by Jacob Aldridge and Chris K ,
Dear everydaydreamers –
We write to you with some sadness to announce that EveryDayDream Holiday will be ceasing our mission to send you amazing travel experiences, five days a week.
Our decision is to go on hiatus, not to definitively end our plans – our website, 70 daily destinations, and about 80,000 words of entertainment will all stay live. And if we do reintroduce our daily emails, you will be the first to know.
In addition to sadness, this decision has been made with some excitement and relief. We felt – and your amazing feedback supported our thoughts – that we were crafting high-quality travel entertainment. Unfortunately, that day-to-day creation requires too much of our focus. Our beautiful website wasn’t gaining the traction and reader growth that it required, and we simply didn’t have the time among our other business commitments to find any more time above and beyond creating that daily content.
Any business that simply does what it does, with no investment of time into planning the future, will be left behind. We are making this decision now, to prevent that from happening.
(And we did discuss other options, such as shorter articles or only weekly content. But when it comes to online travel content, where some sites produce dozens of articles every day, we felt providing lower quality articles less often would mean killing the EveryDayDream brand and all the reasons you love us in the first place. After all, our site isn’t called EveryWeekMediocre!)
Back in December, when we began the plans that became EveryDayDream Holiday, we knew there were challenges with what we intended to do. But rather than spend months planning, we decided to jump right in. As we’ve gone along the way, your feedback and loyalty have energised us beyond measure to keep creating and contributing – we cannot thank you enough for reading, sharing, enjoying, and letting us know!
A big part of our sadness is knowing that this decision means dozens of you will have one less means of escapism every morning. But if you ever do feel stuck at work, or bored with your life, and in search of a dream holiday – you can always visit http://everydaydreamholiday.com/everydaydreams/ and re-start our journey. Through 70 articles, covering 3.5 months, we have travelled from Rome to Copenhagen via 6 continents.
We hope to see you out there in the big wide world,
Jacob and Chris
We’re about to hit 3 months since launch day. In the sink-or-swim of online business, we’re still paddling in the kiddies’ pool. And I blame the concept of MVP.
We launched fast. There were barely three weeks between starting our market research, and launching our first destination email.
That’s the spirit of MVP: launch with the minimum viable product you can conjure so you can learn from the actual market – not just theory.
Here’s the risk: when you start small, your early data will also be small. But in comparison, it will look bigger than it actually is.
- Our subscriber base has nearly tripled since launch day. That’s great, but it actually needs to be another 5x larger to be worth anything;
- There are travel blogs out there that talk about 10 visitors a day; we’re not a blog, and we’re now disappointed with less than 100 – but our number needs to be north of 10,000;
- We’ve been too caught up in the quantity of traffic (“great, 2,000 reddit visitors”) over the quality of traffic for our business purposes (subscribers as a result: 3);
- And similar stories for social media – we had 20 new Facebook likes / Twitter followers today; numbers that look relatively great from our small base but independently are far too small to help drive a proper web-based business.
I’ve talked before about challenging ourselves to think not about where the next subscriber will come from; but rather ask ourselves “Where we will get the next 50 subscribers tomorrow?”.
That’s the kind of thinking we need, and haven’t focused on.
The excuses we have are compelling:
- Each of us have other senior positions (in my case, I also own my coach-consulting firm);
- Our first niche – travel – requires premium content to stand out, so it takes us 20 hours / week just to do that;
- And hey, we’re learning a lot, and have already identified a completely unrelated product opportunity solely as a result of running everydaydream holiday.
Of course the fact that we can make all these excuses is responsible for us staying small, and I don’t actually blame the concept of MVP. The corollary of MVP is ‘launch early, iterate often’ – and it’s the iterating that we’re not doing often enough. Why not? Because it’s easy to convince ourselves that 10% growth here and there is great, when in reality we have reason to be disappointed in 1,110% growth.
This isn’t a cry for help, just an observation from experience:
if your business model needs you to hit big numbers,
make sure your MVP doesn’t make small numbers feel like success.
We just reached the 50 campaign / destination milestone! So, with some specific focus on our second month which has also recently ended, we thought we would expose our data … and share what we learned from those 50 campaigns.
- Sharing our list growth and engagement rates from Month 2
- Asking “So flipping what?” – what might be learnt from our data?
- Some specific notes on Churn rates, Unsubscribes, List Fatigue, and Engagement over time
- You can experience EveryDaydream Holiday with a free subscription to our daily destinations email
If you’ve just found this article:
- Why we are sharing all of this information with you? Because we love articles that open the kimono to other web businesses, and wanted to share our data and experience with those keen to learn from it.
- This is Month 2, Part Two. Month 2, Part One (website traffic and revenue data) is here; Month 1 can be read from Part One or just Part Two.
- EveryDaydream Holiday is a travel entertainment startup – We craft a travel story so real that it feels like your own endless vacation, and deliver it to your inbox five days a week.
Come here from Hacker News? This is a longform post – if you want to ensure there’s a useful HN discussion (like I do), consider upvoting this post now before it drops off the new page.
WANT TO SEE OUR EMAILS IN SITU?
If it helps you to visualise our emails – which differ in design and content length from our daily posts – here are some examples:
- Our very first campaign – Ancient Rome, all the content from our daily post
- Our first template redesign – Marlborough Wine Tour, larger pictures and little text
- Our current template design – Houston, adding back in more text
My intention here is to first share the raw data, because I know some people find value in this (especially as a comparative exercise). The ‘So What?’ (and WIIFM) comes from our more in depth look at the data further down – click here to go directly there.
Four days into this month, my co-founder and I were having a text message discussion. At the time we noted after Month 1 we had added only 22 new subscribers – not even one a day. He was making a point about consistency – “We need to ask where do we get tomorrow’s subscriber from?”
I made the point that at 200 subscribers, you can statistically expect 1 unsubscribe every single time you send out an email*. Since we send a daily email (weekdays), finding 1 new subscriber each day would keep us steady, at best. My response was “We need to ask where are we getting 50 subscribers tomorrow?”
The next day, we had 55 people sign up.
