Here’s a sample of the kind of feedback we got a LOT from last month’s reader survey:
I feel like there’s not really anywhere I fit anymore in the Offbeat Empire. I’m not a mom or mom-to-ever-be, I’m not a homeowner yet, and I’m no longer a bride-to-be.
I sat and stared at this feedback for quite a while because, see… it exactly describes Offbeat Home’s editor, Megan. Married, child-free, not a homeowner. She edits Offbeat Home from the exact perspective of the person who sent this feedback. I don’t want to single out this one reader — we got this same feedback again and again. “I’m not a bride, not a mom, not a homeowner, so where’s my site?”
Clearly we have a disconnect between who we think Offbeat Home is targeted to, and who feels welcomed here.
I’ve tried to be clear since before the site launched that it absolutely was NOT about home ownership, but we’ve made changes to get our renting and no-damage decor posts more visible (they’re both in the Decor Porn drop down menu in the navigation on every page of the site).
We also got a lot of feedback asking for a place on the Empire about Career & Budgeting (we’ve got that!), Relationships (we’ve got that!), and Travel (we’ve got that!). The issue isn’t that we don’t have these things on the Empire, it’s that no one seems to be looking for them here on Offbeat Home.
Ok, so what are we doing?
This year we’ll be shifting the site’s focus a bit to make it clear that we do, in fact, have the content that Offbeat Empire readers have requested.
These changes will be three-fold:
- NAME CHANGE. While we’ll be keeping the offbeathome.com URL, we’ll be changing the title of the site to Offbeat Home & Life. Timeline: NOW.
- FOCUS SHIFT. While we’ll still always have home-focused posts, we’ll be gradually increasing the amount of non-home content, including more stuff about relationships, work, money, travel, and style. Timeline: this week. In the meantime, check the new Life drop-down menu for a peek at all our existing Life-related content.
And now, a couple cold hard truths:
This needs to work
Offbeat Home is coming up on its second birthday next month, and the site STILL has yet to be profitable. This has to change, or else the site will not live to see 2014. Currently, the site limps along on the goodwill of myself and Offbeat Bride’s managing editor Megan, who volunteered to step in and edit the site when it became clear that the site couldn’t sustain the costs of a dedicated editor. By expanding the site’s focus, I’m hoping the additional pageviews can finally push the site into profitability. If it doesn’t, I’m going to have some hard decisions to make for 2014.
We can’t make these changes without you
The bulk of this site’s content is submitted by our community of readers. If you wish you saw more posts about _____________, we need you to submit it. No one’s going to tell your story for you. If you want to see your life and your interests reflected on the site, stop othering yourself and start submitting.
There’s lots to talk about here, obviously. I’m sure y’all are having some serious feels right about now. Mostly, just know that I’m excited and optimistic about this shift. Yes, it’s a bit grim to be like “I hope this works… or else,” but that’s just the nature of running a business, and I know that many of you have been asking for these changes for a while. So here’s to everyone getting what we want in 2013!
Update: this post was edited to reflect the fact that we’re no longer planning to launch a forum, for reasons discussed here.
Comments on Offbeat Home is now Offbeat Home & LIFE!
So I’m curious, why are you so set against a donation model (at least as a suppliment)? I often don’t want the products your advertizers provide (or more likely simply can’t justify the price). However, I DO want the product that YOU provide. On a tight budget, I can’t necessarily justify $20 for a product upgrade, but I am willing to throw in five bucks here and there for a product I utilize and enjoy. This is probably true of a bunch of other readers as well. Why is letting people pay for your product (especially with a pay-what-you-can approach) charity?
I really feel this is the future of internet based business. I look at success stories like NIN most recent albums, Cards Against Humanity (especially their holiday expansion pack experiment), and what happened with the author of Something Positive (whose fans donated enough to have him quit his day job so the comic could go up on time and be spell checked). It is quite possible that we are willing to pay you to do what you do – even when we are less willing to pay someone else to pay you.
I agree completely! I’d seriously love to give you guys money.
I agree too! I really want to hand you money, but I live in Canada, and about half the time, all the cool stuff posted on Amazon goes “But, we can’t deliver that to you! We aren’t sure how to get there!!” Which means I have to click around to Amazon.ca and I think you mentioned you don’t get money like that. And generally, between the extra effort and the lack of the intended effect, it just stops being worth it to order whatever it was.
Oh man. That’s a REALLY big question. Here’s the short answer:
1. It’s not sustainable in the long-run. I’ve watched bloggers do donation campaigns for over a decade, and while there’s an initial burst of donors, donations don’t continue and money runs out. Kottke is a great example.
