We are Tim Urban and Andrew Finn, two friends who met in kindergarten. We started WBW in July of 2013 on the theory that even though most online articles were short and list-y and stock photo-y and clickbait-y, people would still have the attention span for long, in-depth articles if someone did them well.
We had started a small company together a few years earlier, and the plan was for Andrew to run that company while I (Tim) would run Wait But Why and create its content. Since I'd be the only employee and we wouldn't need an office or most things a normal company needs, we'd be able to fund WBW for a while with our savings and a little extra help from our first company.
WBW has had a great start and we've developed an enthusiastic readership. In the last four years, I've written and illustrated over 100 long posts, and WBW has become a 60+ hour/week job for me. We know two things now:
1) We want WBW to go on for a long time. The beta test is over. It works. We have readers. I'm obsessed with writing WBW posts—it's the most fun I've ever had doing anything. This should continue for a long time, in some form or another.
2) We need to make WBW self-sustaining for this to work. The "fund WBW with savings + other company" plan was fine for Phase 1, but it's not sustainable. Our savings are unimpressive. And the other company is trying to grow and needs every dollar it can to invest in itself. If WBW is going to go on for a long time, it has to be able to support itself.
Thinking about the long-term self-sustaining plan, we decided we don't want to use ads. Ads are annoying and hurt the user experience, and we can come up with a better way to do it. So far, we have two methods:
1) The WBW Store. This has definitely helped, but it doesn't even get us half of the way to self-sustainability. Maybe when we have more time to further develop the store, it'll do the job by itself, but it's not enough as it is now.
2) Donations. We've received donations from generous readers ever since we put up a PayPal button in the Support WBW tab, but a lot of those donors, along with other readers, have suggested that Patreon is a better way for readers to support the site. So we're trying it!
The way Patreon works is a reader can donate whatever they want per month and the donation is recurring each month after that. So anything, from $1/month up, is hugely helpful to the cause.
What We'll Use the Money For
Our initial goal is $12,000/month. That money plus the store income will be enough to keep WBW going, indefinitely. Here are Wait But Why's costs:
- Hosting. We need a robust enough hosting plan to support the highest spikes in traffic we ever get so we don't crash during those moments and ruin my happiness.
- MailChimp. The service we use to email posts out to the subscription list. This fee grows as the email list grows.
- Ongoing web development. It's a website, so there are always upsetting glitches coming out of nowhere and occasionally, we add a new site feature. Neither of us has any programming skills, so we need to pay someone for this.
- Facebook post "boosts". When we announce a new post on Facebook, this makes sure that the announcement gets onto 1/3 or 1/2 of our Facebook followers' News Feeds.
- Me. I need to continue to eat things and wear things and turn lights on as I write and draw posts. I'm a guy with no kids in a tiny NY one-bedroom apt though, so needs are minimal.
- One employee. We need someone to handle things like translation or redistribution requests, spam comment deletion, store upkeep, store customer service, and a bunch of other little jobs. These things end up adding up to a few hours every day, and without this employee, I end up doing it all and have much less time to write posts.
That's the basics. With those pieces covered, WBW can support itself.
UPDATE: We hit the $12,000/month goal! It's been a total game-changer. Patreon now supports both me and our new, full-time Manager of Lots of Things, Alicia. Alicia is amazing and has already done a ton to make Wait But Why much better and free me up to focus on writing.
We'd be happy to keep doing things exactly how we're doing them for a long time, and now we can. We'd also love to do even more if it becomes possible, which is where the stretch goal comes in:
The stretch goal will allow us to take Wait But Why to the next level, enabling us to do things like:
- Start a weekly podcast
- Make (animated?) video version of posts
- Hire a second employee
- Redo the website. We call the current site WBW 2.0. The stretch goal would fund the development of WBW 3.0 and allow us to make the site interface as special and unique as the posts. This could include a part of the site where readers can post their own Dinner Table-type questions and interact with each other even more.
The stretch goal would be amazing to hit, but simply being totally supported by reader generosity makes us endlessly grateful, no matter what else happens.
Anyway, thanks for any support you can offer if you decide to, and thanks for being a reader!