A Year in the Life of a Dot-Com, Part Deux
Greetings, Loyal Subscribers,
A year ago I published a letter in this space, "A Year in the Life of a Dot-Com." It described our first year on the Internet, and placed that experience within the context of the boom-and-bust experience of many of our peers on the Internet.
A certain brash quality permeates that letter, which made the case that InfoBase Publishers is a very different animal from the droves of dot-coms which flamed out when their investment capital ran out. Unlike those other dot-coms, I wrote, InfoBase had a viable product even before debuting on the Web. And InfoBase had paid for its presence on the web through operating capital, not venture capital.
All of which was perfectly true, but it failed to identify an Achilles heel we shared with all the other dot-coms: our physical connection to the Internet. This failed without warning on March 28, 2001, as our DSL carrier, Northpoint Communications, went out of business. We scrambled to find alternative hosting, and were back up on the Web the next business day, but our service was spotty for the next two months.
Truth is, the disruption had caught us at a bad time: midstream on an ambitious upgrade to our entire site, involving major improvements to our hardware, to our server software, and to scores of html pages. This strained our resources and sucked seemingly unlimited amounts of our time, leaving us with a sense of exhaustion that we've not completely shaken even now (vacations planned for the winter months should assist in our recovery).
The fruits of all our hard work rolled out in June, with fine-tuning that continued for the following three months. We're well pleased with the result: the site is significantly faster and more stable, and has a polished form and fit which it had lacked before. Our new Newswire has set the standard against which other such services can be measured. We're now running state-of-the-art server software, and we're running it on three servers, not one (and they're all Macintoshes, which may impress you more than anything else).
In the midst of all of this year's trials and tribulations, I'm happy to report that InfoBase has enjoyed another banner year on the subscriptions front. The value of our subscriber base surpasses last year's total by 42 percent—and last year had surpassed the previous year by 36 percent. Profits from this growth have largely been directed back into hiring and investment in our site. We plan a further round of improvements to our site in 2002.
Another set of numbers before closing. Last year I noted that our resubscription rate was "just under 90 percent... an extraordinary number for this industry." Well, this year it stands at exactly 94 percent, a number so high that I won't attempt to characterize our reaction to it. Except to say: thank you. We will continue to do all that we can in the coming year to maintain your enthusiasm for our service and to keep your trust.
Warm regards,

Stuart McCutchan
InfoBase Publishers, Inc.
November 21, 2001
Nov 21, 2001