Dogs, Dog Food, and the Curse of Some Talent

We're a week into the relaunched Epsilon Theory, and I've got mail.

I was wondering whether both you and Rusty have what Taleb calls f*** you money? Enough for yourselves and your needs and wants that you are not counting on Epsilon Theory to be financially successful in order to be happy? 

Will you keep writing as long as you still have something to say, or if ET is not paying the bills like you expect will you shut shop and do something else?

Regards, M.

Hahahahaha! Hooo-boy, that's a good one. Ummm, no, neither Rusty nor I has f*** you money. We are all in with Second Foundation Partners and Epsilon Theory, meaning that we are risking everything to make this work. Yes, we've secured enough funding to give us plenty of runway to make it work, but if we're wrong about the business model for Second Foundation ... well, then, we're wrong, and we'll have to pick up stakes and pursue our dream and talents in some other form.  It's the same story as thousands of other start-ups and thousands of other entrepreneurs in America today, no better and no worse. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

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  1. All from memory and, clearly, paraphrasing, but I’m sure the WSJ was always a paid site - even in the “please, please, please read our stuff for free” days of the '90 web-world - because, the WSJ editor at the time said, “we offer value that is worth paying for / we’d be diminishing ourselves if we just gave it away for free” (in those days, web advertising was de minimis).

    And, IMHO, he was right - it’s worth the subscription as, despite its flaws, it is one of the very few papers that offers real value. Also, what a great message that stance must have sent to every single WSJ employee.

    ET offers real value and, like with the WSJ, I don’t pay grudgingly but happily and willingly as I know (1) I am getting great value for my dollars and (2) I am signaling a vote of confidence to what everyone at ET is doing.

    Does it always work - no, as my local old-school bookstore proves (I patronized it 'till its dying day, but I don’t have any regrets) - you don’t do things simply because they’ll work; you do them because they are the right thing to do.

    Ben, could you explain specifically the distinction between / the structure relationship of Second Foundation Partners to ET? Thank you, Mark

  2. I’m happy to support Epsilon Theory in any way I can.

  3. i, like N, binge read much of what is written on your site…there is so much rich content here, it’s amazing…i’m a value-based consumer…if my contribution shows support for you to keep providing knowledge, it’s worth far more than the monthly fee you charge…glad to be part of the pack…incidentally, i make my dog’s food and he loves it…

  4. Happy to be a paying member.

  5. I do think there is an interesting conversation to have about what kinds of ads a website owner is willing to accept for their site, and what (if anything) the ads say about the site. I’m pretty sure you (meaning Ben and Rusty) wouldn’t run ads for the Daily Stormer, so I’m curious where you do draw lines for ad content. I’ve noticed an add targeting men with depression that shows up pretty regularly and for some reason it makes me laugh every time. Epsilon Theory isn’t THAT much of a downer! Or are the men assumed to be depressed before they get here?

    As far as paying goes, I mostly read blogs via Feedly which means I see all the ads and I’m happy to pay anyway because I want to keep hearing what you have to say. I’m similar to N. above in that I read everything you publish, and basically devoured your back catalog when I discovered you a few months ago, and that is the kind of content I am excited to throw money at.

  6. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Here in the early days of the relaunched website, we’re just running Google AdSense to serve up ads, which means that the specific ads a reader sees are driven as much by the reader’s web-viewing history as our web content. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be taking more control over our advertisement inventory, with specific sponsors and more tailored ads for a finance and politics website.

    As for where we draw the line on ad content, AdSense gives you some decent controls for that. We’re NOT nixing any sort of financial services ad (although if I ever see anything pitching James Altucher I’ll need to revisit that decision), but we ARE nixing the Russian bride ads and similar sexist crap. “Bad” ads will always seep through the filters, but we’ll do the best we can.

  7. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thank you, Lorne!

  8. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    The local bookstore analogy is a good one, I think.

    As for the relationship between Second Foundation Partners and Epsilon Theory, it’s the same relationship that Alphabet has with Google, just on an ever so slightly smaller scale!

  9. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    I love this comment, Stuart, and not just because I’m in awe of anyone who makes their own dog food. We WANT value-based consumers, and our goal is to always provide more value than we get paid, at EVERY level of value received, from the most casual reader to the most dedicated.

  10. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thank you, Eric!

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