Today, I complete two years on this journey trying to live my life in a more mindful and sustainable manner. As some of you might remember, this journey began with me announcing a shift to a sustainable and ethical wardrobe, followed by a year of not buying any new clothes. In the months leading up to this day, I have spent considerable time taking a deeper look at my life and how I want to live it. One of the aspirations I set for myself as part of this exploration was to dedicate more time to do things I love. Writing (this blog and beyond) is one of those things.
After months of working hard on it, I am excited to unveil the new home for my blog and share my vision for it.
An Immersive Text Focused Design & Content Fluidity
One of the things I wanted to do is not be limited to a topic or a format. This realization came to me when I moved away from a planned and rigid way of managing my content on Instagram to a more fluid one. Pretty soon after making this change on Instagram, I found myself wanting to apply this approach to my blog as well. I wanted the freedom to write long-form essays on some days while super bite-sized ones on others. I realized that some ideas need more words to be explained, while others don't. Some ideas need visuals while others may not. The new minimalist, text-focused, and immersive design enables me to do just that – to write long-form when I want to or not when I don't. To use images when they make sense or not when they don't.
Beyond the format, I also wanted to apply fluidity to what I chose to write about. I wanted to have a varying and diverse set of topics and in the coming weeks, you will be presented with thought-leadership around not just minimalism, mindfulness, or sustainability but anything that I am deeply passionate about. This includes technology, business, and so much more.
Moving Away from a Broken Revenue Model
I have been blogging for almost a decade now. It all began with me starting a blog about Apple when I was still in college (back in 2012). The blog itself was extremely popular, receiving close to half a million views each month. Despite this readership, our revenue model, which comprised running ads coupled with an affiliate marketing set-up with both Apple and Amazon, was not enough to pay an industry-standard wage to all the writers and manage the server costs. Eventually, we decided to shut shop.
My experience has made me wary of the dominantly ad-based revenue model that is prevalent not just within blogging, but the larger publishing and media industry. But it isn't just me or other smaller indie publishers finding it extremely difficult to survive. Some of the largest and most successful digital publishers have struggled to turn a profit. This year saw two giants BuzzFeed and Vice media lay-off hundreds of employees. In fact, according to this report by The Cut, 2,100 media workers were laid-off in the US.
What is interesting is that each of these companies has a huge readership of several hundred million. For instance, BuzzFeed which boasts a readership of 650 million, only generated $300 million in revenue. On the surface, $300 million might not seem bad, but when looked at while taking into consideration their readership, it translates into a revenue of a mere 50 cents per reader annually. And, here lies the problem. Imagine any other industry, where your customer only brought in 50 cents a year?
If a digital media company with hundreds of millions of readers, can only manage to bring in 50 cents per reader, you can imagine what things are like for an indie blogger. The traditional model simply doesn't work unless you scale it aggressively, and even when you have scale on your side, it makes little business sense on its own, as illustrated above. This is why some of the best digital media publishers, have been moving towards a subscription-based model. The New York Times, which is one of the publishers I subscribe to, reported a revenue of $709 million from its 3.3 million subscribers in 2018. This translates into a revenue of $214 per customer vs the 50 cents that BuzzFeed is generating through its dominantly ad-based model.
Beyond the broken revenue-model, my experience in this space has made me realize that an indirect approach to generating revenue also ends up diluting the reader's experience. Instead of the writing being the product, the model eventually results in the reader becoming one. This manifests in ways small and big. It ends up impacting design – with ads eating up prominent real-estate that often ends up distracting the reader. It also ends up impacting content strategy – demanding that content is updated at an unrelenting pace.
My vision with the blog is to form a more direct relationship between my readers and my work. One where my writing is the product, and not my reader's eyeballs.
The Next Two Months
The second anniversary and consequent relaunch of my blog coincide with me transitioning out of my day job. The transition should complete by the start of December 2019. I hope to be more prolific with my writing here, post that. The goal is to not just bump up the frequency of posts but to also come up with new segments, including one where I regularly interview other thought leaders in the spaces of sustainability, mindfulness, technology, and business. Once my transition is complete, I also intend to finally concentrate on writing two books. Members on my website get free and full access to eBooks for these.
Stay tuned for more, in the coming weeks.