doing some number crunching on subscriptions (and why I need you to subscribe)

I’m looking for 321 UPDATE: 305 new subscribers in February. Here’s where I got that number.

(If you don’t need an explanation, you can subscribe by clicking here. Or click on the pageview counter in the bottom right corner. Or wait for the reminder popup that will appear after every couple of pageviews.)

A while back, reader Hebbie suggested that I do what Andrew Sullivan is doing with his The Dish, in his drive to get readers to subscribe via Tinypass: full disclosure of the results of my subscription efforts, with charts and everything.

So that’s what I’m doing here. Even though — unlike Sullivan — I have no staff and have to do all this myself, as best I can. And even though every minute I spend doing this means I’m not watching movies and writing reviews. (Sherlock! I could be writing about the new Sherlocks now, which I haven’t done yet. But I’m getting pretty desperate, and maybe this will help.)

Hebbie wanted charts, so here you go. This is currently active monthly subscriptions, with number of subscribers along the left and what they’re paying per month along the bottom:


(That’s hard to read. I don’t know how to make decent charts — words are my thing, not numbers or data. Click here for a larger, more legible version.)

And here’s currently active annual subscriptions, again with number of subscribers along the left and what they’re paying per year along the bottom:


(Larger version here.)

These charts, by the way, include a few subscriptions that expired in January, which I hope will be renewed.

If you do the math — I can use a calculator — that amounts to an annual income of US $11,542.21. That’s before Tinypass, PayPal, and Amazon take their cut. (Of a $4.99 monthly Tinypass sub, I get around $4.15. From the pre-Tinypass legacy subscriptions that were started via Amazon and PayPal, I get about $4.70 from every $5 sub. Tinypass takes more because it’s their software running the paywall, and they deal with account maintenance and so on. I think that’s a good deal.)

Poverty line for a single person in the U.S. in 2013 (according to Wikipedia) was $11,490.

I work at least 80 hours per week on this site. Counting two weeks vacation, which I don’t get but I’ll deduct anyway, that’s an hourly rate of $2.88.

That’s inexcusable for a writer who averages 100,000 unique readers per month. Artists and writers and other creative people are supposed to expect to work for nothing when they’re just getting started. Once they’ve found an audience, there should be some money in it.

Oh, and those figures aren’t counting expenses. Web hosting alone is $79.95 per month. (And no, I cannot go cheaper, not with a site this large and with this much traffic. Cheapo hosting is fine for a site with a small amount of content and minimal traffic.) There’s also annual domain-registration fees and monthly fees to HootSuite (essential for social networking, which is essential for building traffic) and MailChimp (which I use for the Daily Digest and Movie Cheat Sheet emails.) Then again, for 2013 I took in Amazon affiliate fees of $1,259.23, so that’s just about a wash with those major site-operating expenses.

I know more subscribers are out there.

According to PandoDaily, the Dish and The New York Times are converting about 1 percent of their unique visitors into subscribers.

Google Analytics tells me that in January 2014, this site had 92,894 unique visitors, and 109,425 visits overall. My Web host measures my January 2014 traffic as 119,239 uniques and 216,458 visits overall. Different ways of counting can result in different figures, but I think it’s safe to assume that the actual number is somewhere in between:

106,067 unique visitors in January

Which means it would not be wildly unreasonable to expect that I should be able to round up

1061 subscribers

Coincidentally, I figure that if I could get 1000 subscribers at $4.99/month or $49.99/year, I’d be in okay shape. Not great, but okay.

I also figure — using the Google Analytics data that breaks down visits by how often someone returns; ie, X number of visits represent a visitor’s 100th visit to the site that month — that I have somewhere in the vicinity of 450 insanely dedicated readers.

Currently, only 129 of them are subscribing at $4.99/month or $49.99/year or higher.

So I’m gonna set a goal for February of getting 321 new subscribers. (That’s the 450 insanely dedicated readers minus the 129 already subscribed.)

If some of those legacy subscribers — 147 of them — who are paying less than that would like to bump up their subscription, that would be awesome. Drop me an email and I’ll help you do that. (Those who want to stay at $1/month or $12/year or whatever, that’s cool, too. You folks have been showing your support for years, and I’m delighted to have had you onboard for so long.)

If you’d like to subscribe, just click on the pageview counter in the bottom right corner, or wait for the reminder popup that will appear after every couple of pageviews.

I need your help. I cannot survive on $2.88 an hour.

Thank you.

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Jess Haskins
Jess Haskins
Sun, Feb 09, 2014 4:03pm

I’m an empirical sort of person, so I appreciate seeing charts and graphs and a numbers breakdown — thanks for sharing that, and I hope this approach nudges more people into supporting your work.

There was one more very important takeaway from the above:



MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jess Haskins
Sun, Feb 09, 2014 4:22pm

Sharing numbers is scary, because you don’t know how people will react to them. Will readers look at those numbers and think I’m doing great as it is, and so not subscribe? Will they think there’s no way I can reach my modest goal, and so won’t subscribe out of fear I’m doomed anyway?

But I’m running out of things to try.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Feb 10, 2014 4:12am

I don’t know how anyone could possibly see anything positive in what you’ve presented. I’d be embarrassed to not be a subscriber after seeing that. Good thing I’ve been one for quite a while. After all, I AM one of those 450 dedicated readers who visit multiple times daily.
Subscribe, people. $5/month is squat to you, but it could help MaryAnn eke out a living doing what she loves.

p.s. I’ve been patiently waiting to read your take on Sherlock. I think we all are.

Ashley Svetaloslavov
Ashley Svetaloslavov
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, Apr 05, 2014 8:08pm

Have you considered suicide? Or being a whore? Or working at a toll booth?

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 4:09am

Come on folks, join us and subscribe. No one is doing the kinds of great stuff Mary Ann is doing. Please support it!

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 4:25am

20 free page views a month is a lot. i don’t usually hit that limit, so nothing is really forcing the payment decision. maybe lower the free pv’s / month limit?

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  anon
Mon, Feb 10, 2014 9:51am

Is that really the only thing that will get you to subscribe?

Jess Haskins
Jess Haskins
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Mon, Feb 10, 2014 1:35pm

Does Tinypass support weekly pageview caps?

reply to  Jess Haskins
Mon, Feb 10, 2014 5:45pm

Tinypass does support weekly pageview caps– you can select daily, weekly or monthly

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 12:06pm

I find this stuff fascinating, but I’m not a person who needs to be convinced.

Mon, Feb 10, 2014 2:01pm

Hello, hello. Another current subscriber checking in…why aren’t there more of us? Wtf people?! I’m one of the $6 a month readers. I check in about 3 times a day, generally on weekdays. That is about 10¢ (US) per reading…not per page!

Sun, Feb 16, 2014 1:46am

It looks like most of your unique page hits aren’t resulting in subsequent traffic. I wouldn’t be surprised if your 450 “insanely dedicated visitors” are the same 150 or so readers checking your site on different computers (and devices) with different ISPs.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Guest
Sun, Feb 16, 2014 11:59am

Who are you that you have access to my site statistics?