In January 2012, Mad In America went live with a handful of bloggers and the mission to become a central community in the effort to rethink and transform the paradigm of psychiatric care.
I want to offer some thoughts and figures about where we’ve been in the past year and what we are growing into.
Then I want to ask you for money.
Over the past year, traffic to Mad In America has more than doubled. We now serve pages to over 2,000 unique visitors a day, 30-40k unique visitors per month. Over the life of the site we’ve seen 400,000 unique visitors, over 120,000 of whom have read our most popular article at least once. These numbers have been rising substantially in the past few weeks thanks to improvements to social sharing, SEO, and your help spreading the content of Mad In America. April is poised to be a record-breaking month for us.
140+ individuals have published an article on the site, and we’ve had over 16,000 comments on blog posts, almost all of which are now civil and on-topic in accordance with our posting guidelines.
Aside from Facebook and Twitter, we have received substantial traffic from Reddit, Boing Boing, Huffington Post, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. I want to put out a special thanks to individual bloggers who have sent us thousands of visitors including Beyond Meds, Discover and Recover, and 1 Boring Old Man. We’ve also seen surprising rushes of traffic from online forums for mothers and for mental health professionals when our articles are shared on those sites. Word-of-mouth referral is a powerful way our readers help make the public more aware of the issues we are discussing here, which I think we all feel are missed and brushed aside in dialogues elsewhere.
This growth is just a beginning. In my mind our traffic plateau, the optimal “market share” of our message, is much larger than anything we’ve seen so far. Several articles on Mad in America have broken out, reaching thousands, or tens of thousands, of people. You will now see these particular posts re-featured on the front page. I believe there is more we can all be doing to promote our best content, especially to young people and activists who can help carry the torch of human rights for individuals with psychiatric diagnoses to new networks and locales.
We are making many improvements to the site itself, making it easier to read, find, subscribe to, and share what you want.
Our senior editor, Kermit Cole, added the Blog Roundup section to our front page, curates our growing Resources area, and continues to bring you important news and research updates daily. Kermit is also the producer of the lovingly produced MIA Reports videos, which I encourage you to take the time to browse.
At Mad in America, we hear people ask almost every day where they can go for one-on-one help getting off psych drugs. So far we’ve had few ways to respond to this strikingly common question. To remedy that, Laura Delano, our Personal Stories editor, is now working daily on a directory of mental health professionals who offer to assist people with coming off of psychiatric drugs. This searchable list will be available soon on the website, along with a form to submit new entries for review. In my witnessing, the absence of experienced support is one factor that makes or breaks many peoples’ attempts to re-imagine their lives free of the psychiatric system. We hope this resource will make a positive difference for many in need.
We have other plans to expand what we do in ways that will enrich this site and the community.
What I haven’t mentioned yet is that so far we have had almost zero outside help. When we started, Bob Whitaker was paying web developers out of pocket, and our first year expenses were covered by generous private seed money that we are working through at a steady pace.
Since we put up a way for you to help us out in October, we’ve raised a little over $1,600. We are very grateful to those who have donated so far, but obviously this isn’t enough to sustain the ongoing operations of a robust online magazine.
Starting today, those who are not yet supporters will start to notice an easily-dismissed popup on occasion when you reach the bottom of an article. The way to prevent this from happening, and feel good knowing that you are making a substantial contribution to the efforts of this site, is to support Mad In America.
My personal hope is that we can be a pioneering community not only in our content but also in the way we do business. We are in this for you, readers. We chose to incorporate as a standard LLC rather than a non-profit solely to keep overhead and bureaucracy at a bare minimum. We are a small, flexible team passionate about the thriving independent journalism and community on this site. We believe that to try to rely on advertisements, affiliate programs, or paywalls to finance our operations would not serve our readers well and would compromise our ability to deliver the content — and free exchange of ideas — that we do.
We, of course, do need to generate revenue for Mad In America. That’s where you come in. The best way I can see to make this work is for the majority our regular readers to contribute something, whatever feels right for you. When our income comes directly from your good will, we are beholden to you. We have no choice but to continue making this into the space you want to see and share.
Thank you for being a part of this project and community.