Report to Advertisers
As we wave goodbye to the summer of '01 I am pleased to report that Mullings finishes its second full year, in very, very good shape.
A Bit of History
The GOPAC Days
Mullings began as a fax-only column when I went to GOPAC in March, 1998. The first Mullings was titled: So Many Trees; So Little Time. In those days GOPAC had a dismal reputation with the Washington press corps for whom the organization was an easy target.
Because it was faxed, Mullings had a hard ceiling of 500 words for each column. That's how many words would fit, formatted with the heading, on one page.
It was as if every report had a macro in his or her word processor which automatically, after reading the word GOPAC, typed "which has been at the center of all of Newt Gingrich's ethical problems since the year two, today…"
With the approval of chairman Shelly Kamins, I started writing Mullings with the faxes going, largely to the GOPAC press list. The idea was to leverage my excellent relationship with many senior reporters by having them receive something from GOPAC which was amusing, and (occasionally) literate, and which they could read with some level of confidence that they were getting a view of Washington which, while different from their own, was nonetheless valid.
Mullings continued on that basis (with a modest six-week break while I recovered from some pesky open-heart surgery) until March of 1999 when the new chairman, David Dreier, decided that it was in GOPAC's best interests to lower its profile. The final Mullings of that round was titled: "What's Latin for Hiatus?"
The Modern Era
The current incarnation of Mullings as a private, for-profit enterprise began in earnest on August 2, 1999 as a run-up to the Republican Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa. In fact, the idea was born as I was trying to figure out how to pay for a trip to Iowa to cover the Straw Poll.
Five sponsors climbed on board: Geovoter, Sandler-Innocenzi, Hockaday/Donatelli Campaign Solutions, Public Opinion Strategies and The Tarrance Group. Tarrance and POS both signed on within a few minutes of each other and it took a conference call between me, Bill McInturff, and Ed Goeas to sort it out.
It gives me enormous satisfaction to report that those five advertisers are STILL Mullings sponsors.
Mullings began with an e-mail list of about 1,000 people. That number might have been just a little generous, but the e-mail version has grown steadily.
The Mullings web page (which was first designed by Andrew Jones, now the art director of Offenberg & White (www.offwhite.com) while I was still at GOPAC) went live in January of 1998. It was taken over by Campaign Solutions toward the end of that year.
Midway through August, 1999, I reported that the Mullings web page was getting about 2,800 hits per day. That was hits and not visits.
The reports from Ames were very well received, the e-mail list continued to grow, the Presidential campaign went on forever, I was accepted as a normal part of the tour by the national press corps, and the sponsors stayed with it.
There were some months last year when Mullings had as many as 12 sponsors alternating six per issue. The word count grew from the original 500 words to its present length of about 700 words, to have enough copy to separate the ads.
A standard op-ed piece in the Washington Post or the New York Times is between 700-750 words, so Mullings is the equivalent of an op-ed piece three days per week. While I'm breaking my arm congratulating myself, that works out to about 110,000 words per year - about the size of a standard mystery novel.
Not surprisingly, the two biggest months for Mullings were October and November, 2000. During the final run-up to the Presidential election the Mullings web page included poll updates, news links, and all sorts of other useful information which required me to sit in front of my computer screen 24 hours per day.
In October last year there were almost 81,000 visitors. In November 117,000. The hit log (which is not a very useful number, but can be impressive) the number went from that 2,800 reported above in August, 1999 to 1.3 Million in November 2000.
The third biggest month in Mullings history will be August 2001.
For the first seven months of 2001, the Mullings web page averaged about 61,000 visitors per month. (This is not an Amazon.com number, but Mullings has been more profitable than Amazon.)
This month has seen a spurt in the growth of e-mail subscriptions - now standing at a touch under 22,000; and will have received something over 73,000 visitors to the site during August.
There are several factors which, I believe, are contributing to this.
Very favorable mentions by Rush Limbaugh on his radio program, a sharp increase in speaking engagements, and the Condit scandal - which has led to a large number of TV appearances - have had the desired impact on the column. Also helpful has been the re-distribution of Mullings excerpts by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Republican National Committee and the White House.
All TV appearances include a title under my picture (the chyron) which relates to Mullings. Every radio interview includes numerous references to Mullings. And every speech, seminar, and lecture includes shameless huckstering for the column.
Moving forward, I have signed on with Premiere Speakers Bureau of Franklin, TN which exclusively represents Ollie North and Sean Hannity, among many others. There is a direct relationship between speaking engagements and increases in Mullings subscriptions - and vice versa. The Business Side
As we moved from the campaign-and-recount period at the end of last year I was very concerned that advertising revenues would drop to zero. This was before the collapse of advertising in ALL forms of media which began last winter and has accelerated though the summer. The demise of "The Industry Standard" magazine (not Bill Kristol's "Weekly Standard" I'm pleased to point out) is the sharpest example of the issues facing advertising-based media. The Industry Standard set the record for the most ad pages in a single year for any magazine. One year later, it folded.
In February, to offset an expect drop in advertising revenue, I instituted a "subscription drive" inviting readers to become part of the "Mullings Movement" by sending in $15. In the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) which was attached to the subscription pitch I noted that subscribers would get nothing extra, but the more than 420 people who subscribed thought that was just fine.
On a year-over-year basis advertising income for 2001 is almost exactly one month behind the 2000 numbers. Given that this is an off-year, and given our great national malaise as it relates to ad revenues generally, this is probably adequate, if not admirable.
As sponsor-inquiries and sponsorships continued to grow, ad rates rose from it's initial rate of $1,000 per month to a high of $1,650 per month for the standard every-other-edition rotation.
This month I reduced the ad rate back to $1,500 per month where it will remain through the rest of the year.
Mullings is profitable because I handle almost every aspect. I have moved the actual e-mail process back in-house (which took some heavy tinkering but now functions very well). I also do all the add-change-delete requests by hand which sounds mind-numbing, but which actually allows me to keep track of people who are changing jobs and when new reporters have been assigned to their Washington bureau.
As you know, I have handled copy changes and other sponsor-related issues from the get-go.
The basic strategy is to continue to grow the Mullings "franchise" through more radio and television exposure, more speaking engagements, and being quoted in the daily press.
Becki Donatelli and Tom Hockaday had additional web pages designed which will allow me to put up a "Letters to the Editor" page and a page for users' essay submissions. When I first started this thing, Doug Bailey told me that nothing kills web pages faster than out-of-date content.
So, it is not so much an issue of getting the pages up and filled with copy as it is staring down the barrel of refreshing those pages three days per week in addition to writing the main column and doing all of the other things which keep it going now.
While I still think having those pages will add value to the Mullings web site, I have put the idea on the shelf until at least 1Q 2002. If ad revenue picks up enough, those are two pages I will probably farm out.
Duane Ward who is the president of Premiere Speakers Bureau is promoting me hard to political and association event planners. Mike Milligan of Direct Mail Systems, is producing a brochure which I will hand out at events at which I am speaking to generate e-mail addresses and additional speaking opportunities.
I have also begun preliminary discussions regarding producing a small book of some of the more memorable phrases which had appeared out of my word processor; something on the order of "The Little Red Book of Mulls" or some such. That will be good airplane work, going through the 500 or so columns I have written and trying to pick out clever sayings which more-or-less stand on their own.
As always, feel free to give me a call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you, as the saying, goes, for your continued support.