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By Thomas Baekdal - February 2018

The Refreshed Edition of Baekdal Plus

Welcome to the new Baekdal Plus. You might have noticed that everything suddenly looks different. And yes, Baekdal Plus has been redesigned, reengineered, and updated in every way possible.

There are still a few things that haven't been launched yet (but will be over the next couple of weeks), but let me very quickly tell you about what has changed, both for you as a reader, but also for me as a publisher. And also talk a little bit about preparing for the future.

First of all, what has changed?

The answer to this is everything and nothing.

Technically, everything has changed. Every line of code has been rewritten from scratch. The server is now hosted in a different place, the database is different, the CMS system is different, the member system has changed, the payment system is different ... everything is new.

But, at the same time, the business model around Baekdal Plus has not changed. The overall product that you get when you subscribe to Plus, being 25 Plus reports about the future of media, is still the main focus. And obviously, all the existing articles and reports (more than 220) are still available for you to read.

What has changed for you, as a subscriber, is a sharper editorial focus.

Baekdal Plus has always been focused on helping media executives understand the future of media trends and how to convert that into a useful strategy. But, the definition around this was always a bit vague.

My main categories were 'insights' and 'analysis', which isn't really that defined.

With this new site, however, I have optimized my editorial strategy to give you something far more focused. Now Baekdal Plus will focus on four key areas.

I have already started writing for this new focus. For instance, not long ago I published 'A Guide to Pricing Strategies for a Sport Site', where I illustrated how Eurosport could change their monetization model. And in 'How Editorial Analytics can Help you Define your Editorial Strategy', I wrote about how you could use analytics in a much smarter way.

Each of these articles was written with this new focus in mind. One being specifically about monetization, and the other about analytics.

So, Baekdal Plus is not really changing. But it is getting sharper and more valuable.

What else has changed?

Beyond the focus that has changed for you, I have also updated quite a lot of things about the site.

One example is the payment system.

Before, I was using PayPal, because it was simple and cheap (and reliable, unlike most payment startups in 2010). But I have never really been happy with PayPal. The problem with PayPal is that, when you subscribed, you were redirected to PayPal's site, where you were asked to create a PayPal account.

This is not an optimal experience, especially for business minded readers.

What was worse was that PayPal never got around to optimizing for mobile. If you just buy a product, PayPal's checkout experience works fine, but when you ask to subscribe to something, PayPal only works on the desktop.

This is what PayPal presented to people when you tried subscribing to Baekdal Plus from your phone.

I don't even want to think about how many potential subscribers I have lost because of this terrible experience.

So, the new Baekdal Plus is using Stripe, and what a difference that makes.

Now when you want to subscribe, you are presented with a payment screen directly on Baekdal Plus, and you are not asked to create an account with Stripe. And, of course, it's fully optimized for mobile.

It's just beautiful and very user friendly. And more to the point, Stripe has proven to be a reliable partner and a new major player of payment solutions.

Secondly, one of the problems I had with PayPal was that I had no control over how it worked. So simple things like giving people a way to change their subscription simply wasn't possible.

This has been a bit of an embarrassment for me.

For instance, my good friend Avinash Kaushik recently wrote an article, 'Unsexy Fundamentals Focus: User Experiences That Print Money', where he illustrated just how hard it was for him to change his subscription for the New Yorker.

His article is brilliant, and he points out several very critical things about how not to create subscription experiences. But I had the same problem here on this site, because PayPal wasn't allowing me to do this either.

But with Stripe, I can do all of these things and so much more.

Please note, the 'Member' page where you can manage your subscription isn't finished yet, but it will be soon. And for existing subscribers paying via PayPal, nothing will really change (I have no way of moving your subscription from PayPal to Stripe), so old subscribers will still be managed via PayPal.


Another thing you might notice is that I have added far more about consulting. My consulting business has always been there, but I never really promoted it.

Now it has become part of the main site.

Please note that Baekdal Plus (the articles and reports) and Baekdal Media (the consulting business) are still completely separate. Obviously there is 100% confidentiality about anything I'm working on with clients.

Think about Baekdal Plus as the public part of what I do, whereas Baekdal Media (consulting) is the non-public part.

Better flexibility

Another big change is that this new site has been completely rebuilt to allow me far greater flexibility than before. So now when I want to experiment with something new, I can do it.

Technically, I could also do it with my old site, but the problem was that my old site was built using a programming language that has since become obsolete and is no longer supported.

As such, over the past couple of years, I have been holding myself back from doing anything new because I didn't want to build it into the old site. But, with this new site, I no longer have that restriction, which means that I can start experimenting again.

This is also important for other things like becoming GDPR compliant (Europe's new privacy laws), where I want to do something really cool, but I couldn't do it with the old site.

So stay tuned for that.

Much cheaper

Another big advantage, for me, is the cost. The old site was running on a dedicated Microsoft server, with way more performance than I ever needed.

Technically, this was nice, but it was also very expensive.

By shifting to Python, I have been able to dramatically reduce what I needed to create a fast site, and this new site is 90% cheaper to run.

Yep... a 90% reduction in cost.

And it isn't just about the server itself but also the services I need to run on it. For instance, an SSL certificate for my old server cost $599, while on the new server it's $15. And the level of encryption and security is exactly the same.

On a personal level, and future projects

Finally, a big change is also that this new site is built entirely in Python (and not using any frameworks like Flask or Django, but 100% pure Python).

The reason I wanted to do this is because of the future of machine learning and AI, which are both often built in Python.

For instance, if you want to learn how to do machine learning, you will often come across this: Python and R.

These languages are driving the future, and as a media analyst, I need to know not just that they exist, but also how they work.

So, I have built this entire site: the backend, the payment system, the CMS, not just to get a new site, but also for me to learn Python and prepare myself for the future of machine learning.

For instance, you might have heard how publishers like Schibsted have turned to machine learning to maximize their subscription growth.

Across the sites where it's currently in use, the company's purchase prediction model has been able to identify groups of readers three to five times more likely than average to buy a subscription, and advertise offers to them differently.

This is an important example of the power of machine learning and the future that we are now heading into. As a media analyst, I need to stay on top of this so that I can continue to provide you with the best advice.

So, this is the new Baekdal Plus. A new fresh design, a better editorial focus, a much better platform for the future, far more user friendly, but still focused on providing you with the best advice about the future of media.

I hope you like it.


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Thomas Baekdal

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


—   thoughts   —


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