This letter was sent by the president of StockCharts.com to the registered users of the site. It gives a nice summary of the situation faced by many intermediate-sized Web sites in the current environment:

Hello Fellow ChartWatchers,

Even though StockCharts.com is a privately held company, we consider users like yourself to be members of our "Board of Directors." As such we need you to review the following information and the conclusions we've drawn from it. At the bottom, you find a proposal that will significantly impact your use of the site next year.

This information gives you a better picture of what it takes to run a real website these days. You'll probably be surprised by some of it. You'll even learn what my salary is!

==============================

StockCharts.com is run by only four people. Many competing sites employ 50 or more.

It takes over 20 different computers to power StockCharts.com. They have more than 50 Gigahertz of CPU power, more than 8 Gigabytes of memory, and over 500 Gigabytes of disk storage. Over one and a half miles of wiring connects everything together and our battery backup power units weigh over 200lbs.

We track over 22,000 different stock symbols in our main databases. The historic price database has over 40 million rows of data. Every day, over 800,000 rows of price information are added or updated.

Our T3 connection to the Internet can send up to 45 Megabits of data out every second. That's 822 times more data than a standard 56K modem can (assuming the modem is working optimally).

Our busiest times of the day for us are from 10AM to 11AM and from 4:00 to 4:30PM (Eastern). Our slowest times are on the weekends and on weekdays from 2AM to 5AM (Eastern). During market hours, there is a slight lull around 2PM.

During peak times, we are serving more than 1,500 SharpCharts every minute. The average size of a SharpChart is 9K. On average, charts are created in 1/3rd of a second.

----------------------

We currently receive revenue from three main sources: Business partners, Extra! Customers, and Free Customers (via advertising).

We are more popular than ever. Since Feb-2001, our site traffic has increased four fold. We are setting bandwidth utilization records every week.

The crash of the on-line advertising market continues to hurt. Despite the increase in site traffic, since Feb-2001, advertising revenues have dropped by a factor of five. Ads currently makes up only 5% of our total revenues.

We have 25,450 newsletter subscribers right now. Only 1,350 of them are Extra! members however.

Over 11,000 unique visitors come to our site on a typical day. The ratio of Extra! members to daily visitors has decreased significantly since Sept. 11th.

Since Sept. 11th, revenue from our business partners has dropped 46%. Leads for new charting partnerships have dried up in the face of the "dot com" recession. Most partnership proposals we get these days are "no-cash" deals.

Since Sept. 11th, revenue from Extra! subscriptions has dropped 22%. The subscription rate for new members has fallen significantly despite additional spending on advertising.

------------------

StockCharts.com is a private company. The president owns 51%. One outside investor owns 11%. The employees own the rest.

The total amount of money invested in the company since its founding in May, 1999 has been less than $1 million. The majority of that money came from the president. Unlike most "dot bombs", SCC has spent its money wisely.

In the current economic climate, the odds of raising additional venture capital are almost nil.

Salaries are well below the industry averages. In fact, the president of StockCharts.com doesn't make a salary despite working 12+ hours a day, 6+ days a week.

StockCharts.com currently has no debt, plenty of cash on hand, and lots of loyal users (like you!).

The odds of Congress passing "bail out" legislation for dot-coms like us is zero. :-)

================================

Bottom Line: Despite being one of the few well run "dot coms" out there right now, the current recession and the effects of Sept. 11th have caused our main revenue sources to "dry up" while increasing traffic has increased our expenses.

Conclusion: A change in our business model is required to keep the site viable over the long term. We need to insure that increased traffic leads to increased revenues.

=================================

So here's my proposal to the board (hey, that's you!):

Starting on January 1, 2002, StockCharts.com will introduce a $9.99/mo "Basic" subscription model. Basic subscribers will be able to:

  • Create customized SharpCharts
  • Save up to 50 charts in a single list
  • Use our ChartNotes annotation tool
  • Access our predefined scan results
  • Create Point & Figure charts

Note: There aren't any new capabilities in that list. These are the same features that users get for free on the site now.

Free users would only be able to create SharpCharts in a single, fixed format. They would still be able to access MarketCarpets, PerfCharts, Gallery View charts, CandleGlance pages, the Public Chart Lists, the Dynamic Yield Curve, the newsletter, and everything else we currently provide for free.

Of course, our Extra! service will continue to be available for $19.95/mo and will offer almost unlimited access to our tools - thousands of stored charts, user-defined scans, automatically updated annotations, and much more. If you are already an Extra! member, this proposal should not impact you at all.

While it is disappointing to decrease of free services, I feel that this proposal is a good middle-ground between the totally-free model that we have now and the totally-pay model that we want to avoid.

I look forward to reading any comments you may have on these ideas.

=================================

One last thing:

Due to continuing confusion (and outright abuse) of our refund policies, we will discontinue our discounted, long-term Extra! subscription offer at the end of this year. Starting on January 1st, only month-to-month subscriptions will be offered. The good news is that we WILL have an automated renewal process in place before then which will make paying for month-to-month subscriptions much easier.

Note to Existing Extra! Members: This policy change will not affect you in any way until your existing account comes up for renewal.

Note to Monthly Extra! Members: If you like Extra! and want to extend your subscriptions as economically as possible, this policy change means that you have until December 31st to do so. Note that NO REFUNDS will be issued for these extensions so please be sure that you are satisfied with Extra! before ordering. Visit http://stockcharts.com/corp/extra.html for details.

=================================

Sorry to hit you with all of this at one time but in these economic conditions, fast action is often called for.

We will be adding more information and clarifications about these changes to the site in the coming weeks. Check the "What's New" section of the homepage often for updates.

Thanks for your time,
Chip Anderson
President, StockCharts.com
http://stockcharts.com