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How I’m Thinking About “The Thing”

Originally published when I announced the soft-launch of “The Thing,” on February 24, 2016.

Alright, so here’s the story: I’m really, really cognizant of the fact that $7 a month is a lot of money. It feels like a lot of money. I can’t even use the line “it’s the price of a cup of coffee!”, because it’s not, unless the hipsters have gotten that bad since I moved out of Williamsburg.

A big part of my thought process was figuring out what to build behind the paywall that’ll make the $7 feel worth it to paying subscribers, but also in a way that does not pull from the quality of my free Tuesday newsletters. Initially, I thought about pulling a full beat vis a vis Ben Thompson’s Stratechery model: aside from the long free Tuesday letter, you’ll get shorter letters on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday that’ll each contain 1 or 2 quick updates. But that would prevent me from being able to tell larger industry narratives effectively — the aggregate story would be unequally distributed across paying and non-paying subscribers. I don’t want to start having to choose whether to throw my best analysis and news bits behind the paywall in any given week, because I really do believe I’m serving the pod community the best by keeping that information source open and accessible to as many non-pod people as possible. But those are both probably moot points: frankly, the last thing you’d want in your life is a lot more emails flooding your inbox.

But I still have to give you adequate reason to feel like the $7 gets you back something material. While I personally view the $7 price point as a price paid for a bundle of two different things — supporting the work I do on Hot Pod, and gaining access to whatever community-driven value I build in “The Thing” — I’m pretty sure it’s cognitively difficult for most folks to view it that way: $7 is $7, and it’s more likely that you’d attribute the whole bulk of that value to whatever I put behind the wall.

So the game, I figured, is to build “The Thing” into something that independently earns its $7 a month price tag, but it would have to do that without relying on or drawing resources from the Tuesday Hot Pod.

I’d have to build a whole new thing.

What does that look like? I don’t really know yet, but I do have a strong sense that there’s something quite unique to be built — from both an operational and value-proposition perspective — if I leaned into the strength of whatever community comes out of the crazy people who become members. Something I constantly hear back from readers (and something that I think about a lot) is that, for them, going through Hot Pod every week makes them feel connected with the rest of the podcast world. So that’s the feeling, the value, that I’ll try to swerve into: to help you feel like you’re more connected to a world that’s bigger than you, but that also includes you.

Hence the upcoming members-only forum, and other stuff beyond written material designed around that principle. Events, conferences, merch, whatever. That’ll all come eventually.

But for now: members get a Friday newsletter. It’ll be wonkier, that it’ll go deeper, that it’ll be written in such a way where I don’t have to worry whether it’s understandable by non-pod and radio folks. And it’ll involve you, the member.

Anyway, that’s the idea. But ideas don’t mean squat — so let’s see if I can pull this off.

Click here to subscribe to “The Thing” for $7 a month.