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The Nordly

The Nordly - Grant Report #1

Jonathan Gershberg
Editor-in-chief of The Nordly
・4 min read

Oh hi there! We’re The Nordly, a satirical publication based in Minneapolis. We are GfW-Spark level grantees and our mission is to become a sustainable hub for regional specific comedy in the Twin Cities metro that supports the diverse satirists that make it possible. We’re really excited to report our progress thus far.

What We’ve Accomplished

Scaled Up Content Production
Since receiving our grant just a few months ago, we were able to bring on a group of staff writers in addition to our contributor model. This has scaled up content production immensely.

While we were previously producing an average of 30 pieces of content a month, now we are producing 55 articles a month, an increase of a whopping 84%. This far exceeds our initial goal of a 50% content production increase by the end of 2021.

As the amount of our content has increased, so too has the quality of the content. We have a higher proportion of full articles (compared to just headline jokes). And since we have a core group of writers we are in closer contact with, we are able to make revisions more quickly to ensure that the content is published in a timely manner.

Writers Who Reflect the Diversity of the Twin Cities
We are committed to creating locally focused content that reflects the diversity of our city and our region. Our initial goal was to have, by the end of 2021, 50% of our content to be written by writers from backgrounds historically underrepresented in satire publications: namely BIPOC, women, trans and gender-nonconforming writers.

In the last 3 months, more than 60% of our content is now produced by writers from these underrepresented backgrounds, exceeding our goal several months early. This has been driven in large part by our recruitment of a class of “staff writers” that is majority women, and 42% BIPOC.

The staff writer model allows us to mentor comedians in the craft of satirical news writing and give them the skills needed to translate their unique viewpoints into effective, pitch-perfect satire.

Where We Could’ve Done Better

Exclusive Content Integration
Prior to receipt of the grant, our website was run through Squarespace, which, as of now, does not have a Coil plugin to share exclusive content.

Upon migrating the site to Wordpress, we encountered a series of issues. First, the Wordpress style we chose had issues with the Coil integration, which broke the site. We had to contact some engineers from the Coil end to fix the issue, which delayed us fully incorporating Coil-exclusive content onto the site.

In addition, we are still troubleshooting some elements of the Coil integration. One issue is the appearance of the lock symbol even if most of the article is accessible in the 100+20 format.

We have seen that the lock drives down visitors to click on the article in the first place because they assume that everything behind that link is behind a paywall. This undermines the entire point of the 100+20 model which attracts readers and then encourages them to subscribe to Coil once they are already in the article.

One clear demonstration of this: our site traffic has increased but we have not seen significant increases in Coil revenue.

Another issue we are encountering is apprehension from our writers. While they are getting paid, one of the big added benefits of getting published is the ability to add the article to their portfolio and use The Nordly as a launchpad for other opportunities. Many of our writers have been concerned that if the entirety, or even part of their work is behind a paywall, they would lose the exposure and accessibility.

This just shows the importance of getting the internet ecosystem as a whole to move to this model, so that it is an expectation that the average reader would already be a Coil subscriber and therefore able to read the content on the site.

Book Production Delayed
Our massive increase of content has come with a costly time burden. Our collaborative editing and revision process has been strained by the sheer number of articles we have, and there have been weeks where we have not been able to get to every article that is in our inbox.

This has led to a delay in the writing of our e-Book. We have a complete rough draft, but had hoped we would be closer to the final stages than we are right now.

Events Not Happening Right Now
When we had originally applied for this grant we had envisioned live events that were exclusively available to Coil subscribers. Of course, the pandemic has made live events— especially indoor events—both illegal and unethical.

We have not done any live events and do not foresee ourselves to be able to do any by the end of the grant period. This is why we are asking to shift funds to writer compensation instead.

How the Community Can Help Us

We are really interested in maximizing the web monetization model to bring in new Coil subscribers effectively. How have you strategically monetized your content? What kinds of user outreach has been successful for you?

We are so honored to be part of this community and we look forward to continuing this grand experiment in shifting to a new, more ethical and sustainable model for internet creators!

Discussion (2)

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chrislarry profile image
Chris Lawrence

Thanks for the report. This community is having and talking about many of the same issues. What could we do better to help with some of these issues? One idea, have you considered scrapping the 100/20 idea or any content behind a Coil paywall and instead have a more "support us/writers" message that encourages becoming WM/Coil but doesn't lock anything? This might actually build an audience faster and seems like that is what your feedback is telling you. Can individual bylines be WM? We have seen this work and might help to evolve the acceptance of your writers.

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gjhannam23 profile image
Greg Hannam

"Many of our writers have been concerned that if the entirety, or even part of their work is behind a paywall, they would lose the exposure and accessibility."

This was one of the ideas that we have been thinking about through our freemitization work. Not sure if you've had any thoughts on how to solve for this while many users expect stuff for free?