Outside Context Community


I’m trialling an online community focused on the intersection of media, publishing, and innovation in business models and technology.

The problem

It’s a volatile and uncertain time for publishers and authors. Discoverability, attention and monetisation are critical challenges. Big Tech wields huge power over content creators. Capital barriers to entry have fallen, but innovative startups still struggle to work with incumbent firms. Generative A.I. could rewrite industry value chains. There is huge potential for disruption and from the exchange of ideas and experience across the wider publishing and media sector.

That conversation used to happen on Twitter, but lately the platform has become a blazing shitshow, perhaps irredeemably so. None of the alternatives has taken off. Trade media covers particular verticals rather than the broad landscape, and there’s a lack of nuance and analysis. Some of the best conversations I’ve had on this have been one-to-one coffees with smart people, but those conversations don’t scale well.

From 2017 to 2019 I published over one hundred issues of an email newsletter that touched on these issues. At its peak, it reached over four thousand readers a week. It was fun, sparked a lot of interesting conversations and seems to be fondly remembered by some kind people—but was also highly time intensive. Recently I’ve been thinking about how to harness that experience and the network I built over twenty five years in the industry to start meaningful conversations. The community is very much the newsletter’s spiritual successor.

The solution

The basic idea is a niche, highly-curated, Dunbar-scale community, made up of people working in this space, with diverse backgrounds and experiences but with a bias to those who’ve built new things—whether books, products, companies. So far it includes entrepreneurs, authors, literary agents and publishers.

Membership of the group gets you:

  • Access to the private Slack channel
  • At least one online event per quarter (to be shaped by members, but potentially meet-ups, interviews, panel discussions)
  • At least one in-person social event per year
Why is it paywalled?

I’m experimenting with a token cost of £3.40 per member per month for access to the community. This is an introductory rate to test the market. Active consulting clients get free access.

Why that amount? I’m positioning the monthly cost at a similar level to the average price of a takeaway coffee, as the benchmark is that the community is like having a coffee with a smart group of friends. (Or, if you want to look at it on an annual basis, about 10% of what you’d pay for a single conference ticket).

Why charge at all? The main thing is that I want everyone to have some skin in the game. Making a nominal charge ensures that everyone in the community wants to be here and has an incentive to participate, as opposed to a larger group of unengaged readers. Similarly, making it a commercial transaction imposes a discipline on me to curate the community and content so it has a value for paying customers. The token sums involved will help to cover platform costs and a bit of time for managing the community, and provide a budget to support member events.

Subscriptions are managed via Memberful, and there is a two week free trial before you are charged.

Any questions?

If you’d like to find out more, please email me: hello@outsidecontext.co.uk