This isn’t going to be what you might expect, as we notice that a lot of publications – including that declining newspaper out of New Orleans and Baton Rouge – have resorted to berating their readers about money, asking for donations and so forth. We’re not interested in doing that. We’re more interested at this point in advice and feedback from our readers about how best to handle The Hayride’s content delivery going forward – and how to do it so we can turn a profit.
Currently, we have a business model which up until the COVID-19 mess came along was reasonably viable – and with The Hayride’s growing audience in Texas, we were hoping to make it more so this year. Namely, the big monetizing factor for us was Hayride tour events, which particularly in Baton Rouge and the New Orleans area have been very well-attended and reeled in enough money to keep the site afloat. Because of the event-marketing portion of our business, we haven’t had to resort to putting Hayride content behind a paywall. That’s something we really don’t believe in, because this isn’t just a business – there’s a mission behind it, which is to offer an alternative to the left-wing bias of the legacy media, and you don’t really offer that alternative to the people who probably need most to see it if you’re hiding your content. We bring in some ad revenue from site sponsors and third-party ad networks, but ad network revenue is now controlled by the Big Tech people and they pay scandalously little to publishers.
The plan this year was to start doing events in Texas – specifically Houston, Austin and Dallas. Right now we’re a little skittish about what the future of event marketing will be for the foreseeable future. Within the next month or so we expect it’s going to be possible to do events like the dinners and receptions we were regularly putting on until the virus blew them up, but what we don’t know is whether it will be profitable to do so. And without it being the latter, we’re not sure how that’s going to work.
Which puts us at a bit of a crossroads.
That said, traffic on The Hayride right now is nothing short of amazing. We’ve had more than a million user sessions on the site so far this year, and just less than three million page views in 127 days, making this potentially our best year since the site went live in late 2009. The traffic is accelerating, too – March, April and May so far have been considerably busier than January and February. Within that, though, we’re finding that 40 percent of that traffic is recurring readership, which is a really high number, and eighty percent of it comes on mobile devices.
Bringing us to the subject we want your advice on.
We’ve heard from many of you about a glitch that keeps popping up, in which The Hayride will start to download on a mobile device and then lock up for a while, something that will require multiple “refresh” swipes to clear. That’s caused by some bad code flowing through one or more of the digital ad networks we work with, and it’s irritatingly difficult to flush out of our ad stack. It drives us crazy and we know it drives you crazy as well.
What if we were able to present to you a Hayride mobile app that would be available for a nominal monthly fee, and the app would be either completely or almost completely ad-free?
It’s a little like offering a subscription in lieu of advertising, but perhaps we would include some premium content like podcasts, etc.
We want your advice on this, because it seems like with mobile devices becoming such a dominant delivery medium it’s time to reorient how we deliver content, and many of you have told us the ads are getting in the way. Maybe this could be how everybody wins.