How to screw up an idea

by Carl Natale on January 7, 2011

Can we try this again?Remember the Social Media FTW conference last year? I was there. The most interesting moment for me was during Nicole Ouellette‘s introduction to blogging presentation. (BTW, if you ever have a chance to hear Nicole speak, take advantage of it. She’s smart and thoughtful)

While Nicole was explaining the virtues of WordPress and that there are ways to extend its functionality. That prompted a question from the audience. “How do we find out about these ways?”

That question was worth the price of admission. At that moment I wanted to give that man my card and promise him that I would tell how to get the most of his blog. When the session ended, I ran into a couple people and lost him. That should have been the moment the On Blogging Newsletter was born.

Instead, I went home and thought about it. To me, the question represented the need for  information about blogging. So I thought about it for awhile. I wanted to turn it into a newsletter that people paid to read. But there were a few questions I wanted to figure out:

  • What goes in it?
  • How do I charge?
  • What do I charge?
  • Who wants to read this?

All good questions but it took me several months of letting it sit inside my head. I should have just created it and let it evolve. Maybe introduce it for free then turn it into a pro version.

But in December I decided to make it a reality. I was launching at the time so the beginning of the new year looked like a good time to roll out another project. After all, On Blogging looked like a good way to help people who resolved to improve their blogs. (What? You’re going to tell me your weight-loss resolution is more realistic?)

Then Chris Brogan announced his subscription-based newsletter of blog topics. This really looked like poor timing on my part because my unannounced newsletter would look like a copycat. And who can compete with Chris Brogan?

But here’s why I was happy:

  • If Chris thinks the newsletter is worth doing, there’s a reason.
  • On Blogging focuses on helping consultants. The niche gives me some differentiation from Chris – who doesn’t articulate a niche for his newsletter.
  • My newsletter has different content.
  • I like my $4.95 price. It adds up to less than $60 per year. Which is cheaper than a lot of subscriptions to premium apps but pricier than magazine subscriptions. Chris created a handy anchor price of $9.97. That makes my price seem less expensive.
  • I like Chris and respect his blogging. He deserves to make money off it.

And here’s why I’m not happy (which doesn’t have anything to do with Chris):

  • Like I said, I should have launched in September. I could have had a stronger cash flow now.
  • I’m not totally thrilled with using as my subscription service. They make it easy to set a price. But there a few features I wish I could have. TinyLetter was an alternative but I couldn’t find a price anywhere. And after launch, I found out Mail Chimp has a way to charge.
  • I’m guessing it’s smarter to use a service that uses credit card payments ( rather than PayPal (TinyLetter) because more people have credit cards. But I keep second guessing that decision.

But I can work with those issues. The worst that can happen is that I change vendors. It will be ugly but not fatal.

Since there is no out-of-pocket cost to doing this, it’s going to be hard to not make a profit. The only investment is my time. If I don’t make enough money to cover my time, I’m still ahead. The lessons learned are priceless. And the content produced for the newsletter can be repurposed in another opportunity to make money.

And that is how you screw up an idea. Make sure you have something valuable even if it fails.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Previous post:

Next post: