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    blog.readup.comBill Loundy2/22/217 min
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    • interruptingstarfish3 months ago

      Hey @bill, business owner here. You've got a great concept and a solid beta product, but I'm unconvinced of your business model. You've made several assumptions in your plan and I'm curious to know why.

      • Current growth is slow. You said you need rapid growth. How does adding the friction of a paywall speed up growth?
      • Your value prop is solid, but who cares? What evidence do you have that people will pay for the transparency you're selling? E.g. my subscription to the New Yorker already pays writers to do their job so why would I pay more on your platform?
      • If I'm a writer, why would I choose to publish on Readup as opposed to Medium? Just because of trust? I hope you're right (that your honesty is valuable) but I'm unconvinced. Medium/Substack/etc. have waaaaaay more readers so I can make more money today. And do writers have exclusivity clauses in their contracts that might prevent them from making money outside of their org?

      I want you to know that I'm on your side and your product is 100% groovy. However, I'm uncertain that your quality is as strong of a competitive advantage as you think it is.

      • bill
        Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
        3 months agoWriter

        Lots of great points.

        How does adding the friction of a paywall speed up growth?

        The friction of a paywall will be more than made up for by the fact that the entire product is going to finally start making sense. Right now, people see Readup and don't understand what it is. When these updates go live, that problem will be history. People will see Readup and immediately get it.

        What evidence do you have that people will pay for the transparency you're selling?

        Great question. Let me put it this way: Everyone, everywhere is freaking the f*ck out about Facebook/Insta, Twitter, etc, for one simple reason: The business model isn't built to serve you, end-user, it’s built to use you and serve advertisers. Readup is - finally (!) - the world's first fully humane technology platform, a complete alternative to all of that. A premium, fully-loaded social platform that is entertaining, enriching, etc (a bicycle for the mind) is something you should pay for. That's part of the trust-building exercise.

        make more money today.

        YUP! That's what makes this so exciting. You're 100% right. Readup is a bit of a sleeping dragon right now.

        I'm uncertain that your quality is as strong of a competitive advantage as you think it is.

        Don't rub it in!! We're all on pins and needles! The one thing we all agree on: It's worth a shot, and Readup's about to take a really good one. Right?

        I’d appreciate any more advice about what we can do to address the concerns you bring up. You're groovy too @interruptingstarfish! Keep interrupting!

        • interruptingstarfish3 months ago

          Thanks for your reply. And again, I want to reiterate that I'm on your team. My blunt cynicism is a result of growing up on the east coast and from understanding that a good business is more than a good idea.

          I appreciate your passion and I love what makes you different (honestly, transparency, users as users and a product as a product, etc.) but that does not mean you have a viable business.

          Yes, people are freaking out about FB and their unethical privacy policies...yet billions of people a day still use FB despite this. Who is your target market? I'm unclear if they overlap with FB users. Folks use FB/Insta/Twitter to share quick ideas, catch up on pictures, and rant about random shit. None of those goals are served by ReadUp, so methinks you've got a different market. Let's call that market "readers" as opposed to "posters".

          Readers who read are already likely to financially support authors they like, either directly (Medium, Substack) or indirectly through subscriptions (NYT, WashPo, New Yorker, etc.). Will they pay twice to read the same content on ReadUp? If they don't already pay, and they often play skirt-the-paywall, then they probably aren't good customers for you since they're cheap. I doubt the realization of a more equitable model will convince them to open their pocketbooks. Also, do writers have exclusivity contracts with their organizations? Is it legal or ethical for a writer on staff at the New Yorker to be double dipping? I don't know the answer, but you should. (and am I missing something here about being a "verified" writer? Like, do they give ReadUp exclusive content?)

