Mumsnet launches subscription plea in 'squeaky-bum time'

By Zoe Kleinman
Technology reporter, BBC News

  • Published
Justine RobertsImage source, Vicki Couchman
Image caption,
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said the platform had been hit by a steep decline in ad revenue

Mumsnet, the UK's biggest parent platform, has launched a subscription service following a steep decline in ad revenue.

The £4.99 monthly fee is not compulsory, and does not yet offer any bonus features, although Mumsnet said it would look at building extra tools.

Founder and CEO Justine Roberts said: "Frankly, it is squeaky-bum time."

She has taken a salary holiday and other staff have volunteered to reduce their hours, she added.

Ms Roberts said there had been "a great response" so far to the request, and said she did not want people to pay if they could not afford to.

"We've seen a number of advertisers pull or postpone their planned activity for obvious reasons and entire sectors put their marketing spend on hold," she told the BBC.

"The bottom line isn't looking quite the way we expected it to a few weeks ago, but given the way the Mumsnet team and community have pulled together, we're hopeful we will come out the other side in good shape."

Ms Roberts said she hoped the subscription would become "a sustainable and reliable source of funds".

The 20-year-old platform is famous for its straight-talking discussion forums and has spawned its own language of initialisms including AIBU (am I being unreasonable), DC (darling children) and the brutal relationship advice LTB (leave the... you get the gist).

Mumsnet's website says it has about 10 million unique visitors per month and 100 million page views. It says its page views have gone up "around 10%" during lockdown.

'Holding on tight'

Other parenting platforms are also having to adapt to survive in the current climate.

UK-based Mush was founded in 2016, and was set up to connect parents by encouraging them to meet up in person - which is currently not possible.

Image source, Mat Smith
Image caption,
Sarah Hesz and Katie Massie-Taylor founded the parent connection app Mush in April 2016

Co-founder Katie Massie-Taylor said the platform is now running a daily Zoom video meeting for members, and charges a £4.99 optional monthly subscription for additional access to experts, which has been taken up by a small percentage of members.

However, funding is proving difficult for the site, which does not carry ads, and the team had already been reduced prior to the pandemic.

"All conversations are on ice," she said.

"We're holding on tight."

Meanwhile Peanut, another platform which has a UK presence but says 70% of its members are in the US, has secured recent fundraising success.

It was founded by Michelle Kennedy, former deputy chief executive of European dating app Badoo.

"It has been an extraordinarily strange time, things have been very volatile," she said.

However, engagement is up by 30%, and it says the community has grown from around one million users in December 2019 to 1.6 million in April 2020.

Peanut gives members the option to mute certain key words they wish to avoid. Ms Kennedy said quite a few had chosen to mute the words coronavirus and Covid19 - although the topic remains very engaging among those who are trying to start or grow a family.

"Women who have had cancelled IVF or are going through the adoption process and it's been postponed - they are not muting those key words," she said.

"It's really having an impact on their decisions."