Louder Than Ten is, and always has been, a breeding ground for experimentation. Today we’re making some big changes to the experiment we’re most proud of: Coax.
Operating a digital magazine in 2016 doesn’t look good on paper. In fact, it would probably be more profitable if it literally was on paper according to our optimistic, pulp-imbued kin. Luckily for us, Coax is a labour of love and not something we ever planned to pay the rent with (though we’d be ever so grateful if it did).
Coax gives us the perfect platform to experiment with publishing formats, push our design chops, and most importantly, work with writers making meaningful content in a world saturated with click-bate, top-ten lists, ad tracking, and corporate marketing garbage. It’s something we believe in, and something we think, with a little luck and a lot of support, can be home to a well of original thoughts and stories for years to come.
Not all of our Coax experiments have been successful. We’ve tried a lot in a little over a year. Let me share our brief, but eventful journey…
Some of the less favourable results feel obvious in hindsight, but if we didn’t try them, we wouldn’t be where we are now:
We briefly dipped our toes into the sewagy pit of advertising. The idea of tracking people and ugly ads was a major turn-off, so we proposed a simple, tracker-free model where we would design the ads to fit with the site design. Except for the really awesome partners that we tried it with, it turns out, many more companies just want to track your behaviour and don’t care about the appearance of their ads. Selling ad space is also ridiculously difficult and time consuming. Fuck that. We’d rather have an ad-free publication anyway. Good riddance.
Alongside our cute advertising experiment, we also tried a more palatable subscription approach. Early on, as we experimented with releasing article batches wrapped in issues (more on that later), we thought of a potentially fun way to engage our biggest fans.
Subscribers could take an early peek at articles in development and follow along with the design & editing process before the issue was released publicly. Subscriptions were free for the first two issues. We learned three things from this:
- Plenty of people will sign up for a free preview subscription
- Hardly anybody will pay $30/yr for it (to those that did, we love you)
- No one cares about following the grimy editorial process.
Subscriptions are a fine idea for some publications, but they aren’t for us. For readers, even $30 per year feels like an understandably big commitment. And for Coax: to receive $30 once per year from the few folks who believe in us enough to put their money where their high fives are, it’s just not enough to sustain it (though we appreciate it immensely… have I mentioned that?). At our modest size, it’s sort of a lose-lose for everyone.
If you’ve been following since our launch, you may have noticed a few changes in our release formats, most notably, with issues. We began with a romantic idea of releasing thematically-related articles in a tidy batch, compiled for a nice weekend of reading. Of course, nobody reads anything like that on the internet. Most articles didn’t get their chance to shine, and now we have a big collection of underrated, and unseen work (see sidebar). As we began to roll out issue 5, we dropped the batches and released each piece as it was completed in order to “build” up the issue. Much better for each piece, but something still wasn’t right. Issues themselves required additional midnight oil and couldn’t stand on their own in a way we felt good about.
Still, we very much like the idea of thematic flow. It’s something most online publications probably don’t think about, but something that is core to the printed magazine experience. As of today, issues are gone, but not our flow. We’re going to do our best to control the release of stories in thematic sequences rather than set groups. More like a never-ending playlist than a closed album. This gives us more thematic flexibility around publishing and allows us to focus on quality rather than “filling up the issue.” Yet it’ll still let us feature our latest and greatest Coax pieces.
A new hope
There’s been a lot of chatter about the financial feasibility of online publishing. The badgery of distraction by social media networks, frustration with ad tracking, and a lack of inspiration from the traditional outlets have vexed many a publisher.
The fact is, publishing well produced, original writing is hard. Making it profitable online is insanely difficult. Doing it without blocking you from the content or tracking you like the NSA is almost unheard of. Doing it all while Facebook and Medium continue to suck the attention out of the room makes it feel downright impossible. But that’s also why it’s important to us. We’re not done fighting, but we need your help.
Beginning today, you can show your support for gritty, real life stories that you won’t find anywhere else. You can contribute for as little as a dollar or as much as $10. No commitments. No tracking (other than some basic analytics). Just a nice monetary pat on the back when you read something you appreciate. It supports our writers, our community, and it helps us fight the corporate bullshit floating in your browser window.
Here’s how it works:
Move the slider up or down to choose a contribution amount, fill out your payment details and hit “contribute.”
It’s ad free and accessible to everyone with an internet connection. Your contributions will go directly to Coax to help pay for writing, editing, artwork, design, and ongoing development. Specifically, we’d like to…
- Increase contributor payouts
- Hire Marshall, our beloved editor, for even more editing
- Make Coax self-sustaining so it is relying less on Louder Than Ten investment
- Continue to put care into the design and editing process and publish pieces that are timeless and just as relevant ten or more years from now
- Generate enough income and interest to produce a printed annual compendium of our favourite articles (are you guys interested in this? Tweet us)
This is a small first step. We’ve got big plans for this model and I can’t wait to share more as features develop. If you feel like kicking over a few bucks, give that slider below a little spin.