I'm sending this letter with a birthday wish.
Planet Waves

New York, March 9, 2017 | Read on Web

Dear Friend of Planet Waves:

Friday is my birthday, and I'm here with a request. But first, thank you for making our current membership drive such a success. Your response has been beautiful. Your subscriptions are important to the health of Planet Waves, though it's your response that I appreciate the most. I'm seeing names from long ago appear on our list of people who have resubscribed. Thank you!

So, what I want for my birthday (besides health and happiness for me, my friends and my critters) is for Planet Waves to be financially healthy and strong. And we can be. With your help, we will be.

Planet Waves
Painting by Alison Billings.
In this letter, I'm going to disclose certain details about what's been happening behind the scenes the past few years, so you may better understand why I'm saying this.

First, I want you to know that at minimum, it costs $1,000 a day to run Planet Waves.

This goes toward all the usual business expenses: ISP fees, salaries, insurance, equipment, office supplies, rent, internet development costs, reporting costs, my subscriptions to the New York Times and Washington Post, and the handyman who is currently putting high-security hinges on the business office door. This number does not include profit or return on investment.

That's not really a lot of money, when you consider it pays for everything (most professional websites cost in the millions, and high-tech has a good few billionaires). Our total annual budget is less than Rachel Maddow is paid for three weeks of work.

However, since 2014, we've lost 28% of our revenue. As I've said previously, this has kept me up many nights, and the next day I'm right back at work.

Yet people remain as passionate as ever about Planet Waves, if you judge by our feedback. I am often thanked for being a beacon in dark times, or for being the only source of news that many of my readers trust. We have kept a core readership that is deeply and sincerely supportive. Our highest-level subscribers generously offer $1,111 a year.

We've sussed out many reasons for declining subscription revenue, using both business analysis and media theory. The 'smart' phone is part of the problem; we're a deep-thinking publication, and the phone does not encourage depth, or patience, or anything except selfies, or swiping left and right. We introduced a new integrated website in 2014, which upgraded service for you but, due to working with incomplete information, caused a serious problem with our search engine ranking.

And the internet has always had a little problem, which is the expectation that information-based services should be free. Nobody expects a free set of sheets from Eddie Bauer, but if you're a writer, well, that's supposedly different.

What we do costs money, and we have a profound commitment to quality work. As a former or current subscriber, you're one of the people who appreciates that. Nearly all online astrology is given away free. This sets a very low bar. We, as you know, have a high bar.

Here's another fun fact: When Planet Waves started, there were 25,000 websites in existence. Today there are 250,000,000 active domains on the internet. That's a lot of competition

Planet Waves
Painting by Alison Billings.
I've compensated for the subscription thing by tightening the budget. We now work with only the most essential staff. Everyone on board is working with extra focus and productivity.

We took nearly all programming work in-house, and pay contractors only when absolutely necessary. I reduced my pay, to make sure the impact on my colleagues and clients was minimized. I donate a portion of my consulting fees to the company.

I've also compensated by creating more one-off reading products: birthday readings, the spring and midyear readings, and the annual edition. While these are all successful, they take considerable work and talent to create -- and they are seasonal. Once they stop selling, that revenue is gone, till I do something else.

We run Planet Waves 24/7/365. The way to sponsor that is with subscriptions, which provide you with year-round astrology and news, and provide us with year-round income. The cost is modest, and the return is wholesome: you get something useful, and unique in all the world -- and something made with love.

Through all of this, here's what did not happen: we did not give up, and we did not cut back services. In fact, I've gone out of my way to improve every facet of what we do, and to add fun items like a weekly YouTube video.

One other thing.

We are committed to dependability. We publish on time, with consistent quality. All of us here want to do what we do with impeccability.

Please join me in my mission of co-creating Planet Waves. Please renew, upgrade or extend your subscription. Here are some fun options.


PS -- Since we have such excellent momentum, I have set a fundraising goal of an additional $25,000 for this drive. It would not take many renewals to do that -- just 250 or so. If we can reach that goal, I can pay some bills, solve some technical problems and have a cushion left over. Please join with me to make that happen. Thank you. Here are your membership options. You may write to me if you want to become a Galaxy Pass holder.

PPS -- If you're already a member or subscriber and would like to make a donation, here's a link where you may do that. Thank you.