2. It creates a begging dynamic. When a publisher asks for donations, it shifts the relationship with readers. Suddenly I’m bugging y’all do give me money. If you’re not in a place to give, you feel bad. I don’t want to make you feel bad. It’s just not worth it, especially considering that in my experience, donation drives never pull in that much money. (Really? I’m going to make tens of thousands of people feel bad in exchange for MAYBE a grand in donations?) Not worth it.
3. I’m not comfortable with it, ethically. Donations should go towards non-profits who are legally bound to spend your money in the ways you want. How would you feel if you donated $20 that I went and spent on weed. (It’s semi-legal here now!) You’d probably feel like, “Ew, THAT’S what she did with my money!? Gross.” And you’d have every right to. When I run a for-profit business, I can spend the profits in the ways I want.
That said, I’m hearing you guys loud and clear that you wish there were ways you could support Offbeat Home & Life. While I’m not comfortable with donations, I think the forum is going to be the way to do that. I’ll make sure the pricing is set up to allow a wide range of options, from like $5 to maybe $100.
Most importantly, thank you guys so much for caring. It means more to me than I can say.
Ariel, I just have to say I love your philosophy about donations, especially about not wanting your readers to feel bad. How refreshing!
(Although I like that readers want to support you, too!)
well… could we just buy you weed then? 🙂 Medicinal, of course.
I want to see this site survive! I’ve been submitting stuff lately and plan to keep at it.
Two things I’ve noticed on “lifestyle blogger” sites that I don’t think I’ve seen here (or maybe you have done it and I’ve not noticed!):
1. Sponsored posts that aren’t business profiles, but something like “Here’s how to dress for xx event” and photos of items from the business. Those posts also still keep a personal tone and often times I don’t realize it’s sponsored until I get to the end. I read them because they don’t scream “Buy this product!” It’s more like, “Hey, look at me use this product. Bet you want one, too!” Your sponsored posts are good at showing how to use the business’ product, but they don’t have as much of a personal tone.
2. Giveaways. I see it a lot and it’s kind of annoying when the site becomes all about giving away stuff, but if you gave away unique items from advertisers, that’d be pretty cool. I’ve also noticed people comment more when they have a chance to win something – not sure if that increases your site’s value or not, but it does show what people are interested in – free stuff!
Ok, my two cents done.
1. We do posts sorta like that! They’re all listed under the affiliate tag, and when you click one of the links and then make a purchase, we get a cut.
2. Giveaways. Oh man, don’t get me started. They are terrible, TERRIBLE for business. Typically, the publisher receives no payment from the advertiser, is liable for the product being given away, and there are even questionable legal issues with sweepstakes laws. Giveaways are really bad news. (Although we’re always happy to link to an advertiser’s giveaway hosted on their own site! We do that frequently on Offbeat Bride.)
I didn’t know that about giveaways. I figured there must be some benefit to it since so many other sites do it. I have conflicting feelings about it, so I’m sorta glad you won’t do it here. If I thought it’d help your site, though, I’d be all about it!
Yeah, Giveaways also hugely devalue blogger advertising. The mommyblogging world is filled with bloggers who will give placement away for the price of a laundry detergent sample, and so business are like “Why should I pay for placement on your site when I can get placement on this other site for the cost of a sample?” Ultimately, packets of laundry detergent don’t pay my hosting bills… so giveaways are pretty bad news.
I am very excited about these changes, especially the forum! Since getting married Offbeat Home has seriously become my new favourite site (since OBB isn’t that relevant for me anymore) and I really hope it survives. I’ll also do some serious thinking about submitting a guest post.
I started over at OffBeat Bride while I was wedding planning about 2 years ago. OffBeat Home must have just been starting, but it seemed like a really natural transition to me.
I am married, but have no plans for kids in the future, and am a serial renter.
I love the DIY posts, and am still meaning to make that animal-head coat rack.
I need to get my ass in gear to submit a lovely post about my honeymoon in Iceland since I had people who fully believed I was joking when I said we were going to Iceland for our honeymoon or looked at me like I had 12 heads. I got billions of pretty pictures to share to entice others to consider visiting.
Yes! I want to read that!
