Happy birthday, Fingers!
The boozeletter turns two...sletter (ish)
*adjusting little Ted Talk-style headset mic*
Check-check, check-check. Can everybody hear me in the back? Great. Let’s begin.
Two years ago, we started Fingers in a Palo Alto garage with a few computers and one crazy question: What if newsletter, but alcohol? From the beginning, people told us it would never work. Potential investors slammed doors in our faces; haircuts with MBAs urged us to pivot to video; our moms called us to ask us how we planned to “afford things” like “rent” and “food.” But we were determined to give it a shot. Some might have called it a moonshot.
We called it a boozeletter.
None of that is true, actually. I’ve never even been to Palo Alto, and I most certainly don’t take editorial advice from b-schoolers. Also, there is no “we”: the only maniac behind this project is your fearless Fingers editor Dave Infante.1 I was just using first-person plural to make this lede sound more like a keynote speech. Please imagine me wearing a black turtleneck. OK, fine, you don’t have to. I’ll just move on. I guess I can’t do anything right!!! *passive-aggressively mashes PowerPoint slide clicker*
🎂 The boozeletter turns two...sletter (ish)
Alright, enough of that. My point is this: on May 25th, 2020, I sent the first edition of Fingers to a couple hundred friends and family. Today, I’m sending this edition to almost 2,700 members of the Fingers Fam. That is really, really cool.
As you’ll surely note, May 2020 to September 2022 is more like 2.5 years. I’m calling this Fingers’ second birthday because, yes, I sent the boozeletter’s first edition in May 2020, but I put it on hiatus for awhile over the summer of 2021, and I only started selling subscriptions late September of last year, and the current, semi-regular publishing schedule has only been in place for nine months or so, and… whatever, who cares. Dogs and independent newsletters are not the same except in any way save these two: busy people have definitely considered giving them up, and if they’re yours, you get to decide when their birthday is.
I don’t have a dog, but I do have Fingers, and I’m not giving it up. So I hereby declare that today, September 23rd, is the boozeletter’s birthday. Happy second birthday Fingers!
🎉 Boozeletter birthday presents
I thought about putting together a big retrospective link-dump of all my favorite posts, interviews, and memes from the past two years. But I already kind of did that here, and besides, that just didn’t seem substantial enough to celebrate two-plus years of publishing independent journalism about drinking in America.
So instead of that, I decided to commission some art from my buddy Brandon Underwood, the artist behind @ButtsByBrando to commemorate Fingers’ second birthday and raise a little extra scratch for the war effort. Brandon’s work will be printed as a special commemorative sticker and on the cover of my first-ever zine, The Boozeletter Turns Two…sletter. I’m selling them together as a pack: 1 zine, 2 stickers, $25—which includes free shipping in the U.S.!
Want to help keep the boozeletter alive to see its third birthday? Preorder your limited-edition Fingers 2nd-anniversary pack today:
(Fingers Founding Members: as thanks for your generous, above-and-beyond financial contributions to this project, you’ll get this pack for free. Keep an eye out for a separate email from me with more details on how to claim yours.)
Inside the zine—which I’ll be shipping out mid- to late-October, once I actually get them from the printer—you’ll find excerpts and remixes of some of my favorite Fingers stories, plus a few never-before-seen memes and other #content, too. It was a lot of fun to put together, and if you enjoy ye olde boozeletter, I think you’ll love a physical copy of The Boozeletter Turns Two…sletter. Preorder yours, plus a pair of stickers, right here.
👀 Introducing group subscriptions!
Over the past couple years, members of the Fingers Fam have asked me how they can support the boozeletter. The single best way to do that is to become a paying Friend of Fingers, which you can do at a sweet discount right now if you haven’t yet.2 But now there’s another way to support Fingers on top of buying individual subscriptions: group subscriptions.
Thanks to a recent update to the software platform I use to publish Fingers, you can now buy discounted annual access to Fingers for groups of 4 or more. Anybody can purchase a group subscription, whether you’re an agency lead who wants their whole staff to stay appraised of beverage-alcohol trends, or you’re just in a group chat with three other people who also love Fingers’ unique mix of labor movement-and-Bang lawsuit coverage. I’m able to offer a bigger, permanent volume discount on group subscriptions, so it’s a real win-win. Buy a group subscription right this way:
Existing paid subscribers should be able to upgrade directly to group subscriptions, and for the curious, there’s some documentation here and here about how it all works. If you want a group subscription and have any trouble purchasing one, don’t hesitate to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
📈 State of the Boozeletter™️: “Two Years In” edition
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a big update on Fingers’ overall health. Mostly it’s because I’ve been busy, but also I’m not sure how many of you actually care about the viability of this independent publishing project as opposed to, say, the evolution of #yetibutts, or the anatomy of a bachelorette party boom, or whatever.
