What The F*ck Does It Cost To Run This?
The cost of running What The Fuck Just Happened Today isn't free. It's my full-time job and I'm determined to keep this ad-free and sustainable.
Here's a rough estimate of the monthly costs required to run WTFJHT:
Hosting: The site is hosted on Amazon S3 because it's highly scalable, reliable, fast, and generally an inexpensive data storage infrastructure option. I also use CloudFlare to manage my DNS, SSL certificate, and handle caching. Monthly Cost: ~$125
Podcast and Hosting: I use AWS S3 to host the daily podcast and cache the files with AWS CloudFront. I also pay Joe for producing and recording the daily podcast. Although he loves doing it, I strongly feel that people deserve to be compensated for their work. I provide him with a monthly stipend. Monthly Cost: ~$2000
Python Anywhere: I built a news aggregator called Current Status to help me source the top political news from across the web. I host it on Python Anywhere. Monthly Cost: $20
S3 Stat: Spending all this money hosting a podcast doesn't mean much if you can't measure it. Using S3 Stat lets me easily understand who is playing what pod on what device. Monthly Cost: $10
Live Chat: I like to engage with the WTF family, so I've installed Chat.io, a livechat widget on the site. Monthly Cost: $10
Site Search: This giant repository of news isn't very valuable if you can't find what you're looking for. I've implemented Algolia, the best instant search option out there. Monthly Cost: $59
Email Service: Oh boy, here's one of the most expensive parts of running the site. I use MailChimp because the ease of use, templating, reporting, and pre-built forms are the best in the business. While there are cheaper options out there, the time-savings is worth it. MailChimp charges based on the number of subscribers you have AND the number of monthly emails sent. WTFJHT sends more than 2.5M emails/month. The costs of sending email will continue to go up as WTFJHT grows. MailChimp is an awesome company and they've provided us with a 15% discount. Monthly Cost: At least $900; usually more.
Yellow Brim: A huge issue with sending newsletters is that it's easy to mess up the formatting. This is compounded by publishing WTFJHT as a blog post first, then reproducing it in MailChimp as an email second. I use a tool by a startup called Yellow Brim, which allows me to quickly convert the daily update into a perfectly formatted email newsletter. I save at least 45 minutes a day by using this tool. Monthly Cost: $75
WTF Member Forum: The WTF Member Forum is a community that exists 24/7/365 to discuss the news, coordinate actions, share perspectives, and connect with likeminded people. It's a Discourse community hub, which is amazing, free, and open sourced. It needs to be hosted somewhere, however. The provider of choice is Digital Ocean. Monthly Cost: ~$20
NewsWhip Spike: I recently started using Spike by NewsWhip to help me more quickly source the daily news. Their tool is incredible, but very expensive. They believe in the WTF mission and cut me a deal for access. Monthly Cost: $100
News Subscriptions: Quality journalism ain't free. I have subscriptions to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Atlantic, and a few others. Monthly Cost: ~$100
Other Tools and Services: There's a host of other things that are required to make WTF tick, like a GitHub subscription for hosting the code, Cloudflare for various security and serving issues, Buffer for posting, Canva for quickly creating social images, and Zapier to automate boring tasks, among others. I'm constantly trying new things in an effort to maximize both productivity and cost efficiency. Monthly Cost: ~$120
Freelancers: Being your own boss is great, but nothing gets done if you take a day off. I utilize a network of freelance writer/editors, social media editors, and various jack-of-all-trade help to step in and write and produce WTFJHT when I'm unable to (or when I just need some help). While the actual costs are variable and spread out over the course of a year, the effective cost is about $200-$250/day all-in. Monthly Cost: ~$3000
My Labor: Here's a daily breakdown of how I generally spend my time:
2-4 hours researching and collecting stories
2-4 hours writing and curating the daily post
2-3 hours producing the newsletter, setting up the post, cutting images, publishing, troubleshooting, fixing typos
1-3 hours community management and social media distribution
1-4 hours site maintenance, help desk/support, etc
And, since I'm both the writer/editor and web developer running this, let's pretend my salary is the average between the two professions in Seattle, via Glassdoor: News Editor: $63,718. Senior Web Developer: $98,464. Monthly Cost: ($63,718 + $98,464) / 2 = $81,091/year. $6,757
Risk Adjustment: Quitting a salaried job that included full benefits to run a blog and newsletter that's supported entirely by an optional, pay-whatever-you-want memberships comes with substantial personal and professional risk. While I'm prepared to experience some variable income, I'm not prepared to run WTFJHT at a loss for an extended period of time. I've also disrupted a career, so who knows what I'll do after WTF or how long it'll take to figure that out. This risk adjustment is also responsible for covering various hard costs, like personal health care, taxes, and the unknown who-knows-wtf fees that come with the territory. Monthly cost: 15% of total cost
TOTAL MONTHLY COST:
$3,539 (hosting, email, tools, etc.)
$6,757 (my labor)
+ $1,994 (risk adjustment)
Grand Total: $15,290.
Current income: $14,363
As you can see, nobody is getting rich here. It's not like there's a WTF 401(k) plan, paid time off, sick leave, or perks, let alone full-time employees. The truth is that while it's nice to work from home, it's also lonely. Someday I'd like to afford a desk at a co-working space.
I hope this transparency addresses any concerns you may have and demonstrates why your support is critical to keeping WTF Just Happened Today going strong. So, please become a member today.