We live in strange times. The economics of publishing, be it music, books or magazines have been upended by the rise of new technologies and the demise of old ones. We like to describe these new ways of doing things as “disruptive,” as if that wasn’t a bad thing when noted on our report cards in elementary school. Now we equate “disruptive” with “opportunity.” It’s true enough, depending on where you sit. WordPress made the launch of Red Kite Prayer possible without the need to spend five figures on site development. And the rise of the Internet as the go-to location for information about cycling gave sites like Red Kite Prayer the chance to build a readership without destroying forests and purchasing the chance to be on a newsstand. You might compare it to the evolution of African safaris from shooting all the game with a gun to shooting all the game with a camera. Much lower, uh, impact.
This new economy of ours has forced authors to be creative about how to realize revenue from their work. Nothing is obvious or simple. And the metrics by which we measure success are as malleable as Play-Doh. One man’s home run is another man’s broken bat.
Up until now, we’ve managed to grow RKP (mostly) on the basis of ad revenue, but we’ve hit a plateau. We’re in a funny Catch-22. The quality of the work we publish has attracted the attention of some of cycling’s best freelancers. I’ve had a number of conversations with talented people eager to have the opportunity to reach for their creative limits. But they can’t work for free, and we can’t pay them without more money in our coffers. And we don’t yet have the advertisers to cover that cost.
So we’ve decided to take what might be a novel approach, had it not already been done by public radio, numerous musicians and not a few web sites.
We’re announcing a reader pledge drive, effective today. And before I go any further, let me state that this isn’t meant to pad my meager paycheck. We didn’t arrive at this decision lightly, either. Robot suggested it, the first time may have been following the birth of His Tininess the Deuce. I shot the idea down. He suggested it, again, and even again. I’m not always this thick, but the first dozen success stories proved to be not quite enough. I’m not sure if he’s gotten more right or if I’ve gotten more smart. Probably not the latter. We’re trying this because Robot thinks this is smarter than going to Crowdfunder and I think Robot is pretty damn smart. And yes, I’m admitting that like all founders, I can suffer a certain myopia on occasion.
To be clear, this effort has but one goal: Generate cash so that we can pay new contributors. Our previous efforts have shown that with greater diversity in voice, we have greater diversity in advertising. And the advertisers have told us as much. There’s another piece to this puzzle, too: more voices generate bigger readership numbers (good for advertisers) and more frequent posting (good for you). With a bump in revenue thanks to a reader drive, we hope to capitalize on that momentum and back up their permanent addition to our crew with more year-round advertisers.
In my recent post, “Charting Course,” the overwhelming feedback we received was that you wanted to see more “soul of cycling” posts, not more product review. The Freelance Fund will be devoted to exactly this.
To jump start our advertising efforts, I’ve hired our first full-time ad sales person. This is a stunningly expensive commitment for me. Every dime I’m making from “Why We Ride” is paying his salary, so it looks like I’ll be doing more trips to promote the book.
When you visit the RKP store, you’ll find our existing products treated as premiums for this pledge drive, which will continue for the entirety of the month of February, or until we generate enough that we can pull the trigger on a few new writers and photographers. We’ll post a reminder of the pledge drive at the end of our posts and we will keep you apprised of our progress.
My goal with RKP was always to make it a home for first-rate content. The talent waiting to send us their work is extraordinary, and we’re in a position to allow them to publish work that would be unlikely to find the light of day elsewhere. I’ve already had a conversation with one writer who has been chasing a piece that no one else would ever publish. This is the most classic of win-wins. They’ll get to chase their muse without worry about whether or not the work is commercial enough, and you’ll benefit by enjoying more work of the quality you’ve come to expect from us.
Think of it as an investment, not in what RKP is now, but in what RKP can be when we all pull together.
To take a pull, just go here.