Friday, March 31, 2023

Introducing FHQ Plus

Last week marked the 16th anniversary of FHQ's initial post. It was modest by 2007 standards. Many things around here are. But it was the first step in the development of a site that has become a resource, a companion guide to presidential elections generally, but nominations and nominations rules in particular. As I have noted on similar occasions in the past, it all started as little more than an effort to gather and share anecdotal evidence of presidential primary movement for the 2008 cycle for dissertation research and transformed over time into a field guide of sorts. The mission became an effort to catalog and contextualize not only primary calendar changes within and in between cycles, but nominations rules changes as well, and to package all of that insanely complex maneuvering into something more easily digestible for everyone. 

Look, it is a niche. I know that. I have known that. This stuff can read like stereo instructions sometimes. And I have seen folks' eyes glaze over when I launch into it. Nevertheless, 16 years in, I have learned 1) that there is value out there in this resource and 2) that there is a cyclical nature to all of it. That glaze over the eyes gets a little thinner with regularity: every four years as the presidential nomination races heat up, this information -- the primary calendar, the rules, the impact each (and the changes to each) will have within states and collectively to the process on a national scale --  becomes more important. Well, it is always important, in truth. But it begins to rise in relative importance every cycle once the midterms pass. Traffic jumps a little and then a lot. Email requests increase a little and then a lot. Or in the case of the 2024 cycle, they jump a lot if the Democratic Party waits until after the midterms to fundamentally reshape its primary calendar. 

But that is the way it goes, or perhaps, the way it has gone. I work hard to create for and maintain this resource. It has been extremely important to me to freely share it all so that the information could get out there. So that it could benefit those who are looking to be better informed about the ins and outs of the presidential nomination process. As a political scientist, I continue to wear that teaching hat, and I continue to place a great deal of value on the notion that knowledge is power in the hands of citizens in a democracy. And that mean citizens of all stripes from those in campaigns, parties and media to those in the academy and everyone else just trying to make some sense of the complex systems that determine who the standard bearers for the major parties will be in presidential elections. 

FHQ remains committed to that value.

But the model will change for the first time after 16 years. FHQ -- -- is not going anywhere. But today I am excited to launch FHQ Plus, a paid subscription arm of FHQ built on the Substack platform. If you have been a regular reader of or have casually happened upon FHQ over the years, then the concept will be similar at FHQ Plus. Those discussions of primary movement and delegate selection rules changes will be there. In-depth analyses and other musings to further contextualize those changes will be there. Reactions to news and other events that require more space than social media will allow will be there too. And so will some other enhancements that are made available on Substack. Twitter is not going anywhere, but there is obviously some uncertainty with how the platform is going to function in the future. The Substack chat function allows for some interesting connectivity among subscribers to FHQ Plus that may nurture important conversations. [And I'll be real, bots spamming the comments section on Blogger forced me to switch to moderating that; something to which I never took. I just did not have the bandwidth to deal with it.] And there are podcast possibilities as well. 

And no, that does not completely gut the original FHQ. Our flagship property, the presidential primary calendar will stay in place. Increasingly, links from the calendar will lead to FHQ Plus, but the base calendar will remain available to everyone. That same basic structure will hold for base delegate allocation rules pages when those are posted in the future. And I brought Invisible Primary: Visible back at the beginning of the month with this move in mind. It will continue to post every weekday in the mid-morning on FHQ and continue to deliver insights too big for social media and too small for a stand-alone post. And the vast majority of the FHQ archive will remain right where it is, available for everyone. Additionally, there are tentative plans to cross-post one item from FHQ Plus every week (probably on Saturdays) and a dedicated "column" (probably on Sundays).

Everything else moving forward will be published on FHQ Plus. I have wrestled with a pay model for a while now. Keen observers may recall that for a period during latter half of 2022 there were ads in various places around FHQ. Ultimately, I did not like the way that cluttered up the site. There was and is already a lot of material to take in at FHQ and ads only served as a distraction from that. A subscription model circumvents that distraction. 

The monthly subscription rate to FHQ Plus is initially set at five dollars ($5) or for the year, $30. In both cases, that is the lowest level allowed through Substack.

This is another aspect of this with which I wrestled. Five dollars will price some folks out. I get that. Others may feel like five dollars undervalues the FHQ experience. Folks who fall into that latter category -- those who place a higher value on FHQ Plus and its mission -- are free, welcome really, to give at a value that they feel is appropriate. Think of it as akin to how Radiohead distributed In Rainbows. It was a pay-what-you-want model with a nominal service charge -- what was it, 10¢? -- to use a debit or credit card and get the digital file for the album. FHQ Plus is the same. If you want, you can pay what you want under the Plus Founder (Suggested) option, where you can input a yearly price your choosing about $30. But the baseline charge will be five dollars a month or $30 a year. 

In the end, this is not Netflix. It is not Spotify. It is not whatever fill-in-the-blank other service you subscribe to. But FHQ Plus does fill a void, and in my estimation, an important one that arises for a lengthy period every four years. It is a niche service, and I am asking folks to chip a bit to help FHQ continue in its larger mission to fill that void.

Most importantly and in closing, I want to do something that I try to do every year when the anniversary of FHQ's launch rolls around, and still never really feels like enough. I want to say a very sincere thank you to everyone. Thank you to everyone for reading, whether from near the beginning or not until only recently. Thank you for the interactions and the comments here or on social media. They often led to posts or made existing ones better. Thank you to the long line of folks over the years -- you know who you are -- who have advocated for FHQ, who have promoted the site or its affiliated social media channels, and who have reached out privately to offer words of praise or a simple thank you. Those efforts, no matter the size, have meant the world to me. And I greatly appreciate them all. 

Thank you and welcome to FHQ Plus.

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