Websites can be an inside-out sort of business. Ordinarily when I write an article, the audience only clocks in at the final product. They’re not treated to the pantless, coffee fueled 4 a.m. binge that’s called “writing on deadline.” Here, though, the whole process is on display like some sort of creative fish tank. Indeed, half the point of this site is to share the process of seeing the world and writing about it.
So in a medium that shares everything, it only seems fair to share my business plan too.
Because Things Dangerous is a business. A new one, sure, that I’m just figuring out, but every bit as much as the rest of writing. What’s more, it’s a rough one. You want to reliably make your way up in the world, go get a law degree. (Oops…) Writing anything for a paycheck means shouting the loudest in a crowded room, getting used to being ignored and having something to say when they finally do pay attention. So, how will this site shout in 2016?
Theme for 2016: Starting Over Again… Again.
When I first quit practice as a lawyer to start writing, that first year was all about rediscovering journalism’s business model. How to pitch, how to write for non-lawyers, how to find a story and build a relationship with both editors and readers, it all took time. Now I’m editing a site, which is something altogether new all over again. It’s more like writing a book that you publish one chapter, or even scene, at a time. There are layers to running a content delivery business that are all brand new to me, and 2016 will be all about figuring that out.
So this year is the year of starting over again… all over again.
Start a Travel Journalism Blog
Getting Things Dangerous off the ground is the result of years of scheming on my part. I’ve always wanted to own a business, and having my own platform actually come together is kind of a dream come true. I’ve been waiting, though, to make sure that I could actually write for a living at all.
Well, four years later I have a beautiful (incredibly tolerant) wife, a nice home and a lap or two around the world under my belt, all powered by this oddest of professions. I’m happy saying I can do this and do it fairly well. It’s time to take the next big step.
And my goals for this site in 2016 are pretty ambitious…
By the end of the year I’d like Things Dangerous to pay for all of its (and my) expenses. Crazy, right?
I admit that’s a pretty big ask for a new site, but I think it’s possible. I come equipped with readers, relationships and outlets to publicize this new project. I’ve got a lot to say, and am immensely lucky to have friends in the industry who are willing to write in, contributing some new and diverse voices to a nascent website.
In other words, I’ve got a few aces up my sleeve to try and get this site moving quickly. I think it can be done.
Sharpen the Business Model
There are a bunch of ways to make money off a website, but you can’t go overboard. You don’t want your website to become some ad-happy kludge, for any number of reasons, or spend every other link shilling for some affiliate. What I’d like to do over 2016 is really figure out what really makes Things Dangerous work as a business. How can I make a more effective living off of this site without breaking up the trust between myself and my readers?
I have a plan, certainly, but we’ll see how long it lasts in real life.
Sharpen the Content
Like the business model, I think content is going to be a matter of trial and error. Some great writing just won’t fit on the site, and it’s going to be a learning process to figure out what will and won’t make the cut.
Start A Big Project
There’s this idea I’ve been kicking around for a while now… It involves adventure, old maps and my Indiana Jones hat. I think it could be incredibly cool if I can make it happen. We’ll revisit in a different post, but either way this site should host a major event within the year.
Finally get to Africa
Guess where I’ve never been? In 2016 I’d like to get to Africa, even if just for a little while. This is an entire continent I’ve never visited, and I know that saying “go to Africa” is in one sense meaningless, but there’s nowhere on the continent that I don’t want to visit.
I want to go to Africa. I want to see it, smell it, feel it, taste it and write about it.
See the Amazon
On a press trip down to Sao Paulo, I flew over the Amazon. That’s as close as I’ve ever gotten to that magnificent jungle, but still I remember the long river winding its way through endless green, the small dots that boats made the water and the absolute improbability of it all.
Most of all, I remember wondering what it would be like to actually set foot in that river.
Take sailing or flying lessons
For someone who has spent his life happily behind laptops or, for leisure, a book this is an odd dream, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to sail a boat and fly a plane. Always. Someday with my vast journalism fortune* I’d love to rent a boat and sail around the Cyclades for a summer with Laura.
Well, in 2016 I want to get that started! I’ve got no illusions about learning to sail this year, or scooping up a pilot’s license by Christmas. Nope, let’s keep it modest. I’d like to take a couple lessons, maybe even just one, before the year is up.
*This is a thing, right?
And… that’s it! That’s the plan for 2016. How much of it will get done remains to be seen, but I think I can make most of it happen.
The biggest project for 2016, though, is simply getting this site up off the ground.