please know this: None of us here are motivated by money. We aren’t trying to make a fortune or build AJ to sell it, ever. We are motivated by the passion for sharing these messages with you, trying to make the world a little better, and working our way to sustainability and doing this project for the rest of our lives. 10,000 will let us relax a little and settle into focusing entirely on our editorial and get a bit more help.
See, when we get to 8K-10K, we could afford a small travel budget for writers and photographers. We could make actual photo assignments instead of pulling from existing images. We could afford a regular proof reader and fact checker. (If you find typos, it’s on me.) We could also make digital editorial decisions solely based on what we think you want to read. It’s a fact that we now have to create stories with an eye toward building traffic. A sustainable level AJ might mean fewer online stories but better, deeper stories, maybe no more than one a day. Maybe just a few a week. Dunno what it will look like exactly, cause we’re a long way, but I know it would mean a “better” AJ—and we’d do it in consultation with you.
Okay, onto climate stuff. Your response to last week’s post has been nothing short of positive and wonderful. We’ve had a few trolls and my only regret is that I didn’t save their emails and put them on my board, cause they made me laugh so hard. Climate change denial is pathetic, and I actual feel sorry for such folks. The question, though, is how do we take this new action commitment and put it into, well action? Great question. Short answer: I don’t yet know.
Justin and I talk almost every day about how our editorial will change, some of the conversations focusing on strategy, some on tactics. We’re both actively seeking out people who are immersed in the gear-climate-sustainability nexus and have already had a few discussions. What we learn will lead to better informed reporting and changes to what we cover and how, but the manner that’s actually woven into editorial is an ongoing process. Suffice it to say, both overlanding and gear coverage are getting a big rethink. Both are still valid, are an integral part of the adventure experience, and can be done responsibly, so they will continue be a part of AJ. But they will change.
(On that note, if your job is dealing with such matters and you’d be willing to share your expertise to help us with these backgrounders, please email.)
What else? To keep this short, let’s finish with some bullets.
• Our website design update is almost done and we are rolling out changes in stages. They might seem subtle, but we think they’re cool. Keep an eye out.
• We’re changing how our gift subscriptions are being processed so you can buy one for a friend and at the end of the year they can take it over. Still beta testing but hope to flip the switch by early October.
• We’re increasing the amount of actionable evergreen content on our website. These will include more Knowledge Base pieces, packing lists, and book recommendations. “Sustainability” also means creating stories that are useful three years from now. This is an ongoing process.
• We’re going to launch our own digital financial support platform soon. 47 amazing readers are helping us beta-test Patreon and have been supporting financially since spring, but Patreon takes a ginormous share and also just started collecting sales taxes. Red-raced frownie emoji here. Doing it ourselves means a lower bar to sustainability, more flexibility, better rewards for you (we have cool new AJ swag for supporters only, but if you’re materialistically averse, you aren’t required to claim them).
• We are beta testing a new AJ Community that’s one part Slack, one part Zoom, one part forum, and one part private social network. The idea is to have a safe space where we can connect with one another, share ideas info and tips, post fun stuff, and have solution-based conversations. I’m 99 percent sure we’re going to move forward with it and when we do it will be free but only available as a perk to paid digital supporters and subscribers to AJ in print.
• I mentioned our partnership with Protect Our Winters last week, didn’t I? You’ve probably seen the “plan to vote” module here on the site, but we have a couple more cool things in the pipeline with them. Will be announced when the time is right.
• Speaking of announcements, we have a major one coming next week. It’s super ultra incredibly positive and I can’t wait to share it with you. Tease, tease, tease.
• Last thing. Since my ask earlier this week, we’ve grown from 4,500 subscribers to 4,749. That’s AWESOME. Thank you! If you’ve been on the fence about subscribing, could you consider helping us get to 5,000 before we send fall issues to subscribers next week?
We have 4.5 million impressions per month across all channels, which works out to a support rate of about .1%. Not quite apples to apples, but you get the point. Can you help us on the path to .2%? Grazie!