Running a Successful Membership Program

Craig is back to talk about year three of Special Projects where he describes how this subscription service is working out for him so far:

A membership program should be seen as an accelerant for work you must do. That is, it should be born from the desire for creative autonomy and for an untethered opportunity to explore with great curiosity and rigor, topics that may or may not be explicitly “commercially” friendly.

I harbor no illusions that it’s unlikely for a magazine or publisher to bankroll a thirty-day walk from Tokyo to Kyoto along an old highway, chatting up nearly-dead barbers and looking to place 200-year-old woodblock prints by Hiroshige in conversation with the road of today. Sure, you can cover a small bit of the walk with a magazine commission, but to take the bigger risk of months of research, action, and follow up, you need a more durable foundation. This is where membership programs soar — they are implicit and durable permission machines.

As I finished this piece it dawned on me that Craig is really good at making a thing but really extremely good at making satellite objects around that thing. So: as he’s writing a book, write about the process of making the book or when he’s thinking a big gnarly thought, break it up into lots of smaller pieces that live in newsletters as a half-finished and excitable huh!

Each of those satellite projects are somewhat inspiring by themselves but I particularly love how they all come together in these larger essays.