WE'VE LAUNCHED A RANGE OF MEMBERSHIP PASSES
A LETTER FROM BLOKELY'S FOUNDER ON AN EXCITING FUTURE
By James York, 6 November 2011
I interrupt this digital broadcast to bring news of changes afoot here at Blokely HQ. It's been a fantastic ride so far - we've achieved so much, published hundreds of stories, interviewed some amazing people and worked with some fantastic columnists, James Anderson being our latest. It's not often that I rear my ugly head to speak directly to readers, but this is an important subject.
Throughout this growth period, I've been thinking about what kind of a future to usher in for this marvellous brand's readers. It is with great pleasure that I now announce the first major step in the evolution of Blokely. It's a measured change and it's one that I have thought long and hard about.
We're launching a fleet of membership passes and two new digital editions. We're to make much of our content exclusive and member-only. Alongside that content, we'll be publishing one "free" story each day as part of a free rolling news panel. Anyone will be able to take a look at our range of passes on offer and select the right one for them or give a pass as a uniquely thoughtful gift to someone they care about.
This might come as a surprise to many, but it makes complete sense to us and hopefully, more sense to you, once you've finished reading my explanation. Rest assured, one cup of franchise coffee a month is about the extent of the dent that anyone's wallet will bear- even less, should a longer pass be selected. We're already absolutely worthy of that investment. We don't write news stories and we put all our best content online - there's no print version of Blokely!
Existing readers, for their amazing loyalty so far, are to be offered substantial incentives to join and take up a pass for our content - they'll just need to check their email account for our newsletter containing a promo code, it will be there. But we're always looking for more captains to fill our ranks, more people to discover Blokely.
In addition to unlimited access to all the original content we'll ever create, we've decided we won't serve any display adverts to readers. They will, for the foreseeable future, be incrementally removed from our member-only content. Members are protected from the ad-man's flashing jibber-jabber. We'll also ensure that our members can also enter lower fixed-odds competitions for some really great prizes - rather than those free for alls we see so often. We'll continue to be work-safe so that anyone can enjoy us without the boss sending an official warning.
We create magazine-grade content for the digital spectrum and we believe it should always be of a high quality and focus on entertaining people. We aim to make original content which is completely unique to the site; many of our columnists are exclusive to us and our staff writers only write their content for Blokely's use. We create for the reader. It takes time to do that and it's in an environment that's constantly evolving: our task will never be "complete".
But it's our job is to look at how consumers will be meeting content in the future: it's increasingly going to be in the digital world. Tablet devices are going to become more widespread, Kindles and e-readers more popular, and mobiles even more effective. Blokely is perfectly poised to offer consistently original content on these platforms. This is only going to be possible if we invest in our writers and infrastructure (snore - he's using jargon).
Stocking the platform with content means employing skilled writers who are primed to entertain. The problem is, as many will of you know, the internet is currently "funded" by adverts. Whilst many might enjoy "free" content, it isn't actually free [we all pay with our privacy and attention]. It is also far from free to create - we can't expect our creative and well-trained professionals to write for free, although we do also host the cream of up and coming amateur columnists. Whilst ads make some online ventures money, they require vast scale to work. That takes time and a distribution model to fit it. The internet is now far from the anarchic utopia it promised to be. Whilst Google and Facebook get richer, the barriers to digital growth get a little higher each day. A free model has simply led to a deluge of information - making it a bit overwhelming and devalued. I don't believe it's the wisest model to follow - for reader or publisher.
Were we to succeed with an ad model to fund our writers, we would be forced to write content for search engines and "news". Everyone is doing this, it's true. But if everyone jumped off a cliff, it still wouldn't make it rational. The fact is, most of the older brands you know online have a print publication - many magazine brands consciously avoid putting their very best "print" content online. They'd have to give it away for less - not something they're keen on either. So they get stuck writing for the "digital reader" - who ironically is the same person that used to buy their magazine. We're not trying to be different, we just are.
We've crunched numbers, based on our current impressive growth, and projected our hearts out. Frankly, ads won't give us the freedom to do what we know will be innovative, fresh and new. What's the point in following the crowd over the cliff? Steve Jobs knew that, in all his infinite foresight. Those that look at "now" rather than the future do not have you, the consumers', best interests at heart. Their product will not reach the heights of near-perfection. "Now" isn't ambition or philosophy, it doesn't build an inspirational product.
To grow in that ad model, we'd have to surrender our editorial ideals and innovative philosophy. I'm not prepared to do that to readers. The future is digital, but there is no reason why digital content should not be of magazine-grade quality in that future.
To usher in this new future we have already improved things for you all. We've created a new Kindle edition, which will be updated every Monday, we're starting a book club especially for this edition (more news will follow on that).
There will also be a new "M.Blokely" mobile edition launching in parallel. This will make the site much easier to load on smartphones and will also feature a few of our free-to-read stories. It can be quickly consumed on the move, wherever you have a signal. It also looks typically slick, in good Blokely style.
In addition to that, we've drafted in reinforcements. There will be a new section launching: Geek. This will feature more technology, web and gaming stories, plus some of the fairer sex. We've had a lot of people asking for more ladies to grin at, so we've decided we'll do it our way. There will never be a nipple (or more) on Blokely, so if anyone looking for that kind of thing can go somewhere else that caters for it.
Besides that, the site will quickly evolve in ways that will reward people for reading, we cannot wait to invest more, making the Blokely experience a truly practical and enriching one. This isn't just talk, the next evolution will happen within weeks. We will walk the walk.
Ask yourself what kind of a digital content future you want - because we see one where the consumer is No.1. It's not a tough equation really and it's just going to take the price of one less pint to help make it reality; it's not like that solitary pint was doing anyone's brain or health any favours anyway.
This is a pretty complex undertaking, so I apologise for any bumps and glitches in advance, we'll do our best to make the transition as smoothly as possible and get back to normal business as usual.
Many thanks for your time and ongoing support of a Blokely future. You can follow this link to find out more about the passes. Now get on the barricade, pick up a story to read or give a man Blokely - this is about as brave and revolutionary as it gets.