Making a Sustainable Blipfoto
Posted by Blip Central on behalf of Blipfuture.
We would like to tell you a little bit more about how we see Blipfoto being managed in a sustainable way, if the crowd funding is successful and Blipfuture CIC is able to buy the site. It’s a longish read, so the key points are:
- We need membership income to keep the site going and we’ll consult the whole community on levels, free memberships, advertising;
- Nothing in the plans is set in stone except that Blipfuture CIC will be community owned and controlled;
- We need your help to make sure that everyone knows about our attempted rescue and can decide for themselves whether to support it.
Read on to find out more…
Firstly, although they are both companies, there is a difference between the aims of Blipfuture Community Interest Company (CIC) and the now liquidated Blipfoto Ltd (as we understand them – we weren’t involved in that company of course). The purpose of a CIC, as laid down by the CIC regulator, is to ensure that the company works directly in the interests of the community. That’s why we chose to form a CIC – it works best for a site like Blipfoto if it is community owned. Community ownership gives a voice to everyone in the community. That doesn’t mean that each individual in the community can have every one of their wishes for the site acted upon, but it does mean the company directors are legally obliged to work in the best interests of the community as a whole.
This key difference means our cost projections can be subtly different. We need to ensure that the site operates at a sustainable level, rather than looking for growth to deliver a significant profit for investors. Ideally, we would like to see the site grow in membership, and we would like to be able to raise enough money through memberships to be able to make changes to the site that the community wishes.
We can also run some of the operations at a reduced cost. For example, we are budgeting for only a single staff member, plus technical help to keep the site and mobile applications running, so we don’t need to pay for much office space. We would be looking for the community themselves to help market the site, both using those with specialist marketing skills and also by simple word of mouth. We may be able to bring down costs still further if we can utilise skills from within the community to take on some of the technical development.
The question of life memberships has been brought up a number of times, and we understand why (all four directors bought life memberships). The legal position is that these life memberships were bought from Blipfoto Ltd and so were bound up with the liquidation of that company. More importantly, to create a sustainable site, we need to keep membership payments reasonable with as many users being paying members as possible. If people who paid for life memberships were to expect these to be honoured, the other members would have to pay higher membership fees in the future to subsidise the commitments of the former Blipfoto Ltd. That isn’t in line with the principles of our new community owned and controlled Blipfoto.
Importantly, we haven’t set a specific membership price or prices that we’re looking to achieve right now. We have various financial models that we’ve used to model what the prices would need to be, but crucially it will depend on the member numbers and membership take-up. As we’ve said in our previous post, it would be £32.50 if everyone who posted in November 2015 paid the same amount. Interestingly though, in the comments we can see that some people have already said they won’t pay anything, and others have already said they would be prepared to pay more than that. We need a model that can accommodate that, and we would be looking to the community in the early days to help us decide what those levels should be.
We’ve also been very grateful for the suggestions people are making about what they’d like to see from the site if the Blipfuture crowdfunding is successful – keep them coming! It was great to see that a good number of the suggestions were things we’d already discussed while putting the proposals together. However, it’s not our place to dictate to the community what should change and what shouldn’t (cost willing, of course); we would always have been consulting with the community on your preferences. Just as a sample, here are just some of the suggestions that have come through to us around memberships alone:
- Keep the use of the site free for several months for new users;
- Keep some free accounts available after that, but with adverts;
- Provide different membership tiers for those that see more value or are more able to pay;
- Allow people to make an additional donation if they are willing and able to pay more;
- Allow giftable memberships.
These will be up for consultation from the community to make sure we get the broadest view. Nothing is set in stone yet, except the community ownership and control. It is our intention to continue to be as open as we possibly can. We will need to adapt to what happens with both the crowd funding and the membership take up. This may well mean spending more or less, depending on the community’s preferences, growth and the willingness to pay.
We will explain more about how we intend the community to go about having their say in a future post. For now, we’ll just say that we’ve gone to considerable length (with our lawyers) to ensure that our CIC company is formally set up to allow both for electronic participation and for effective use of proxy votes. This is to ensure as many shareholders as possible can contribute to decision making – you won’t need to fly across the world to attend a meeting! Of course, all of our consultations will include donors and the rest of the community too.
Remember, we will only be able to do any of this if the crowd funding is successful. The total currently stands at £45,030, which is 25% of the way there.
Before we go, a small plea from us. There is an active set of Blip users who are commenting and engaging, and who have either pledged, or are waiting to donate. Thank you so much. We believe though that there is a much larger group of members who are still unaware of the Blipfuture crowd funding and potential closure of the site. There are four of us and many more of you – could you make sure you all do what you can to point people at the Blip Central posts and crowd funding site? It’s only once people know what we’re proposing can they consider pledging or donating, and we all have a long way to go yet. Thank you.