Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 7:09 pm.

Adventures In Self-Publishing: SplatF’s Six-Month Checkup

Dan FrommerSplatF’s six-month checkup is… a bit late. It’s actually been seven months since I started publishing this site in early July, 2011. Hey, I’ve been busy!

  • I redesigned the site in January, adding new, shorter link-type posts (trendy!) and comments (contrarian!). So far, that’s going pretty well. I’d prefer more and better comments than what I’ve been getting, but community building takes time, and I don’t want garbage. I’m not sure that the short link-posts are adding enough value, but that’s the sort of thing that will take a longer time to figure out and I can keep tweaking.
  • In October and December, I had my two biggest months ever. They’re still small by a normal site’s standards, but for one guy working part-time, ~250,000 views is not bad. Special thanks to Daring Fireball, Techmeme, and Huffington Post (!) for the links. When you send readers here, you’re feeding my family, so I sincerely appreciate it.
  • I passed some fun milestones, like 500 posts, 1+ million total views, 5,000 RSS subscribers, 4,000 @SplatF Twitter followers, 15,000 @FromeDome Twitter followers, etc.
  • But in never-ending focus on quality, not quantity, I’m still more interested in (and impressed with!) the caliber of people reading, following, and tweeting my stuff.

Perhaps the biggest thing to happen to me over the last few months — and to a lot of you, it seems — is experiencing and thinking about Steve Jobs’ death.

Since Steve first stepped down as CEO, and moreso after he died, I just don’t feel the same urgency about tech news as I used to. Almost like there isn’t really anything anymore that can’t wait… that there will never be a truly huge story again.

Maybe that’s true or maybe it’s self-absorbed nonsense, but that’s how I feel. I still love tech and gadgets and writing and this industry as much as ever, but I’m also now operating under the assumption that these things can wait. I hope that translates over time into better work, a better balance, and more happiness.

And I’m still so, so sad that he’s gone.

Splat Gray

Anyway, back to SplatF: As I’ve said from the beginning, one of the reasons I’m doing this is to see if self-publishing online is a viable business. (For some context, see my notes after three months here, and after one month here.) I still don’t have the real answer to that question, but I think it can be.

I’ve sabotaged the experiment a bit, by taking a second job that distracts me from focusing entirely on SplatF, and by spending a bunch of time late last year on freelance and consulting projects. Even with more traffic coming from Google than before, it’s pretty clear that the more time I spend on SplatF, the better it does. So the best possible test to build the most momentum would be spend all of my time writing for this site. A few months of that, and I’d probably get pretty far!

SplatF business cards

Business cards!

But that would probably mean sitting in front of a computer for 12+ hours a day and rarely leaving Brooklyn, so that’s a non-starter. My goals for 2012 include spending less time in front of the computer, traveling as much as possible — Berlin last month, Barcelona in a couple of weeks — and figuring out what I’d like to do for the next ~4-5 years of my life. That’s why I’m pumped to have that travel opportunity with ReadWriteWeb, and that’s why SplatF isn’t able to get my full attention.

One of my goals for the winter and spring is to figure out some ways to diversify the site’s revenue from just advertising/sponsorships. While the ad revenue in aggregate can be good (or not so good) depending on the month, the problem is that the average SplatF visitor still only generates a few cents per visit. Surely some of you are getting more professional and intellectual value than that out of this site, so I’d like to figure out how to balance the equation better.

It’s a little hard to sell subscriptions to an inconsistently published site, but that’s one option. I’ve had a few requests for t-shirts, so I’ll get to that eventually. I don’t think I’ll ever put the entire site behind a paywall — that seems extreme — but perhaps things like the full RSS feed could become “premium” features. Live events are a possibility, but those are tricky to do alone. And consulting, while lucrative, presents other problems. Anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about.

Splat Gray

Big picture summary: I am very happy to be producing a site that’s interesting and valuable, and not driven by PR agendas, lust for ad impressions, sensationalism, laziness, or mediocrity. And I hope we can do this together forever.

As always, I value your ideas, comments, criticism, and advice. Contact me directly or go nuts in the comments section below. And thank you so much for reading and being a part.