January 12, 2014

The Shrtnws Experiment Is Over

The Shrtnws logo
The Shrtnws logo

Over the holidays I decided to pause the Shrtnws experiment. It’s been great fun and the response has been positive, but the next step is too big at the moment. For those of you who’ve missed it, Shrtnws sent interesting and breaking news in short form, with a link for additional reading and/or source, through Twitter, Facebook, App.net and Tumblr. Additional plans, such as a daily (and later weekly wrap-up) newsletter were on the plate, and technically ready to launch, but I decided not to.

The purpose of the Shrtnws experiment was two-fold:

  1. Find a short news reporting workflow that was entirely mobile, with a low barrier of entry and investment.
  2. Build a brand around my link posting, since it threatened to overtake my @tdh Twitter account.

These were the initial requirements for the experiment, and I achieved them fast enough, tweaking and tuning. The next steps are at a completely different level. From my shortlist for Shrtnws:

  • Build a proper website.
  • Launch the daily newsletter.
  • Launch the weekly newsletter.
  • Add syndication support for Google+.
  • Add image news reporting.
  • Support topics for niche news.

I’ve figured out most of those things, and any on its own would be attainable, but together they’re quite a handful. The idea with the experiment was to run it for a couple of months, reassess the concept, and then take action accordingly. I realized, after running Shrtnws for some time, that the service not only needs developing as stated above, but also additional manpower. That means spending more money.

Let’s talk about money for a bit. Shrtnws is managed by me and as such there are not many actual costs for running the project. That’s not entirely true though, because although I did manage to build a sleek workflow for the content, there’s no doubt that it takes time and energy to post interesting news every day. There’s a very real cost in me losing that time and energy, as I’m paid for my time by both clients and my own projects. The reasoning that a project doesn’t cost any money is often flawed because people tend to forget that time is, in fact, often money. There might not be any running costs to pay, but that’s rarely the whole story.

Monetizing Shrtnws was on the agenda. It’s the tricky bit, no doubt, because most of the readers were getting the news on @shrtnws on Twitter. While the follower count isn’t all that impressive, there were quite a few retweets, and the totalt reach was growing. I find that interesting, and do believe that there’s something to this type of news reporting, or news curation if you will. The newsletters would no doubt make it easier to monetize Shrtnws, as would a proper site, but that doesn’t help unless you can actually sell sponsorships, ads, premium accounts, reports, or whatever would’ve been the way to go. I had planned sponsorships, as well as joining up with a suitable ad network, such as Fusion Ads which I’m running here on TDH.me.

Not a lot of money would be needed to keep me running the experiment. $100 weekly would cut it, which obviously wouldn’t be enough to pay for my time, but that was and is the first step. I’ve looked around, and I’ve thought this through, and since I’m not a sales person I’ve come to the realization that although I believe $100 weekly is very much attainable, it’ll cost time and money to get there. That’s where my investment ends, at least for now.

Deciding to halt an experiment, a project, is always hard. I’ve enjoyed working on Shrtnws, posting the news links, and discussing it with people. I have no doubt that I’ll return to this experiment, in slightly tweaked form. But for now, the Shrtnws experiment is over.

Thoughts? Let @tdh know on Twitter, or find me elsewhere. There is also a newsletter.