Membership–First Birthday and a Thousand Thanks

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Actually, this post should more properly be called 1100 thanks. You see, that is the number of readers that have signed up for membership since we rolled out the AAC Bookclub on May 24th 2013. Thank you all.

The Last Chance

Back then, when we rolled out membership, having spent 11 years developing the site and having tried several things unsuccessfully to just cover our out of pocket expenses, things were looking pretty bleak.

Sign Ups Are Good

A year later, things are looking much brighter. While advertising sales have proven challenging, new members are signing up at a rate of about 100 a month, which is almost exactly what we set as the minimum we needed to continue publishing.

Traffic Is Up

The other bright statistic is that, despite the warnings the gloom and doomers beat us over the head with when we made much of our content available to members only, our traffic has continued to grow and, in fact, the rate of growth has actually accelerated.

The Goal

We have always been open about the site’s financial situation and, in the interest of continuing that, we want to share what we need to achieve to keep publishing:

  • Pay our incredibly talented correspondents (Colin and Matt) a reasonable and fair fee for their efforts.
  • Pay ourselves the same, not only for writing but also for the administration and web maintenance and development that we do.
  • Have enough income to pay others to handle some of the administration and web stuff so that we have more time to create great content, not to speak of actually going sailing. You see, about 70% of the time we are now expending on the site (over 40 hours a week for me and about half that for Phyllis) is going to those non-creative tasks, a situation we need to fix.

The Members We Need

Although there are a lot of variables here, a bit of back of the envelope budgeting indicates that we need around 5000 members to achieve these goals. And that does seem possible, although it’s going to take a while.

Expenses–Up and Up

The other issue we are facing is that expenses continue to grow at a frightening pace: professional fees (accounting, tax, and legal); insurance (liability and journalism); a server upgrade, yet again; all new computers with all upgraded software because our aging Windows machines were killing us with crashes and problems; the list goes on. I say this not to complain, but to share that running a site to this standard is a real business with real expenses and that’s where most of the money you pay us goes.

A Big Challenge

The next big challenge is retention of the members we do have because, without that, there is simply no hope of making this work. To that end, going forward, we will be focusing more on content that is exclusive to members. And new posts that are part of existing first or second edition books will, in most cases, be published for members only.

New Books

Also, we have two exciting new Online Books planned for publication over this summer that we will be publishing chapter by chapter for members only. In fact, I have completed writing one and the first chapter will roll out in a few weeks with a new chapter once a month thereafter.

Free Content Continues

Thanks to support from our advertisers, there will still be plenty of new content available to non-members, adding to the hundreds of free posts in the archives (see menu above). (Posts without the light blue background book title are free as are the top three of the online books on the sidebar list.)

And anyone can subscribe to new content for free, although some of the posts (chapters) you get a notification about will be available to members only.

We Still Love It

I have talked a lot about money but here is a non-financial thought we want to close with. Even after 11 years of work and the thousands of dollars we spent out of our own pockets getting to this point, we still love writing for and publishing this site. It keeps our minds alive and active, it’s an outlet for our creativity, and best of all, it lets us meet and spend time with a lot of really wonderful people, both face to face and virtually, who share our passion for offshore voyaging. Thank you all, members or not.

Comments

We have always been open about how this site works so, if you have any questions, please ask away.

{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Todd Huss May 25, 2014, 1:22 pm

    As a paying member I think membership is well worth it! Fantastic content for a very reasonable price. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
  • Doug May 26, 2014, 10:56 am

    Congrats and Happy Birthday.
    AAC is the only site I read with any consistency because it has relevant information; is well written and attractively presented.
    Good on on you for doing it!

    Reply
  • Cathy Norrie May 26, 2014, 10:56 am

    Dear John,
    I think you have found a great balance of content for members only and articles and video available free to all. I think it is important to have the free content to attract new members… that is what attracted me to become a member.
    In my opinion you are doing a wonderful job with this website and I look forward to future content. BTW both my husband and I appreciated your column regarding one of the latest sailboat losses (and saving of four souls) in the North Atlantic and highlighting the weather conditions at the time. No one else seems to have identified those conditions as well as you (that we have read).
    Thanks for your great writing and sharing your and others’ ideas.
    Cathy Norrie
    SV Terrwyn

    Reply
  • Dan May 26, 2014, 11:48 am

    Paper vs. Electronic. If you read that post and you’re not a member, you’re like me! I meet a lots and lots of people on the docks that follow John and speak highly of his skills and website. If you’re one of those sailors and reading this now, let’s pony up. Let’s face it, it’s fair priced and we help a guy with his dreams. I’m in!

