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kottke.org memberships, an update one year later

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2017

A year ago today, I introduced kottke.org memberships, a way for the readers to support what I consider one of the best independent sites on the web. Here’s what I wrote:

I’m proud of what I’ve built here at kottke.org over the past 18 years and I’m committed to publishing here regularly and operating independently as long as I am able. Even though the site is primarily a one-person operation, I’ve never done it alone. You have always been an essential part of this site — providing me with feedback, counsel, encouragement, pushback, and many great links and ideas for posts — and I’d love your help in taking this next step.

While I didn’t know it at the time, your support saved kottke.org. This is not even hyperbole. As I hinted at in the announcement post, the industry-wide drop in revenue from display advertising was beginning to affect kottke.org and just a few months later, the site’s largest source of revenue (ads via The Deck) went from “hey, I can make a living at this!” to zero. Then Amazon slashed their affiliate percentages, resulting in a 30-50% drop for some sites in the network. I found a new ad network partner (with greatly reduced revenue) and my Amazon affiliate revenue didn’t fall as much as that of other sites, but together, those revenue sources would no longer be enough to support my full-time activities on the site.

But over the course of the past year, hundreds and then thousands of you became members, exceeding even my loftiest expectations. Membership is now the primary source of revenue for kottke.org. As I wrote in a recent members newsletter, this transition has been disconcerting to experience:

From a business perspective, it’s an understatement to say that it’s been a bit unnerving seeing 10 years of steadily growing revenue being replaced by something else entirely. I’ve been trying (and failing) to come up with a metaphor to explain it…the site is exactly the same, the revenue is in the same ballpark as before, but the financing is completely different. Maybe it’s like changing your underwear while remaining fully dressed the whole time? Anyway, I’m glad we’re all still here!

What I’m trying to say is: thank you so much for your support over the past year. To say it means a lot to me is insufficient. Member support has made it possible for me to keep publishing kottke.org without compromise (i.e. without splashing trashy ads everywhere or selling to a larger media company), something I know you appreciate and something I’ve grown increasingly thankful for as the 20-year anniversary of the site approaches early next year (!!!). If I start to think about it too much, I’m gonna start to cry at work, so I’ll just leave it at that.

To put my sales cap on for a second, if you’re already a member, I hope you’ll continue to support the site in the future (memberships renew automatically, so you shouldn’t need to do anything)…or even increase your membership level if you’ve enjoyed what I’ve done here in the past year. If you’ve disabled the auto-renewal of your membership or let your membership lapse, I hope you’ll consider rejoining…without recurring support, an independent member-supported kottke.org is unlikely. And if you’re a regular reader and not yet a member, it’s never too late to join up…there are lots of membership options.

Ok, sales pitch over. Thanks again for your support. Now, back to it!