We totally considered Iceland for our honeymoon! Maybe we both have 12 heads 😛
Ariel – a serious question. I love OBH and am totally committed to the community. I’ve submitted posts and I’m super excited to join the forum. I’ve also bought stuff (like cards against humanity from the AMAZING gifts post before the holidays) from posts), but here’s the rub: I use AdBlock. Am I totally screwing you out of revenue? Is there a way I can make up for it without compromising my ads-free interneting? I struggle with this a a lot: I hate seeing the same vaguely sexist ads all over the internet (NOT incleding OBE), so I AdBlock to avoid them, but I know it robs my favorite free sites of their living wages. What can I do to balance those needs?
A script blocker might help. You can decide which sites to allow scripts on (which allow ads to show) and which not to allow scripts on. I use NoScript but allow scripts for Offbeat Empire sites.
Thanks! I’m trying to setup NotScripts for Chrome right now!
Most adblockers allow you to whitelist URLs. If you use AdBlock for Chrome, just click the icon and then select “Don’t run on pages on this domain.”
Done! AdBlock Plus disabled for all offbeat sites. Thanks for the tip. 🙂
Oh my goodness! Until today, it didn’t occur to me how much awesomeness I was missing out on by not whitelisting the Offbeat pages! The ads are largely websites I already know and love–and now how much more I can do for you by going through here to get to them!
I confess, I’m guilty of selecting AdBlock when I first got my laptop ages ago, then proceeding to forget about its existence altogether, to the point of being confused why I wasn’t seeing these ads everyone has been mentioning on here!
Done! Whitelisted all OBE. I love when my questions have super simple answers. 🙂 Keep up the awesomeness!
OMG! I never knew I could do this. I to have been living with guilt surfing my favorite blogs with the addblocker on. I mostly use ad blocker because I watch most of my TV on Iplayers and my connection is so slow the adverts used to take forever.
I will have a submission in a couple of weeks. How we completely gutted and redid our bright green, space invader kitchen for nearly no money. 🙂
Two posts: submitted. They may or may not fit what you guys are looking for, but I at least crossed off one thing on my to-do list for this year: submit posts to you guys because I always wanted to, but have been hesitant until now.
So, this is probably something you’ve already thought about, because you’re thorough! But I know for me, I subscribe to the email updates to make sure I don’t miss any relevant posts I’d be interested in, but then I usually click to the site itself because I don’t like reading the posts in email, and once I’m there, I almost always click ads because the ads are usually pretty interesting!
Are you getting as much traffic to the main pages as you have subscribers? Or do you think you might be losing ad-viewing readership who are only reading via email or on mobile devices, missing the ads?
At my work, when we had the full post in email, we had really small actual post views compared to the number of email subscribers. In trying to convert blog readers into consumers of our other site content, we cut the email digest down to title with link, and snippet with a read more link. That change boosted traffic to the site coming from the email subscribers, and a significant jump in non-blog page views and exit (so people were coming to the linked content from email, then leaving via different pages).
…also, if you can find a plugin that will let you deliver ads on mobile, that might help too?
Excited for paid forum anyway, I’d be totally in for that.
The Offbeat Home & Life email newsletter has 509 subscribers, while offbeathome.com has 173,164 monthly visitors, so I’m not too worried about email subscriptions biting into pageviews.
In addition, I’ve got the email newsletter monetized with little banner ads at the top and the bottom. If you click the ads and buy anything, we get a small commission!
As for mobile, until two weeks ago (when our mobile plugin completely crapped out) we had ads! 🙂 Sadly, the new version of our longtime mobile plugin causes MAJOR problems for our server (crashing it three times in a row, causing downtime across all the sites) so we need to do some troubleshooting before it’ll be back…
Ah! So you do! Because I always just click to the articles on the site, I’ve never “allowed images” on my email digests, never noticed the ads there. Also don’t usually read on mobile, but the one time I did was super recently and that’s when I noticed there were no ads…guess I missed them!
See, I knew you were thorough 🙂
Totally stoked for all of this!
I must learn to document my projects. Every time I do one and think I should submit to Home, I invariably forget about pictures. Hoping this can kick my brain into actually doing that a bit more.
But I am working on something to submit (then I will have collected all the blogs!).
As an OBB tribe member, an OBB advertiser, and new OBH contributor (I did the wedding lights to holiday decor post), I find this change super helpful! Even though I get the advertiser digests, which encourage inter-site ads, I felt my stuff (clothing) didn’t fit in at all with “home” and didn’t feel comfortable advertising here. The “home and life” moniker is super helpful to me as an advertiser to know my stuff will fit now.
Will you be offering some sweet specials to encourage more vendors? OBB can be a bit cost-prohibitive, and I know OBH is more affordable, but anything helps for those of us running one-woman businesses. 🙂
You know what’s on my to-do list for today? Emailing the Offbeat Advertisers mailing list. HUGE stuff to share over there. Just you wait!
