A couple improvements to More Birchtree

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 4 min read
A couple improvements to More Birchtree

A week ago I launched More Birchtree, a way to subscribe to this site to get more of it (shocker!). I've written two exclusive posts so far and they've gone over quite well it seems. I'm proud of the posts and think they're some of my better, more personal writing as of late. Maybe I'm just happy to have an excuse to write about things that aren't app store rules or anti-trust πŸ˜‚

I haven't stood still this week, and I've made a few changes and improvements since last week's launch.

Day one issue: email delivery for iCloud

Ghost's sign up experience is pretty slick, and there's thankfully not much for me to do here. However, I need to send out a few emails, including receipts, payment reminders, newsletter posts, and magic links to sign into the web interface. Long story short, but I tried to do this via the domain, but since I'm also using that for my actual email, I wasn't able to set all DNS records to what MailGun recommends.

What this meant was that 100% of my emails to non-iCloud addresses succeeded, but about 50% of iCloud emails went undelivered. It turns out, more of my readers are using iCloud for email than I expected, and this meant around 25% of emails were not delivering. Yikes!

Everyone was nice about it, but I did get a good number of "support tickets" about this and needed to fix it quickly. Despite what Apple may want you to think, people selling stuff on the web typically want to deliver a great experience and not rip you off, so the fact people were signing up but not able to get into their accounts was a critical bug I needed to fix.

I posted about this around 8PM my time Monday night right after realizing this was more than a one-off issue, and about 30 minutes later I posted that I thought I'd fixed things. By Thursday, I was quite confident that I'd completely fixed the delivery issue since there were zero delivery errors since my fix when into place. The fix, by the way, was getting a dedicated domain for just these Birchtree emails. You'll never guess what I got β€” πŸŽ‰

Onboarding improvements

When you sign up for More Birchtree, you're taken to a thank you page that explains the benefits and tells you how to get in touch with questions or concerns. However, eventually someone is going to sign up and want to see the archive of member-only posts, and I didn't have a way to do that.

Now the "thank you for subscribing" page has a big old link to see all previous members posts, so new subscribers can catch up if they'd like right away.

I've also added a "member posts" link to the top of the page (in the menu on mobile) so you can see those posts whenever you want.

Adding an annual option

When I rolled this out, I was a little worried about offering a yearly subscription, since the "product" was unproven. Based on feedback I got from several people, people generally trust I'll follow through on this project and some people would actually rather drop more money at once rather than having a few bucks debited every month. In terms of the product being unproven, I do have 14 years of experience so people kinda know what they're getting.

All this is to say that I have enabled the yearly subscription option for the site, and it's $50 per year, or 17% off the monthly rate. If you already subscribed to the monthly version and want to switch, you can do so from the account management pop up (click the button at the bottom right of this page or click here) and change your plan from there. Your new subscription will start immediately.

Next steps

I don't think there's much else to do in the short run technically. I'd love to offer full-text RSS feeds for the members posts, but Ghost doesn't do this out of the box, and I'm not sure of a way to do this myself. Similarly, I'd love to make an audio version available as a podcast, but I run into the same issue and can't figure out how to generate unique feeds that are linked to Ghost subscriptions. I will keep an eye out, though.

What I really want to do now is focus on writing great stuff for the members posts so that the incredibly kind people who have subscribed feel like they're getting something worthwhile. I also may try to sprinkle in some bonus posts here and there with some extra goodies that make sense to share with a smaller audience.

At the same time, I don't want to turn this into a blog where it feels like all the good stuff is behind a paywall and it becomes annoying to follow along if you're not paying up. I know a few feeds that have turned into that and it drives me crazy too. So far I think I've done well here, with 8 free posts going up (including some pretty beefy ones) since member posts became a thing.

I'll end with some gratitude, everyone has been very kind over the past week. I want Birchtree to be the best I can possibly make it, and it's been wonderful seeing so many people react positively to this, whether they've subscribed or not. Thank you ❀️