denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_biz2010-05-04 10:46 pm

The state of the coffers

So, we've closed the books on April, and I'm really pleased to report that we had a fabulous month of sales. We're about 60% of the way to our goal of raising $50,000 to replenish the funds we spent during the months when we were unable to accept credit card/online payments (which is very, very reassuring!) Even more reassuring is that April was the first month we've been (well!) in the black since open beta launch: our income was greater than our regular expenses. This is fabulous news, especially since our predictions didn't expect this to happen until about six months from now. (It's more exciting because so far, May sales are on track for May to be another month in the black.)

I've seen a few people mentioning that the fact we're concentrating so much on raising money, especially so close to our initial launch, troubles them or makes them feel like the site's financial future is less secure, or people saying that the fact we're not reliably in the black yet month-to-month is an indicator of either a) overspending or b) underperforming, sales-wise. (Often heard as: "it costs them what per month? What the hell are they doing over there?")

Please don't worry.

First of all, the reason that we're concentrating so hard on raising money is to replace what we spent to cover the three months where we could only accept online payments intermittently. It isn't a sign of a major shortfall or an immediate urgent cash need: it comes from a desire to restock that "emergency fund" so that if (God forbid) we need to use it again, we'll have it on hand to draw from. The idea is that by restocking now, when times are good, we'll have it on hand in case of disaster.

Meanwhile, the fact that we aren't in the black month-to-month yet is something we'd totally planned: our schedule and business plan gave us plenty of time to get there. We could, at pretty much any point, cut back our monthly expenditure sharply to just "server costs" and have enough income to run the site comfortably for quite a long time. The extra cash is going into investing in our development: paying contractors to help maintain and improve the site, paying our fulltime employee [personal profile] fu to do awesome things for us, paying for other professional services, doing marketing research and usability studies of Dreamwidth (did any of you notice our forays into Google AdWords tests? Results say: I need to work on writing my ad copy like whoa), education like books and courses, travel (to conferences and other things where we both make important industry connections and learn about useful technologies -- site search came out of Mark attending a talk at OSCON '09) ... the list is endless.

So, it might look like we're making stupid decisions, or doing things wrong, or what-have-you, which we knew at the very start would be a major risk with the level of openness we wanted to offer -- Dreamwidth is, among many other things, an experiment in radical business transparency. And we do hold back certain details, because putting them into context would take time away from developing and running DW. But I can tell you, there's totally nothing to be worried about for DW's future. (The fact that we were willing to hire on [personal profile] fu as a full-time employee -- hire her away from her existing job, even! -- should tell you something!)

*

Now, while I've got you all here: As a part of our ongoing process of constantly re-examining our offerings, our processes, our goals, and our structures, it is time for a poll! This poll will ask you certain questions about both your existing and your hypothetical future behavior. I'm calling it the "completely non-judgemental paid account poll", because a lot of times when we make polls like this, people feel like they have to justify why they haven't upgraded their accounts, or why they've had to let a paid account lapse. Please don't! We absolutely do not think less of our free users, and everyone's reasons for paying or not paying are 100% valid for them. We completely respect your choices! This poll is just a way of trying to tease out meaning from some of our business stats, trying to figure out which of our planned or possible enhancements might be popular, and seeing whether there are any barriers to payment that we don't know about. (There are ones we know about, and some of them are things we're working on, and some of them are things we can't quite figure out the best way to handle, etc.)

As always, the results of this poll will be used as another factor in our decision-making; it isn't a guarantee.



For the first few questions, rate them on a scale of 1-5, where 1 is "most likely to buy" and 5 is "least likely to buy". Evaluate them independent of price: in other words, the beginning clause of each question should be "Assume that you considered it a fair price, and had room in your budget for discretionary items".

For the rest of the questions, pick the options that match most closely. If there aren't any perfect matches, but is close enough, pick the close enough. You can clarify in comments if you want, but don't feel obliged. Results visible to me and [staff profile] mark Results visible to [site community profile] dw_biz members. (I screwed up!)

Poll #3012 The Paid Poll
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: Access List, participants: 656

From 1 (most likely) to 5 (least) how likely would you be to buy: A rename token?

Mean: 3.87 Median: 4 Std. Dev 1.36
168 (10.4%)
250 (7.6%)
393 (14.2%)
4129 (19.7%)
5314 (48.0%)

A virtual gift for a friend?

Mean: 3.29 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.36
189 (13.7%)
2106 (16.3%)
3145 (22.2%)
4148 (22.7%)
5164 (25.2%)

An extra icon/userpic add-on (assuming you had to have a paid account first)?

Mean: 3.18 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.39
1102 (15.6%)
2117 (17.9%)
3149 (22.8%)
4130 (19.9%)
5155 (23.7%)

The ability to let people with free accounts who comment in your journal to use paid account comment features?

Mean: 2.90 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.27
1108 (16.5%)
2148 (22.6%)
3193 (29.5%)
4114 (17.4%)
591 (13.9%)

The ability to browse the entirety of the site using SSL encryption, all the time?

Mean: 3.24 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.32
183 (13.0%)
298 (15.3%)
3187 (29.3%)
4122 (19.1%)
5149 (23.3%)

Improved ability to use your domain name with your journal (so that all content comes from your domain)?

Mean: 3.42 Median: 3 Std. Dev 1.30
163 (9.8%)
298 (15.2%)
3171 (26.6%)
4131 (20.4%)
5180 (28.0%)

A bound-book version of your journal (with or without comments included)?

Mean: 3.47 Median: 4 Std. Dev 1.46
194 (14.4%)
295 (14.6%)
3107 (16.4%)
4123 (18.9%)
5233 (35.7%)

Pick the option that most closely defines you:

I have a single free personal account, or all of my personal accounts are free accounts, and I don't plan to upgrade any of them
46 (7.1%)

I have multiple free personal accounts, and I may or may not upgrade one of them
59 (9.1%)

I have multiple free personal accounts, and am planning to upgrade one or more of them as soon as possible
41 (6.4%)

I have a paid/premium paid account, primarily because the features appeal to me
187 (29.0%)

I have a paid/premium paid account, primarily because I want to support Dreamwidth
279 (43.3%)

I have a paid/premium paid account, primarily for another reason
33 (5.1%)

Have you ever bought paid time/points for a friend?

Yes
172 (26.3%)

No
453 (69.3%)

I don't remember
29 (4.4%)

If you currently have a paid/premium paid account, pick the statement that most accurately describes you:

I will absolutely renew it when my time is about to expire
371 (62.8%)

I may or may not renew it when my time is about to expire
90 (15.2%)

I probably won't renew it when my time is about to expire
3 (0.5%)

I definitely won't renew it when my time is about to expire
4 (0.7%)

(I don't have a paid account.)
123 (20.8%)

If you currently have a free account, what's the #1 thing that would make you want to pay for your account?

If you've ever had a paid account and let it lapse back to free, what was the #1 reason for letting it lapse?

What things should DW add or work on to make you want to pay (if you're free) or keep paying (if you're paid)?

Creating more ways to share data with other websites/read things from other websites on DW
333 (55.5%)

Creating better tools for me to post and manage top-level content in my account
254 (42.3%)

Creating ways for me to post other forms of media other than text (pics, vids, etc)
332 (55.3%)

Creating better tools for me to find content on DW I want to read
261 (43.5%)

Creating better tools for me to manage comments & conversations in my journal
214 (35.7%)

Creating more ways for me to be notified of activity I'm interested in within my circle
150 (25.0%)

Creating more ways for me to be notified of activity I'm interested in elsewhere on the site
180 (30.0%)

Creating better tools for community participation
204 (34.0%)

Creating better tools for community administration
140 (23.3%)

What's the single thing that DW should add or work on to make you want to pay (if you're free) or keep paying (if you're paid)?

Creating more ways to share data with other websites/read things from other websites on DW
208 (35.7%)

Creating better tools for me to post and manage top-level content in my account
79 (13.6%)

Creating ways for me to post other forms of media other than text (pics, vids, etc)
131 (22.5%)

Creating better tools for me to find content on DW I want to read
62 (10.7%)

Creating better tools for me to manage comments & conversations in my journal
41 (7.0%)

Creating more ways for me to be notified of activity I'm interested in within my circle
9 (1.5%)

Creating more ways for me to be notified of activity I'm interested in elsewhere on the site
14 (2.4%)

Creating better tools for community participation
23 (4.0%)

Creating better tools for community administration
15 (2.6%)




Meanwhile, some news and updates on features that people have been waiting on: rename tokens are very close to being completed (the first round of code review is in process), vgifts are close to being completed (the first draft of the patch is done, but will likely require a few more drafts, because of the complexity), [staff profile] mark is working on cross-site friends page reading as his primary development priority right now and estimates sometime in June, [personal profile] foxfirefey is working on importing community posts from other LJ-based services and doesn't have a specific time estimate yet but is giving it the majority of her development attention, and [personal profile] fu is concentrating on the mockups of the update page redesign that will be a preface to draft/scheduled posts, which we hope to have done sometime during the summer ... are there any other projects you guys would like a specific status update on?

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