Oh my god. I need to start thinking of things to submit, because honestly, being an unmarried 20-something, Offbeat Home is the site I currently feel coziest on. Time to start brainstorming. I’d hate to see it go..
I just wanted to let you guys know that even though my husband and I are renters who do not plan on having children any time soon, I have never felt alienated on this site. Now that I’m not planning a wedding anymore, this is where I spend a lot of my time. oddly, I never really thought about posting. I have some social anxieties that make the idea of posting or even commenting kind of scary. I’ll try to get over that. Thank you.
I enjoy all the OBE sites and if I need to submit posts in order to keep them running, I shall get off my ass. I call myself a writer, but I don’t write much and I need to change that. I have something in the works right now. I hope you like it.
I had assumed submitted posts were similar to Offbeat Bride, where you couldn’t be featured on another blog. I just took a quick look and saw that isn’t the case, so I’ll keep it in mind when I’m updating my blog.
I’m really excited for the forum! After getting married, I really miss the Offbeat Tribe’s forum, especially when I really wanted to pop in to ask a couple question when I was Maid of Honor for my offbeat friend!
I LOVE this change! I don’t necessarily have an offbeat home, but I have had some offbeat life things I think I could contribute. Like the year I went mostly barefoot in college and joined The Society for Barefoot Living. Maybe something people would be interested in?
I’d love to read that!
My fiance goes barefoot all the time! I’d love to see that!
I would totally love to read an article about that!
Sumbit! That sounds totally cool!
I’m a pretty square-ish lawyer who has never been married, had kids, moved to another country, or decorated with sharks. But I stumbled across this site, read two articles (one about living in a yurt and another one about the menstrual cup TMI Adventure) and immediately bookmarked it. I love the funky fearless content and the thoughtful positive comments posted by other readers.
Thank you for caring enough and working so hard to make this website a good place to be.
First of all, I love the change of name, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable being here – and yep, I am a married homeowner…
Probably because I am in the category of people who have never submitted as I am ashamed of my house – it is constantly messy and is not decorated anywhere close to my satisfaction.
I do like the posts about relationships and pets, and I’d love to see more about clothes and career.
Also I mostly read through email – it makes it easier to sneak a read at work, but it does mean I miss out on the awesome comments. Also does every single post come through in the emails or is it just a selection? My preference would be for every post so I don’t miss anything!
EEK! I would feel so lost without OBE. This is truly a unique place and I’m feeling like a bad friend who has taken for granted all the awesome things you have done for me! It’s time to return the awesomesauce. I can’t tell you how many times I have thought…”I should post this to OBH”…but haven’t. That’s about to change…2013 will be my year to submit!
Thank you so much to everyone involved in the Empire. Will do all that I can to support. Click, click and submit all ova that shiet!
I actually *am* married, *do* have a kid, and *do* own a house! But I’m happy for Offbeat Home to add more “life” stuff, too. I’d like to think I also have a “life”, though it doesn’t always feel like it.
I’m excited, seeing as I technically never fit into any of the categories in the Offbeat Empire. I never was a bride or bride-to-be and I probably won’t be any time soon, I don’t own a home or rent, and I’m not a mom and am seriously considering being child-free. I’m in the middle of deciding what path to take in my life so my life is in flux.
I just love the ideas and creativity of the Offbeat Empire and kept reading and sending people who were actually brides-to-be and own homes or rent to your sites. The idea of Offbeat Life is refreshing. Now I don’t feel like I’m eavesdropping on some secret club of awesome (because that’s what I think you guys are: awesome).
If I can pull myself together, maybe I’ll submit something. The readership here is amazing. This is one of the few places on the Internet where the comments don’t depress me.
Never had a problem with a Niche for home, home is wherever you are living, flat, house, caravan etc.
I still go to Obb to check out the cool weddings, I’m not a Obmama yet but look on there sometimes and we’re having building work done on a new house, so home has lots of ideas for me.
Much as we like things to stay the same sometimes they have to change. So Good Luck OBhome for the future.
One of my New Year’s resolutions is to contribute more than just observe, as part of that I’m planning to submit something to OHL every month 🙂 First 2 are already underway.
I’m surprised to learn that this is what people think about offbeat home. I do not own a home I’m not married or engaged and I don’t want kids and I see this as the perfect place for me I feel welcome on all the pages. Well I guess its all just perspective hopefully soon everybody feels included and welcome. I’ll try to do my part as well and visit more often because I love ALL things offbeat.