This graph shows our cumulative number of daily subscribers since we launched on 12/12/2012. You’ll see that the first month was one of steady, though uncertain, growth – we were generally moving upwards, with a particular spike around Christmas**. And then BANG on the 17th of January we meet my hypothetical 50 subscriber challenge.
The reason for this is detailed in Part 1 – it was our “200 Hours Effort” post going ‘viral’***. The impact of that on our site traffic and subscriber numbers lingered for about a fortnight – during which period we took our eyes off the ball a little. The last fortnight of the month, however, things trail off. That hurt – and we’re addressing that, so next month’s data will be rosier!
- * This is based on some Vision 6 and MailChimp email marketing research, backed up by my own experience over 11 years of email marketing. An unsubscribe rate of 0.5% is about normal.
- ** We’d like to say the Christmas spike was everyone spreading the word. In reality, it was mostly us seeing family.
- *** I’m mindful that we’re sharing this data, not because we’re super massive and successful, but to help those who are also starting out. For us, 50 subscribers and 10,000 visitors in a day is ‘going viral’ – Buzzfeed probably sacks writers who hit numbers that low.
A reminder of the two Engagement Rates we use: “Open” and “Opened Click Through Rate”.
- Open Rate is pretty straight-forward – what percentage of people who were sent the email, actually opened it.
- Open CTR is the number of people who clicked through as a percentage of how many people OPENED the email.
- This is slightly different to normal CTR, which measures click as a percentage of number sent, and therefore (in my opinion) lessens its utility.
Here’s how we trended this month against both measurements.
And then here are two graphs comparing us to Travel and Transportation Industry Averages, provided by our email service provider MailChimp.
These comparisons are not perfect, of course – they lump our daily travel entertainment email in with weekly travel deal sites, hotel newsletters etc. It’s not apples v apples, but it’s what we have.
Our Open Rate, while declining, remains strong. In fact, the closest it went to approaching the average was our Kyoto email, which Gmail (and likely others) marked as spam – those days suck when you have a daily product – of course, you always have tomorrow.
Our Opened Click Through Rate, also declining, is not as successful. Our struggle here – and we experienced this last month – is finding the balance between providing a self-contained amazing daily email, and driving people to our site to read more. I’ve always believed that a content email ought to have value in and of itself – people don’t want to read emails they know will simply force them to visit a website. Our current email template design, amended to add more text, is part of the reason for declining numbers at the end of this month.
This made it less likely readers would click through to the website, but we believe (and must now test) that they will enjoy the email better as a result. If that’s the case, then Open Rates could be expected to improve as a result.
- Our normal CTR, when graphed, looks as more like our Open Rate graph than the other one.
- If we just used that metric, we would be patting ourselves on the back. It’s misleading because it fails to filter out Open rate as a factor – more opens will equal more clicks-through. So while it’s a useful measurement for gross traffic numbers, it’s misleading and risky to use it as a measure of engagement.
SO FLIPPING WHAT?
Right, Raw Numbers are only useful if you want to put in the effort to compare. So here’s our ‘So What’ – we hope it also gives you some guidance for your email marketing efforts, with the caveat that you can never assume what is the case for one business will apply to another.
IF YOU LEAVE ME, CAN I COME TO?
We wanted to know 3 things from our Unsubscribe data:
- What is our list churn?
- How long, on average, do readers stay before they unsubscribe?
- Is there a tipping point from the data that can help us avoid unsubscriptions?
This is a simple metric that asks ‘How long does it take for our list to replace itself?’ Some people will unsubcribe quickly (‘this isn’t what I expected’) and some people will never unsubscribe (thanks mum!), but on average how long would it take for our entire list to leave.
This is a simple calculation – we’ll do it just for month 2.
How many people left this month as a percentage of the remaining list.
(49 / 166 = 29.51%)
And then how many months would it take for that percentage to reach 100%?
(100% / 29.51% = 3.38)
Based on this data, our list will turn itself over every 3.38 months. That, incidentally, is awful for a business like ours! Our initial goal, not based on experience, was to make that figure 12 months* – we have a long way to go.
It’s also important to track that over time. In fact, if we do the analysis for our first 50 campaigns, the churn rate is 8.9 months. I won’t draw any conclusions until we have the data from more months.
Do you know your churn rate?
- * Mailchimp notes that the average list loses 1/2 – 1/3 of their list each year – a churn rate of 12-18 months. HOWEVER, I note Newsletter Directory says the average account sends 42 campaigns per annum.
- If I combine those figures, we could deduce an average churn rate of 42-63 campaigns. We’re on track for ~180 campaigns, which shows either our content is really engaging or that the flaws in this comparison are gaping!
2) How long, on average, do readers stay before they unsubscribe?
This is also a simple calculation. I’m going to use a median for this, because over time I don’t want long term subscribers or confused subscribers who leave immediately to unduly impact the figure.
For EveryDaydream Holiday, the length of time in 13.5 days. (If we used the mean average, by the way, the figure would be 16.8 days. Again, let’s see how both those numbers move over time before drawing any conclusions.)
The wider data set here is kind of spiky, based largely on our small size at this point in time. (If our list size were 10x as large, 1-2 unsubscribers moving around wouldn’t affect things; here they create spikes and valleys.)
3) Is there a tipping point from the data that can help us avoid unsubscriptions?
I was hoping this data would show us something really interesting – like a lot of subscribers in the first X days, then a lull; or a significant spike after Y days that we might be able to prevent in some engaging way. But there’s nothing so dramatic in the data, based on where we’re at today.
Not being Nate Silver, I’m not going to draw many statistical inferences from this chart or the trendline in it. I will make two points:
- There’s a clear trend downwards – this means that the longer people stay subscribed, the less likely they are to unsubscribe.
- We’ve only had one subscriber stay with us for more than 6 weeks and then later leave.
- Part of the reason for this is that we are a very young website.
You could draw the statistical inference here that if people are subscribed for more than 58 days they will NEVER leave. In reality, only 87 people (about half our current subscribers) have been with us for that long, and that data set is friends and family heavy.
