I've got some important news to share today. Dropzone.com has a new owner: an internet company called NameMedia which, among other things, specializes in running online communities and "enthusiast sites". This marks an exciting new phase for the site because for this first time there is a real strong arm to support the site and propel it to the next level. NameMedia is a remarkable company and has an impressive list of success stories with community sites. Above all they have a real appreciation for the uniqueness and variety of characters that make up our community of skydivers. Not to mention that they have "real" technical support staff (with pagers!) and designers and content people and all sorts of other goodies that Daniel (my partner) and I only pretended to have.
So what will change? Well, not too much in the next few months. I will continue to run the site, working with the existing team of moderators as before. As far as management and day-to-day operations are concerned there are really no immediate changes. Within a year however I anticipate becoming regular user of the site, as NameMedia will appoint a full-time replacement to take over the day-to-day operations.
After a while you may notice some improvements as we start to leverage NameMedia's resources. This could include fresher content with more frequent updates (e.g. articles, news), better site performance, faster responses and better resolutions to issues and bugs, some enhancements being implemented, and ads that are more targeted to our community.
Ultimately, the strategic direction of Dropzone.com is in NameMedia's hands and you should expect to see gradual phased changes. NameMedia understands perfectly well that community sites are first and foremost about the communities. They will involve you in the change process and invite your feedback and advice.
OK, so why did I sell? For two reasons:
Because my personal priorities have changed. Both Daniel and I have families and children (on the way) now and a need for more consistency and security than what is offered by running a website as a semi-professional-skunkworks-two-man-show with very little capital. BTW, this change also applies to our other two sites: Rockclimbing.com and BASEjumper.com.
Because we got a good offer from a buyer whom we consider a really good fit and a worthy guardian. While I've never put the site up for sale, over the years we've had dozens of offers. This one stuck out.
For those of you who have more questions or want more answers, se the FAQs below.
NameMedia Acquisition FAQs
What else can you tell us about NameMedia? What else do they do?
NameMedia is located in Waltham, MA and has two divisions: One part of what they do is buy and sell domain names and they've been doing this since 1999. Separate from the domain side of the business is the "enthusiast site" division which was started in 2007. This is what Dropzone.com will become part of. Here are some other communities that the own and manage: http://www.namemedia.com/adventure/
What about the Moderators? The Moderators are still in their same roles and will continue doing what they are doing now for as long as they choose. NameMedia will look at me to find somebody from within this community to take over the leadership role in the forums, and the moderators will always come from the community. Nothing will change there.
What kinds of changes is NameMedia going to make to Dropzone.com?
Over the short term you’re not going to see any dramatic changes. NameMedia are not migrating the entire site onto their own platform or changing the entire design and technology backend overnight. They are continuing to host these sites with Gossamer Threads – my hosting partner for many years – and will keep them involved in the technology development.
This is not to say there won’t be changes in the future, there will be. NameMedia, like any business will make strategic decisions about where to position and how to evolve this site and aim to continually improve and grow their membership and in the process earn your trust and loyalty. They assure me that any change will be evolutionary and not revolutionary. They have no intention of suddenly repainting the house and moving all the furniture around
They’re gonna want to make more money from Dropzone.com, right?
Of course. But this does not have to be a bad thing. One of the big reasons why we felt NameMedia was a great fit for Dropzone.com is that they believe in monetizing in the right way. Preserving the integrity of the user experience might take more thought, creativity and effort but it’s always a better idea than making a quick buck and driving away loyal site visitors.
NameMedia has strong existing relationships with many adventure and outdoor related brands. They also have relationships and access to ad agencies and networks that specialize in serving ads targeted to specific demographics and verticals. NameMedia is in a much stronger position than I ever was to negotiate quality and relevant advertising that will enhance the site and user experience rather that diminish it.
Are they going to flood us with pop-ups?
No they’re not. You know how I feel about pop-up ads. Feel free to visit any of their other enthusiast sites and you’ll see there are no pop-ups on any of them.
Are they going to sell my email address and read my PMs ?
No they’re not. NameMedia will have a clear published Privacy Statement just like we have now. They know very well how people feel about privacy and spam and have no desire to diminish the value of their investment by alienating the community that sustains this site. Please give them the benefit of the doubt.
Are they going to make Dropzone.com a pay-only site?
NameMedia believes, as I do, that a website needs to be setup in such a way that people can access the information freely without having to pay or else it's not going to succeed.
I've read all of the Q&As and I'm still worried. Is that OK?
Of course this is ok. I was wary and I can understand that you may be wary. I have flown to the US and met with their leadership team in person and I can tell you that after many conversations with NameMedia and with people just like me who had their community acquired by NameMedia, that I trust that they have Dropzone.com’s best interests in mind and that have a great philosophy about how things should be done. They are not perfect and may make some mistakes during the transition process or along the way. I ask that you give them the benefit of the doubt and send them your feedback, they want to hear it.
Finally – please keep in mind that for the next year at least, I will still be running this site as before. See me as the gatekeeper. I’ll keep you posted on everything that may be coming your way down the pipeline.