Charging for set reviews

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EDIT: be sure to read the comments below; much of this information has changed today.

We recently put up Steve Menendian's set review for sale on the publishing side of our site. I've gotten a few comments and questions about why we are selling it instead of giving it away, and what we can do for Insiders.

Steve's articles are worth money. I think we can all agree that he should be compensated, somehow.

Steve wanted to work with QS and we want to work with him, but we simply do not have the money to pay Steve what it would take to retain him as a full-time writer. These reviews are cool, but they don't generate the conversion rate we would need to finance it as a piece of advertising that converts people to Insider.If you want the numbers, here they are. Online advertising revolves around something called CPM; essentially, it is the rate of what you pay for one thousand people to see your ad. CPM is about $4 right now. Steve's last set review generated about 9,000 views, which is badass. Thus, if we are looking at it as a piece of advertising, it was worth about $36. Steve's set reviews, to him and to us and to you, are worth more than what we could compensate if we just treated it as advertising. Even if we considered that the highly-targeted audience is worth, say, $10 CPM, we still would be better off paying for ads instead of paying for the 65 page tome that he wrote for Mirrodin Besieged. One of the core messages of QS is to do what makes financial sense.

Thus, we're in a bind - we want to publish Steve, he wants to write for us, but the material he generates isn't related enough to premium to make fans of his stuff want to pick up Insider. It would be unfair to our Insider subscribers to make them subsidize a non-financial article, when what they are paying for is financial articles. Insider money goes to pay the Insider writers, who also generate content worth paying for. We have never represented that Steve's articles are part of Insider, but I am still sympathetic to members who want to get a little benefit for being one of our subscribers. Of the money charged for this review, QS pockets very little; I am not trying to rip you off, and neither is Steve - this is simply what this kind of content costs, on a bare a la carte level.

I am talking to Kelly about what we can do for Insiders. It may be the case that Insiders would like a meaningful portion of their subscription fee to go to paying for Steve's articles every two or three months. We did not want to assume that our subscribers would want to pay for something that was not directly finance-related, since they were not asked at the beginning to pay for that. We want to be fair to all parties involved, and I'd like to hear from you on what we can do to be fair to you, the reader.


Douglas Linn

Doug Linn has been playing Magic since 1996 and has had a keen interest in Legacy and Modern. By keeping up closely with emerging trends in the field, Doug is able to predict what cards to buy and when to sell them for a substantial profit. Since the Eternal market follows a routine boom-bust cycle, the time to buy and sell short-term speculative investments is often a narrow window. Because Eternal cards often spike in value once people know why they are good, it is essential for a trader to be connected to the format to get great buys before anyone else. Outside of Magic, Doug is an attorney in the state of Ohio.  Doug is a founding member of Quiet Speculation, and brings with him a tremendous amount of business savvy.

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9 thoughts on “Charging for set reviews

  1. Without knowing the specifics such as :
    – how much you paid Steve for his 65-pages review of MBS
    – how many Insider suscribers you have
    – how many Insider suscribers are willing to pay extra in addition the $5 they already pay each month for a Vintage-targetted set review (not speaking for anyone else, but I know I'm not), which is the core of the problem, as non-insiders can still buy the ebook if they need it.

    All your explanation amounts to very little and sounds like an apology. Without specifics, I absolutely can't believe that "a meaningful portion of their subscription fee to go to paying for Steve’s articles every two or three months", unless there are very few Insiders, in which case you have a much bigger problem on your hands.

  2. Regarding the "We have never represented that Steve’s articles are part of Insider, but I am still sympathetic to members who want to get a little benefit for being one of our subscribers.", let me remind you, as I did on TMD, what was written in the justification for the move to QS Insider :
    "Since our financial content often helps our readers make money, we have decided to limit financial content to Insiders. Spike and Timmy content will remain free, though we may occasionally recruit guest authors for some Insider features."

    Steve's set reviews should be the poster child of "guest authors" features, considering he really doesn't have a regular column here. Yes, you didn't explicitely mention his name. But if that's the kind of hair-splitting you want to get into, find yourself another customer. Had your QS Insider introduction featured that you reserved the right to print set reviews (or other MtG basic articles) as extra paying content, there is no way I would have registered.

  3. I’d actually be fine having my Insider money go toward having Steven write more material. I guess at $5, I don’t really care, I just want to read his stuff as well.

  4. thanks doug. post the cost for subscribing to insider please and a link to what i get. also if i subscribe then do gain acces tonthe set review or not?

  5. I feel a little dismayed because I was under the impression that if I paid to join the site, I would have access to all of the articles you publish.To be faced with another pay wall the week after joining was an unpleasant surprise.

    I understand what you are saying when you talk about there not being enough money to pay Steve for his set review. That may mean that it is not feasible to offer his articles here at the present time. I appreciate your efforts at engaging with the membership but this feels like the rollout of the "Insider Tier II" subscription.

  6. An update: this has been made free to all Insiders. The link to the article is on the front page, which is in three parts because it's server-crushingly big at 21k+ words : )

  7. Let me just say this: We make mistakes sometimes. It was probably an oversight on our part to not negotiate the deal to represent a benefit for insiders.

    remember, i'm just a guy who likes magic and trading cards. i'm still learning the ropes here, as is Doug. I'm really glad people like Etienne were willing to GET ANGRY at us and say something. Else we'd never have known that it was received poorly.

    when we make mistakes, we expect to get called on them. then we fix them. we renegotiated things a bit, and ideally, our resolution makes everyone happy. i can't stress enough that, rather than assuming we're just jerks, you can assume we're doing our best and sometimes….we just plain get it wrong.

    that's why I love this site, though. when we screw up, people are willing to help us grow and fix our mistakes. i consider it the other side of the virtuous customer feedback cycle, and i welcome the harsh criticism.

    I've tried to reach out to everyone who i saw was upset with this decision to let them know that, no, we're not just greedy. we're just trying to get writers paid, and sometimes we goof. this was one of those times. we evolve from your feedback, positive or negative, so keep it coming!

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