Dear Members and Friends of The Dispatch,
First, as always, a thank you. We’re grateful for your continued interest and support.
To say that this is a new reality has already become a cliché. But it’s true. The coronavirus death toll in the U.S passed 50,000 and it’s climbing. There are nearly 1 million confirmed cases. About 26 million people have lost jobs. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the U.S. will return to an unemployment rate below 10 percent in late 2021—and that somehow feels optimistic.
Those are the big things, of course. We’ll continue to cover every angle of this story for the foreseeable future with the thoughtful, fact-driven original reporting and analysis that we hope you’ve come to expect. And then we’ll cover what follows.
We’ve heard from some of you wanting to know how we’re doing. So, a brief update: We’re a startup, of course, and in some respects the kind of economic contractions that we’re seeing will have an outsized impact on our budget and projections. We had planned, for instance, on a series of events that would have allowed us to interact in person with our members and readers, while helping to spread the word about The Dispatch and generating a significant chunk of revenue to allow us to grow and build. Those events were the biggest single revenue line in our 2020 budget and they aren’t happening, so those projections now go to zero. This could be a sizable hole in our income statement. At the same time, the market for advertising and sponsorships for podcasts has dried up considerably as companies pull back on marketing budgets.
That’s the bad news. But there’s good news, too, thanks to many of you. We’re excited to report that we are well ahead of our year-one projections on membership. Our original estimates projected 4,200 paying members at the end of 2020 and, as of today, we’re approaching 11,000 and growing steadily.
We are grateful. The resulting revenue has given us a very solid foundation for our day-to-day operations. Like so many small businesses across the country, we’ve carefully considered taking a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program. While we don’t begrudge anyone who has made a different decision, we decided against participating. The hardship provision of the law reads: “Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.” It’s a vague statement and others have interpreted its meaning broadly. We didn’t think it was a claim we could make in good faith. While these recent developments have certainly presented new challenges, we’re not in a position where we’ll have to lay off any of our 12 employees and, in fact, we’re even looking to add an executive editor and chief operating officer.
We’re also bullish on our continued growth for several reasons. In recent months, news consumers have shifted their attention away from partisan, hot-takey news organizations to outlets that emphasize facts in their reporting and analysis. And a recent comprehensive Nielsen study written up by Harvard’s Nieman Lab on Journalism shows that Americans are increasingly willing to consider paying for high-quality news they value.
We’re grateful that so many of you have chosen to become members and to support our slower, fact-driven journalism. We hope that those of you who have not yet joined but still find value in our work will consider doing so in the near future. Joining now will help ensure that we can continue to perform the work we’re doing every day and will allow us to grow from the solid foundation that we’ve built so far. If you can’t join right now—and we understand the need to watch every penny—please know that you can help us greatly by spreading the word about The Dispatch—sharing our work on Twitter or Facebook, liking us on Flipboard or other aggregators, subscribing to our podcasts or forwarding the any newsletter you find particularly compelling.
Thanks again for your support. We couldn’t do what we’re doing without you—literally.
Jonah, Toby, Steve, and The Dispatch team