A lot of people is asking me about Baekdal Plus and the paygate, specifically how it is going financially. Is it really the new goldmine of content delivery? ...or is it an uphill battle against an internet culture bend on "free".
I promised to reveal the financial secret on March 1st, which was yesterday, so here we go.
To answer your first question. No, it is not a goldmine. If you look to make a living online, expect to be in it for the long haul. Expect that you are going to have to prove your worth every single day.
It is not going badly as such, but it is really hard to get people to pay for content online. To illustrate this in a very simple way, take a look at the two graphs below.
The first graph illustrates where baekdal.com is right now. The bar itself represent the total cost of running of baekdal.com. That includes everything. Hosting, bandwidth, electricity, servers, and equipment. As well as, rent (for the office space), furniture devaluation, lighting, heating, salaries, etc.
The green bars represent advertising and Baekdal Plus incomes, in relation to the total cost. As you can see, I am not even close to breaking even.
As for Baekdal Plus, the graph below indicate where it should have been on March 1, 2011. The adoption rate is 3 times lower than what I hoped for. Obviously, I have a lot more work ahead of me.
It has proven to be really hard to convince you that the value is worth paying for. This is something I am going to work hard at in the months to come. I knew this was going to be difficult. Especially for a site like this one - a magazine run by one person on the internet.
Baekdal Plus was never intended to be successful within two months. It is intended to become profitable within 12 months - that is by the end of 2011. It is off to a slow start, but I knew that going into it.
And with the plans I have for the months to come, I believe I will be able to convert a lot more people into subscribers.
I also know that I am on the right path. If you compare my revenue today with the revenue vs. cost in January 2010 (one year ago), you will notice a rather dramatic growth.
Advertising income is up more than 200%, and overall income is up more than 300%. That is far better than most other sites on the internet. Sure, I still have a long way to go, but that is an incredible growth.
Also, when launching Baekdal Plus, it was very important to build a paywall that was fully sharable. Unlike Rubert Murdoch, I cannot afford to lose traffic, even if a small percentage become subscribers. Sharing equals future prosperity.
So I created the pay*gate*, which I have covered extensively in many articles. The purpose of which is to build subscriptions, allow sharing, and support freemium as a content growth strategy.
And it works!
This is a graph for the past 6 months of visitors coming to baekdal.com:
The site has been steadily growing. I had 719,462 absolute unique visitors, over a 31 day period, in January/February 2011 - and 1,469,285 pageviews. Up from 250,000 absolute unique visitors six months ago.
That is a phenomenal growth, far exceeding even my most generous expectations.
Note: The business articles represent a 24% growth the rest is targeted the design section.
Unlike Murdoch, who lost most of his traffic by creating a restrictive paywall, my paygate likes traffic by raising the overall value of the site. The paygate isn't responsible for the increase in traffic, as such. It is caused by a more aggressive publishing strategy, but it doesn't turn people away.
As you can see in the traffic graph above, I made a catastrophic mistake back in late-October (when setting up Baekdal Plus). I made an error that caused the CMS system to block shared links to all my content older than 6 months.
It caused a catastrophic drop in traffic. I literally lost 90% of my traffic in just 24 hours, and it took me more than a month to get it back up.
This is a stark reminder of the power of sharing. No sharing equals no traffic. It is really important!
Secondly, when and how you launch is critical - which I learned the hard way.
Due to a lot of complicated reasons, I wasn't able to launch Baekdal Plus the way I wanted to. I had planned a big launch campaign back in October 2010, but then I ran into a problem with a (now former) client, which forced me to put it on hold. Instead, I launched it without the campaign in December.
That was a mistake. Launching anything in December is probably the worst thing you can do. Everyone is using all their money buying Christmas presents. And, they are too stressed out to think about buying a media subscription for themselves. On top of that, many companies are at the end of their fiscal year and have no budget left for anything.
It was just the worst timing ever! It would have been much better if I had just waited another month. I felt frustrated about my missed launch in October, so I shipped it without really thinking.
I have worked really hard to make up if for this blunder. In January, I published 56 articles, totaling 32,000 words. That is like the size of many business ebooks - in just one month!
To sum it up. Baekdal Plus is not as successful as I had hoped at this point, but it is moving in the right direction. It is just going take a little longer. And, I have to work harder at demonstrating the value.
Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter
"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé