On January 9 we will officially launch the new website for The Conversations Network, and along with it some major changes in our business model. As I’ve described in nearly every public presentation and interview in the past six months, we’re closing down the Tip Jar and replacing it with a public-radio style paid membership to support the growth of our new non-profit network. (NB: Membership will NOT be a requirement for access to our audio.) It’s a risky transition, but one we have to make in order to move to the next phase of listener-supported audio on the ‘Net.
13 months ago we opened the IT Conversations Tip Jar in response to popular demand, and it was an immediate success. On April 1 we created Team ITC, our volunteer staff who do all of our post-production work in their spare time. We distribute 100% of our donations to the team, which is part of the formula for our success. to date.
We could have just stopped there. IT Conversations was and is successful, and we have an adequate supply of new and talented volunteers to keep things going at the current levels of 10-12 programs per week. But that’s just for IT Conversations, and we want more. We want to expand our concept beyond IT into…well, quite frankly, everything. With the help of a small number of underwritiers, I’ve been footing the bill for the IT Conversations infrastructure and my own (full) time work for more than 2.5 years, but I can’t expect that of others, so The Conversations Network must become a real business that can stand on its own two feet in every way.
Our non-profit status is highly dependent on community support, particularly from you. While we are moving forward with sponsorship and underwriting for each of our new channels, it won’t be adequate. Our research suggests that enough of your are willing to contribute through paid membership to make up the difference. FYI, here in the U.S., roughly 50% of the budget of public radio comes from listener donations and memberships.
Some of the features we currently offer for free to IT Conversations registered members, such as our Personal Program Queues and other services that require knowing who you are, will only be available to paid members of The Conversations Network. Existing members will be given a free limited-time membership in the new network during the transition.
Just 11 more days to go — Yikes! — as we put the final touches on the web site and the new members-only features. I’m sure the changeover won’t go without a hitch, and I look forward to your feedback during and after.