I write to you today in a bad way, and for that I apologize in advance. As many of you know, our site suffered through some very hard times in the last year, following a hacker attack on the site in September of 2004. Since then, we have rebuilt and made the site better and more secure, and I believe we have become a thriving community again.
However, there were several months following the attack in which our volume of visitors and members dropped drastically - sadly, many people left the site at that time. Our population has grown back in the last year, and we now are enjoying as many or more visitors than we were back in 2004.
Unfortunately, this situation created a predicament for OD. As all of you know, our revenues are based on subscriptions and advertising that rise and fall in direct relation to how many people "live" in our community. During those months last year when our population was low, our revenues fell dramatically. While the business has recovered and is growing nicely again, during several months in 2005 we were unable to make enough money to cover our operating costs.
In the last year, our family has downsized to a smaller home, smaller cars, and just about smaller everything else, in an attempt to make up for the shortfall in revenues. We have cut everything that we can, but we are still faced with a considerable debt that is owed to our server company from last year. This debt is the result of the costs of operating our web servers and database servers during the months when our revenues were low.
Our server company has been very understanding up to this point, and has extended every courtesy to us to try to help Open Diary and me through this tough time. However, they have reached the point where what remains of the debt must be paid or our servers will be shut down. If this happens, I don't expect that the site can survive.
As I said above, our traffic and revenues have grown nicely again in the last few months, and I expect that the site can remain online and strong for a long time to come - if we can get past this hurdle. The hard part is that at this time, the money we are making can cover our costs going forward, but not in addition to paying off last year's debt.
I'm sorry to burden all of you with this, but I have been trying to resolve this situation for several months without getting the rest of our community involved. I still believe that OD is the best group of people online - over the years I've come to think of all of you as a second family. Unfortunately, we are faced with an immediate problem, and must raise a little over $10,000 to solve it.
I know that there will be a segment of people who will be upset that I am asking the community for money - there are plenty of people here who will feel that they have more than fulfilled their part of the bargain as a customer. If those are your feelings, I completely respect them - and there will certainly be no hard feelings. However, I do think that there is a core group of friends who feel that OD is a valuable place and worth saving.
I am uncomfortable asking for people to give money when they are receiving nothing concrete in return - so I have come up with a mechanism by which people can support the site and get a tangible benefit. As I've always said, the best way to help the site is to purchase an OD Plus subscription - the revenues from your subscription go directly to pay for the upkeep of the site.
I've created a new level of OD Plus membership - the Lifetime subscription. The Lifetime subscription is just what it says - the subscriber will receive all the benefits of OD Plus, for the lifetime of the site (which we hope will be long and healthy). In addition, I am going to think about additional benefits to add just for people who sign up as Lifetime members. In any case, you'll never have to think about renewing your OD Plus subscription again. I've set the price for a Lifetime subscription as $100 - I know this is a lot of money (believe me) - but every subscriber will be doing a great deal to help OD survive and thrive.
If you are not currently an OD Plus subscriber, please consider purchasing a subscription for $12 or $24 - every new subscription will help a lot. If you think it is worth it, and you can afford it, please think about signing up for a Lifetime membership. The part you play in helping Open Diary will be huge.
If you're already an OD Plus subscriber, please consider re-subscribing as a Lifetime member. If you've re-subscribed recently at another level of membership, I hope you don't feel like you're losing out - but I need your help as well.
There are over 400,000 people using this site, and if just 100 sign up as Lifetime members we can solve this problem and move on to a bright future. Personally, I want OD to go on for many years to come - I have done everything I can in the past year to ensure that. I hope that there are enough of you who feel the same as I do.
Thank you so much - to all of you, no matter what you choose to do. It is the people of this site that have made this a beautiful community. I hope to know you all for a very long time to come.