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Knowing what counts, without the quota
Last week, the Medialyte newsletter ran an interview with Pipe Wrench’s favorite Catherine that included this question and answer:
Is it the hope that Pipe Wrench will become a full-time job for its members? What kind of financial and audience goals have you set internally?
We expect the business to sustain itself. Michelle and I both work second jobs that we intend to bequeath to successors when the time comes. There are break-even numbers.
But to quote Margarita Noriega, “Metrics are not goals. And goals are not values.”
Because she is a professional, Catherine did not reveal that our only defined audience goal is currently “Morten Harket.” But we’ve also been talking a lot lately about what success looks like, and what we want to track to demonstrate success. And sure, there are the normal things: overall traffic, unique visitors, subscriber growth, shares. Things you have to pay attention to if you want to make sure you can keep existing; our bootstraps are only so long.
But aside from break-even subscription numbers, any number goals for visitors and growth are forecasts at best, and at this stage, they’re not the point of the project. We’re not starting a magazine to get 10,000 subscribers, and no investors are asking us about our month-over-month Twitter growth. Those things are part of sustainability, but they don’t define the success or failure of the magazine. They’re not why we’re doing this, so they don’t tell us whether we’re doing well. At least, not by themselves.
(If I’m being 100% honest with you, as I always am: selfishly, I did want to start my own subscription-supported business partly to never have to respond to an investor email about month-over-month Twitter growth. It’s a significant boon to my quality of life.)
What will define Pipe Wrench’s success? That’s a work in progress, but it’s things like:
- Seeing unexpected relationships grow between feature writers and their conversation partners.
- Putting the bulk of the subscription income we generate into the hands of BIPOC, women, non-binary, and queer creators.
- Getting personal emails from y’all.
- Increasing the percentage of pitches that come from BIPOC writers, and the number of BIPOC-led publications that partner with us.
If those things are happening, that means that we’re creating real relationships with readers, broadening our networks, sowing the seeds of collaboration, and building a space where marginalized creators feel supported. That we’re creating a sustainable and sustaining community. If those things are happening but no one subscribes, those things will stop happening, i.e., we’ve failed. If people subscribe but we’re not seeing those outcomes, we’re not meeting our stated goals, i.e., we’ve failed. But if those things happen and people are reading and subscribing so we can keep doing the things: success.
The week in Pipe Wrench
Can it be that our April 1 goal for 250 Founding Subscribers is only a week away?! It’s a great time to subscribe if you haven’t already. It feels good, and you can say you were a subscriber back before we won our first Pulitzer and then demolished the Pulitzer system so it could be replaced with an intersectional collective.
- Catherine! Medialyte! You should really read the whole thing, because there’s a great part at the end about pancakes and Catherine’s “serious professional” photo is a thing of stern beauty.
- Our crack website team, aka a great guy named Michael, is heading into the homestretch of the actual layout for the first issue.
- We had a video call with some more partner publications, including our newest: the RIP Corp podcast, our business experts.
- Conversation pieces for issue one are starting to roll in. It’s happening!
For anyone else who needs something to watch.
Speaking of responding to our emails: thank you to everyone who sent Michelle recommendations. She’s got two seasons of ER left, and then she’ll start working down your lists. For anyone else who’s looking for something new (or new-to-you), or some escapism, here are your TV recommendations — including Recommendations You Can Trust From a Professional Television Critic — in no particular order.
One of these is incredibly specific to Michelle, from someone who knows her. See if you can figure out which one! It’s a fun game for the whole family. We’ll give you two guesses, but if you’ve been paying attention you’ll only need one.
- Parts Unknown
- Ice Vikings
- Six Feet Under
- Mad Men
- Life Below Zero
- Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries
- Carmen Sandiego
- Golden Girls