We’ve been talking about the slow death spiral of independent websites for years now, and here’s the next step: Dread Central, the well regarded horror/movie site is attempting to go crowdfunded. They need $7000 a month to keep going, and they’re about $1500 in as of this writing. The reasons? Surely you know them by now:
Even though our site is doing great traffic-wise, advertising dollars are shrinking more and more every month. These changes are largely beyond our control and have hit the entire online publishing industry hard. Quietly many sites have been absorbed into parent companies, filed for bankruptcy, or have closed for good. Even sites that get 10x our traffic have felt the squeeze, laying off writers or in some cases turning to crowdsourced content and paying far below industry standards for articles.
This is the tipping point. Ad-supported websites are on the way out. We have staved this off for as long as possible. We are tired of running click-bait stories, of making multi-page galleries, of having to put revenue concerns ahead of the user experience.
ULP. Horror legends like John Carpenter has joined in the campaign but it’s an uphill struggle – the site is currently being financed by credit cards.
In a story at the Hollywood Reporter, Borys Kit and Aaron Couch suggest this could “change genre journalism.”
As the media landscape has changed, a number of sites catering to horror audiences have shuttered or been bought by larger media organizations. Dread Central has remained independent since its inception in 2006. “If it works, it could be epic for websites to be remain independent and keep their voices,” says Miska of the Patreon campaign.
To keep the site afloat for now, Barton has turned to credit cards. So far, the Patreon campaign has raised about a third of what they need and he estimates if they don’t reach their goal, the site will fold by the end of February. “We’ve never taken a day off. I work on Christmas. I haven’t been on a vacation in 10 years,” says Barton, who estimates he’s made less than minimum wage for his work on the site, when accounting for the long hours. “My typical day starts at 7:30 in the morning. I work all day. My girlfriend comes around 6. I watch TV with her for three hours. She goes to bed and I work until 3 a.m.”
Sounds familiar! (I’m typing this at 3:12 am.)
As you probably know, the Beat has a Patreon which pays for a lot of my living expenses. I’m lucky to have loyal – and growing – advertisers, and freelance work, and really, this is a great industry to work in. But as Dread Central’s Steve Barton says, the internet is changing, and hand made artisanal sites aren’t going to be around much longer unless the public wants to support them.
We’ll be watching this story closely.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.