Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Crass Commercialism

| Permalink | 11 comments

You might wonder what keeps the servers humming around here and what keeps me in cat food and dark chocolate. (Don't worry, the cat food is for the cats.) While there is a "coalition of the willing to pay Mig," the rent is mostly paid by subscribers to the ChessNinja newsletters, White Belt and Black Belt. Note the subtle header on this page.

ChessNinja just passed its second anniverary. That's 209 weekly newsletters and 623 Daily Dirt entries, not to mention tens of thousands of message board posts. I wanted to see how it would do on the cheap, doing everything myself without paying for any advertising and only occasionally paying for freelance content. It has done well, mostly thanks to a great feedback loop with the readers, and I thank them.

For 2005 I thought it was time to push it up to a new level. This requires investing in content and I figured I'd start at the top. Last month 2004 US women's champion Jennifer Shahade came on board. This month it's 2005 US champ Hikaru Nakamura. (I'll eschew the exclamation points.) The next issue of Black Belt will include his annotations of his key win over Kaidanov in the US Championship.

The financial model of ChessNinja is based on my favorite saying: pixels are cheap. With no printing or distribution costs it costs the same to send to 1,000 people as to send to one. So I set the price incredibly low and make it up in volume, as the old joke goes. Paying for content disturbs this balance, at least at first. I don't want to raise the price ($5/mo. for four issues of Black Belt. $3/mo. for four issues of White Belt. $/6/mo. for both.) I'll need between 60 and 100 new subscribers to get back to the same profit level. With great stuff from Jennifer and Hikaru, and others who will be contributing, I don't think it will be a problem. And I'm willing to give it some time. Plus, current subscribers will be rewarded with a superior product, no small thing.

So here it is, the first ever subscribe link in the Daily Dirt. There are links to sample issues above. Any questions about the newsletters or anything else with running this crazy show are welcome.



First of all, thanks for your site. I have been enjoying the forums and the daily dirt almost every day. I had planned to sign up just to say "Thank you". Since you brought it up though ...

I have seen some comments in the forum that suggest that there have been problems getting the issues out. Long-time subscribers saying they are not renewing. I'm sure you have smoothed this out, but I'd like to have some assurance.


PS Kudos for getting Jennifer Shahade as a contributing writer. She's great.

Yes, had some trouble keeping up while I was in San Diego running the US Championship site. Apart from the scheduling problem, I couldn't access the mailing list on my home machine for a week (friend had to go to my house and reboot it!). The hazards of doing everything yourself. But I'm getting caught up and back on schedule. I'm never going to be able to send them at the exact same time week to week as long as I'm the only one who can send them. Events conspire. But they do get out.

As a subscriber, I fully understood the cause of the (minor) delays in sending out the Belts during the US Championship, and I was completely comfortable with the situation, on two counts:

#1 - the US Champ site was awesome, including, as I've posted before, what I consider to be a huge paradigm shift in the design model for the site for such events, that being the ChampBlog!

#2 - the focus of the customer service culture at "Mig, ltd" is so obvious that I knew instinctively that I would never regret continuing to give him my business regardless of the minor inconvenience of a slight delay in delivery of the newsletters.

An lo and behold, we're getting not just one but TWO high-quality contributors added to the content of the newsletters AT NO ADDITIONAL COST.

Case closed, far as I'm concerned.

OK Mig! You got me. $35 on it's way.

I encourage all other board participants who don't subscribe to do the same! Let's keep Mig's cats from starving to death.


Fair enough. I signed up too for 6 mos.


I have been subscribing to Chess Ninja WB & BB since it started and am well satisfied with the newsletters to date. The odd hiccup when one is late doesn't concern me as they have been very rare and usually when Mig is at a big tournament and there are always enhanced editions as compensation. I feel the content of the letters have been huge value for money over the last two years and by the sound of it they are only going to get better.
Mind you if he were to be putting pictures of Jennifer Shahade on each issue I am sure he would have no difficulties enlarging his membership.

Weemac, you have either made a brilliant joke or committed an epic Freudian slip ("...enlarging his membership"). My compliments in either case! ;-)

I bought the back issues and have been a subscriber for 5 months. The newsletter is put out in timely fashion. This one incident (while in San Diego) being the one minor exception that proves the rule. I find that the content is high quality (the free samples are representative of the quality in every newsletter)and I find it to be one of the best resources for chess instruction I have found. The instruction is practical and is never burdensome even though it hits tactics and endgame instruction. I definitely recomend giving it a try.

Great news on the two new contributors. It will be great hearing thier thoughts on the game.

Hi Mig,

I have been a subscriber for over a year. I enjoy the newsletters immensely; for the price, the content is superb. I look forward to reading each issue.

However, you have become less and less reliable with respect to delivering your product to your customers in a timely manner. You advertise that WB will arrive on Wednesday; that BB will arrive on Friday. They had not arrived on Wednesday and Friday respectively for months. I typically received the issues on Thursday or Friday (WB) and Saturday or Sunday (BB). They always arrived however. Occasionally you would apologize for the delay due to some technical difficulty. More often than not you did not apologize. It became accepted that the issues would be late but also that they would be worth the wait. This is the mantra I repeated again and again in the CN forums when others voiced their discontent. You were like the chronically procrastinating student who nevertheless at the last minute delivers excellent essays.

Then came the US Champs and the issues did not arrive at the advertised publishing date (to be expected), did not arrive at the expected publishing date (a couple of days after the advertised date), did not arrive for a week. Eventually an issue or two arrived, with the expected apologies and requests for forebearance, then more silence. This was highly disconcerting.

At long last the issues arrived. The product was good, as expected. But there comes a time when the "A" student has to face the consequences for his procrastination and/or "dog ate my homework" excuses. I pay good money for your product. I expect it to be delivered on time.

The last couple of issues have arrived as advertised. Perhaps inky put a bug in your ear or perhaps you decided that it was time to make a greater commitment to your subscribers. Whatever the reasoning it was a critical decision. You may have saved me as a subscriber. If the next number of issues arrive as advertised I will renew my subscription; if they do not arrive as advertised I will cancel it.

Again, I have nothing but praise for your work on the newsletters. Both WB and BB are excellent. Deliver them on time and I am yours for the taking. Figuratively.

All the best,


Is that the best picture you could find of Hikaru? :)

Okay, changed the picture of Hikaru. I have many great pictures of him, mostly smiling (hey, he was always winning, so this shouldn't surprise). But he kept saying he wanted to look more serious in the photos on the US Ch site!

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 23, 2004 12:09 AM.

    Mouse 1 - Khalifman 0 was the previous entry in this blog.

    Chess Jokes is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.