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A Family of Readers

Felix in California sent me an error report Monday (I left a confusing extraneous word when I recasted a sentence when I was writing). He posted the error just 11 minutes and 44 seconds after the Premium edition was sent out, and his report enabled me to fix the error for the free edition.

I replied to tell him thanks, which caused him to reply with:

“You know, you have a funny (strange) brand going, buster 🙂 I bet I am not the only one that feels like I half own it, that it is not just yours and I am not just a customer. You put so much work into *our* site that when I see some small typo, it is my *duty* to help correct it. I am not sure how you suckered me into this corner, but I’ll gladly man a brush and keep the paint wet.”

Certainly to some readers this is “just a newsletter.” But for others, it’s an extended family. The people who read this section, for instance (rather than “just the stories”), are much more likely to feel like a true part of the True family. When comments come in, I often recognize the name before I open the note. (And rarely do I think, “Oh no, not them again!” and leave it for later!) Frequently, readers say “it feels like I know you,” and sometimes I get to know them a little, too, from their emails. I’ve even met several hundred of you, which has been pretty cool too.

It’s no surprise that most of the “family” types are also Premium subscribers. And frankly, I’m (literally) about 5 times more likely to reply to email from Premium subscribers, since I have to prioritize my time somehow. And since they’ve gone the extra step to support True, that seems to be a reasonable way to prioritize! Interestingly, it’s that same group that’s more likely to say “No need to reply; I know you’re busy.” Yeah, I am, and I definitely can’t reply to all of my mail, or I’d never be able to write stories and do the other work I have. But I always at least read my mail — and I do it myself; no assistants sort through it first.

There’s one thing I really hate about the “family,” though: I don’t like the “hard sell” approach in asking you to upgrade to Premium. I really don’t; I wish I got a reasonable number of upgrades every week and didn’t have to push at all. But when I push, I get a lot (a “lot” is 10 over the next week — that’s right, $240 in subscriptions in a week is a lot). When I don’t push, I get very few (like 2 or 3). When I ask you to help (not just upgrades help: forwarding issues to friends with your recommendation that they subscribe helps. Links in your blogs or on your web sites help, as does putting the free True-a-Day widget on your sites. Or otherwise helping to “get the word out”) — when I ask for that kind of help and say “Don’t figure someone else will do it for you; I need you to do it!” — pretty much everyone (with a few notable exceptions each time) hits “Delete” and doesn’t bother — you expect someone else will do it.

Yeah, well, someone bothered when they told you about True. And you apparently appreciated it! So please, pass the favor on: tell your friends about True. Help it grow. And consider an upgrade, while you’re at it: Be one of the ten.

End of hard sell — it’s no way to treat family. But that IS one of the best things about the Premium edition: not only does it not have third-party advertising, but there are no pushes to upgrade to Premium, either!

4 Responses to A Family of Readers

  1. Dr. Marc, Chicago burbs July 28, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    Count me as another “family” member – a crotchety old uncle.

    T I T is one of the anticipated high spots of my week. The nicest part of that is that it is a recurring, drugless high. It makes me think about things other than patients, frequently gives me a chuckle at the Human Comedy, and sometimes gets me pissed off at the niggling pettifoggery of bureaucratic officialdom.

    There is a surprising number of doctors on TRUE’s distribution. -rc

  2. Alexander, Virginia July 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm #

    Re your comment on the first comment: Are lawyers also surprisingly numerous on the list?

    Heck yeah — I’ve said that many times. The top three seem to be Lawyers, Cops, and Preachers.

    The second tier includes other emergency services personnel, rocket scientists and the like (due to my previous professions), techie types (due to TRUE being a very early content provider online, when pretty much the only people online were techie types), and journalists (due to the subject matter, where I say the things they think to themselves when they write the stories, but can’t because they’re supposed to keep their opinions out of the stories).

    Obviously, from there and by now, pretty much every occupation is likely represented in the readership. -rc

  3. Tony, Japan July 29, 2008 at 10:35 am #

    You once blogged about what it was that made the Premium edition so special, and how hard it was to explain.

    Everything above would be included in my answer; We get to see “behind the scenes”, we get to see the out-takes, we get to contribute (comments of course, first dibs at corrections – not to criticise, but to improve, AND the tagline challenge), and we get to know you better. (Personally speaking, when you mentioned that your favourite film was “Blazing Saddles” I knew I had invested wisely, and found someone who really shared my sense of the bizarre.)

    So far I have done a tagline, written a “Heroic Stories” Entry, and been personally responsible for one of the products listed in “Cranky Customer” (oops!), so I really feel like “one of the family”. If I ever actually get featured in a “This is True” story I will want royalty payments. (I will allow an Honorary Unsubscribe, but not for a while yet!)

  4. Vyx, NW AR July 29, 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    I actually found you because someone told me about the HeroicStories, way back when. Read the free version for a number of years before subscribing. I’m always surprised to find that I’ve subbed for more years than I felt like I paid for. 🙂

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