          On growth, I saw that 59 users have the Firefox extension so I'll guess that there are 1000 active users of ReadUp. Please correct me if I'm wrong or send me an NDA and we can continue this convo offline. But let's say I'm close. If you're as good as you think you are, let's optimistically say your conversion is 30% (typical freemium model is 5-10%) so that's 300 people at $15/month which is $54K a year. That's not enough to keep the lights on if you're only taking 5% for operations. If it took you 5 years of organic (free) growth to get to 300 paying subscribers, what's the plan to expand by 10x? And don't just say "well once people see how excellent we are they'll be flocking to our site." WADR that's not how consumers behave. If you're offering a substitutable product (it's the same articles, right?) then subscribers are only paying for the righteous equity. Sadly, I don't know that enough people care.

          However, once you know who is willing to pay, how do you define that consumer and how do you find more of them?

          It's 100% worth a shot to try and monetize your excellent reading platform, and in doing so treat customers and authors fairly. However, you only get one shot. Lauren Oyler will give you 5min once, but that's it. I'd encourage you to be highly strategic about how you build your base of writers, and how you are engaging your customers to pay. Are you familiar with rapid prototyping?

          I'd love to chat with you more about your game plan for soliciting authors. I've made tens of thousands of sales calls in my career and just as there is a formula for business, so too is there a formula for an effective phone call. If you're keen to dive deeper HMU at interruptingstarfish@gmail.com.

          • bill
            Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
            3 months agoWriter

            That's not enough to keep the lights on if you're only taking 5% for operations.

            Your math (and numbers estimates) are all spot on. Remember though that until Writers start cashing out we hold all the money. So Readup becomes a bank.

            Just emailed you.

      • skrt3 months ago

        obviously not a member of the Readup team, but this comment did pique my interest

        If I'm a writer, why would I choose to publish on Readup as opposed to Medium?

        My impression was that a writer's Medium post could be "posted" on Readup by a reader (simply linked as opposed to hosted)? So no writers would be faced with the choice, Medium vs. Readup?

        • interruptingstarfish3 months ago

          I think you're right about how posts are shared on Readup. I'm not a lawyer, but my guess is that writers who have a paid deal with Medium have some kind of exclusivity clause, so I doubt they'd be able to make money on the same article from two different sites.

          @Bill - I'm sure you've looked into the legal issues here with copyright, etc. Do you have an answer to this? Do you know if contracts exist between writers and publishers like Medium and The New Yorker?

      • thorgalle3 months ago

        Hey starfish! (is this you?) Loved the grounded criticism. This actually set me off yesterday on a small research journey on Medium's payment model, and how Readup would compare to it. I wrote a back-of-the-envelope calculation on Notion since it was a bit long to comment. Would love to hear your thoughts.

        • bill
          Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
          3 months agoWriter

          That "blog post" is amazing! Can I publish that on the blog, officially?!

        • interruptingstarfish3 months ago

          Hey Thor, no that's not me but this is. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

          You've got some good points, but I don't think they're relevant to the viability of Readup as a business.

          Yes, Medium isn't clear about what % of revenue goes to the writers. Does that matter? In order for Readup to have transparency as a competitive advantage, consumers need to care enough to pay for that. I don't see evidence of this. However, maybe I'll eat my words when Bill flips on the pay switch and sees 85% conversion! I totally agree that Readup is "better" in this regard, but that's my opinion and not based on market indicators.

          While Readup might pay writers more per minute, your calculation is assumptive at best and irrelevant at scale. If Medium has 100x the userbase of Readup then writers are better off with Medium. Does Medium allow for its writers to double-dip on postings?

          On your language regarding writers "convincing" readers to read to completion, is that really the way it works? Shouldn't the system be sharing articles with readers who want to see it? Are you suggesting that the onus of garnering attention is on the writer in addition to the platform? This seems an unnecessary and unsustainable burden.

          In general I agree with you that Readup is "better" for a lot of reasons, but I don't believe that means they have a viable business model.

    • thorgalle3 months ago

      Free Readup is a free utility. Paid Readup is a two-sided marketplace.

      This perfectly summarizes a complex transition. I'm beyond excited for a near future with more flow-state reading, more listening, more paid writers, and respect for human beings on the internet.