Still, being as how we’re two years in, and Fingers has been offering paid subscriptions for almost exactly a year, this seems like an appropriate milestone for an update. Let’s do that! Here are some topline figures for Fingers for the year 9/21/21-9/22/22
Net new paid subscribers: 299
Net new free + paid subscribers: 1235
Total subscribers: 2,684
Editions published: 77
Average open rate: ~46%
I realize these numbers don’t mean much to you unless you also publish an email newsletter, so here are a few reactions/takes on these figures:
Growth is strong…: I interpret the total audience jumping by almost 100% (from 1449 last September 22, to 2,684 yesterday) as an indicator of solid growth on a small base.
…but we need more: It’s great to see that big percentage uptick, but the raw numbers are still too low at the current ratio of free : paid to sustain the hours that go into this project. I.e., if only 11% of the total Fingers Fam is willing to pay for my work, I need to grow the denominator by a factor of like… 3x, and fast, to afford to keep publishing the boozeletter. (More on that below.)
Open rate = great!: Even as the total list has grown, the open rate is staying really healthy and consistent. I don’t have a great benchmark for editorial newsletter opens, but MailChimp says “Media & Publishing” newsletters average a 22% open-rate on its platform. Fingers averages more than double that, so… I’m calling it a big win. No point to sending emails if you guys don’t open them!
Hitting the paywall wall: Speaking of paying Friends of Fingers: I blew past my (admittedly poorly set) initial goal of signing up 250 paying Friends of Fingers by July 2022, then hit an absolute WALL over the next few months trying to reach my (admittedly poorly set, but in the other direction) stretch goal of 500 Friends of Fingers by yesterday.
Plateau problems?: I’m not sure whether it means there’s a ceiling on how many people are willing to pay to read my coverage on the booze business, or external economic pressures are (understandably!) forcing people to scale back on their subscriptions, or a combination of those factors, or something else entirely.
Paid subscribers stuck around: There was some churn throughout the year, but I was really heartened that there wasn’t some massive drop-off in the week leading up to the first wave of renewals for readers who bought subscriptions the first day they were available (9/22/22). I’m really proud of that, and hope it means that those Friends of Fingers continue to be entertained and informed by my coverage.
Lastly, I’m sure you’re curious about the money. I would be too! Over the first year of paid subscriptions, Fingers brought in about $12,000 in net income.3 It’s pretty crazy to me that this project didn’t exist two (ish) years ago, and now I’m able to earn about $1,000 a month from it. I’m so, so grateful to all the Friends of Fingers and Fingers Founding Members that have stepped up to underwrite my work this past year.
🎁 A parting gift…
BUT. (The rest of you knew this was coming, didn’t you?)
I spend approximately 20 hours a week reporting, researching, and writing Fingers. At $1,000 a month, that’s about $12.50 an hour. To which I say: in this economy?!? Jokes aside, I honestly cannot afford to keep publishing at the current rate, so I need more of the Fingers Fam upgrades to paid subscriptions to keep this thing going. If you enjoy reading my work, please support it by purchasing a subscription! To celebrate the boozeletter’s second birthday, I’m offering my biggest discount of the year:
With this deal, Fingers works out to just $5.20 a month for the first year. The sale runs through Sunday, at which point normal rates resume: $8 a month, or $80 a year. I will not offer a better deal on individual subscriptions this year. If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support Fingers, this is it!
Whether you’re a Fingers Founding Member, Friend of Fingers, or part of the Fingers Fam, I’m so glad you’re a part of this project. It’s corny to say but I literally can’t do it without you. Thanks for helping the boozeletter turn two…sletter. Here’s to many more.—Dave.
And my sweet, patient, supportive wife, of course. And lots of friends, family, and colleagues who have offered me encouragement and advice. But in terms of who produces the newsletter, it’s just me!
Over a dozen people have also gone above and beyond by purchasing a Fingers Founding Membership, which is incredible and flattering and so helpful to keeping the lights on here at HQ. If you’re already a paid subscriber, you can always upgrade to a Founding Membership if you’re feeling generous (it comes with a holographic badge/sticker and a 1:1 Zoom call, what a steal!)
Defined here as my take-home pay, after taxes, fees, and costs; CPAs, please do not yell at me if I’m using the incorrect terminology!