A major influx of new paid subscriptions weren’t enough and Curtis describes the situation as dire as he begins ad-block blocking tests.
Earlier this month, we brought you news of Fark.com, Drew Curtis, raising the alarm of the financial situation of the website. At the time, Curtis talked about an “existential threat” to the social news website. He asked readers to consider paid subscriptions to help stabilize the financial situation of the site. If he did not, then he would begin implementing ad-block blocking technology.
As it turns out, plenty of users bought in to the various subscriptions. These subscriptions cost $2.50 and $5.00 per month respectively depending on what you ask for. While this sounds like good news, Curtis, more recently, said that he got the financial situation for the first week and called the situation “dire”. From his comments:
This one’s hard for me because I’m usually the one who keeps things positive. An unintended side effect of that is that I often appear to be unconcerned. It’s not that I’m unconcerned, it’s just that for me personally I find that fear and panic get in the way of good decision making. The guy at the top has to hold everyone else together.
I want to say Fark’s going to be fine, that we’re going to get an SBA loan or that the paycheck protection program won’t run out of money before our application clears. But truthfully, I don’t know that any of that will happen.
Here’s the bad news: The first week of April’s ad revenue is in the books. I’m not going to lie: it’s dire. For the first week of April, Fark’s ad revenue was down over 50% from last year. This is much worse than what the IAB predicted in a survey last week, which seemed to indicate a 33% drop, which still would have been brutal but obviously way better than the 50% we’re now seeing. This is industry-wide by the way – it’s happening to every digital media property simultaneously. Additionally, that 50% revenue drop Fark saw last week would have been even lower except Fark’s traffic lately is up quite a lot – especially on weekends, where traffic has nearly doubled. Before the pandemic, traffic on weekends would drop in half – a pattern that has held steady for 20 years. This is no longer the case.
The somewhat good news is that last week, a bunch of you signed up and sponsored others for TotalFark and BareFark accounts. That is hugely helpful – thank you so much!
Curtis went on to say that he didn’t want to ask for more subscriptions given how small local news agencies have much larger staff and need the subscription funding more than his site, but said that the influx wasn’t enough to offset the ad revenue losses. As a result, he says that he is moving ahead with an ad-block blocking test:
Meanwhile, I’ll be doing everything I can to keep things going on our end. Because (and only because) we’re running out of options, sometime in the next two weeks, we’re going to test blocking ad-blockers for a 24-hour period to see what impact that makes on revenue. If it’s minimal, we’ll retain ad-blocking, because I get it no one (including me) likes ads, and I know some readers need to use ad blockers for accessibility reasons. If the impact of the test is substantial, I’ll update in a future Fark NotNewsletter what we decide to do. We don’t have the luxury of having a choice in the matter anymore.
For us, it’s a bit odd seeing how many subscribers the site already has at this point and hearing that their situation is still so bad that they are resorting to ad-block blocking. The thing is, we don’t run a massive social news website, so we can’t really truly gauge how the financials work at that scale. It’s a lot like a passive web user gauging how a small website is being run without any web development experience. There’s a million things you simply don’t think about or encounter when you are just a casual reader. However, on the other side, when you are an administrator, you see first hand some of the things you have to take care of on a regular basis that the average user will never get to see.
All we can do as a humble small independent news website is try and stay afloat and document what is happening in the world of technology. This regardless of how scary everything seems to be these days.