I wanted to overlay on this the length of time current subscribers have been around. But that comparison proved to be unhelpful, because a majority of our readers came in two spikes – at launch (thanks to our pre-launch survey) and when our “200 Hours Effort” post went viral. Again, with time (and list growth) this will be useful.
List fatigue happens when subscribers “become bored with your email content“.
Here’s a graph of reader engagement BY DAY. That is, we normalise all of our subscribers back to Day 1 (the first email they receive) and then compare the daily averages. While it’s useful to know that ‘Toasting Marshmallows over Lava‘ is more engaging than ‘Going to Graceland‘ (which we can measure by the Engagement Rates, above), it’s also really valuable to test what happens to your subscribers over time. When, if ever, does List Fatigue kick in?
You can see an element of that in the trend line, and certainly the drop in open rates after the first week. Honestly, I was expecting to see a much more obvious trend, possibly with a plateau towards the end as we reached a consistent level of people happy to be receiving our daily email ‘forever’.
Instead, after the first week, there’s a fairly steady Open Rate band between 30% and 40%.
There are two major dips – at the very end (campaign #50) and at campaign #26. These are actually the same event, the campaigns just before I produced this data. Because we’ve had two dramatic spikes in subscribers, the current position of those cohorts (at 26 campaigns and 50 campaigns respectively) has an oversized impact on the numbers. As more subscribers move through, these will level out in a real number sense (ie, campaigns 26 and 50 won’t always look that bad); and we’ll always have to keep an eye on those cohorts, because where they are exactly on any day we produce this report will likely create a spike upwards or downwards.
One thing we’ve noticed – although anecdotally, unless we pull apart MailChimp to create that report as well – is how many people use the weekends to catch up on their readings. So our gross Open numbers normally go up over the following weekend – that’s part of the story here, with those dips caused by Wed / Thu / Fri emails awaiting a weekend. [Edit: All of those posts did see improvement over the weekend.]
Here’s a graph that shows what percentage of our subscribers open what percentage of their emails. (The X axis runs from 0%, never open, to 100%, always open our campaign; the Y axis shows the percentage of our subscriber base, including those who have unsubscribed, that match that open rate.)
I always expect 0% to be over-represented in these figures, because of the way email marketing software measures Opens. It’s possible for someone to open and read every email, and still never show on our reports.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s another spike. Fully 6% of our subscribers open every single daily email; 14% open in excess of 90%.
That’s the email marketing game. Our overall Open Rates this month, for example, were sitting in the 30%-40% range. One-half to one-third of these are the same people every day – the remaining group varies by day, from people who open a few a week to the 25% of subscribers who open, on average, less than one per week.
WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW?
I could play the email marketing data game all week, but there’s an amazing travel newsletter to publish. If you’d like to be part of this data in the future, you can subscribe to our free emails here.
And I would love to know – what other data would you like me to reveal, next time we open the kimono to EveryDaydream Holiday
Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org – or leave a comment here or on Hacker News.
- Sharing the details from our second month since launch (Jan 12 – Feb 11, 2013)
- Website traffic statistics – disappointment at 1,000% growth?
- Content thoughts and testing hypotheses in the face of traffic
- The miracle of revenue in a startup
- In Part Two – the email statistics, including a detailed breakdown of our subscriber engagement rates over time
- Experience everydaydream holiday with a free subscription to our daily destinations email
If you read our first month’s review posts (Part 1 and Part 2) you’ll know that EveryDaydream Holiday is a travel entertainment startup – we craft a travel story so real it feels like your own endless vacation, and deliver it to your inbox five days a week.
We’ve also made a commitment to document the process of building this travel startup into a viable and thriving business, and to do so in the open.
Why we are sharing all of this information with you? Because we love articles that peer under the hood (open the kimono?) of other web businesses – and based on the outstanding feedback you sent us after our Month 1 posts, it seems like you do too.
Based on great feedback from swombat last month, we aim to make this month’s communication more directly useful to other startups: it’s still not “3 things we did that changed our business so you can too”, but we’re sharing our experience so you can learn from it rather than going alone yourself.
Our biggest lesson so far?
Write these posts for your business. We have learnt so much reviewing the data, so our advice is to do it for yourself (even if you don’t publish it).
Disappointment with Unique Visitors up 1,110.12%
We were “reasonably” happy with Month 1’s 919 unique visitors.
In Month 2 we had 11,121 unique visitors. Our disappointment comes from the fact that almost all of that traffic was focused on one article and one day.
The post that caused the spike was part two of last month’s analysis – which we affectionately call our “200 Hours Effort” post. It hit the front page of Hacker News just before midnight Sydney time (breakfast time in Silicon Valley) – and created an unbelievable day of excitement for us both. The highlight was being mentioned in the Wall Street Journal ‘Startup Must Reads’, mostly because our families have no idea what Hacker News is.
Even now, one month later, we’re still working through the great ideas and feedback we received from “200 Hours Effort” – on HN, Twitter, and by direct emails from fellow travel startups. Thank you all so much, and please feel free to keep coming with constructive criticism (or love notes!).
The problem, though, is that when you remove that one post, our site traffic was fairly steady. And since that one post is not our core product – it was about our business, not one of the amazing travel experiences we’ve published – it’s not something that will create a sustainable reputation in our target market.
This problem was exacerbated by the immediate consequences that a well-shared article has on a new site’s traffic – namely, that it gave us a temporary traffic boost. And we didn’t appreciate how temporary it was.
Here’s the same data, with the big spike removed. On close inspection you can see that, for the week afterwards, average traffic was at a level well above our previous averages. The primary change was a benefit in our Google rankings, with the resulting traffic increase. This was reflected in subscriber numbers – the immediate result of the big traffic day was a 50% increase in subscriber numbers, and we were now getting 2-3 subscribers a day – not earth-shattering, but a jump for us. However we treated both of those results as a new normal. They weren’t.
And so as a result, our focus shifted away from traffic generation to almost exclusively creating our daily content. And when both traffic and subscriber momentum dipped in the second half of the month, we weren’t prepared.
It’s fair to say that following this we had two down energy weeks – we’re living proof of what Marc Andreesen calls “incredible highs and unbelievable lows at whiplash speed”; and we’re definitely experiencing pg’s startup curve (which I’ve written about before).
We were unprepared for the dip, and our expectations were busted. We ended the month with some great raw numbers – traffic and subscribers way up; but not with the most important and intangible metric – momentum.
LESSONS WE’VE LEARNT (SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO)
- When you’re a new site, one post well shared will have an immediate impact on your search engine experience
- There will also be lingering benefits to your site-wide traffic, but these won’t last
- Identify the fundamentals – for us, content, traffic, subscriber numbers and engagement – and never fall for the temptation to ignore one of these, even for a little while
WHAT NEXT FOR TRAFFIC?
Here’s a graph of the Dow Jones from 1985 to 2009. That small blip on the left hand side is the 1987 stock market crash. At the time, it was devastating – like, throw yourself out a window devastating. In hindsight, it’s so ‘small’ I usually have to draw people’s attention to it [I run events, some of which incorporate these charts, as part of my business coaching company].
Why the Stock Market analogy? Well our intent is to make that traffic spike, which currently dominates our landscape, as negligible in our graph as the 1987 crash is in this graph. Early in Month 3, we’re on our way – there are now other days that appear on the graph as something other than a blue line along the bottom. We want Month 3 to be larger, more consistent, and more engergising to us as founders.
I had to do some data dumping for analysis – you can skip these lists and go straight to the points below, but I thought it worthwhile sharing so other sites can have some comparable data about traffic.
Here is a top 5 list of our most engaging daily newsletters from this month – the metric we use to measure engagement is Opened Click Through Rate;
- Eat. Shop. Cruise? A surprising day in Hong Kong. (29.17%)
- Find the best view in Hong Kong. Twice. (23.81%)
- Minus 35° Celsius. Time for a swim (20.55%)
- Toasting Marshmallows over Lava (19.72%)
- Zen and the Art of Painting a Pavilion in Gold Leaf (18.60%)
Here’s a list of our top daily destination travel posts, by pageviews of all time;
- Toasting Marshmallows over Lava (1979)
- Houston, We Have No Problem (301)
- Find the best view in Hong Kong. Twice. (150)
- Parading the New Orleans Mardi Gras (147)
- Eat. Shop. Cruise? A surprising day in Hong Kong. (136)
And here are the top 5 posts as landing pages from search engine traffic
- Guatemala to Belize City Bus Ride (16)
- Teotihuacan Pyramid Tour, Mexico City (10)
- Toasting Marshmallows over Lava (8)
- Parading the New Orleans Mardi Gras (8)
- From Glico Neon to Geisha Style (6)
We were interested to see the similarities and the differences in these lists.
We published 21 posts this month, and 10 are included in at least one of these lists. What do they have in common, and what sets them apart from the others (including our 5-state southern USA roadtrip)?
Well the data is small, so rather than drawing a conclusion let me put forward my hypothesis around this:
- ‘Off the beaten track’ style content is rewarded.
We heard this in our pre-launch survey: when we asked “Which type of destinations do you want to see most”, 59% said ‘off the beaten track’ and 56% said ‘every country in the world’ (respondents could choose 3 options).
I believe this is being supported in our data – unusual destinations are being opened, shared externally, and we also rank higher for those less-popular (read: less-competitive) destination phrases.
The challenge is applying this to our ‘Calendar of Awesome’, which is now planned neatly in advance (see Revenue, below). This currently includes a proper trip through Europe via New York City – is Copenhagen going to be considered unusual enough to garner traffic? Is the global popularity of New York going to compensate for the lack of uniqueness that another ‘3 days in New York‘ article will conjure? Time – and the data created in that time – will tell.
And, of course, the old chestnut – what is off the beaten path is subjective. Osaka and Kyoto are exotic destinations … unless you live in Tokyo.
I want to touch briefly on community stuff and social media, as a driver for traffic and as a reward for producing engaging content. When you remove the “200 Hours Effort” post and just look at our core content, there really wasn’t much social data to speak of this month. This was a revelation to us exposed by this analysis, as we had thought social media was contributing more than it turns out it was! So far in Month 3, our traffic efforts have been focused on social media with a big impact.
(This is the perfect time to mention the weekly ‘Where in the World?’ quiz on our Facebook page, for example.)
LESSONS WE’VE LEARNT (SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO)
- If you produce lots of content, it pays to examine the lots of data created.
- Create hypotheses, not conclusions, and then test them. This data may look completely different next month.
- Recognise the value of meta-posts (those about the business) for traffic – and recognise the difference in the traffic.
WHAT NEXT FOR CONTENT?
- Next, we get to test the hypothesis about off the beaten track. We’re not yet ready to commit fully to only delivering on this – we may find that London and New York are engaging for completely different reasons.
- Looking forward, there are a higher proportion of near-future locations that I’ve been to previously – we shall see if that helps me create better itineraries or more engaging prose / photos.
- Creating some more meta-content, but with a greater focus on our target market. About 0.5% of the Hacker News readers last month ended up subscribing to our daily travel emails – we suspect that rate will be much higher if the traffic spikes come from a travel-related site, not Startup News.
Last month’s title hook was “How we Turned 200 Hours Effort Into Zero Revenue“. We can’t steal that again, because we’ve actually earned this month a whopping … $6.62.
- All from Amazon affiliate fees
(If you click this link and buy something we get a commission)
- All (well, both) sales were initiated by the “200 Hours Effort” traffic spike; no purchases were travel related.
Our intent was for the Amazon affiliate program to be temporary (or, more specifically, for the Amazon ads on our homepage and emails to be temporary; specific product links might remain with affiliate codes). And here we are this month still featuring them, and having added World Nomads Travel Insurance to the mix (worth noting – that’s a genuine recommendation based on our personal experience using them).
We applied to a travel specific affiliate network, and were not accepted (based, we understand, on the age of our site). We have been accepted into Lonely Planet’s program, and will be rolling that out (final research going to plan) this month. (Again, we actually use and recommend Lonely Planet guides, and would do so regardless of the affiliate agreement.)
But affiliate advertising was never our business model, and work is underway behind the scenes to build our direct advertising program.
We believe there’s an opportunity connecting small businesses (like a local restaurant or boutique hotel) with travellers early in the travel inspiration process. It’s great for a restaurant owner to be on someone’s short list based on TripAdvisor ratings; but how much more powerful is it for them to be part of the reason someone is inspired to visit a destination?
Part of the delay in launching this program is ethical discussions between us as co-founders. This is becoming more difficult to resolve when you look at the business models for content-led businesses like The Atlantic and BuzzFeed. There, content as simply entertainment has seen examples of them opting not to distinguish between advertising from editorial.
As a content entertainment site, where do we sit in that spectrum? To what extent will we allow advertising to impact content?
More on that when decisions have been finalised, but it’s looking like a filter around improving the quality of our content and adding utility to the reader. EveryDaydream Holiday is not a site for your traditional ‘reach and frequency’ marketing dollars – nor are we going to feature Scientology Beach Resorts simply because we’ve been paid to do so.
I mentioned previously our ‘Calendar of Awesome’. This maps out our itinerary for the future – currently just over 3 months in advance (a goal identified in last month’s post, now met). A key benefit of this is being able to approach or respond to advertisers well in advance – creating time for conversation and personalisation.
(For returning readers who want to know, our content creation is not yet far ahead of our publishing schedule – a key risk for our daily email business model.)
LESSONS WE’VE LEARNT (SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO)
- We knew, but in case you aren’t aware, that part of why affiliate programs make poor revenue models is the minimum thresholds that must be reached before they pay out. So while we’ve “made” $6.62, in reality we won’t see that money until we reach the $150 threshold with Amazon.
- Put more time aside than you are currently planning to, to implement your revenue plans. Unless you’re well-funded and part of a land grab for customers, progress in this area is a key part of maintaining your energy and momentum.
WHAT NEXT FOR REVENUE?
- We could do ‘more of the same’ – there’s definitely more we can do to integrate useful affiliate links into our content.
- But we believe our opportunity remains with the larger-value direct advertising. Expect next month to see a specific page for Advertising with EveryDaydream Holiday and maybe (depending on speed of conversion) some data in the revenue section around sales in this sphere.
- Content creation revenue (eg, producing an ebook from our detailed series of posts about New Zealand) remains part of our future plans – we create travel entertainment, why not find a way to package it such that people will see more value and purchase that?
Want to be involved?
- We want your thoughts, and I’m sure other readers here and on Hacker News would benefit as well.
- If you do “Love to Travel More Than You Love to Work”, consider subscribing to our free daily newsletter or Liking our Facebook page.
- And if you have any specific questions about your business, and you think our experience might help, please let us know – my email is email@example.com.
- Lastly, keep an eye out for part two, which will be a more thorough analysis of our email marketing efforts based not just on Month 2 but our first 50 email campaigns! (This link will go live when the article does.)
At everydaydreamholiday.com we visit a new destination every day. Trying to research, plan, edit, and even desperately squeeze in, all of the incredible experiences that some of our destinations have to offer is a tough gig.
To help us out, we make sure that we listen to the people who’ve got the inside story on the best places in the world to visit, experience, and enjoy.
And having spoken to local guides all around the world, we’ve managed to pick up one or two tips and recommendations from the people who know best – you!
So we were thrilled when the team at Posse.com asked us to share some of your recommendations with them.
Posse are the world’s first social search engine – what that means for you is being able to get all of your friends’ best tips and recommendations of the places they love, all in one place.
If you ever find yourself stuck for dinner options in Melbourne, Australia, or wondering what the best cafe in San Francisco is – use Posse.com to find out what your friends think. You never know – some businesses may even roll out the red carpet and offer a special treat.
You can see our first “celebrity” tips – all of our recommendations for the best places to visit in Brisbane, Australia.
And while you’re at Posse.com, make sure you sign up and start sharing your local recommendations and tips – your friends are counting on you!
- We get really, really open with our Website traffic so far
- We discuss the evolution of our Content creation process
- We reveal all our revenue figures (spoiler: nada, yet)
- If you missed Part One, read it here
- Experience everydaydream holiday with a free subscription to our daily destinations email
Why we are sharing all of this information with you? Because we love articles that peer under the hood (open the kimono?) of other web businesses, and wanted to contribute to that community.
If you’re looking for “3 things we did that changed our business”, this isn’t the right post. As the title suggests, we haven’t nailed this yet – but we’d rather be open about all our efforts and thoughts now than spin you a sanitized version later about how we were an overnight success.
Perhaps it will encourage another business (that idea in your head?) to get off the ground. We are also welcoming to any feedback and suggestions from those who have gone before us. If you do have some observations or thoughts, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here.
We’re pretty happy with our first month’s website traffic, with yesterday’s caveat about low subscriber numbers. We are also mindful that Unique Visitors doesn’t mean what it used to mean, when 1 person can access our site from their home laptop, iPhone, and work PC and be counted 3 times.
Here’s the Google Analytics chart – again, because we love when you share, and want to do the same.
We twice beat our launch day numbers, which was great. Those 3 peaks (the beginning, middle, and end of our launch month) were:
- Launch day – everybody sharing on Facebook etc, plus loads of people opening and clicking through the email.
- Chris had a personal blog post reach the front page of Hacker News – a percentage of people clicked through from his site to ours (and 5% of them signed up for the newsletter, which was nice). So being a dribbling, selfish jerk paid off.
(Due to time differences, most of that traffic was from the US on Christmas Eve, which means Christmas Day in Australia was our highest traffic day!)
- Was a particularly active day on Reddit – we had relevant articles posted on several subreddits that day, which cumulatively drove some traffic.
Indeed, Reddit has been our big find in regards to traffic numbers. We headed over to /r/travel when Lonely Planet temporarily closed its Thorn Tree threads, and have enjoyed being part of the community. Specifically, the niche aspect of the subreddits has allowed us to engage with different communities on different aspects of what we’re talking about – whether it’s Wine tours on /r/wine or our Soft Kiwi, Warm Kiwi meme on /r/BigBangTheory. We’re still learning our way around the communities there – no spectacular successes, and some interesting discourse (we’ve been told to fuck big bang theory, fuck facebook, and fuck this post, which does make you pine for the artistry of being called dribbling and selfish).
Our social media presence (and consequently traffic) has also grown where we are most active, on Facebook (35 Likes at the end of month 1; now up over 50) and Twitter (62 followers at the end of month 1; now up over 75). Each of these send regular traffic now – we have some automation in posting to the sites, but have found the best returns come from being present and engaged.
(We hope nothing we publish here gives the impression that we are more interested in business and money than we are about creating great content to entertain travel lovers. As we said in Part One, we’re here because we’re Travel-, Business-, and Tech- lovers, and we’re keen to share parts of all three.)
We also receive a small amount of traffic from Flickr – some of our best photographs are sourced from Flickr as ‘Creative Commons – for commercial use‘, and we are sure to always acknowledge the photographer directly and ask if they would like us to make any amendments.
Search Engines are the last source we’ll discuss here (specifically Google, as we only received our first traffic from Bing this week). According to Google Analytics, we had 15,000 impressions in our first month for 60 clicks through (0.4%). Of course, this includes impressions where our average position was >100 (we rank 1,200th for ‘Sydney, Australia’), and Analytics also seems to round up ‘any impressions’ to ‘5 impressions’. We don’t think 0.4% is accurate (or, more specifically, we don’t think it measures the most important element in converting from a search engine query to a visitor), but it’s the benchmark we have and will aim to improve.
When you rank these Search Queries by Google Property, only 23 of 1,851 have come from ‘Web’ searches. Almost all the others have come from Google Images. We’d like to see both numbers increasing of course, but driven by improved showing in Web searches: It’s fantastic that we average #1 on Google Images for ‘pantheon hot older male’, but we don’t think our Ancient Rome in a Day post is as relevant for those searchers as it would be for someone on Google Web searching (you know) “ancient rome in a day”.
We are storytellers. It’s the most time consuming part of what we do, creating a detailed, engaging article every day. (As an aside, if you want to experience our content by receiving our daily destination emails you can sign up here.)
We are committed to this quality content, and also filtering it through a realistic journey – we don’t find random destination emails to be engaging, we want to be part of a story. So far, feedback is that our readers love being part of that story as well.
And we’re getting better at telling that story efficiently. Perhaps our biggest win was changing the email template from Jacob’s original design to one designed by Chris, based on reader feedback and email statistics (See Part One for some more information on this change). Photos are now a larger part of what we’re sharing, and the email is more digestible for all readers with links to dive into the full journey if a specific destination is interesting. We are also no longer producing the same content in two locations (our efforts to link MailChimp and WordPress were not successful).
We would be remiss to talk about our content creation without another acknowledgement of the generosity of so many photographers who share their images through Creative Commons. There’s been some controversy in this area of late – mostly because of sites using photos without permission or attribution – so we want to be loud and clear how much we love the photos we use and the photographers who share them (oh, and all those people who share their travel tips with us as well!).
One piece of content feedback not yet implemented is a ‘Weekly digest’. It’s something people suggested in our pre-launch survey, and it’s common feedback when we talk to those who have Unsubscribed to our daily destinations email. This will be the largest test of our “everyday” model – if most people want a weekly digest, albeit of 5 x daily destination articles, that will be particularly telling for us. Our hypothesis at present is that the people who want weekly, not daily, are not our target audience – but we would be crazy not to listen to that market as well.
Probably the greatest asset we have right now is our ‘Calendar of Awesome’. This is a detailed calendar that plans our itinerary in advance. Some two dozen major events (from the Superbowl to the Cheese-rolling festival) are pencilled in, and we fill in the gaps by drafting realistic holiday itineraries. This means a lot of time on sites like Skyscanner and travel forums, seeking (as a current example) the best way to get from Osaka, Japan to New Orleans, USA, via Cancun, Mexico.
The Calendar of Awesome is the business platform on which the interesting content is built – it prevents us from travelling into a dead end. It will also prove its worth when direct advertising (see below) is implemented – knowing where we will be and what we will feature months in advance allows us to have conversations with businesses who could be (ethically) included in our content.
What’s Next for Content?
We’ve never missed a deadline, and our lead time is improving. Our Calendar is now a month ahead, and our emails are a few days ahead. Both of these will continue to improve, freeing us up from daily deadline pressures in order to focus on other elements of the business (remember, this is not our full time focus).
Our Local Guides page is now live, but we’re not actively driving traffic to it (eg, by PPC). Our readers want local knowledge, and we want to give it to them. So if you would like everydaydream holiday to visit your city or your favourite travel destination, we would love for you to tell us why.
We used to laugh about how at #HNLondon Meetups some hacker would show off a neat little piece of hobby code, and immediately be asked ‘what’s the revenue model?’ Not everything needs to be a business or have a revenue model … but our intention is for everydaydream to be a profitable business.
Simultaneously with launching we developed a great list of potential revenue models. We then identified that content was our core, which ruled out some models like paying for subscriptions (we want our gorgeous articles to be enjoyed by everyone) or becoming a daily deals site (“12% off your trip to Sydney” isn’t the level of discourse we dream about).
We established an Amazon affiliate account from the beginning (if you buy this Apple MacBook Pro, we will get a commission), and it has a presence in our newsletters and website. We’ve had 61 clicks through so far, for zero conversions. This all links back in to yesterday’s “more subscribers” discussion – even if our conversion rate were a few percent, seeing 0 from 61 would be the most likely outcome. When we’ve sent 500 people through for 0 conversions, we can confidently say that our processes aren’t working here.
That’s also why we haven’t pushed too much further with Affiliate advertising. We’ve been approved for some others, but the time to implement those into our site and newsletter process has been time better spent increasing subscriber numbers.
In the medium term, Direct advertising is our plan. Amazon is great when talking about Lord of the Rings, Big Bang Theory, or Photography (none of those are affiliate links, by the way – they go to our articles on that topic). But more often than not we’re talking about learning to surf in Byron Bay, or eating the best gelati in Rome. So far, none of our recommendations or links have been sponsored; eventually, when some are, we will only do this in an ethical way. The details of that are still being discussed internally – any examples of websites doing this well are gratefully received.
