Every quarter I like to do a little update just to give our readers a behind-the-scenes look at what is happening. Oftentimes there is a big difference between what folks see publicly and the inner workings of STH, so I like to peel that back. In this edition, I want to go into the big “Ooops” of Q1 2023. I also have an ask of our readers. This edition may be our most profound yet, so it is important for all STH readers.
If you want to check out how this series has evolved, here are the links to the previous ones:
- STH 2019: Q1 – Q2 – Q3 – Q4
- STH 2020: Q1 – Q2 – Q3 – Q4
- STH 2021: Q1 – Q2 – Q3 – Q4
- STH 2022: Q1 – Q2 – Q3 – Q4
That list is getting quite long so we updated the format for 2023.
STH Q1 2023: The Big Ooops!
I f*d up… Bigtime.
At the end of 2022, the advertising market was going down. Since I see folks from other sites on a regular basis, plus I read stories, I was nervous. I heard stories of sites seeing ad budgets cut by 50%. Rising interest rates, inflation, a slowing economy, and a poor ad market gave me the feeling of 2001. At that point, I was working on a popular site that saw its ad revenue decrease by 90% in 30-45 days. Our outside ad agency has been signing longer-term deals so I knew we would not go down by 50%. Still, we were expecting to be down 7%-20% this year, and I am conservative so I figured we would be down 25%.
I was wrong.
While some advertisers have done short campaign pauses, we also have many new advertisers. We are trending up >25% this year instead of down 7-25%. For folks that do not know, we actually do not have in-house ad sales like many other sites. We are using an external firm to handle all of the advertising.
It is a good problem to have in some ways, but our regular readers have probably noticed what is happening. We ended up not growing the team fast enough in late Q4 2022 and early Q1 2023, and have been playing catch-up.
The team has been growing. While I have historically loved to do the photography/ B-roll for STH, I have taken fewer than ten photos since early January and have done none of the B-roll. Regular readers may have noticed the difference, but we are working to minimize disruption. In Q2 the photo editing is also transitioning. We are adding a second video editor. The goal has been to get me out of the way as much as possible. That is starting to happen, but it is a slower process.
We have been closer to the 1 article/ day rate than in most Q1s so we are publishing less. Still, the STH main site traffic was up to the point that January and February were huge months for the main site. What is wild is that our traffic is around 70% of well-known sites pushing 20 articles a day. My rule is we need to get 10,000 viewers on anything we publish, and we have held that since the start of 2022 when I made that rule. Realistically, that is more of a challenge on the YouTube side, but it is something we have managed to achieve on both the main site and YouTube since 2021.
The STH YouTube Channel Update
Speaking of the YouTube side, that has become very different for STH. We hit 100K subscribers in the last few minutes of Q3 2022. It was a fairly steady march of around 3K subs/ month to 100K. Q4 2022 and into Q1 2023 we were at around 4.5K/ month. Over the last month, we are closer to 10K subscribers/ month (Edit: Between when I wrote this article and publishing, it is now just over 12K.) Starting Q4 2022, when we hit 100K we were on track to hit 154K subscribers by the end of 2023. The goal was to grow a bit faster and get to 170K by the end of 2023. We are now trending to reach that this summer (STH slows this summer.)
The STH YouTube is growing much faster than the STH main site at this point. We are likely going to be looking for a ~2000-3000 sq ft studio this summer just to provide room for growth over the next 2-3 years. A lot of folks say we are “lucky” for having access to so much hardware, but between the queue of systems being reviewed (we now have three dozen out-of-boxes and reviews in progress), and all of the odds and ends like cables, adapters, drives, RAM, and more. The new set and current studio are great, but as we grow the team, we need something bigger. We lost out on a few spots earlier this year, but we will be looking again in Q2 for a Q3 move-in.
For those that watch our YouTube channel, we added a small change last year. We launched the ability to join the STH YouTube channel. While we do not have Patreon, we are using the STH YouTube membership feature for those that want to help STH. We are going to use those funds to pay for the Project TinyMiniMicro, STH Mini PC, and some of the networking gear that we purchase to review. We are starting to see some of the impact of this in terms of being able to buy new units to review. That is a benefit of adopting an “influencer” model.
The Personal Update
On the personal side, some news as well. In January I got engaged. Part of my challenge now is to get STH to the point that I can get married in October and go on a honeymoon and not have a major disruption to our daily publishing.
Right now we have the STH main site growing, the YouTube side growing faster, and personally, going through a significant change. It is just starting to feel like a lot of change, but it feels like there is room for more this year.
With that, a holiday ask for the STH readers, our newsletter.
Subscribe to the STH’s Newsletter and YouTube
Did you know STH has a weekly newsletter that comes out Saturday with curated “Top 5” pieces from the week? We know you cannot visit every day, so we can deliver our picks for weekend reading directly to your inbox. Subscribing to the newsletter is easy. Here is the form.
We are not selling your e-mail addresses and MailChimp is managing everything at this point so you can subscribe and unsubscribe from the list as you want.
We are not promoting the newsletter via overlays and pop-ups. Those are very effective, but they are bad for readers. I do not like them, so as long as I have a say, we are not going to have newsletter signup overlays. I run STH as something I would want to visit daily even if I did not work on it.
Finally, subscribe to our YouTube and check it out here. This is an area that we are going to have more of in 2023.
Subscribing to STH’s newsletter helps you see my favorite pieces of each week and a preview of the next week. Subscribing to the STH YouTube channel also helps us demonstrate our reach beyond just the website. Sometimes, doing things like showing power consumption or fan noise is easier than writing about it. This has also been something important for STH over the past few months. We are having to demonstrate reach, and simple things like subscriber counts help explain reach.
There is still lots to do to right the site. It is taking a lot of time behind the scenes. I think we are getting to a better place, but it is a process. Perhaps the most fun part is that this might be the lowest complexity state of my 2023 as things change on the personal side as well. Lots to do!
Congrats on your personal news!
Been subscribed to YT and Newsletters for years. My ad blocker has been off solely for this and this site alone the entire time (seriously, I’ve never turned ads off for anyone else!).
Wish I could do more…
“To infinity and beyond!” Hmmm. Hard to know if Buzz Lightyear was talking about the number of transistors in the current crop of data center CPUs/GPUs or their power usage.
…STH is one of my few daily reads. Honest, technically astute writing (versus parroting press releases) is hard to come by in this space.
I’m a site reader, and not interested in the YT channel – so I can’t help you on that front though. I can read the site in about 1/10th the time it takes to watch 1 video.
Congratulations on the engagement and all that’s going well with you 🙂
Keep up all the good work. Looking forward to the next server market overview.
Congrats on the engagement
Fantastic News on the personal side (and YouTube growth) – the content on your tube has been great and pulls me back to the site for details 🙂
Congrats Patrick to you and your fiancé upcoming marriage.
Go Project TinyMiniMicro -honeymoon night-