If you do not know who he is, I would be surprised if this read interests you.
EV Williams shared something interesting last month. Blogs have a short shelf life —peak and then ebb out after a few days. Why should they?
I was nodding my head in vigorous agreement. I am blogging for 4 years now. I believe in the long tail. A small return everyday for ever-green content. I was happy that some one with impact saw what I felt.
When I saw the small dollar change roll in yesterday night for blogs written long ago, the tail I believed in was finally wagging and I had to pen this blog.
Everybody wants to give their reasons. I have read many. Looks like mine are quirky.
1) Charm outweighs economics
I am a daytime data geek. And a night time creative blogger. In blogger speak, the economics are not comparable. In math speak, the comparison on return for time is like a bimodal distribution with huge spread between the means.
Looking at life from the prism of numbers reminds me of the following words:
Not everything that can be counted counts.
Not everything that counts can be counted.
(Some say it is Einstein’s words, I don’t know who to attribute.)
The qualitative side is seared in my memory. The kicker of a charm for member only blog reminded me of the joy of the very first pay check that I shared with my family. My first mustache was still at play. Yes, once upon a time, you could feel the paper and smell the ink that filled a leaf of a cheque (india spelling) book.
2) Zero to 0.001 — the human visceral experiment
In life, everything is relative. Advice is free relative to zero. At infinitesimally small positive fraction — slightly greater than zero, the human visceral pain of parting with chump change to a roadside vagabond is a fascinating study. At the other extreme, a sale at Macys gives the tremendous joy of a bargain buy. Never mind the bargain is relative to an inflated price to begin with. Relative to the inflated markup price, I have fallen prey to bargain sale prices.
Relative to the zero, I was tempted to experiment with something I love — sharing ideas. The member only was a bargain experiment.
3) Insurance : Doctors :: Ev Williams’s Platform: Bloggers
Doctors complain about insurance companies. Heart of heart, they are happy. They dedicated their lives to learn how to save lives. Few spent time fine tuning the uncomfortable art of asking for payment by looking someone directly in the eye. The insurance companies became their personal backoffice bonanza.
EV Williams, through his daringness to buck the trend, volunteered to take care of the uncomfortable part for bloggers.
When Facebook, Google and the million other content websites have a proven formula to ask advertisers for money, EV Williams wanted to be like the minority — pay bloggers.
I like daring people with guts to be a contrarian. So, I am in a mood to write about the yin and the yang of EV Williams.
1.Jeff Bezos makes one consistent bet in all his endeavors — convenience. From one click pay on Amazon to 2 day delivery and one subscription pay for multiple services — the list goes on.
As I write here, extra space between words auto-corrects — when I sense that, I chuckle. Convenience shines in the small details on EV’s platform.
His product is like iPhone in the age of Blackberry. It is an engineering sleek. Content is bonus.
2. If you read his recent blog, EV’s agile iteration bristles through. He is candid to admit that AI based curation is unable to decipher between sneaky self-marketing blogs and solid content. His team made a conscious pivot to hire more human curators. As a side note — those job descriptions for curators are awesome. If you get a chance, read them. They are looking for people who can spot diamond in the rough articles that embody the theme — words matter. My first 130 fans happened because of the generosity of an unknown angel somewhere in this world — who curated my dopamine and words blog.
I can go on with the yin. I am sure you are reading this to get a feel of my yang. I will split it into two — strategic and tactical.
The Strategic Yang
1.Reid Hoffman — boardmember of Microsoft and founder of LinkedIn comes across as a professor. The businessman in him shines through when he speaks about scaling a business. Do google for his videos at Stanford, they are gold. One point he made — always stood out to me. Linkedin was not the first or the best, what he focused at LinkedIn was to grow faster and better than any of the others. His analogy of growing from a village to a city has stood the test of time in my memory. EV can scale a business. He has raised multiple rounds of funding. This is not his first rodeo.
The question is — can he scale fast enough?
He showed a graph of membership scaling in his last blog. I was praying the y-axis is a huge chunk of the 15.7 Million who follow Medium staff. Why? I have vested my time here and interested in being part of a success story. His graph had no numbers on the y axis. Possibly suppressed with intention. Jeff Bezos was like that. His second coming was because of a constraint. A few years ago, he was forced to show his hand on how profitable AWS business was. And the market grasped the idea of a highly profitable tech company in the wafer thin retail business. And now, he is the richest man in the world who also shows up during Super Bowl half time along with Alexa.
2. 10+ years ago, Netflix [another ad-free subscription model] made a bet. They made a bet that internet speeds would grow exponentially. If you ask me what bet EV is making, I am not sure. I can infer that he is betting that the written word would triumph spoken podcasts and slick videos. As a blogger, I am aligned. As a platform champion, I would love explicit clarity.
10+ years ago, as a bridge, Netflix extended an olive branch to the DVD mail subscribers — the combo of DVD mail service with digital was cheaper than each individually. In the content world — the age old one is news or content from known brands. Medium is known as the new age where content shines irrespective of who wrote it. Can a combo exist here? It puzzles me on why Medium is yet to evolve into a dual audience subscription model like Netflix of yore. Imitation is the best form of flattery. If it fattens your scaling — why not?
Concepts are great but they are usually pie in the sky. When the tire meets the road, it gets interesting.
The Tactical Yang
1. Segment & scale — the audience why matters.
The subtext I learned about why a reader reads here, the line that pops up — The reader is here for great content. Period.
What happens if you expand the sentence? Few options
(i). The reader is here for great content written by someone they admire.
(ii). The reader is here for great content written by fellow indie writers.
(iii). The reader is here for great content that is handpicked from multiple “major” publications for one subscription fee.
(iv). The reader is here for great content that does not find a natural home elsewhere
For example, I could test out (ii) and (iii) by making it $5 each/month or $8 together. And grow each separately. At the minimum, it will be enlightening on what drives people to read.
Can you, dear reader, suggest other options that I may have missed?
2. Scale comes from referrers. You [EV & team]have the data on who brings traffic and from where. Partner with those indie writers who naturally bring traffic. Similarly, find ways to partner with curators at Flipboard and other content aggregators. If you are already doing that, triple it up.
Great content is the draw. Traffic for scale is hardwork.
Bringing it together — somewhere in between Yin and Yang.
One can pound the table in subtle and not so subtle ways with member content. The first open wall is not a feature, asking for business is one way to do it — Wall Street Journal does it, Bloomberg is going to do it. You are different — make it the natural consequence.
EV Williams — we need 10X of what you have today on your growth chart. Airbnb grew first on Craigslist. Find your platform imports on WordPress. Woo them in creative ways.
Reach out to the troupes here, make us feel special not just on content but also for bringing new foot traffic. Raving fans make magic happen. We are the foot soldiers who can expand the base.
The time for scale is now.
I am happy this blog is not free after all. My experiment continues with your bet. Love to increase the stakes.
Two growth hackers journey on.
One is named Karthik Rajan.
P.S. I am a geek. I enjoy writing. I grew energy businesses. I see a lot of parallels here. Here is math blog on making money the boring way — growing a business.