We said in a recent post that our revenue is approximately 100% less than Buzzfeed (but at least we source of photos properly). We plan to change that. Our funding is also 100% less than Peek.com. We are less concerned about changing that, and definitely not before we demonstrate traction.
What’s Next for Revenue?
Had you offered us, one month ago, the sort of engagement numbers we have, we would have been happy. Now that we’re knee deep in this baby, we know we can do so much more.
Indeed, we need to rapidly 10x our subscriber list – failure to do so will mean shifting the energy away from holiday content generation and into our next idea. Thankfully, we believe our focus will create the targets we’re setting ourselves.
As we noted yesterday, part of that focus is PR and Guest blogs, for both travel industry sites and also general start-up or business sites.
If you run a travel or business website and would like to discuss content creation or partnerships with everydaydream holiday, please contact us and start the conversation.
And please – if you do have any observations or questions about any of what we have shared, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here. And if you got this far, you should also follow Jacob and Chris on Twitter.
Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing.
Jacob and Chris, on our everydaydream holiday
- We recap who we are and what we do
- We share our pre-launch survey experience
- We get really open with our Email statistics so far
- Part Two will expose Website stats, Content and Revenue (this link will activate when published)
- Experience everydaydream holiday with a free subscription to our daily destinations email
We love peering under the hood of other businesses. So even though we don’t yet have a fancy engine to show off, we wanted to share the specifics of our business journey so far. We believe that they might help another business get off the ground.
We also hope that by opening our kimono we can get help from those who have gone before us. If you do have some some feedback or observations, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here.
What do we do?
everydaydream holiday is a free daily travel email for people who love to travel more than they love to work.
Our email follows a single, realistic journey around the world, guided by locals and local research.
Readers may enjoy specific destinations – oooh, Vienna for Christmas markets! – or immerse themselves in the whole journey – we recently spent 10 days in New Zealand travelling 1,000 miles from Queenstown to Auckland.
Who are we?
Without repeating what’s available on our About page, we are two travel / business / tech- loving friends – and everydaydream holiday is at the centre of that Venn diagram.
Pre-Launch: Iterate Early
We’re firm believers in the release early, iterate often business mentality. So the smartest thing we did was set-up and run a pre-launch survey. The full results are almost ready to be released, so here were the highlights and key benefits from doing this:
- Oh, you guys are serious
It gave us something tangible to talk to people about. It wasn’t an ‘idea’ we had, it was a business we were creating – “here, look at the survey”. (We also set up an Unbounce landing page, but ultimately launched the full site before we really had a chance to use it.) In the time it was live, 101 people completed the whole survey.
- Change the name!
This was hard. The original idea had been called ‘Eternal Holiday’ (because it’s one, never-ending holiday, rather than loads of different, disconnected destinations), and we had a few variations on the theme. Wanting to flesh out the survey question about different names, we added in some others that our loved ones had suggested. It was one of those – Every Daydream – that resoundingly won the poll. And so here we are on everydaydreamholiday.com
- Loads of other feedback, some of which we ignored
Some of the key things we heard from the survey included ‘more local guides’ and ‘don’t do it daily’. We’ve implemented the former; the latter is a topic for much longer debate and was a case of listening to feedback and also looking at evidence.
Yes, daily emails are a lot more work to create – but our hypothesis is that they are far more engaging and the business that is built on them will be far more valuable than one which only publishes weekly or monthly emails. This doesn’t mean weekly emails aren’t coming soon, as tomorrow’s post will detail.
- First subscribers
This also helped us launch early. We didn’t want to be releasing daily emails for the sole benefit of our family on the mailing list. The survey asked people if they wanted to subscribe – 84 people did and so they were our initial list.
DailyCandy, by comparison, started with 700 people on the list. Time will tell whether we may have benefited from spending the last month solely on increasing subscribers, rather than launching and sending something out five times a week.
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
This is the stuff we love to learn from other businesses, so we’re going to be open and share it here. That’s a little scary – we’re not an overnight success story and aren’t claiming to be. If you’re going to be cruel, please ensure that you’re being cruel to be kind (and in the right measure).
Email Engagement Rates
The name of the game in a daily email business is ‘Engagement’. In regards to email, we measure two things as Engagement Rates: “Open” and “Opened Click Through”.
Open Rate is pretty straight-forward – what percentage of people who were sent the email, actually opened it. Most email service providers (we use MailChimp) will tell you this, and also tell you your ‘Click Through Rate’ (CTR).
Now CTR is the number of people who clicked through as a percentage of how many people were sent the email. We want something slightly different – we want to know the number of people who click through as a percentage of only those that opened (“Opened Click Through Rate”). This latter distinction means more targeted testing – if your general click through rate is low, you don’t know whether it’s the Open Rate or Click Through Rate that’s the problem; if your Opened Click Through sucks then you know where to focus.
Overall, MailChimp tells us:
- Average Open Rate of 38.4% (Travel industry average 21.2%).
- General Click Through rate is 4.8% (industry average 2.7%) which looks good BUT
- Opened Click Through rate is 12.6% (v industry average of 12.7%).
This is why our metric is different – it reveals that our success so far has been high Open Rates (possible due to small database size; hopefully due to awesome engaging content) not Click Through.
Two weeks in, we identified this Click Through ‘problem’. We were also seeing a drop off in Open Rate, though the cause of that wasn’t obvious (we still have several theories). So we changed templates from our original (which included all of the content for that day, so was heavy on text and light on images) to our current version (which features more images, is more digestible for most readers, and has clearer calls to action for those who want to know more).
We will do a future post on the specifics of our template change; suffice it to say right now that changing styles mid-month (see the Dec 31 spike) has definitely increased CTR by something in the order of a 10% improvement.
It’s still too early to sort the signal from the noise, as there’s a lot of data to work with – day of the week, time of the day, destination (we have a hypothesis that after 2 days in the same country, readers get bored), and of course the Christmas holiday was right in the middle of all this. So we can’t share specific lessons with you yet (but look forward to doing so).
