Today the September Future Trends in Technology and Education report will appear.
I have a major announcement about that. This is the last free issue. From now on FTTE will only be available by paid subscription.
If you would like to subscribe, there are now two options.
- You can sign up through the FTTE site. The cost is $5 US per month (which is a pretty good deal, the price of 1 or 2 cups of coffee).
- Alternatively, you can support the work through Patreon by joining the “On the living wall of credits” tier for $10 per month. That gets you the FTTE report each month, plus the addition of your name to that credit wall (a big graphic listing supporters) which will then appear in all future FTTE reports, my face to face presentations, on this blog, and in Future Trends Forum session. Supporters on this tier also get access to early and sometimes exclusive looks at my content, including video.
Whichever method you choose, new FTTE reports will arrive in your email inbox every month.
So why the transition from free or pay-as-you-like to paid access?
I want to be very open here, as I have been about my work for years. I also want to be clear and direct.
The first reason for the change is the report’s content. FTTE reports have gradually grown into rich publications. How rich? A quick glance through some of the past year and a half’s run shows each report running 18, 15, 17, 18, 15, 19, 15, 14, or 20 pages. Word count per issue ranges around 3054, 3637, 2987, 3361, 3747, 3754, 3040, 4170 words. The number of end notes per issue? 83, 72, 63, 59, 66, 86, 66, 57, 90 (and please know that these aren’t just links by themselves, but carefully and regularly formatted bibliographic references). The pdfs range in size from 1 to 4 megs each, thanks in part to the inclusion of many graphics. September’s issue has 23 pages, 4589 words, 89 footnotes, and 6.3 meg in .doc format (2.3, squished down into .pfd). These aren’t quick blog posts or link dumps, but substantial research publications.
Put another way, I think this content is worth something.
The second reason for the transition? Time.
Producing FTTE is now a serious part-time job. The end-of-month production process takes about 12-14 hours (prosing out each point carefully, double-checking cites, identifying which trends did and did not get support that time, building the ToC, rearranging the issue’s flow to be more sensible, editing graphics, changing page layout for legibility and to avoid big white spaces, proofing several times, pdf creation, Mailchimp wrangling…). Meanwhile, I conduct at least 1-2 hours of research every single day (yes, weekends too) throughout each month, hunting accounts of trends that I assess and sometimes include into the current report. I send some of those out through social media or direct content with experts for fact- and reality-checking. Roughly that amounts to about 10 hours per week, on average.
That’s time I can’t spend on other work, a/k/a opportunity cost. It’s hours I can’t spend making other stuff: writing books, making videos, or cudgeling the podcast towards its long-delayed appearance. FTTE now represents a class I can’t teach or a client I can’t support. It’s time that I’m not spending on paid work – and please remember that BAC is a standalone small business, independent of any institutional backing. Every single hour counts for sustainability.
Recall, too, that I will turn 52 in several months. I currently work 60-70 hour weeks. Biology is increasingly likely to put in scheduling requests that my professional passion and work ethic won’t be able to refuse.
Now, there are steps I could take to save time in FTTE production, but none are viable. For example, I could simply cut down the amount of content, producing lighter issues. FTTE lite? This just galls me professionally. I could hire staff to conduct some of the work, but a) it’s actually hard to outsource most of this, b) it would add to my business costs, and c) it would add some extra time for organization, management, and logistics. I could just shut down the thing entirely, but I don’t want to do that.
Another option would be to return to FTTE’s original purpose. You see, it first appeared in 2012 when I was working for the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE). I created FTTE as a benefit to paying members (in 2013 I carried it over to my own enterprise). So we could imagine some new membership framework within which the report would be a benefit, but to put it mildly the startup effort there is of an order of magnitude greater than simply transitioning to subscription.
In short, I’m committed to producing a rich, high quality publication that I don’t want to shortchange. Shifting it to a paid subscription model is the best way forward. It is the only way I can see to make the thing sustainable.
Meanwhile, none of the other Future of Education Observatory offerings are changing at this time. This blog, the Future Trends Forum, the book club, the book store, all my other social media outputs (Twitter, G+, LinkedIn, Facebook) remain open and free. That’s a lot of free content. FTTE is the only Observatory project that is moving behind a paywall.
I expect that this transition will likely cut down the number of FTTE subscribers from the current population of 2,029. I know some of you won’t be able to afford this, and I’m truly sorry; please contact me if you would like to talk. I suspect many have enjoyed the price point to date, and will be unhappy with the increase. It’s hard to change from free to paid. I get that.
This change may also elicit public criticism. Some may object to what they see as a decision motivated solely by commercial logic or greed. Others may deem this move a betrayal of openness, and a hypocritical move to boot, given my passionate and public support for open. I understand all of that and am sympathetic to the last point.
On the other hand, perhaps the openness of this decision and the quality of FTTE will inspire support. Maybe old and new subscribers will decide that it’s worth supporting this work. Perhaps new sponsors will step forward. I sincerely hope so. Some people might celebrate the idea of supporting a creator making stuff, rather than paying for a platform. Some may chime in to agree with Bruce Sterling’s line (somewhere; still can’t find the source) that information doesn’t want to be free – it wants to be paid.
To sum up: from here on out FTTE is available only to paying subscribers and supporters. If you’d like to join, you can sign up through the FTTE site for the basic subscription. Alternatively, you can support the work through Patreon by joining the “On the living wall of credits” tier. We will welcome each and every one of you.
My thanks go to all the many, many people who have supported FTTE over the past six years with your comments, ideas, suggestions, constructive criticism, graphic design input, editorial assistance, and general support. My thanks as well to my Patreon supporters, many of whom worked closely with me on this decision making process. And more thanks still to my wife and business partner, Ceredwyn; hopefully we’ll hear from her soon.
As ever, please share your thoughts in the comments box.