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Tell HN: Thank you
178 points by AndrewWarner on Mar 12, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments
I hope it doesn't come across at too corny, but I have to say, "thank you" because you guys on HN improved my work @ Mixergy tremendously.

In the early days, if my posts got on HN at all, they'd often have negative comments. I emailed the HN'ers who wrote those comments and I asked them how I could improve. Almost every single one gave me meaningful, useful feedback.

(That feedback is why I don't shout my intro, for example.)

Then, as I started improving, you guys voted up my work more often and helped me get real traffic, which led to some sponsorships.

Recently, I noticed that I have access to more of the entrepreneurs and investors that I want to interview because they tell me that they know my work from HN.

It takes me hours to research and put together an interview. The people on HN make it worth the work. Thank you.

I may be way off base, but the cynic in me sees your post as related to the recent changes you made with Mixergy.

I really liked Mixergy. I turned lots of people onto it. When you decided (almost out of the blue) to turn it into a strictly money making venture for yourself I felt burned. I thought you were following in the footsteps of Charlie Rose's interviews, Paul Graham's essays, or one of the dozens of great Podcasts that exist. Something fairly altruistic that may generate money for you, but not as its primary goal.

It turns out you were really just building an audience so eventually you could upsell us into into some kind of self-help guru educational pay site. Not that there's anything wrong with a site like that, but it's not the kind of site I would ever use, and certainly not something I would ever actively promote.

I think there were a dozen ways you could have made significant money off Mixergy that wouldn't have felt like bait-n-switch. Instead you took the easiest and lamest possible option. I don't visit Mixergy any longer and I don't promote it anymore.

For your sake I hope you're really successful with the path you're taking. For mine I hope someone moves in to take the role I thought you were filling: The Charlie Rose of the startup world -- not the Tony Robins.

This is a pretty common reaction you get whenever you first try to monetize anything on the net. People feel entitled to whatever you do at no cost to yourself. They always say "you could make money in other ways" but never suggest any specifically or show any evidence they would actually gain traction.

If you like what the guy does enough to shell out some $, fine. If you don't, also fine. But the guy has a right to try to make money from his work. It's not a "bait and switch" to add in a business model.

It's also sad when just charging for stuff is seen as "easy and lame".

Users are often upset about any change whatsoever. A certain percentage of people simply don't like the things they're familiar with changing at all. They will complain loudly. You have to ignore these people to succeed. If you let them convince you to remain static you will lose.

I don't think that's the case here though. It's hard for me to be objective, but I'm fairly certain this change was executed poorly and may have been an entirely mistaken course.

> ...[they] never suggest any specifically or show any evidence they would actually gain traction.

Leo Laporte makes $1.5MM/year on his podcasts with sponsorships. I doubt Mixergy will make that with paid subscriptions anytime soon, yet it has an even more valuable audience. TechCrunch makes a heck of a lot more than that. Imagine how much money Techcrunch would be making if it had gone subscription a year or two into its life.

My guess is Mixergy's audience is a tiny fraction of Laporte's. Leo had his own TV show. You can't assume more value (in fact there's probably much less) and you can't simply say "Leo makes a fortune off of sponsorships therefore everyone online should go that route.

I'm not sure his business model is the right one by any means, but he has a right to try. It's not lame to do so. And I don't think the knee-jerk reaction against charging is healthy. My guess is that the reaction (seen every time someone starts charging) is usually caused by the desire to keep getting it for free, and then all of these illogical justifications rationalize them.

Paul Graham made is essays for free. As a result he has a loyal following of hackers. Long after his essays were popular, he started tapping into that following with YC.

Joel Spolsky had a popular programming blog. He mentions a site that he is involved with (SO) and suddenly it has the attention of a large number of people.

We all know Andrew Warner, what a nice guy is his, how good he is at building relationships. We visit his page often.

Don't you think that this alone is an extremely valuable commodity?

If Andrew decided to start a venture, or to invest and promote a venture, he would have the eyes and ears of the HN community in short order.

That is worth far more than any paywall revenue.

Paul Graham certainly didn't give Viaweb to Yahoo for free.

Joel Spolsky sells software for a living and is looking to turn a profit with StackExchange soon.

Why should people be criticized, on a site specifically built to attract entrepreneurs, for trying to turn a profit with their venture? How hypocritical.

