Hey everyone, this is Greg. The past year has been a strange year at Stronger By Science, so I just wanted to write a note to let you know how we got here, what’s going on, and what we’re thinking as we look toward the future.
For full context, let’s start back in 2015. That’s the year when Stronger By Science (Strengtheory at the time) really got its feet under it. And, back then, things were pretty simple. We were selling a single product (the Art and Science of Lifting), I was still doing quite a bit of online coaching, and I could spend most of my time writing really high-quality free articles.
Over the next couple of years, not too much changed. We brought on a couple more coaches, and we launched a couple more products, but my day-to-day work obligations didn’t change all that much.
Then, in 2017, we launched a monthly research review – Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS), along with Eric Helms and Mike Zourdos. MASS was a separate company, but it had a pretty big impact on how Stronger By Science operated. It was the most financially successful venture we’d been involved with, so it received the bulk of our marketing efforts. It also required quite a bit of content output. My monthly published word count approximately doubled, and I also took on quite a few new logistical and administrative tasks. Then, a few months after MASS launched, I started grad school.
The period from 2017 to 2019 was a pretty rough time for me, and a pretty weird time for Stronger By Science. I went from having one full-time job (Stronger By Science), to having about 2.5 full-time jobs (Stronger By Science, being a full-time grad student, and putting in pretty long hours for MASS for about 2-2.5 weeks per month), and the site went relatively quiet. There just wasn’t any way to sustain the prior rate of free content output. Looking back, we did still publish several articles during this time period that I’m really proud of, but circumstances dictated that SBS just couldn’t be my top priority during those years.
Entering 2019, we brought on Eric Trexler, and by mid-2019, I was done with grad school. This was when we started the Stronger By Science podcast, Facebook group, and subreddit. Just in the interest of full transparency, the main consideration motivating all three of those decisions was that “Stronger By Science” had been more-or-less synonymous with “Greg Nuckols” since its inception. We wanted to create opportunities to introduce you folks to Eric in ways that allowed for personal interactions (FB group and subreddit), and in ways that would present him as someone with a personality, and as my peer and equal (podcast).
Over the next year and a half, we found a pretty good groove, but I think we also developed some bad habits. We got on a consistent content schedule, which ensured plenty of content was rolling out the door (between articles and podcast episodes). But, in doing so, we started drifting away from the old-school Stronger By Science ethos.
In the pre-MASS, pre-grad school, pre-Eric era, I had a very simple process for writing: pick a topic, write the absolute best article I was capable of writing (with the goal of writing the best article on the internet about that particular topic), and then publish it when it was ready to publish. Sometimes that would take a week, and sometimes it would take two months. But, in the 2019-2021 era, that approach was no longer feasible, especially for super in-depth articles (like the squat, bench, and deadlift guides). I could only spend about half of the month on Stronger By Science content (MASS got the other half), and it’s pretty painful to get really into a topic for 2 weeks, drop it for 2 weeks, pick it back up, spend 3 days getting reacquainted with the material, make progress for another week, drop it for two weeks again, spend some more time getting reacquainted with the material, make a little more progress, etc. I think that leads to lower-quality work, and it would also mean that a two-month project in the 2015-2017 era would have turned into a 5-6 month project in the 2019-2021 era. When you have a content-driven business, you can’t just let the site go dark for 6 months between articles.
So, instead, we got in the habit of publishing frequently and consistently, but we did so under time constraints – making sure we always completed publishable content during the two-week windows between the monthly MASS content pushes. And, to be clear, I’m proud of a lot of the content we published during this time, but we also didn’t publish that much content I expect people to still be referring to and sharing 5 years from now. On a month-by-month basis, almost all of the Stronger By Science articles that get a lot of traffic (that aren’t brand new) are from 2018 or earlier. In short, the content was good, but it was no longer special.
Then, in 2021, we launched MacroFactor. MacroFactor has been extremely rewarding to work on, but it’s also very time-consuming. From 2021 until earlier this year, I felt like I was back in grad school again (in terms of workload), working way too much, and absolutely redlining. Leaving MASS earlier this year certainly helped, but that was also around the same time we parted ways with Eric, meaning that most of his content obligations for both Stronger By Science and MacroFactor fell on me. Since a lot was up in the air throughout that process, and there were things we couldn’t (and still can’t) tell you about everything going on behind the scenes, Lyndsey and I thought it was important to return to relative “normalcy” for a few months following the very long gap between seasons of the podcast.
But, when taking a step back and surveying our current approach to content, it’s pretty obvious that it’s become a bit anachronistic. The main point of the podcast, Facebook group, and subreddit was to introduce Eric to the audience, but he’s not around anymore. And, our schedule for written content was primarily developed to accommodate the monthly writing deadlines for MASS (which are no longer a constraint).
So, with all of that said, we are now trying to chart a new course, and want to ask for your patience and a bit of grace during this time. I can’t tell you exactly how that will look yet, because quite frankly, I’m not totally sure how it will look yet. But, I can tell you the problems we’re trying to solve, and I can tell you my goals.
Acute problems we’re trying to solve
1) Our written content needs to be better
Instead of publishing merely good content on a certain cadence, we want to get back to publishing truly exceptional content, even if it doesn’t conform to a strict content schedule. But, we do still need to get content out the door with some regularity. A month or two between articles is fine, but six months wouldn’t be fine.
2) We need to figure out what to do about the podcast and the groups
I’m really not sure what to do about the podcast. It’s no longer serving its original purpose, and it’s not something I ever personally wanted to focus on long-term – I still strongly prefer written communication. If the podcast is going to continue, I need to figure out a way to make it truly excellent. Otherwise, I think my efforts are better spent creating written content that I know I can be really proud of.
