I’d like to take the opportunity of the New Year to look ahead with you on matters related to the blog. My idea for this post is to tell you what my goals for the coming year are and what challenges we are (or that I am) facing, and then to ask a couple of questions from you, the members, about how best to proceed.
Goals and Challenges
I have several different goals for the blog this coming year.
- Financial. This past year, as I indicated in my past post, we pulled in $61,000. That is a significant increase over the previous year. I would like to keep the increase going, and have as a target $70,000 for 2014. This will obviously mean acquiring significantly more members; keeping the members we have; and hopefully increasing the number of donations from people who are already members. On that final point, there are some people who generously give everything from $25 and up. I appreciate more than I can say, from each and every one of your kind and generous souls. May your tribe increase! In fact, I hope it does. As part of this goal: the blog has had one very serious major donor, and I would like to see us find another one. As you have heard me say ad nauseum, all the money goes to charity, and building up the giving base is what keeps me motivated. So this is a real and tangible desideratum for me.
- Practical. I would like to make the blog as user friendly as we can, over time. We have taken great strides forward: the blog is much better than it was when we started in April 2012. And all the thanks go to Steve Ray, the workhorse for this machine, whom I’ve already thanked and can’t thank enough. We get a lot of ideas for the blog, some that we adopt and others that we shelve for a while as we think through the implications. I’m always open for more suggestions. For now, in addition to the improvements we have already made, we are planning to add a couple of new features to the blog:
- A Testimonies page. I will soon be asking people to provide some testimonies about how well they like the blog and what about it they find compelling, to post on a public site on the page as a way of helping to draw more people in.
- A Readers’ Forum. At present, the only way for any of you to post something that you want to say is to reply to me about a post and then possibly have someone reply to you (the latter of which doesn’t happen with incredible frequency). We are considering opening it up to have a Readers Forum feature as part of the blog; this would allow readers to pose questions or make comments, not to me, but to anyone on the blog, and carry on conversations back and forth with each other instead of always through me. We are working out the kinks for how this should work, and figuring out if it can be done without increasing exponentially either the expense of the blog (since, well, I pay for the expense of the blog :p ) or the amount of time that I devote to it.
- Intellectual. I want to continue to provide high-level intellectual content for the blog, since that’s why you joined! I feel pretty good about how things are going now already, and hope simply to keep it comin’. More on this under Questions for you. The main challenge that I have – in addition to simply sustaining the level of output every week – is that I continually wonder when I’m going to run out of things to say. So far so good, and I don’t see an end in sight. But that doesn’t mean – to switch a metaphor – that the well will not some time go dry….
Questions to You.
So the above comments are my side of things. I’m interested in knowing yours. Feel free any time to suggest improvements or changes in the blog, since I want to make it just as good as can be and am always eager to make it better. But I have two questions (well, sets of questions) in particular that I would like to ask.
- First: As most of you have figured out, I simply am not able to have lengthy back-and-forths with people who want to engage me on detailed discussions of this, that, or the other thing. We have had thousands of members on the blog since we started, and I just don’t have the minutes (let alone hours) to engage with everyone or, actually, with anyone. I do answer every direct question that comes my way and make comments also on other posts if I can do so quickly and efficiently. And if a question/comment is particularly scintillating, I reserve it to make an entire post on it. So my question is really a simple one. In your opinion, does this approach limit the usefulness of the blog enough to make it detrimental to acquiring new members and keeping old ones? If the answer is yes, I don’t know what we would do, since, well, a yes answer doesn’t give me more hours in the day. But I do want to know. As a corollary, do you personally think that we should limit the *length* of comments (e.g., through word limits), or is it fine as is? If we should limit the comments, to what length?
- Second, and for me more important. Some people have suggested to me that I post too much – roughly six times a week, though sometimes five. I am absolutely fine (trust me on this one) posting less. But I want to achieve the maximum utility for the blog, and I’m not sure what the answer is. I asked this before, some months (or a year?) ago, and most people thought that 5-6 times a week was ideal. But I wonder if that’s still the case. More specifically I’m wondering two related things:
- Does having this much content turn people off, because they find that it’s frustrating having so much and they can’t read it all, so they decide just to give it up and not renew membership?
- Would posting less strike people as a step backwards so that if they didn’t get their 5-6 posts a week they would be less inclined either to join or to renew membership?
I am genuinely interested in knowing your responses. If you could make just a brief comment in reply – for example “Yes 5-6 is perfect” or “Actually I’d prefer 2-3” or “I don’t think it makes a single bit of difference” or “I would not renew if there were only 4 a week” or something similar (no need to give lengthy explanations, unless you feel driven to do so) — I would appreciate it.
OK, those are just about all my thoughts moving forward. As always, I’ll be interested in hearing yours.