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Sherrell Dorsey on Building The Plug
Episode 1610th December 2020 • A Media Operator • Jacob Cohen Donnelly
00:00:00 00:50:24

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Sherrell Dorsey is the founder and publisher of The Plug, a publication focused on the Black innovation economy. While it started as a morning newsletter she did before going to work, it has now morphed into a media company with original reporting, data, research, events and podcasts.

In this show, we discussed a variety of important topics, but a few things jumped out...

On quarterly, not monthly pricing

This was an important topic to me. The Plug's membership is sold quarterly or annually, but not monthly. As she said, this runs counter to the habit so many of us have formed paying for subscriptions every month.

In her mind, though, a month is just not a long enough time to form a relationship. By extending it to a quarter, she feels that The Plug has enough opportunity to demonstrate value to a reader.

It's an important distinction because if we look at when most subscribers churn, it's after the first month. By extending to a quarter, you have more time to form a habit with them and, ideally, keep them engaged for much longer.

On not charging a CPM

For most media companies, charging a CPM is how they do things. But in niche media, it's harder. As Dorsey explained, because they don't have scale, they need to price things based on value.

Whether it's their podcasts, newsletter sponsorships or other content initiatives, they try to determine how valuable a sponsorship is worth to a partner and then work on pricing from there.

On being diversified

Although we didn't explicitly talk about this, The Plug generates revenue through advertising, events, membership fees and has received grants to create new content initiatives.

This embodies a core ethos of successful media companies. Those that are overly reliant on a single source—or a single property—carry more risk than those that are well diversified.

While The Plug has gone on to raise some money, it's clear in our conversation that Dorsey continues to think very diligently about not overextending the business and ensuring there are multiple streams of revenue.