My blog had a good run… over eight years of my life documented, examined, photographed and shared. But over the summer, as I was hugely pregnant with my third child and roadtripping across the US in a VW van, I had an epiphany: I wanted to live in a mountain town and become a ski bum.
Most people don’t decide things like this at 39, with three kids, but unlike most people, I made a full-time career out of following my whims with complete abandon. Living in the Colorado Rockies sounded like fun. It was completely different from hopping from one international city to the next, which had largely been my method to keeping myself well-connected, working online, while still traveling all these years. It would give me what I got from biking across Europe a few years ago, with two kids and camping — but with better internet access. I’d have the daily adrenaline rush of outdoor activities, raise my children as wild and adventurous as I wanted, and I could have a place to finally lay down my backpack after so many years on the road. Homebase. Sounded perfect. The only question was: wait, what about my blog?
My life had just taken a hard right turn. How do I continue to write personal accounts of my life of travel, when in fact I’d probably only be traveling two or three times a year? Obviously something had to change.
I really love blogging and I think I’m good at it. I love and crave the online interaction with my community. I wasn’t prepared to just throw all that away. I liked being a writer and talking to my audience on a daily basis.
So for me, keeping the blog going had to part of the equation. I’ve been coaching bloggers for years now and that’s not always the advice I give. Sometimes people ask, “how do you do it all?” — the answer is that I only do things that I love and that I’m obsessed with. That’s how you blog for eight years, while traveling across 40 countries, having three babies along the way, writing a book, filming a documentary, writing a half-dozen ebooks and almost a dozen e-courses. You choose your projects selfishly. You dream up the most decadent, lovely, wonderful thing you’d just love to be a part of, then you do it (or often, you strategize on how to build the platform to get there, so you can get to do it).
I love blogging, so I want to keep blogging. I’m a chatty writer. It works for me.
But I had this question of how to make this interesting for myself, how to get myself deliriously happy about the prospect of continuing to blog under the Almost Fearless banner, even if I was living in Colorado and not backpacking around the world.
There was a second piece to my decision: I’m ready for a bigger challenge. I’m ready to build a company. I’m ready to become a publisher. I want to create a print magazine.
I look at Outside magazine and I think: I want that. I look at Afar, and I’m like: why not me?
It was good luck that these two feelings came together at the same time. I was making a change in my personal life and in professional life I felt ready to tackle the next level.
Finally, the third thing happened: I found a model business that seemed to be working. Running a multi-author site is expensive if you pay writers. Here’s roughly the breakdown:
Cost for an article: $150- $300 (.30 cents a word)
Typical advertising rates: $5 per 1,000 views
Number of views per article to break even: 30,000 – 60,000
At about 20 articles a month, you need more than 600,000 page views to break even. There are other monetization methods, other than ads. You could have a shop and create products or run affiliate programs. But you’d need those revenue sources to pay your salary and most likely the salary of at least one editor, just to stay afloat.
600,000 views. That’s a challenging number.
So how do you make a multi-author site pay-off? The light bulb moment for me was running into a small magazine publisher in Wyoming and seeing how they did it. First, they had multiple titles. Then their team was splitting their time across publications. The sales manager was the contact for all the sites. The editors worked on all the publications. The expenses were sliced across all their niche publications, and ultimately they reached half a million or more people, with no single publication breaking above 100,000.
In fact, this is the way most magazines make it work. There are some super stars that grow into massive brands, but for your regular niche publisher, they are putting out a half-dozen magazines per month, using the same sales team, the same layout artists, the same editors.
This realization on my part, coupled with the timing, lead me to the decision to scrap Almost Fearless the personal blog, and to convert it to a multi-author site with a print magazine component. I would build everything as systems that could be duplicated for future publications. In the travel / adventure / outdoor niches it’s easy to come up with magazine ideas. I want a magazine just called Yurt. I’d like one for the Modern Homesteader. Maybe there would be some future titles like Secular Homeschooling or special travel issues like Skiing Japan or Treking Nepal (with kids!).
This is uncharted terroritory for me, but well-worn path for publishers. When that came together, I did a long careful gut check and I felt a resounding yes. I’m not sure how it will work out, but it sounds like fun. That’s all I needed to know.
This is the first post in a series about my process going from a narrative blog to a magazine publisher. I’m calling it #maglife. Want to receive updates just when there’s a new post in this series? Subscribe here.