Many of you know this very WordPress blog you are now reading was created last summer with a much larger end-game in mind: CultureWest.Org was conceived as a beta site that would one day magically transition into a fully staffed new media outlet that would exclusively cover all arts and culture disciplines in Denver. One day, when the promised funding was approved, you would click on www.CultureWest.Org, and it would have magically transformed into a major new journalism player in Denver.
Fast forward: OK, so now we know that’s not going to happen. And after an exhilarating, gratifying year laying the groundwork for changing the game in Denver, CultureWest now has … no end game. And I have to find a paying job. And the day that happens is the day CultureWest almost necessarily will have to end.
Or will it?
“Why can’t you just monetize it?”
That’s a question I have fielded many times since it became apparent I have to take my professional goals in another direction. My instincts say you can’t realistically monetize one journalist’s focused coverage of one small (even if passionate) cultural niche (the local theater community) and expect to make a living off of it. There just aren’t enough interested potential subscribers. It made sense to ask readers to consider a subscription fee when there were going to be 10 or 11 contributing writers covering all local arts disciplines in Denver with equal skill and commitment. But just theater?
For me to gross even $40,000 a year — not including taxes, social security and benefits like health insurance (perhaps not surprisingly, this is a priority for me), the math says I would need to find 2,000 people willing to pay $20 a year for what I have happily gone about for the past year producing for free. There are other long-term possible revenue sources, of course: Paid ads, Google AdSense, grants and underwriting. But before I pursue those, I need to be convinced of the site’s potential readership, and of its monetary value to the community.
CultureWest was imagined to change the way stories are told. Long- and short-form video storytelling … Photo essays … Event coverage … Issues … Essays … Interviews … Trends.
But are there 2,000 of you willing to pay for that — enough so that I could consider reporting on the local theater community to be my full-time, paid job again? Logic tells me this is a pipe dream. (Hey, did you know that phrase refers to the dreams smokers had while on opium in the 18th and 19th centuries?).
No one has yet been able to make a media monetization model work. Not really. Not the New York Times. Not a renegade flying solo in northwest Denver. I haven’t even been able to get 2,000 of you to hit “like” on my Facebook page — and that’s free. I wonder if I can even find 2,000 of you to take this survey.
But it will gnaw on me if I turn my full attention to finding another job without at least first asking the question. So today, I am humbly asking you to take my short survey. It simply asks:
Would you be willing to pay a subscription fee to keep CultureWest.Org bringing you innovative coverage of the local theater community?
OK, it’s two. If you answer “yes,” I will also ask to tell me how much you would be realistically willing to pay for CultureWest.Org to continue. The current over/under I am pondering is $20 per subscriber.
I appreciate your participation, and more so, I appreciate your honesty. If your answer is “no,” that is vital, helpful information for me to have. You may be saving me from a fool’s pursuit.
Thank you for your consideration. You may send any additional comment you have either here on this post, or email me at CultureWestJohn@gmail.com.
Go forth and theater.
How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund
The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):