The newsletter is what John really wants to sell. This is the project that for over a decade he’s been hoping would become a money maker. This is where I kept remembering AA definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
When I came on board, the newsletters price for domestic subscribers was $75 for 4 issues, that’s 4 pages of black and white paper. It was a tad more for International subscribers. There was a “database” of people that were subscribers at one time or another, but it had never been maintained well enough to know who was paying and who got a complimentary issue. They paid the editor $1,100 dollars a month to help write the quarterly newsletter. The cost to produce the newsletter, by administrative staff and company resources (copy machine toner, electricity, paper, use of the copier/printer for this purpose only for over 3 hours, and postage) yes… the cost of all that in addition to the time John and Denise spent writing it, it’s well over $75 in costs. So there is not a profit here at all.
I had started at around the same time that the University of MD had done a study for the company in regards to the newsletter. Their advice was that we needed to give up on the notion of making money on the thing until we had up subscribers. They even went so far as to suggest groups that we should target.
So, two weeks after those results, John called a meeting to figure out who we should target, and how much money we should charge for the newsletter. He again talked about how this was going to make us money, as soon as distribution was high enough. That advertisers would be interested in listing in our newsletter and website as soon as they saw how many people read it. The group brainstormed, we came up with a whole list of targeted audiences.
Three months later, he called a meeting to brainstorm about who we should target to send the newsletter to. At this point, several of us had already been in the previous meeting and heard what UMD had said, but we nodded and smiled and attended the meeting. We did get a free meal after all.
In January of 2008, Denise again suggested that we have a meeting to figure out who to target. At this point, I was on my way out anyway, and said that this had been done at least three times, and perhaps we should look at the data from those previous meetings. They rolled their eyes at me and agreed to do that before calling another meeting.
They looked at the list and decided to bring it to the staff meeting to see what the staff wanted to do in regards to the priority of soliciting people to read the newsletter. I did not attend said meeting.
I will point out to you that I finally figured out in the summer of 2007, that there were approximately 55 people that actually paid for the newsletter. About 200 that we spammed with it, and maybe 100 that asked for an electronic version.