What if you could subscribe to your favorite bloggers, writers, and designers, and they would send you a heartfelt gift every three months? You probably wouldn’t enjoy my packages, because I would just send you those small M&Ms packets. And let’s be honest, there’s nothing fun about fun-sized candy. But, in most cases, it would be appealing. This, coupled with the fact that monetizing content has been a slog for digital content producers over the past few years, is why Quarterly has chosen an alternative path: “A subscription service for wonderful things”.
Quarterly is a young startup from LA, founded by Zach Frechette, the former Editor-in-Chief of GOOD Magazine. Basically, Frechette is betting that his startup will be able to leverage that part of us that loves to be part of a community — and loves to receive something in the mail — for good. It goes back to when we, as younguns, used to write letters to our favorite baseball players, checking the mail every day for their response, or waiting for parents or loved ones to send us care packages at summer camp. (Read Zach’s blog post explaining the genesis for Quarterly here.)
As Frechette’s background is in design and (editoral) curation, he’s chosen designers and writers to be Quarterly’s initial contributors. The initial list is impressive, including the likes of “Moonwalking with Einstein” author Joshua Foer, The Atlantic Senior Editor Alexis Madrigal, President of the Rhode Island School of Design John Maeda, hilarious tweeter and Mule Design Founder Mike Monteiro, author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin, to name a few. (Check out the full list here.)
Each of these authors and designers have been chosen by the Quarterly team, yet as the site grows, Frechette says, subscribers will be able to suggest contributors. Subscribers will pay $25 every quarter (hence the site’s name) to enter the subscription service, and the price of entry will entitle users to receive a package every quarter that will range from consumer products, be they interesting books chosen by your favorite authors to a tube of earth-shattering toothpaste. Shipping is included.
Frechette says, however, that Quarterly is about more than just finding a different pay-for system. It’s not intended to be a one-for-one exchange, it’s about supporting the process of writers and designers, inspiring real connections between package recipients and their creators. We spend an inordinate amount of time connecting with people online, and Quarterly is attempting to find an alternative (and complementary) way for people to connect offline, through curated and unique packages that “while uniquely brilliant in [their] function, will also have a story, and through that story take on new meaning”. In each package, there will be a letter from the contributor, describing the item inside and the thought process that led to them choosing it.
To help Quarterly in its mission, the startup is today officially announcing that it has receive a round of seed funding from Craig Shapiro and Collaborative Fund, Behance Co-founder and Pinterest investor Scott Belsky (who is also a Quarterly contributor), CEO of Sugar Inc Brian Sugar, and Co-Head of IDEO NY Ryan Jacoby, along with several other entrepreneurs and angel investors.
Shapiro said that his interest in Quarterly results from the fact that he sees the potential for a really strong brand, which blends great design with a great user experience, in the same vein as similarly-focused companies, like Kickstarter, Pinterest, Fab.com, and Skillshare.
I, personally, am inclined to see Quarterly as a suped-up, design-centric Secret Santa service that builds upon old magazine subscription model. The value proposition extends beyond design, and as Quarterly moves forward, it will be moving beyond design to focus more broadly on other consumer verticals. Quality control could be a bit tricky, but with an impressive list of contributors who are known entities in their own right, and with a staff that will expand thanks to this infusion of capital, scaling the business will hopefully become more manageable.
As to how the business is going to make money? For now, Frechette says, Quarterly is operating somewhat like a typical wholesaler, in that they are essentially buying products at a low price and marking them up at sale. Because many designers and authors see this as a unique marketing opportunity and a great way to connect directly with their audience, they are offering their service (and products) for free. And with Quarterly adding a new subscription every 5 minutes, the value certainly seems to be there for contributors — the audience is arriving, and they’re willing to pay.
Having only been operating in beta for about three months, the service is still incipient, but it will be interesting to see how it grows as it scales. The more opportunities that Quarterly can provide for consumers and fans to connect with their favorite authors and designers, whether that be through Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about them, the more successful this model will be.
For more, check out Quarterly at home here.