What is more profitable blogging or podcasting

Living as a blogger or podcaster on a membership program: Steady wants to make it possible

Refinancing journalism in the digital age - not only are the big publishers (still) working on this thick board, but also startups like Blendle, Laterpay, Readly or Flattr. For almost two years now, the Berlin team at Steady has been trying to find its own solution, which focuses on reader memberships. According to its own information, Steady has generated more than one million euros in sales with this model so far. OMR spoke to one of the founders.

If you are more or less regularly on the German blog landscape, you have probably met Steady before: With the Bildblog and Nerdcore, two long-serving and well-known publications in their field have integrated Steady. “Media journalist” Stefan Niggemeier also uses the product for his latest project Übermedien. And with the Postillon and the Titanic, the Steady team has won probably the largest German satirical media as users.

"A membership is more than a subscription"

Gabriel Yoran (Photo: Steady)

The idea: "If you incorporate Steady into your publication, you can sell memberships," explains co-founder Gabriel Yoran in an interview with OMR. In the ideal case, membership goes beyond a simple subscription, Yoran continues. "The bond between the media maker and his audience is closer."

The content creators can decide for themselves which possible services and additional services to offer their paying members at what price and, for example, define different packages. The only conditions are: Membership costs at least one euro per month. And: Steady keeps ten percent of the membership fees; In addition, there are the costs for payment processing. "The average membership fee is currently 5.12 euros."

"It's about reliable income"

Not offering one-off payments or micro-payments was a conscious decision, according to Yoran. “The thing is called Steady because it's about steady income.” Most Steady publishers are lone fighters or small teams with a maximum of 15 employees. "Such publications in particular have to have regular paying members because they do not have such a reliable reach that they could use to refinance themselves through advertising." On average, two percent of a publication would cancel their membership every month. "Normally, however, this is more than compensated for by a higher number of new members."

According to Yoran, an exemplary example of a membership program implemented with Steady is Krautreporter: For a membership fee of at least five euros, readers can not only read all the articles themselves (these are almost completely behind Steady's paywall). You can also choose the topics of future articles or recommend experts who the Krautreporter editorial team should ask about a specific article topic. "The community is not just paying lip service, it is actually being included."

The humble lesson from the herb reporter problems

Steady has more than just a business partnership with Krautreporter: The two Krautreporter founders Sebastian Esser and Philipp Schwörbel also founded Steady. Krautreporter started as a paid medium in 2014 with the thesis "Online journalism is broken" with a loud drumming. The project was not able to meet the high expectations aroused in this way with all readers. “I was also one of those people who paid 60 euros and then wasn't that happy with what happened next,” says Yoran.

The Steady Team (from left to right): Manuel Kallenbach (Head of Development), Thomas Weyres (Head of Design & User Experience), Dirk Holzapfel (Founder, CTO), Sara Hesse (Art Director), Sebastian Esser (Founder, Managing Director Product ), Judith Holzapfel (Administration), Gabriel Yoran (Founder, Head of Marketing & Communication), Philipp Schwörbel (Founder, Managing Director Finance and Sales) / (Photo: Steady)

The Krautreporter-makers underestimated that they not only need good journalists, but also good business people, online marketing makers and software developers. “It has been shown that it is very difficult to turn people who have been persuaded to pay a certain amount once for something that they find good into regular paying subscribers. That is communicatively difficult, and there was also no technical solution for it. ”Esser and Schwörbel took these problems“ humbly to the attention and to heart ”and consequently developed the concept for Steady, says Yoran. Thanks to the use of Steady, Krautreporter is now "a beautifully growing, profitable company".

New KPI: "Conversions per Article"

Yoran is responsible for marketing Steady. He previously co-founded the security software company Steganos and the early mobile social network Aka-Aki, and from this time he knows today's Steady CTO Manuel Kallenbach. “The idea was to build a monetization solution for independent media makers who don't want to be full-time with all this stuff. So that they can write articles or do podcasts, ”says Yoran.

According to Yoran, Steady not only offers publishers the option of running a membership program (“That is much more complex than it might appear from the outside,” says Yoran), but also an analytics solution: “Krautreporter measures with Steady, for example which articles will attract the most new members. For them this is a more important KPI than impressions. "

"There are some that not everyone knows, but who earn a lot of money"

Although there is already interest in Steady from the publishing media, "but we come from the small, independent media makers," says Yoran. “Many of them may not realize how attractive the longtail area is. There are a lot of publishers that nobody has on their radar, but who earn real money. ”The games podcast The Pod, for example, generates around 12,000 euros a month through Steady alone, says Yoran. With three podcasts, blogger Katrin Rönicke generates between 4,000 and 5,000 euros a month through Steady.

Many of the Steady Publishing partners not only use Steady, but also the US solution Patreon (here an OMR briefing on the subject), which is not only, but above all, widespread among Youtubers. A competition for Steady? “We know the Patreon makers and share a common vision. But I also see differences: Patreon wants to attract members to its own website and establish itself as a destination site. In contrast, we want to integrate ourselves into the publisher's website as elegantly and smoothly as possible and not push ourselves into the foreground, ”says Yoran.

External sales of 125,000 euros per month

In September, the Steady makers celebrated the achievement of one million euros in external sales. "In the meantime, a further 125,000 euros in external sales are added every month, this sum grows by around five percent every month," says Yoran. "We currently have 43,000 paying members in the system."

With a margin of ten percent, everyone can calculate that this income is nowhere near enough to be profitable. The company's previous capital comes from two sources: on the one hand, a “grant” from the Google Digital News Initiative. "That is a sum that we do not have to pay back, and for which Google has neither received shares nor a say," says Yoran.

"We speak to several investors"

In addition, eight business angels have invested in Steady in the form of a convertible loan. “Among other things, there is a founder of Spreadshirt, Sedo co-founder Ulrich Essman, Navigon and Skobbler founder Peter Scheufen and Benjamin Minack from lack of resources,” says Yoran. "They didn't invest in us because they think it's nice that someone helps independent media makers, they see business there."

Nevertheless: “In order for Steady to work, we first have to raise additional money and expand internationally. Otherwise the business model will not be sustainable, ”says Yoran. The company is currently speaking to several institutional investors. "We cannot complain about a lack of interest."