It maybe true that some of these comments sound hypocritical but I feel that you are comparing apples and oranges with your comparison. Joel Spolsky spent a lot of time/energy on his Joel on Software blog and from his user base there "spun off" a business. Joel might have never spent on marketing for Fog Creek but he sure spent a lot of time on his blog that functioned as marketing for his business. His blog was not his business, he didn't wrap a subscription model to it. The same is true with Paul Graham, he built a following with his essays which "spun off" a book and a following to his other ventures.

This is exactly my point. The free content becomes a personal marketing vehicle - usually an extremely valuable one. You don't have to charge directly for the content to unlock this value.

My blog http://blog.gridspy.co.nz/ is never going to turn a profit. Hopefully it does attract more eyes to my other ventures, such as http://gridspy.co.nz/

This logic is poor. It's not the same because Mixergy IS his startup. It's not a promotional vehicle. What you're saying is that content (video, writing, etc.) can't be a startup but can only be used to promote something else.

There's no reason it couldn't be used either way.

That is not what I am saying.

What I am saying is that if you create free, popular, useful content you can't help but make money from the word of mouth it generates.

Users get update because they feel like the rug has been pulled right under them. I for one, thought "Mixergy is kewl, Andrew is building an awesome community" but as soon as I saw his subscription model I realized that he was not building a community, he was building a business around a community. Building a community and building a business around a community are not the same thing and I probably won't be able to participate because I probably won't pony up to see a video. But funny enough, I would have bought a book if he had one in Kindle form like I have for Paul Graham, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jessica Livingston, etc. I probably would have gone to a conference like I have for Ruby Conf, Java One, Future of Web Apps, and Google I/O. I would have bought audio books as I did for Seth Godin, John Maxwell, and Stephen Covey because of Leo Laporte's and Jason Calacanis' podcast ads.

Andrew can fire his staff, fire his clients, and fire his users and he can certainly follow whatever business model he wants but for someone has had interviews with Seth Godin subscription models are a plain ol' boring not-purple sort of cow.

There's nothing wrong with monetizing content, but I think the main issue is that Andrew didn't manage expectations effectively. If Mixergy had started with a hint of a commercial angle, it would have telegraphed the change and softened the blow. Instead, many Mixergy fans (including me) thought that Mixergy was a feel-good project "giving back" to the entrepreneur community, and we felt blindsided by what seemed like a sudden shift in emphasis.

That's not to say the balancing act is easy. I'm working on a Ruby on Rails tutorial project (http://www.railstutorial.org/) that definitely has an altruistic component, and it has been a challenge to indicate that it's not a charity. For example, although I'm giving away the HTML version of the book, I've emphasized that I'll eventually be selling a screencast version of the tutorial. I'm also offering "Unlimited free downloads [of the PDF version] 'til the book is done", which creates the expectation that I may eventually charge for the PDF.

Managing expectations is an art, and even highly capable people sometimes blow it. Imagine how much friendlier the reception to Arc would have been if pg had soft-launched it in '03 rather than writing essays about it for half a decade and calling it the "hundred-year language". It was pretty hard to live up to those expectations.

I understand the frustration. I'm listening to the feedback on this the way I heard and adjusted to past issues.

I don't have the right formula yet. But I'll keep at it.

For what it's worth, I paid for 2 years of Charlie Rose interviews on Audible even though I could have watched them for free on TV. It took him a few years to figure out the paid vs free model that you (and I) admire. Hopefully it'll take me less time than that.

I don't want to BE Charlie Rose though. And anyone who heard me stammer through the intros to my interviews knows I can't be Tony Robbins.

I'm happy to pay for content if it's the right model, but right now you don't have a model that I am willing to participate in. :)

In related news, I can't see a way to even access premium content on your site right now. I'm guessing that has something to do with the "[private_Premium]" tags I'm seeing on the for-pay pages.

I'm sure you know this, but be careful not to listen too much. Studies have shown that people abhor losses. In fact, a loss of $1 is 2-3x as significant as a gain of $1 to them.

When a product first starts charging, it triggers that reaction. If you had described Mixergy to them and said "this will cost $5" some people would have probably said "sure I'd pay that". But those same people, when used to getting it for free, now feel a loss of $5 when the price comes in.

The point being, not only will they get over it in time, but your new customers (which you hope to be 100x the size of your current base) will never have felt that loss.

