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Most people who read the content on this site will not ever venture far enough down the page to read the comment section. In fact, the large majority of the people who read this site don’t have a user account. They’re casual observers. They see a headline that intrigues them, they click, they read, they go about their lives until they see another TFM headline that catches their eye.
They don’t know who the writers are, the inner-workings of Grandex, that we own and operate two apparel brands, or that we have a podcast studio that churns out about five podcast episodes per week. They simply don’t care, and that’s perfectly cool with us. We appreciate these people.
Only about 2% of the people who read this site have actually left at least one comment on an article in the past. Much, much fewer than that 2% of our millions of readers are regular commenters. You guys, the ones who comment and know about us and who we are and how the site has evolved over the years, make up a very small fraction of our readers. If every one of you suddenly stopped coming to the site, it would not affect our monthly pageview numbers or our comScore. That’s just the truth.
The people I’m now describing — the loyal ones, the ones who actually clicked on this ambiguous headline and have made it this far in without moving along, and not the people who only clicked on the one about the NFL security guard filmed playing with his dingy near the endzone — are the ones we truly value. I’m talking about you.
In the past couple years, Grandex as a whole, but TFM most specifically, has been feeling its way through this thing called the media industry. When a media company grows, along with its websites and its reading contingent, its strategies must adapt and grow along with it. We’ve tried many things throughout this journey regarding our content. Most have worked, but some have not.
A strategy we implemented some time ago was to go for more mass appeal. We broadened our content scope and wanted to get as many eyeballs to the site as possible. This isn’t a bad strategy — it’s one that has made many media companies very successful, actually. A challenge we faced in doing this was maintaining our branding, our unique voice, and our niche content that made us so popular from 2010 to 2014. What if we could hold onto our loyal audience while adding other demographics? That’d be huge for us, right?
A well-written column that defines college culture will never perform as well as a viral news story about a man jerking it next to NFL cheerleaders. We wanted more guys jerking next to NFL cheerleaders, because it drove tens of thousands of people to the site with one tweet. And the more people who visit the site, the more ad revenue we’d receive, but that also meant more people we could direct to our own apparel brands.
BuzzFeed basically prints their own money, because BuzzFeed pulls in millions upon millions of casual readers. BuzzFeed’s content is cheap, though. It’s clickbait crap. We tried to get a piece of that mass readership while also maintaining our own unique voice. It turns out that is a really difficult thing to do while keeping your loyal readers happy.
We read the comments. We don’t always respond to them, but we read them. We have a pulse on the general state of our longtime readers. We know you see what’s going on at Grandex, and we know you have noticed the shift in strategy.
We also know you have a lot of questions. Our in-house writing staff used to go about 15 deep. Now we’re at seven. A Grandex veteran who has created a lot of quality content for us is no longer with the site. You want to know why, and I understand that.
TFM is in the midst of yet another change in strategy. We’re now realizing more than ever that you guys — the ones who care enough to read this, and who complain incessantly, and who know the inside jokes and storylines, and who insult me in every comment section of every article I write — are the ones we care most about. The people described in the first two paragraphs are not who we aim to please anymore. They will always come and go, but they are of very little value in comparison to the ones who follow us for the right reasons, because you appreciate and enjoy our vision.
This site became what it is today because of our niche comedy and unique voice, and because our brand resonated with you. It did not gain its popularity because we’ve had success with a few viral pieces that you’ll also find on a hundred other publications.
We are now getting more back to our roots. The in-house team will be creating more on-brand content. We will not be abandoning popular news stories, because many of you enjoy those, too. But we know how we made our hay, and we look forward to making a lot more of it.
We are more confident than we’ve ever been about the future and direction of the TFM brand, and we have the right people in place to make it happen. By the way, my boy Dan is back..