Riding is Life


Ad-free ambition

Content, not commercials.

I am pleased to announce that Escape Collective will remain ad-free through 2024. This is a decision we came to slowly and carefully and one we feel is best for our members and audience, the current state of our business, and the people who make Escape Collective for you every day.

Ads stir up all kinds of emotions in an online audience. Mostly negative ones. So much of the internet is full of advertising that suggests the purveyor cares little for you or your ability to, for example, read an entire story without floating blocks of bullshit getting in the way. But ads and ad revenue can positively and negatively impact a media company. We are leaving revenue on the table with this decision; revenue that could be used to improve Escape Collective. So I want to talk about why we made this decision.

Above all, we believe in our membership model. We’re fanatical about it, and we are incredibly proud to be 100% member-funded. It’s also working pretty darn well. As we approach one year in business, we are nearing profitability. In fact, we’re close enough that we are already planning for growth. We firmly believe that a member-funded model aligns our interests with the desires of our readers and listeners, making for better content and a tighter Escape community. We work for you. We want to keep it that way.

Ads increase the complexity of our business, too. We don’t have sales people right now. Every single person who works here is dedicated to serving our members. We’re lean and nimble and any decision that changes that has to be weighed up carefully.

There are a few external forces that made this decision easier. The ad market is not great right now. We’re watching our friends working for ad-funded media titles get laid off left, right, and center. Just the other day, an internal email from the CEO of Vice announced that the venerable title, darling of the 2010s, will turn off its website and lay off the majority of its hundreds of employees. Titles like Road Bike Action, which fired all its actual writers last year, are just AI-written shells getting milked for their SEO value.

We won’t step in that direction.

To be very clear: this decision means we will forgo traditional ad buys – banners, podcast ads, the cash-for-exposure type of arrangements. We place more nuanced commercial partnerships (like the one with MAAP to produce our first kit) in a different category and will continue to pursue those, as long as they make sense for our members. Custom Escape helmets? Sure! Working with BikeStyle Tours on our Classics trip? You bet.

I don’t know what lies ahead for media. I do know that we’re in the middle of an extinction-level event for much of the media ecosystem and that through good fortune, good timing, and hard work, we’ve built ourselves a bunker of membership. We want to be very, very sure the coast is clear before sticking our heads out. Now is not that time.

Our priority for 2024 is retaining our laser focus on our customer. Our customer, of course, is you.

Please support our mission.

Caley Fretz | Co-founder, Editor in Chief

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