Why we decided to shut down The Paper

We last posted nearly three months ago and we realise we have been remiss in not explaining our silence. We owe you that.

We launched The Paper using the same process that we apply for developing new products for our clients at Accelero (an innovation consultancy):

1.     We discuss possible opportunities (a spotted need, an idea that someone has come up with or an untapped segment) and set objectives

2.     We then speak with potential customers, and quickly assess the space

3.     We then come up with a working design that we like to call a pretotype (pretend prototype)

4.     We go back and test with customers with clear metrices of success or failure (go-no go)

5.     Based on the tests, idea moves to prototype and beta launch or we go back to the drawing board.

For The Paper, we had the advantage of starting at step 3 and fine tune and figure the need and market fit. This was because we had this platform you are reading us on that cost us only our time (which we put a value to, of course). The point of the agile way of product development is to conclude quickly about market fit at minimum cost. That way one can test multiple ideas and not depend on one blockbuster idea whose development and fate hangs for a long period with large associated costs. 

For The Paper, we set these objectives:

1.     We will be free for 12 months, at that point we should have 10,000 subscribers.

2.     We will go paid at $5 a month and we needed a minimum of 1000 conversions (10%) to achieve a run rate of $60k a year for us to proceed.

However, the whole point of the process is to come to a faster decision and hence we break down the longer objective into milestones. In the case of The Paper:

3.     Reach 2500 subscribers in two months of launch, we expected a quick take off in month one from our network, it was the ensuing month’s rate that would determine the future.

4.     Engagement could mitigate a lower subscriber number. Which means that if we saw a strong involvement (measured by likes, and shares) from a smaller base, we would settle for a slightly lower sub number. We decided that 10 likes and 10 shares from a 1000 plus subscriber base (which we hoped to get to quickly) on a consistent basis (2 out of 3 posts) would make us settle for sub base of 2000 (after two months).

The results:

Subscriber Growth: As you can see, we launched early June and crossed 1000 subscribers quite fast but then between July 21st and Aug 21st (our last post) we added only 127 subscribers. The evidence was damning.

Engagement: The numbers here drove the final nails into the coffin. They were so poor that we had to face the hard truth that was staring us in the face. 

There was but only one thing to do. This could not be fixed, we had to shut it down. It was very disappointing as we (like anyone with an idea) thought we were on to something good and some of the feedback was very encouraging. 

However, when you follow the process religiously, you must honestly answer this question (and quickly so that you do not waste undue resources): 

There is a niche in the market but is there a market in the niche?

In case of The Paper, the answer was unfortunately a very loud NO.

Thank you for reading.

Karthik & Suprio