We did have one a key lesson about spam filters, when one of our earliest emails was nabbed. Bangkok, Thailand, is the world’s hottest capital city – and even though readers found that fact interesting, we should not have sent them an email with “Bangkok- hot, hot, hot” in the copy! This accounts for the dip on Dec 21 when nobody clicked through!
As at today we have 106 subscribers. It’s only a modest increase on the 84 we started with, not helped by an Unsubscribe rate that’s slightly above standard (0.71% v <0.5%). This has to be our key focus.
We recently released a beautiful new sign-up page (see http://everydaydreamholiday.com/travel-email) and are in the process of directing more people to our home page via that page.
The full story of our subscriber acquisition efforts so far is too long to include here. One key decision we’re juggling with is when and how to prompt people to sign up – we don’t want to frustrate existing subscribers by having a pop-up when they click through on an email; but at the same time our daily posts drive the most traffic the day they are published, so no pop-up there means missing a majority of potential subscribers.
We are definitely open to any suggestions on improving this! And if you don’t know how to win us more subscribers but you do love our emails, then remember you can always help by forwarding them to a friend or sharing them on Facebook etc. There are links in every one.
What’s Next for Improving Subscriber numbers?
We will continue to test different solutions. There is a current Optimizely A/B Test running on our sign up page; given our small traffic and sign-up numbers, we are also attempting some gut-feel solutions that won’t be statistically significant but could have significant results for our database growth.
Some of this is linked to increasing website traffic. PR and Guest blogs are our current focus, for both travel industry sites (we had our first press release published here) and also general start-up sites (for business data and experience, like what’s being published here – this will help traffic more than find targeted subscribers, but that’s great too).
If you run a travel or business website and would like to discuss content creation or partnerships with everydaydream holiday, please contact us and start the conversation.
End of Part One
Part Two will be published later this week (EDIT: Here it is). The focus will be on Website Traffic, Content and Revenue, and whatever else you might want us to include.
So please – if you do have some observations or requests for what we reveal, you can comment below, on Hacker News, or privately by emailing us here. And if you got this far, you should also follow Jacob and Chris on Twitter.
Thanks, as always, for reading and sharing,
Jacob and Chris, on our everydaydream holiday.
You’re doing it wrong, BuzzFeed
Recently the issue of “stealing vs sharing” has blown up in a big way, with one of the fastest growing media properties on the web, BuzzFeed, being accused of stealing the creative works of others.
Our take on this
To state, as Jonah Peretti did in this article on Mashable, that
“it was something just designed to show how cool that sort of photography is.”
is disingenuous. There is clearly a profit motive driving BuzzFeed, and to attempt to deflect criticism with “oh, but we were only trying to show the world cool things” is hard to swallow when BuzzFeed earns its revenue from exactly these kinds of sponsored posts. It lacks credibility to pretend that BuzzFeed is someone in a shed posting about long-exposure photography because they just want to show it to the world.
We believe that being able to mix creative work from many authors all across the world is an enormous part of what makes the web vibrant, interesting, and fun. But there is clearly a line between making humourous or interesting content, using the works of others, and then profiting from that content – all without giving the original authors their due. Most people are only asking for a link back to the original work, which is practically the bare minimum a web content publisher can offer.
But we were doing it wrong too.
We’re trying to show the world amazing travel, and we use the Creative Commons licensed works of authors on sites like Flickr to help us tell our story. In particular, while we’re only a month old and making approximately 100% less money than Buzzfeed per month, we only ever use images licensed for Commercial use as well.
We’re trying to strictly follow the CC licences – and that’s why we were surprised to find that we weren’t fully compliant with the terms of Creative Commons licences.
Thanks to this comment thread on r/photography, we learned today about a hidden part of the CC licence that most people don’t know about. It’s this;
Here’s the link to the simple form of the license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
It’s listed at the bottom of the “With the understanding that:” section. Lots of people unknowingly overlook this part.
The full text of applicable parts of the license:
If you distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work or Collective Works, You must keep intact all copyright notices for the Work and give the Original Author credit reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing by conveying the name (or pseudonym if applicable) of the Original Author if supplied; the title of the Work if supplied; and to the extent reasonably practicable, the Uniform Resource Identifier, if any, that Licensor specifies to be associated with the Work, unless such URI does not refer to the copyright notice or licensing information for the Work. Such credit may be implemented in any reasonable manner; provided, however, that in the case of a Collective Work, at a minimum such credit will appear where any other comparable authorship credit appears and in a manner at least as prominent as such other comparable authorship credit.
Each time You distribute or publicly digitally perform the Work, the Licensor offers to the recipient a license to the Work on the same terms and conditions as the license granted to You under this License.
Ultimately, our understanding of this part of the licence is that, with each use of the work, a link to the licence that the work is licensed under must also be provided.
So we’re now going through all of our posts and updating the required attribution, and this will be standard practice from now on.
Help us continue to get it right
We’re not perfect, though we’re trying very hard to be – so if ever you notice something that you think we’re doing wrong, please contact us and we’ll try to fix it right away.
As always, we’re ever grateful to those who chose to share their amazing travel photography with us and the world – and make sure you check out their travel photos.
Sometimes you come across a photograph of someone’s travel that is so striking, the reaction you have to seeing it is simply;
I have to go there.
We’re constantly inspired by the amazing photography that, each and every day, is being shared with the world.
We are fortunate, also, that a small but growing group of travel photographers are sharing their photographs with the world under Creative Commons licences.
Sharing with Creative Commons says; “here is my story – add it to yours and together we can be more than the sum of the parts”.
Our new travel photo attribution page is a small gesture towards saying a humble thankyou, and is also an encouragement to everyone – share your travel photography with the world, and you never know who you could inspire or where it could be featured.
We wanted to say a quick thank you to abeautifulsite.net (and it is!) for this handy guide to detecting when our fabulous travellers visit our site on their iPhones, Androids, Windows Mobiles, or other cool smartphones.
We want to make sure our site looks beautiful on your mobile device, and abeautifulsite.net really helped us out of a tight spot.