Dear all Raging Chicken readers and supporters,
It’s been a while since I’ve written an editor’s note on the latest goings-ons at Raging Chicken Press. To say that least, it’s been busy. As 2012 came to a close, Raging Chicken Press reached a major milestone: 100,000 visitors to our site! By the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2012 the total number of visitors reached 104,327. The traffic on our Facebook page has been equally impressive. As of today, over 1,730 people have liked our page. It’s been a remarkable run for our 18 month old project.
In 2012 we welcomed several new regular contributors including Andrea Egizi, Walter M. Brasch, Alyssa Röhricht, and Ross Levin; many more people contributed an article or two throughout the year. Wendy Lee, one of the original Raging Chickens, saw her regular series on fracking begin to gain national attention, especially during the weeks she spent supporting and reporting on Riverdale Mobile Home Park residents’ fight against eviction in Jersey Shore, PA. Wendy Lee was the only person on-the-ground, reporting almost daily on that fight against the Natural Gas Industry’s relentless frack-at-will policy in Marcellus Shale Country. Wendy’s contributions to Raging Chicken Press were eventually picked up and cited by such national publications as Mother Jones and ShaleShock Media.
Two of the most significant changes to our site came in May 2012 when two things happened. First, we decided to abandon our once-a-month publishing format in order to publish more often. By publishing more frequently, we were able to publish material that was more responsive to events as they emerged. However, more frequently publishing meant more work, which led to the second significant change: I asked Sean Kitchen to become the Assistant Editor in addition to his role as Social Media Organizer. Sean has been indispensable and his work has been one of the key reasons why Raging Chicken Press broke 100,000 total views in December. I will be forever indebted to him for his work in taking our rag-tag publication to the next level.
Beginning in spring 2012, Raging Chicken Press launched our first-ever fund-raising drive. Our admittedly unrealistic goal was $25,000; we ended raising just over $500.00. So, our hope of taking Raging Chicken Press to the next level with paid internships, a limited print-edition, a “Best of Raging Chicken Press” annual book, some payment to our contributors, and the purchase of some equipment (e.g. cameras, digital recorders, and computers) was slowed down significantly. We were, however, able to attend Netroots Nation in Providence, RI where we networked with progressive media activists from around the country and grew our regional network significantly. When we returned from Providence, Sean and I immediately put what we learned to work and it greatly improved what we were doing and significantly increased our readership.
What’s in store for 2013?
A new series
Readers of Raging Chicken Press may have noticed that we launched a new series called “Smashing Apples” at the end of 2012. While our first series, “Frack That!” followed the fight against fracking and the Natural Gas Industry in Marcellus Shale Country, Smashing Apples focuses on the attacks against public education from kindergarten through higher ed, especially in Pennsylvania.
In 2013, Raging Chicken Press will launch a new series called “Raising Raging Chicks.” The series will focus on the challenges of raising children in today’s environment with a specific focus on politics and policy. I came up with the idea to start a series on raising children after reading the amazing book Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis by Sandra Steingraber. As Raging Chicken readers know, I have two young children of my own – a four-year-old and a one-year-old. I have never been so acutely aware of the connection between policy and the health and well-being of all of us as I have through raising my children with my wife. For example, my own place of employment – Kutztown University – shut down its Early Learning Center – an award-winning lab school that is as old as the university – because of budget cuts and a business model of higher education that does not see a cost benefit of educating pre-school children even when the program helped train the next generation of early childhood educators. Or, take Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s free pass to the Natural Gas Industry to frack away regardless of the impact on our drinking water. Or, the skyrocketing cost of health care coupled with skyrocketing numbers of children with asthma and other long-term conditions. It seemed to me that part of any progressive movement today requires a defense of our children – of sustainable agriculture and economy. And I don’t mean only guides to finding the local organic-friendly farmers’ market. No, I mean place for hard-nosed, fight-back organizing for our future.
In spring of 2013, I had the honor of being on my former graduate student, Renee DeMund‘s Masters committee. Renee had a daughter while she was in the middle of her graduate work and she wrote about her experience and the affective and material politics of becoming a mother in her Masters portfolio. It was truly amazing work. One day she and exchanged a few messages after I asked her if she would be willing to write for Raging Chicken Press on issues of parenthood and I told her about wanting to start a series. The title of the series, “Raising Raging Chicks,” is Renee’s brain-child. And while we talked a little about the fact that some people might mistake “chicks” for being a derogatory word for women, it was still true that baby chickens are called “chicks.” So, I decided to keep the name. Thanks Renee!
Membership Campaign and Fundraising
There’s no getting around it – the only way Raging Chicken Press is going to be able to keep doing what we’re doing in a sustainable way is to find a way to raise some revenue. I know that everybody is struggling right now and that progressives are not generally made of money. However, I am convinced of two things: 1) that if progressives are ever going to be able to rebuild a strong, sustainable political and social movement, we are going to have to invest in those institutions dedicated to building and supporting such a movement; and, 2) that while we do not have billionaire benefactors like the right-wing, we do have numbers. And, if enough of us can contribute even a little bit a month, we can exceed the effectiveness of the right-wing.