The same applies to the Facebook group and subreddit. Most of the moderation work falls on me (which is a non-trivial time suck – I probably have to screen or remove a dozen posts or comments per day from obvious spammers), and I don’t really have time to moderate them well, and foster a true community feel. I also don’t have time to treat them as personal Q&A boards, which is what a lot of members are obviously wanting/expecting.
3) I’m currently a significant choke point
Right now, I’m the content bottleneck for both Stronger By Science and MacroFactor. So, when I need to make a lot of content, I don’t have enough time to execute well on all of my other obligations. And, when I’m focusing on all of my logistical and administrative obligations, I don’t have much time to make content. As a result, the content I’ve been making doesn’t live up to my own standards, and I’m often the holdup on the business side of things as well. If there were two of me, or if I had twice as many hours in a day, this would not be a problem. But, unfortunately, there is only one of me, and the linear progress of time tyrannizes me the same way it tyrannizes everyone else.
What we’re planning on (short-ish term)
We either need to do some hiring, or we need to do fewer things overall so that we can do the remaining things well. Maybe/probably both.
Written content: We’re definitely going to be hiring on the content side of MacroFactor soon-ish, and we’re probably going to bring in some more content-focused folks for Stronger By Science as well. That should help with the quality and consistency of the content, and it will help alleviate the extent to which I’m a choke point for both businesses. And, it should open things up for me so that I can focus on the type of writing I want to focus on again – getting way too deep into a particular topic, and writing the best content I’m capable of writing.
Online communities: For the Facebook group and subreddit, I either need to find more moderators, or I need to just shut them down. I really can’t allow them to be communities I personally need to actively manage.
Podcast: In the very short-term, we have a great interview episode with Beth Skwarecki recorded. But, we need to find a podcast editor first and foremost. I’ve been editing the podcast, and quite frankly, it’s a poor use of my time. I’m sure a professional audio editor could do it better, and do it much quicker. Looking forward, I think we either need to find someone else to be the first mic (i.e. the person who’s the driving force behind the podcast), or we should probably just roll it up. I don’t really have the time or, quite frankly, the desire to be the primary host long-term. Once we find an editor, we do plan to keep recording episodes while we figure out what we’re going to do (i.e. there’s not going to be another six-month break between seasons). But the end result will either be finding a new host or shutting it down.
The longer-term vision
My ultimate goal is to build a completely comprehensive (free) resource for all things lifting (and, eventually, for all things fitness). I think it’s something that needs to exist, but I’ve also realized that it’s not something I can build myself. And, we can’t just let Stronger By Science go dark for five years while we work on it fully behind the scenes – I feel an acute sense of obligation to keep things rolling (and growing/improving) in the meantime to ensure we’re doing right by our coaches.
So, be prepared for a rocky few months while we figure things out. We need to find the right people, and we need to put the right systems in place so that we can start making serious progress on this project. But, I’m excited about what you can expect on the other side.
A bit of vulnerability
I’m slightly concerned that this message will be taken the wrong way. If you wanted to be uncharitable, you could easily read it as me saying, “Stronger By Science isn’t my primary concern anymore, so I’m just looking to farm out most of the work to other people to keep the audience on the hook while I kick my feet up or do other things.” And, that concern has been the primary thing that’s led to the current state of affairs where I’ve been working myself to the bone for the better part of the last 6 years while progressively having less and less pride in the content I’m making.
I look back at the 2015-2017 period with a lot of fondness, and a bit of yearning. Back then, I could do almost everything myself (public-facing, at least – Lyndsey has always managed a lot behind the scenes, and Adam has been managing support for ages), because we simply weren’t doing as much. As new challenges and new opportunities came along, I did (and still do) feel a sense of obligation to just add more and more to my plate, and to allow myself to be incredibly accessible to everyone in the Stronger by Science audience. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was becoming lazy or aloof or elitist. And, since most of you started following Stronger By Science because you liked my content, I felt (and still feel) obligated to meet whatever expectations you have of me (or whatever expectations I think you have of me).
Finally, though, I’ve realized it’s just unsustainable. I can’t do everything, and do it all well.
I also realized that this whole way of looking at things was arrogance masquerading as humility. People will get upset if the content gets worse – they won’t get upset just because there are more people’s names on the content, and there are other people interacting with them. On some level, I think I assumed that the content I was able to eke out in the gaps between a dozen other obligations would still be better than the content someone else could make when they were fully focused on it. That’s obviously untrue, and it’s not a conscious belief I’ve ever held, but I think that may have been a subconscious process driving me to keep doing too much myself.
Most importantly, I just realized I could be doing better by all of you. If most of the burden of creating content falls on me, the amount of content you get, and the quality of the content you get will both be inferior to what they could (and should) be. With more people, we can do more, and do better. If that leads to some people making uncharitable assumptions about me, I should be able to live with that. I’m naturally a bit of a people-pleaser, but I shouldn’t put my concerns that a handful of people will be mad at me above the obligation to put out the best resources possible for everyone in the audience (including the people who get mad). And, if the folks we bring in are good, I figure the people who were initially mad at me will eventually come around.
I have two asks:
1) If you know of a good audio editor who has experience with podcasts, let them know we’re hiring, and ask them to apply here. We understand that it’s skilled work, and we’ll pay fairly.
And, by the same token, if you’re a good audio editor who has experience with podcasts, you should apply here.
2) If you’re in the Stronger By Science Facebook group or subreddit, and you’d like to be a mod/group administrator, keep your eyes on the groups. I’ll post threads asking if anyone would like to be a mod soon.
Most importantly, I just want to express that I really do appreciate all of you. Thanks for sticking with us through this topsy-turvy year, and we hope you’ll stick around while we shift gears. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to make much free content of the quality I think you deserve, but we’re going to change that.