I'm intrigued by this response because, as others have mentioned, there is nothing inherently wrong with charging for content. People do it all of the time. We all need to make a living somehow, right?

I think one mistake that may have been made in this case, and others may disagree with me, is that there was (as far as I know) no disclaimer about the content not being free forever. I think some people stumble upon a resource like Mixergy, see it's free, and get used to it being free. And once the owner of the content decides to start charging for access, it feels as though something has been taken away.

While I realize that it probably isn't rational to think that way, I think that many people do engage in that kind of thought process. And I wonder if Andrew would still have received this kind of response if he had let his users know up front that he had intended to eventually switch to a pay-for-viewing model.

As I understood the staunch's complaint, it was not primary about "it's wrong to charge for content". Obviously, it is not wrong in and of itself. What is probably not 100% kosher is that you first create a service for free, then thanks to this property of being free people would promote you and give other forms of help for free, and then you switch to a pay model. That's exactly "bait and switch," as it was mentioned above.

The equivalent in the real world would be, that I will start to build a house where people can sleep for free as a public service, that will attract volunteers to help me build that, and then after some time I remake it into a hotel...

That's true. I suppose when you factor in all of the free promotion and help under the guise of a free service, it starts to look a little more unseemly.

Andrew Warner developed a product (Mixergy) that creates value for a number of people, and now he is looking to capture some of that value (in the form of profits). Isn't this the essence of entrepreneurship? Why would you feel burned?

Honestly, it is a personal choice to feel burned. People have different perception of different brands and when the essence changes people sometimes do feel cheated or burned.

Not that I am comparing (or know the technicalities), but hypothetically if tomorrow Ubuntu decide to charge for their linux distro - a lot of people will feel burned. And we can equally argue that they were building a fan base all along.

Such things work best if it is clear from the start that going forward you may seriously look into monetization. Kind of beta phases for most software, Mixergy could also have had some kind of beta phase.

Point well taken. But given most of us are here because we are involved with the start-up world, we shouldn't rail against a founder because he/she is trying to implement a revenue model. That said, if the revenue model doesn't sit right with some people, then some constructive criticism is probably in order.

The Charlie Rose Show on PBS is underwritten by companies like Google and Pfizer. It is also resold to Bloomberg Television.

I'm not sure how that is different from what Andrew Warner is doing with Mixergy.

Also, I'm not sure what entitles you to Andrew's hard work for free.

Exactly. Charlie Rose does take a salary as well I am assuming.

In the absence of a Charlie Rose that interviews entrepreneurs, an Andrew Warner will do just fine. Yes, a free program would be better, but given the amount of work that Andrew has already done (nearly 270 interviews by my count), and the benefit I've gotten from his guests, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. If pay-walling content means that he'll be able to do this longer, then I'm all for it.

Andrew has made it clear in his post about paywalling that making money from it isn't necessary. He has had a large exit in the past and is financially free.

The Charlie Rose analogy is perfect -- Mixergy has the potential to be be a resource that has archives of interviews with The Greats. I love to pop onto the Charlie Rose Show's website occasionally and check out old interviews when one of The Greats enters my consciousness, but I do it so rarely that I wouldn't pay a subscription fee for the privilege.

It makes sense that you'd like Mixergy to make money, and I think micropayments would be the ideal way to go about this -- but until they become more practical, please try to find some reasonable middle ground. Were the sponsorships and other ad schemes not working out? You have a highly targeted audience that should be more monetizable than average.

I think it's nice to have a sustainable revenue for a site like Mixergy. I find the content very useful and i like it to exist for a long time.

I can imagine it costs to maintain a site like Mixergy and to produce it's original content. So having a revenue stream means the founder can continue to focus on Mixergy, continue to improve it, continue to produce more contents and not have to worry about how to spend his time finding a living.

Of course, eventually it can lead to more income than he probably needs to operate the site, then i think that's also his choice how to spend the profits anyway he sees it. As far as i see it, i like Mixergy to continue, and if it starts to charge for some of the premium features, then i will evaluate if it's worth for me paying it.

With income i think there's always the concern if the motivation to move forward with Mixergy is only about money instead of about creating valuable content for it's users. For this concern, i think we can all evaluate for ourselves if we see it like this, and can decide not to use it anymore. And, as we all know on the web, it's very easy to switch to a different site.