      • bill
        Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
        3 months agoWriter

        Here's the Readup Trust Recipe:

        • Blog (read-worthy, real, deep looks into Readup)


        • Privacy and ToU (Readable, ethical contracts)


        • Transparency (See where the money goes, down to the penny; see how the algorithms work, down to the source code; open and decentralize everything)

        = Trust

        1. Update (2/23/2021):

          If we stay human and stay real, we're good. This is an important ingredient if we're gonna verify hundreds of prolific writers in a few months. They need to trust us.

    • Florian3 months ago

      Super exciting 🥳

      • bill
        Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
        3 months agoWriter


    • bartadamley
      3 months ago

      Goodness. That Pie Chart Graphic for paying writers really does look wonderful. Reminds me of a Color Wheel. Do we have a name for this yet?

      Regardless, this hypothesis is something that gets me pumped up. I fundamentally believe in Readup's mission, to create a better experience online... where you know individuals are giving their undivided attention on a given topic for a particular read.

      I want an internet where conversations are context-dependent. Readup is helping move the needle on this exact problem space.

      • bill
        Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
        3 months agoWriter

        Dude, btw, I have done so much thinking about the Writer Hit List and how hard we gotta hit it. Me and you need to get these people every single day.

        • "Hey, your article might win AOTD"
        • "Hey, cash out $44 that your articles have earned you on Readup"
        • "Hey, why aren't you verified yet?"
        • "Hey, that one epic piece you wrote five years ago is really trending on Readup. We have seven hundred bucks for you."

        I'm going to sign a blood oath with the community of Readers:: I, personally, am going to make sure that every single one of the top 100 (living) overall-earning Writers on Readup hears about Readup from me personally. That's the spark that sets this whole thing off. At that moment, all of these Writers are going to look at each other in some kind of giant Groupthinky collective shrug, asking each other, Is this Readup shit for real? And we'll be like, Yes. Yes it is. And a solid bunch of them (hopefully most of the ones who actually do the reading) are gonna be like Okay, I'm in.

        Main reason I'm so psyched is that this gives me an excuse/reason to hit up the Patricia Lockwoods and Murakamis and Jonathan Franzens of the world. And half of the staff at The New Yorker. Both Oyler and Tolentino. Zomg. This job is so beyond.

        Can't. Wait. We're getting close!

      • bill
        Top reader this weekTop reader of all timeScoutScribe
        3 months agoWriter

        Good point: Does the chart need a title? Is My Impact not enough? I think I thought I already named it lol

        Jeff plucked the chart from some opensource library. We both love the colors!

        I'm just remembering how the rest of the site is so monochrome (except bright green pops for (1) article completion and (2) the "post" button) this new burst of color should really stand out, which is good. Last time we had so much color going on was the Pizza Challenge lolol 🍕🤣

        My iPhone (entire device) is monochrome black/white so I'll just have to imagine the beauty either way ✌️😁 🧚‍♂️🌈🦄

      • thorgalle3 months ago

        I want an internet where conversations are context-dependent.

        Thought-provoking! Which other conversations on the internet would you want to have context-dependent? I can imagine that YouTube comments are one such place (you must watch the video first!), but I'm curious for other examples.

    • monstertuck3 months ago

      Also, more Readers on Readup means better comments and conversations, higher quality articles in the AOTD game, better Discovery, and more opportunity for competition on the Leaderboards. In countless ways, growth leads to more growth.

      "The Readup Flywheel"

      It is compelling - I see a few things that are needed to make this possible. A really seamless customer onboarding experience. Easy to discover, try, and buy with limited kinks and plenty of helpful tips along the way. Secondly, a robust writer outreach (biz dev) team / effort. While it is compelling to say come get your free money, and it'll be awesome when you can say to writers "you have $47 unclaimed earnings", you will need to make sure there is some sort of recruitment initially to get the writers bought in. Then a seamless onboarding experience for them as well.

      Excited for the future!

      • thorgalle3 months ago

        Great comments! Couldn't agree more.