Welcome back to Film School Rejects. First, thank you to everyone who noticed that we hadn’t published anything for over a week. We appreciate your attention to detail. As many of the emails we received asked, “what the hell is going on with Film School Rejects?” I’m happy to begin my new daily column/email newsletter “Opening Credits” with an explanation as to what we’ve been doing over the course of the last 10 days or so.
Our story begins last May, when we joined the Medium platform as one of their first 12 premium publishers. This meant moving 10-years of content over to their platform, where we were promised a beautiful user experience and a way forward that would allow us to grow our business, continue to pay our writers, continue our growth as a publication, and ultimately keep FSR on the cutting edge. It was a great partnership, until Medium changed its mind about what kind of platform it wanted to be. At first, we were a part of a group of publishers that took a wait-and-see approach with Medium. As time went on, it became clear that Medium’s priorities had shifted from being a platform for independent publishers to being itself a publisher of premium, subscription-based content. As we learned more about their future plans for the now-existent Medium ‘Members Only’ program, it became clear that our site wouldn’t be able to continue to operate the way we always had.
For some publications, like our friends at The Ringer, this probably isn’t a big deal. When you have brands chasing you down for sponsorships and a massive podcast network that (I’m sure) generates enough revenue to support your entire site, you don’t need to worry about how much money you’re getting from Medium. You can keep your site on their wonderful platform and the rest is immaterial. Unfortunately, we’re not in that kind of a situation. We’ve found a way to get sponsors to slap a logo on our header (without installing any kind of banner advertising) and we’ve never been able to convince enough people to become paying members. We’d love to be able to do this all without any ads, but there’s no money in that. And guess who doesn’t get paid if the site can’t make any money? The people who write articles, edit the site, make video essays, curate One Perfect Shot, and host podcasts.
So that’s where we’re at. We’ve come back to an independently hosted WordPress site and we’ve reinstated banner advertising on our pages. While this sounds like some kind of defeat of idealism, it’s not. The way I look at it, we tried something new — we went out on a limb where other sites wouldn’t dare to go — and while it isn’t where we ended up, it was good for a time.
Along the way, we did learn a few things:
That “chasing clicks” doesn’t matter. If your content is good, people will find you. Sure, we do big lists and write fun headlines, but we do that because (a) we like lists and (b) we know that our content backs up any headline we can write. As Washington Post editor Marty Baron recently said on a Katie Couric’s podcast, there’s a huge difference between “click bait” and “good headlines.”
What did change for us is the kind of content we created. When we moved to Medium, we stopped worrying about what would be popular and started focusing on what we wanted to talk about. And guess what? Readers continued to follow us. So we’re going to continue to allow our very talented team to write freely. We’ll continue to deliver passionate, thoughtful, topical, and sometimes well-marketed articles.
We also learned that readers love a clean, fast-loading site experience. So when we went looking for an ad partner, we knew that we’d want someone that prioritized our site’s speed and cleanliness as much as they did our revenue. We believe we’ve found that with the folks at Freestar and as we move forward, we’ll always keep the user experience top of mind. If you ever see a problem with an ad on our site, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll look into it personally.
Over the past 10 days, we’ve been migrating the site back to WordPress and setting up the new design. I sincerely hope you like it. And if not, feel free to let me know how we can make it better. One realization I’ve had as we’ve gone through this process is that I missed some of the customizable features of WordPress. It’s led us to work on some new features that we’ll be launching over the next few months. This includes bringing back the old One Perfect Shot database and much more. So stay tuned.
As we embark on the next phase of our publication’s life, we’d like to thank the folks at Medium who helped us in what I’m calling our year abroad. And to all of those who are helping us get back on our feet in the independent space. Most of all, I’d like to thank you, our readers, for following us for more than 11 years from experiment to experiment. I can’t promise that we’re done tinkering, but I can promise that it’ll always be interesting.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a proper version of this new column — meant to be your go-to for what you need to know every day in the world of pop culture — for now, enjoy the new site, please whitelist us with your adblock software (we promise not to abuse that privilege), also excuse us if anything doesn’t look right (we’re still doing a lot of work on the backend). Oh, and enjoy all the new content we’re about to publish in 5… 4… 3… (you get the idea).