"... I really liked Mixergy. I turned lots of people onto it. When you decided (almost out of the blue) to turn it into a strictly money making venture for yourself I felt burned. I thought you were following in the footsteps of Charlie Rose's interviews, Paul Graham's essays, or one of the dozens of great Podcasts that exist. Something fairly altruistic that may generate money for you, but not as its primary goal. ..."

I agree with you about charging but these things cost. Plus Andrew is in this to make something users want (and can pay for). My own view is the way Mixergy set up now, you can view the latest for free but historical views cost. Here is a question though. It's related to startups and converting users from free to paying.

Do you think Andrew would benefit from a freemium approach where users have some, but limited access before payment is required? (more than now?) Or would some sort of token, voucher for HN followers be enough to avoiding negative early adopters?

I'm a student, and can't afford to pay to watch Mixergy. But I still enjoy watching the videos while they're available for free, and I don't begrudge Andrew for wanting to make money off his own hard work.


The interviews are really really valuable. Keep up the good work :)

For me, this stuff is complete gold. Each interview contains little nuggets that you can act on and implement. Not wishy washy motivational 'life coach' stuff, but clear actionable advice that might work for you.

Axod stole my comment regarding actionable advice. Mixergy interviews are some of the best gold-to-chaff ratios of any of my routine sources of information.

Since this is a love-fest, I thought I would thank you for your comments. When I've finished browsing HN posts and want more, I check your profile to see if I've missed any of your comments.

Andrew, I think I speak for a large portion of HN when I say this—I can't thank you enough for being not only a source of inspiration but also ideas. You've really helped us become better, smarter entrepreneurs and probably have saved a few great startups in the process :)

Keep up the good work brother. We, fellow HN users have seen you and mixergy evolve into something we look forward to. I hope you will be able to monetize your effort as well as keep most of us around.

Andrew I was under the impression that you are already independently wealthy from your previous companies?

Why are you trying to make money from Mixergy?

If it is just a matter of keeping score, I challenge you to dream bigger.

The idea of paying for content is such a 20th century idea .. treating ideas in a similar fashion to physical property is such a 20th century idea. We are increasingly seeing people capitalize on the very significant differences between intellectual property and physical property to do new things.

If you have the luxury of not needing a cashflow from mixergy, why not challenge yourself to find a new way to make money off your work, that doesn't involve paywalls?

I challenge you to offer valid alternatives instead of just challenging him to do it. And what does being wealthy have to do with anything? He has the same right to choose this business model as someone living on Kraft Dinner.

"Why are you trying to make money from Mixergy?" Why not??? He's not running a charity. His business, his work, his content, his right to try to monetize it.

You're calling his business model 20th century. Feel free to offer some 21st century alternatives.

A lot of "I want your content and I want you to keep working on it, but I don't want to pay you for it, so find another way to make money" comments flowing in this thread without many good ideas to help him do it differently.

I liked the shouting (and I've emailed this to you).

Your earlier show intros started out with so much more energy. Now, I wonder where the energy is especially with a name like Mixergy. You are doing an interview a day now so that makes a difference.

I listen to you pretty much everyday now but when I first stumbled upon your interviews, it was that initial energy that got me to listen more. At first I was thinking, "who is this guy?", but the energy kept me listening a few more minutes, and then a few more and now I'm hooked.

May I propose a different title?

> How Mixergy uses HN to get Access to Entrepreneurs and Investors to Boost Traffic and get Sponsorships for Free!

Why the downvotes?, that is pretty funny as in the titles of Mixergy's posts :)

eg: "How A Site Made More Money In 30 Days By Selling Access Than It Did In 2 Years Of Selling Ads with Tim Bourquin"

I give you a point. I think Andrew can improve the titles and make them sound less like informercials.

What he does is good & valuable work. Note that the archive is the only one that he is charging money for. So, we still can get on the juicy stuff within the week.


I think we're the one's making out on this deal. I get a lot of value out of these interviews and I know a lot of others do too. I want him to have access to more entrepreneurs and investors so I can learn something from them, and I'm glad he's getting sponsorships because it's deserved.

And while it might be free in monetary value, it's obvious that Andrew put a lot of time and effort into not only the interviews but also in being a good member of this community. The most valuable resource we have is time.

I hope that's a joke, and you probably expected the downvotes, but come on...

Managing a startup, it's hard to stay motivated 100% of the time. There are hacks for this, such as visualising success (both professionally and personally), or planning to meet your friends one evening to relax, or re-enforcing financial pressure by checking your bank statements.

