Update #5: Realising the need for leverage

Friday, September 4th, 2020

Shane here again.

As part of the “build in public” model, I promise to send a Friday note to everyone who signs up for the Magnificent Irrelevance email list.

Pre-Launch Email List Sign-up Update

Thanks to everyone who has signed up so far.

Here’s the numbers update.

Over the past week there have been 47 visits to the website, with three sign-ups.

For the full month of August, there were 234 visits to the site, with a total of 18 sign-ups confirmed by the GA setup, for an overall conversion rate of 7.7%.

This Week #1: The Sportswriter’s Life podcast

The intro episode of the new podcast went live on Anchor.fm this week, and is available on Spotify already. The podcast feed will land in Apple Podcasts and other podcast services soon. Update you when that happens, but if you’d like to check out the short, 4-minute intro into what it’s going to be, head over to Anchor.fm or Spotify.

This Week #2: The Need for Leverage

I’ll be honest with you — reaching out individually, one by one, to people to invite them to check out the site and, if it sparks their interest, to sign up to follow the journey, is not a recurring task that gives me a whole lot of joy.

There’s enough noise in the world without DM’ing and texting people about this new thing, especially at a time when a global pandemic is showing few signs of slowing down and the world is dipping into a recession and almost everyone is at some level anxious about the short- to medium-term future of both their livelihoods and their lives.

It feels a bit tone-deaf to reach out directly to people at a time like this, or ever — no matter how well the “Hey, look at my new thing that might one day be a shinier newer thing!” message is worded.

From my own experience, and that of my small circle of friends (none of whom I’ve asked directly to sign up yet…), it seems obvious that people everywhere are fatigued or even overwhelmed and burnt out by the endless list of inboxes and incoming messages.

Why should this project add one more (unsolicited) message to the pile?

No, it’s necessary to make this more compelling, so that it draws an audience and potential customer-base steadily over time.

To be sought out and found, rather than inserting oneself desperately into the conversation. Time seems to be an essential ingredient in becoming sought out.

Chipping away bit by bit by bit seems important, but so is making big inroads whenever opportunities to make big inroads present themselves. The mason’s trowel is an essential instrument for an archaeologist, but every so often he might need an earth-mover too.

So in order to make bigger impact quicker, so that this is getting to 500 or 5000 people each week rather than 50, leverage is needed in at least a couple of areas.

  1. Leverage for visibility
  2. Leverage for speed

1. Leverage for visibility

What might this look like?

Anything that gets Magnificent Irrelevance some interest or attention across the vast fragmentation that is the Internet in 2020.

Podcast interviews, guest blogs, clever use of hashtags, social media pages on each platform, each with its own content plan … all of which seems completely necessary and also completely burdensome, in that it takes my focus away from the deeper, harder and more valuable and more necessary work of actually building the product.

Neil Patel, one of the princes of the digital marketing world, says something like, “When you’ve produced something online, you’re about 20% of the way there.”

The other 80% of your time, money and effort investment is required to promote the thing you’ve created.

Repurposing seems like a vital element for visibility leverage, so a logical first step is to cross-post this weekly update to a few different places: Medium.com, Substack and LinkedIn Articles all come to mind.

2. Leverage for speed

This whole thing could edge on on little by little by little over the next 6-12 months, and the steady daily and weekly chipping away will no doubt have some effect. But the 80-20 rule is real, and there is undoubtedly a long list of things that can be done where one or two hours of “work” can lead to big quick wins of the earth-mover variety which may have taken months with a trowel.

Both are needed: the continual, daily-weekly slog of doing the work, refining the message, getting the embryo of the product out in front of good people who might be interested, seek feedback, and collate that feedback, and see which of the feedback makes sense to pursue, and in what order, and what resources that needs.

Someone in the techie entrepreneurial Silicon Valley alerted me to a question once posed by Peter Thiel, a zany billionaire who was one of the guys who set up PayPal and made a fortune in the process:

How might you achieve your 10-year goals in the next six months?

A couple of 10-year goals for Magnificent Irrelevance would be something like:

  • 10,000 monthly recurring paying subscribers
  • Multiple award-winning feature articles or essays published
  • Original features written by two or more of Wright Thompson, Paul Kimmage, Barney Ronay, Denis Walsh, Mirin Fader, Richard Ford, Michael Lewis and Louisa Thomas.

So how might this happen in the next six months?

Leaving aside the concrete, unshakable (and maybe limiting) belief that it’s utterly impossible to achieve any of this, never mind all of it, by, say, March 2021, that question still prompts thoughts that are worthwhile to pursue.

What might this project need to achieve that level of success within a short timeframe?

A couple of things spring immediately to mind.

  1. A deep cash injection that might get both product and visibility of the product off the ground much quicker than it will with a pure bootstrapping approach
  2. A small team of people who might be able to fast-track the progress — even a small number of hours each week with a small number of talented designers, developers, project managers and an audio editor / engineer (to help with the more specialist and technical aspects of the new The Sportswriter’s Life podcast series) would go a long way, especially if they could see something of and buy into the vision of what this might become

And what is that vision?

The vision is a publication that delivers one standalone and stand-out piece of original sportswriting each week, each piece written by an exceptional writer about a subject important to them, wholly or even tangentially related to sports. The process will be complemented by an editor and an illustrator to bring each final piece to glorious life, all with the oversight of a marketer who might look on and think of ways each piece’s appeal and visibility might be elevated beyond the immediate combined audience or readership of either publication or writer.

The task of clarifying the vision is a challenge.

Clarifying it so acutely, and so compellingly, that others will contribute their time and their talents (and maybe even write a cheque) to help make it a reality — that is a challenge on a whole other level.

But that’s the journey. It will end, at some point, either in an abyss of oblivion or a glorious realisation of vision, or in some fudge between the two, not glorious and not oblivion but somewhere else.

A man I know once offered sage, if, I thought, excessively downbeat advice to me a number of years ago, at the start of another venture which sparkled for a little while before running out of runway.

“When it fails, remember to be philosophical about it.”

Indeed so.

That’s all for this Magnificent Irrelevance build in public weekly update.

If you’d like to receive these updates each Friday by email, make sure to sign up here.

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