I started Skiology almost 5 years ago because there was a lack of reliable weather resources for skiing and riding in the East that were easy to follow, easy to understand, and tuned specifically for this purpose. I didn't know if enough people would be interested, and I also didn't know if I could do it, but I did have a plan in the event that people were and I could. That plan has always been to eventually become a website and an app, and if we could, also include deterministic weather app functionality as a part of it, but focused on ski areas and the specific information that skiers and riders would benefit from knowing.
I wanted to make this leap for the 2020/2021 season, but a global pandemic kind of threw everyone for a loop and my own life has presented me with multiple challenges each and every off-season since then. My plan was solid, and I have little doubt that it would have worked wonderfully, but it still unfortunately requires more time to execute than I have. Building a website and weather app functionality from scratch is a minimum of a 3 person job for 4 months. I have the people ready and waiting but I personally don't have the time because our model for monetization has just barely cut it. So again I will have to again spend my summer working on other projects. Instead of putting this off for yet another year, I've changed our plan for what to offer at launch and how we are going to do that.
Ghost in the Machine
Enter Ghost. Ghost is a non-profit open source content management system with their own web hosting solution pretty similar to WordPress, but it is a newer and faster platform, and designed from the ground up for presenting and delivering written content and managing subscriptions. I can download my data and run the software on my own servers if I ever want to move from their own hosting, but the organization offers a lot of integration with other tools that would take months to figure out so I'm willing to pay for that. Ghost is not uber popular in the "creator economy", but is the #2 most popular solution and it has in fact been around 4 years longer than Substack and way more flexible and capable.
I'm presently configuring our site and various tools and populating it with some past content. I'm now confident that I can make this fit our needs, and I will likely start sharing articles from the new site within a month. We'll work on some of the finer points as we near the season so it will be a work in progress for a few months.
The Subscription Model Is Taking Shape
Instead of serving everyone dinner and then asking them if they want to pay for it after they are done eating and letting them name their own price as we have to date, we're only going to give the appetizer away for free from now on but charge for the main course in the form of a subscription. We have to move our long-form content from Facebook in order to do this, and while that will hurt our reach, we'll surely make more money and get over that hump that has been holding us back for so long.
Our subscriptions will be annual in nature, and we don't expect to paywall any content during the off-season, so there will be no harm in subscribing immediately, in fact it will be cheaper to do so just like your ski passes. I've also wanted to provide a perk to those who supported Skiology this last season and so I will be reaching out to all of those people either to the email that they provided or through their Venmo transaction and offering them a discount before subscriptions are opened up more broadly. We will offer the same discount more broadly when we make it available to everyone else, but that offer will be very limited in time and in number, whichever comes first. We will then inch up the cost until December at which time it will stay put for the remainder of the season.
The cost to our supporters from this last season during the pre-launch and for a very limited number of people after the official launch will be $23.99 for the first full year, just $2 per month, less than a cup of coffee, less than parking at Stowe on a weekend for the full year's subscription, and less than the cost of the gas one might waste trying to hunt pow at a resort with a wind hold. We will only announce future increases in price a week before they happen which will be triggered either by sales or by time. For those who use our coverage as a reference for their business needs including ski areas, we will require a more expensive business subscription, but one that is still quite reasonable and offer alternative forms of payment. For those who don't have a lot of money and appreciate our coverage, we'll provide 'ski bum' discounts on an individual basis. For some of those who have helped us out with certain things, we'll provide free subscriptions.
We'll Still Provide Many Things for Free
Now if you don't want to pay for our coverage there will still be value there. We obviously want to hook people on what we do and draw them in even more by offering something for free. We will continue to provide free short-form content on our Facebook Page, we won't be paywalling our news coverage on our site, and we will provide daily weather updates for the next day for free to everyone, and have email delivery for them also, but if you want the storm coverage, or own snowfall and precipitation type forecasts, our wind forecasts, some deals, or to ask me questions like the thousands I have answered free for years, then you will have to subscribe. If anyone doesn't value what we do enough to subscribe, I'm totally cool with that. I expect just 4% to 7% of the people here to become paying subscribers next season, but I'm going to work on adding even more value so that we can get even more of you to come along eventually and you can have access to all of the free stuff we offer that you want in the meantime.
We will also be working on the weather app functionality in beta form and probably providing that for free at least to start. Since this requires a lot of different people and a lot of labor we probably won't get nearly everything done that I want to get done for next season, but I'm no longer letting that hold me back.