Another one is to listen to an episode of Mixergy. The interviews are the ideal compromise between high level strategic questions and the grass roots stuff, such as what were the scaling problems, how was a given process managed, what was the advantage of doing X over Y.

I'll be writing in future about how to 'cook your own MBA' - Mixergy will certainly be a key ingredient.

Good work Andrew.

Thank you Andrew for all the work you do to make Mixergy a must have resource for me(and everyone else) on my journey into the startup world.

And a BIG thanks to the HN community as well!

I know my calling in life is to start my own company someday(soon!). Hacker News and Mixergy have been indispensable resources along the way to discovering what I love and want to do.

Keep up the great work.

Andrew, I'd be interested if one of these days you sat on the other side and let yourself be interviewed by a colleague.. in the same fashion.

(it might also reveal why you're staying in Buenos Aires :P)

Thank you for producing your content. I've found it very inspirational. I love that there are so many great resources for aspiring entrepreneurs these days and I'd definitely put your site on the short list for great content in this area. Your ads are good too actually. They are very topical and interesting for me so well done there, too. Good luck!

Thank you Andrew! The benefits of your work on this side of the table are IMMENSE. Your consistent refinement to do a better job than the time before is an amazing example of your commitment and drive. Your work has direct impact on the choices we make trying to achieve our own goals. Cheers!

Thank you, Andrew.

The interviews are inspiring but I have to say I'm inspired most seeing the work you put into Mixergy. You could slack and maybe not do an interview everyday but you do it because that's what you want Mixergy to be.

That's what I find inspiring and I can't tell you how helpful it is in keeping me on track.

Andrew-- a heartfelt thank you for being the most compelling conduit for entrepreneurial information on the web. I love the show and truly savor the times I can I can sneak away and watch a few episodes. I'm interested to see how your business model evolves.

I've stumbled onto Mixergy from onstartups.com and it is the most useful site for entrepreneurs I've ever seen. Thanks for putting it together! It's like the book Founders at Work except with video. Amazing.

Your interviews are excellent Andrew, please keep up the good work!

Thank you for your excellent interviews. I thought your very detailed explanation of your reasoning for starting to charge for some content at some time made a lot of sense.

I'm happy for you Andrew, but you could've played out monetization side differently, albeit the hard way. You could've pitched yourself for syndication to sites like channel9 and live interviews to conferences - that's where your money would be at while keeping the site free. Just an idea.

Your transcripts are the key feature for me. Links to audio/video interviews without transcripts can be frustrating; I may want to know what the interviewee has to say, but not enough to lock up my ears for 30-60 minutes. Thanks for adding them.

No, thank you. Your work is invaluable and I continue to be dazzled by the level of professionalism you bring to both the interviews and the subsequent feedback you receive here. Keep doing what you're doing!

The work that you are doing is very useful for all of us, and like faramarz says; perhaps you'll reveal what you are doing in Buenos Aires and meet up with the HN/Startup community here. Thank you!

One of the first things I did when I got here is help organize an HN meetup.

2 - 3 dozen guys showed up. I'd do it again if you want to help me set it up.

I'm here because I wanted to go in a cave and quietly work on my work without distractions. I don't speak the language here so I don't get caught up in aimless conversations. Most days I don't even put my contact lenses on.

I just spend most of the day improving my interviews. In the evenings I go out for a beer and/or steak with good friends. Or I stay at home with Olivia.

Ofcourse, let us know when you'll be available for a meetup.

By the way, I highly highly recommend you go to Palermo Valley http://www.palermovalley.com/primer-pvn-de-2010-capital-para... next tuesday, and as a special guest I can arrange for a translator as well, though most attendees, speakers, and organizers speak english too.

Perhaps this goes against you not wanting distractions. But if you feel like getting out a bit and meeting the startup community here, let me know.

let's do it next week - thursday?

Thanks, love your work! Keep it up!

I'm new to these parts, but I'm lovin' things so far!

Thanks for the interviews!

I will admit, the quality of show has improved significantly from your earlier interviews (for instance the early intro made me cringe every time) Some of your interviews have really made an impression on me.. and for that I thank you back!

Thank you for thanking us. It is easy to love that which loves us. Which makes me question the motives of the lover... ah consciousness is exhausting, huh?

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