    Hi John, As I look to join, it doesn’t jump out at me. How about a “become a member” next to the never miss a post at the top?

    On the Paper vs. Electronic, I just did a solo, nonstop passage, Charleston to Portland Maine last week. I so did not want to DR but took the challenge. It is so tiring. It’s a big additional task and I forgot how stressful the approach gets. That said, I happy to have a Plotter and still strongly believe in maintaining DR skills. We should do one DR passage every year. If it’s been a while, try it. You’ll be in for a surprise. Use it or lose it.
    Happy Birthday!

    Reply
    • John May 27, 2014, 7:58 am

      Hi Dan,

      On the bar at the top: thanks for the suggestion. We don’t want to complicate the message at the top because we have found that most members start off with us by signing up for the free feeds and then become members later.

      Having said that, I agree that we need to improve the sight design to more firmly, but still gently, guide readers toward becoming members.

      Reply
  • Alan Bradley May 26, 2014, 11:52 am

    John:
    Thanks for all the invaluable content. You do keep adding things to my “to do list,” but it’s all good. I’m glad the projections look good for continued success.
    Alan Bradley
    s/v Vivacia

    Reply
  • Hirtz Earl May 26, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Good stuff. Keep it up.
    Do you have any info on net and line cutters for propeller protection? I.e. Spurs vs. Shaft Shark vs. X…?

    Reply
  • Wendy May 26, 2014, 1:51 pm

    I’ve been a member for about 10 months. I’ve truly enjoyed reading each topic that comes out, and have learned and applied many of the lessons. I learned of the website from work of mouth, and have passed it on in the same manner. Congratulations to you, and thank you for all of your hard work. Best of luck for your future goals.

    Reply
  • Louise Johnson May 26, 2014, 1:55 pm

    Well, happy birthday – well done to you John and Phyllis, and to your two correspondents Colin and Matt.
    The site never fails to provide intelligent insight, to spur us on, and to consider things in a different and sometimes controversial light – long may it continue.
    So in this regard, and financially, may you have many happy returns!

    Reply
  • Jim Patek May 26, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Congratulations and thank you John and Phyllis.

    Jim

    Reply
  • John May 27, 2014, 7:54 am

    Hi All,

    Thanks very much for the kind comments. There is no way we would have been able to keep our enthusiasm for working on this site without your support and enthusiasm in return.

    And a huge thank you to all of you that signed up for membership in the last day, since this post was published.

    Reply
  • Hoftman Guzman June 2, 2014, 2:26 pm

    Congrats team!!!

    I’m not a sailor, yet. Here’s my testimony: Thanks to you all (including members and subscribers) I haven’t bought a boat, yet… here I’m patiently waiting to buy an Adventure 40. I know that if anything is truly good, then I’ll have to wait, on top of paying the price. I know I’ll spend sometime (maybe even a couple of years) using my own S/V as daysailor or weekender before heading off shore… but when I’m finally ready it will be with a boat I know and trust–therefore is a privilege to be a part of this community.

    In the mean time, (i) I became a subscriber and student of your books, (ii) I’ll be on sailing expeditions with some of you, and (iii) I’ll contribute, albeit very, Very, VERY little, to the coming to life of an awesome boat.

    You can charge me what ever you want to be a part of this Club.

    Best!

    Hoftman
    http://twitter.com/Hoftman

    Reply
    • John June 2, 2014, 5:00 pm

      Hi Hoftman,

      How very nice, thank you. People like you with like aims are exactly those I hope the Adventure 40 will appeal to. And that the boat will one day help make your plans a reality.

      Reply
  • Tim H August 1, 2014, 8:21 am

    Hi John

    I thought that you might like to know that I am currently posting this comment whilst traveling on the bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, as I do enjoy the broad international flavour of the site. Having recently joined as a member, I find the site very interesting indeed particularly as I am having a boat designed to my specs at the moment. It is a 47 foot aluminium centre cockpit with lifting keel, so broadly in line with your craft. Based on your comments on the series drouge, I have asked for special brackets to be included at the transom so I can deployed it easily – I am sure that I will need it one day, and when I do I will let you know !! Boat designs are done and he fully production will begin in a couple of months. It has taken 2 years to get to this point, and it looks like one more to go !!

    Thank you for the great content on the site !!

    Tim

    Reply
    • John August 1, 2014, 8:44 am

      Hi Tim,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s great to hear of people, readers, and members that are getting “out there”. We will look forward to hearing more.

      Reply

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