Our 2012 fundraising campaign taught us that a “capital campaign” type of approach to fundraising wasn’t right for who we are, where we are, and what we do. Instead, I am shifting the focus to a membership approach, following the lead of some successful podcasts such as Best of the Left and Citizen Radio. In fact, you could say that Jay Tomlinson of Best of the Left is both my inspiration and teacher when it comes to these matters – even though he and I have never met and he doesn’t know it (yet). Tomlinson launched Best of the Left podcast in 2006 with “zero experience editing audio or managing a website.” After just a few short years, Tomlinson was able to leave his job as a climate activist in DC and support himself entirely through his podcast. Here’s how he tells the story of his “personal economic recovery package”:
To back up for just a moment, the great recession of 2008/2009 (and beyond) was the instigation to convert my long-time podcasting hobby into a part-time job to supplement my shrinking income. It started as a (very-poorly-paying) part-time gig in June 2009 and turned into a (slightly-better-paying) full-time gig in February 2010. Now able to pour all my time and efforts into the podcast, thanks entirely to members of the show, I feel like I’m finally able to have the greatest impact for positive change that I’m capable of, all while doing something I truly love.
While I am not planning on quitting my full-time job (at least any time in the immediate future), I do want Raging Chicken Press to be able to become a sustainable institution. I want to pay my interns. I want to be able to pay contributors. I would even like to be able to have a small staff working at least part-time. While Sean and I have been able to take on the editorial and social media work of Raging Chicken through the force of sheer will, will alone cannot sustain the kind of work we do. When my kids get sick, Raging Chicken Press is confined to bed-rest. When my job gets insane, articles sit in my inbox unedited and unpublished. You get the picture. And, frankly, I would like to be able to invest in the kind of investigative reporting that the progressive movement in our region desperately needs. This past year we had to drop at least two incredible stories because we could not find a way to put someone on the ground in particular locations for even a short period of time.
In late 2012, we quietly launched our membership campaign with the idea that we could work the kinks out before a full launch in 2013. You can become a supporting member of Raging Chicken Press for as little as $5.00/month. It’s really possible. I am a member of Best of the Left AND a member of Lee Camp’s “Moments of Clarity.” Why? Because these two projects deserve to be supported and I listen to them both frequently. We think there are enough of you out there that would be willing to help support Raging Chicken Press by becoming a member. And, yes, membership will have some benefits. For example, every month we will give away a book or DVD to a member (something we did for a while for people who subscribed to our site, but it started getting a little costly to pay entirely out of my pocket). You will also get access to some exclusive content and get info about exclusive Raging Chicken Press events and meet-ups. And, yes, you’ll even get some swag. So, be warned – Raging Chicken Press wants YOU! Consider becoming a member today.
You may have notice that some ads began appearing on our site in late 2012. I have been quite resistant to having any advertising on our site, but in the absence of a wealthy benefactor, I needed to do something to raise some funds. At Netroots Nation, I met with representatives from Blogads.com to talk about the possibility of running ads on a site a small as ours. The problem I ran into every place I looked was that we were not big enough to qualify for most progressive, blog advertising programs. The folks at Blogads were awesome and said that they would be willing to work with me given the kind of work we did and our regional focus. After working out the details, we added Blogads to our site. Currently, the ads point to one of our affiliate programs, but we hope to increase the ads soon. If you are a local or regional company or organization and would be interested in advertising on our site, I will work with you and make you an offer you can’t refuse :-). No, really, I would love to have localized ads on our site and can provide significant discounts for “founding advertisers.” We need the support and we want people to support local businesses.
Raging Chicken Press has taken part in a number of affiliate programs over the past year. The most visible is our on-line store on Zazzle.com. The way affiliate programs work is that if you click the link for the store or product on our website, the company will pay us a percentage of whatever you buy on that site. Up until late 2012, we’ve taken a pretty passive approach to our affiliate programs. In November, I decided to more aggressively promote our affiliate program with Amazon.com. Here’s how it works:
If you shop on-line at Amazon.com and use this link or click on the image to the right to buy something on Amazon, Raging Chicken Press gets about 6% of the purchase price – AT NO ADDITIONAL COST TO YOU. Better yet, bookmark that link and use it EVERY TIME you shop at Amazon. 6% may not sound like a lot, but it can really add up quickly if a lot of people use it. So, feel a little good that you are diverting funds away from this corporate giant to help support progressive, activist media.
A New Look
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be doing a significant overhaul of our website. Ever since the first issue of Raging Chicken Press, I wanted to keep our page attractive, but simple. I wanted it to be easy to navigate and have the “feel” of a newspaper or magazine. Our current WordPress theme has been great up until recently. I’ve run into a number of limitations for some of the additions we’ve made to the site. As we publish more series and more frequently, I have searched for a new layout that will allow better access to all our series while still keeping the site clean and newspapery. So, PLEASE let me know what you think of the changes as they go up. The site will be a little rough for couple of weeks and you may see a few versions of the new site. Originally, I was going to redesign the site off-line and then post the new layout, but then thought, “where’s the fun in that?” This way, if you see something you really like or hate as I am updating the site, you can let me know. Why not let it all hang out? So, I’m going to make things publicly messy for a bit. Let me know what you think! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or make comments on the site. We can do this together!
Kevin Mahoney, Founder and Editor, Raging Chicken Press