State of Pando: Exploding traffic, surging revenues... but some mistakes too
Back in February, Sarah wrote a long “State of Pando post, announcing our new Speaking Truth To The New Power tagline and sharing our plans for the Pando’s third year. Since that time, a lot has happened: some exactly according to plan, some absolutely not. Six months later, this seems like a good time to update you on both.
First, the good stuff…
By almost any quantifiable metric, Pando is in great shape. We have money in the bank, our revenue this year is on track to double from last year and, after a few stumbles (more on that below), our traffic is growing fast. This month’s unique visitors are up a staggering 60% from last month, and last week was our best traffic week of all time. Part of that growth is down to our new homepage design, which we rolled out last week — the first small step in a series of improvements to Pando.com planned for the coming months. The rest is down to having re-focused our editorial back to our core editorial mission, having drifted slightly off course for a couple of months (more on that below too.)
Our inaugural Southland conference last month was similarly successful. With on-stage interviews with Al Gore, Christy Turlington-Burns, Bill Ready, Tristan Walker, Aaron Levie and Andy Dunn — to name just a few — plus evening performances by St Paul & The Broken Bones and Moon Taxi, it’s no wonder tickets completely sold out.
But that’s just the start: Most of this year's sponsors have already re-upped for the event next year, and we’ve already started booking guests. West Coasters will be pleased to hear that we’re working on chartering at least one flight (maybe more) to take attendees from San Francisco directly to Nashville. (And we moved the conference back a week so it doesn’t conflict with all those California and New York school graduations. The last thing we want to do is make parents pick between work and kids.) We’ll have details on early bird tickets soon.
And Southland is only one of the events we’re planning in the next twelve months. Along with our regular schedule of Pando Monthlys in San Francisco, New York and LA — next up: Jeff Weiner in San Francisco, a raucous “back to school” party in September, and a special event at CES in Las Vegas early next year.
Even if you can’t make it to any of our events, there’s plenty coming soon to Pando.com. There’ll be lots more of our agenda-setting journalism (including our continuing coverage of Silicon Valley wage-fixing, exposure of fraudulent crowd-funding, corporate spying and of course news and analysis of what’s really happening inside tech’s biggest companies) — plus several brand new video series, a new weekly radio show and more.
And, yes, we’re still firmly on track to be profitable in 2015, and with an even greater “cash cushion” than we expected.
So that’s the good news. But we’re still very much a startup, having raised just over $4m. That’s a lot of money, of course, but compared to the tens of millions raised by most high profile media startups, it doesn’t give us a lot of latitude to make mistakes.
And, yes, we’ve absolutely made mistakes. In the first few months of this year we started covering a lot more political stories, including several that had little or nothing to do with technology. This reflected our new mission statement of speaking truth to the new power, and we scored some real scoops, but it also caused confusion amongst many long-time Pando readers: were we turning into MSNBC? The answer of course is no: We’re committed to telling important stories about the collision of the technology industry and power, even if they’re on the fringes of the former. That said, for a few months we certainly drifted a bit too far away from tech. The result? A traffic graph that looks unsettlingly like the Foursquare logo…
As you can see from that same graph, we’re recovering fast, having got our editorial strategy back on course. The lesson here: We should keep trying new things (Southland was a huge experiment for us, and one that paid off with hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue) but we should be quick (quicker, even) to recognize when something isn’t working.
[Update from PBC: Shortly after this piece was published, First Look Media staffer (and former independent journalism critic) Jay Rosen seized on the above paragraph to claim that we were moving away from covering politics. We have previously, of course, written about his boss' unsettlingly close relationship with the Obama administration, and his involvement in the civil war in Ukraine.
To be absolutely clear: We will still be doing just as many, if not more, of these type of stories -- something which a journo-watcher like Jay must have realized from Mark Ames' giant expose of the sordid history of Reason magazine published just a few hours before this post. The only change is that we're recommitting to our stated mission, outlined earlier this year, of covering the intersection of politics and technology, rather than the type of pure inside beltway politics story you might more properly expect to see on MSNBC.
Update II: Rosen has retracted his comments.]
Over the coming months, you’ll certainly see us trying plenty of new things. As we continue to grow, you’ll also likely see us continue to make adjustments to our strategy and focus.
We can’t promise that every change will make obvious sense from the outside, especially as we continue to make changes to the size and make-up of our editorial team. What we can promise is that any changes we make will always be (and have always been) made in pursuit speaking truth to the new power, and getting to profitability as quickly as possible so we can remain entirely independent and continue building Pando for the rest of our careers. (One of the reasons we're not going to sell Pando, aside from maintaining independence, is that there's literally nothing else either of us ever want to do.)
In the meantime, from both of us, but also from the entire Pando team, we’re hugely grateful that you choose to read us every day (/hour/week/year/this one time), and come to our events — and especially those of you who have become Pando members. We’ll keep doing our best to make you glad you did.