Changes to the Honorary Unsubscribe

Now and then, Premium subscribers — the paying customers which, I have said time and again, make True possible — get a little miffed that they get the Honorary Unsubscribe after it’s published in the free edition. Frankly, shouldn’t they get it either exclusively, or at the very least first?

Each time I’ve responded to the complaint with a “that’s the way it is” dismissal, but the most recent one pushed me over the edge, so I put it out to the Premium readers, asking the entire population of them what they really thought about it.

Yes, Share — But…

There was a huge response; people care about the Honorary Unsubscribe, which has been a fixture in True for more than 11 years.

Since half the idea of the H.U. is to honor people that have made a difference in our lives but were mostly ignored, you’ll be happy to know the Premium readers were totally opposed to having the write-ups be exclusive to the much smaller Premium group. (Good: I would have probably felt it necessary to respond to that with an “ain’t gonna do it” dismissal….)

OK, then what? Before I tell you what I’ve decided to do, let me give you just a sample of the comments and suggestions from the Premium edition readers. Brady in Oregon:

You have a quality newsletter and there has to be something extra in it for those of us who are willing to pay. If you do [drop it from the free edition], I hope that it will help tip those who sit on the fence about upgrading.” Harry in California: “Drop the Honorary Unsubscribe from the free edition [even though] I really miss it when you don’t have time to included it. In any case, keep up the good work and don’t be afraid to raise your price a bit — This is True is worth it.

But that and the sampling of the reaction from a small subset of True‘s readership in the Comments below gives you an idea how strongly people feel about the H.U., and I appreciate that they took the time to write.

The Change

So here’s what I have decided: first, I’m not taking it away so free edition readers can’t see it anymore. That said, I now agree with the people who are paying the freight for this publication, and decided to “demote it slightly,” as Doug put it in the Comments.

They say there needs to be more reasons to be a Premium subscriber, which will certainly encourage more people to upgrade, which makes True possible in the first place. If you want the Honorary Unsubscribe delivered to you, you can get it in the Premium edition.

Therefore, starting this week, the H.U. will be written on Mondays for the Premium edition, instead of on Fridays. In the Friday free edition, I’ll tell the free edition readers who got the nod, and then link you to the web site copy.

Yeah, that’s a touch less convenient, but you do have the option of having it delivered. The H.U. is so important to you? Then support it, and the publication that carries it. Can’t afford it? No problem: it’s just a click or two away, for free. Best of both worlds.

- - -

This page is an example of This is True’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. True is a newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition, and bring up questions about society — in an entertaining way. If you enjoyed this page, consider scrolling up to the top of the page for a free email subscription.

To really support True, sign up for a paid subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:

One Year Upgrade


(More upgrade options here.)

Q: Why would I want to pay more than the regular rate?

A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online, and this kind of support means less future need for price increases (and smaller increases when they do happen), which enables more people to upgrade. This option was requested by existing Premium subscribers.

34 thoughts on “Changes to the Honorary Unsubscribe

  1. I like the idea of making the HU a Premium ‘Bennie’. Maybe it’ll push some of the free readers into getting an upgrade. I like your writing so much I buy my wife a sub every year on her birthday even though our computers are less than 10 feet apart!

  2. Whatever makes your job easier and helps your income is fine by me. The free crowd, of which I’m also one, has no reason to complain at the excellent job you do.

  3. Your logic is good. I work in industrial sales, and price jobs every day. Enhancing differentiation between the free and premium editions is a good plan — what are your free subscribers going to do, ask for a refund?

    More likely they are going to recognize the enhanced value of the Premium edition and upgrade. Again, sound business logic.

  4. The Honorary Unsubscribe is nice because it’s inspirational: the rest of True says ‘the world contains many doofuses’, but the H.U. ends each issue on an up-beat note: ‘the world also contains people of worth, who I can aspire to be like’.

    But it’s not like you’re planning to take the H.U. away from free readers; merely demote it slightly.

  5. Only downside I see is that some of us who also subscribe to the free edition for the express purpose of getting the HU a couple of days earlier will unsubscribe from the free edition, thus dropping your numbers a bit.

  6. I’m typically not one to tell you how to do your job. So in my opinion, who gets what and when doesn’t really matter a ton.

    As for your decision: do what works best for you. My biggest concern is that “True” remains profitable enough for you that it doesn’t get taken away from me.

    If this helps: great!

    Thanks for your great publication.

  7. My sister and my mother both read True, but they do have to pay by the minute for their internet time, so they download their email, go offline and read, that way paying only for the time they absolutely must use. Now, they will miss most of the HU since it will be on the web, and if they cannot afford the Premium, or the minutes to spend on the web, they are SOL. I cannot help them since I have lost my job, my internet connection with it, and can barely pay the necessary bills at my house right now. So I am sorry to see it come to this. I know that you all must feel this is what those who can afford to pay deserve, but it sure does hurt those of us getting crunched during this recession. Isn’t there a saying for this type of economy? The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the rest play dog eat dog?

    I haven’t met anyone in a long time that has had to pay by the minute for online connections, even on dial-up. And even you are on a broadband network (I looked up your IP address), so I’m finding your claim dubious. I give a huge amount of material out for free, and don’t begrudge anyone staying on the free list forever — and have said so repeatedly. What I offer is what I offer — and it’s one hell of a lot. -rc

  8. Regardless of the decision I will still remain a loyal reader. I have been one since early on through many email address.

    I would love to be a premium subscriber again. I just cannot make it a priority right now. I do not mind being last, heck it should be expected. I do not mind a bit of inconvenience, again, it should be expected.

    I actually enjoyed the article on your website as it pointed to further reading. This is something I have done after reading many of your HU’s. (Maybe a bit of extra revenue too? I can help this way!!)

    Can I ask for a small compromise? Could you put the direct link on the free edition?

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

    The problem with the direct links is that they’re really long. I do plan an update of the HU site design to be both cleaner and easier to navigate, but the GOOHF site is in line first. -rc

  9. I really like the H.U. I am a Free Reader & cannot afford to upgrade, since I have so little income I can only afford 1 meal a day. But if it was completely gone, I would really miss it – if it is a link, fine! I have been really interested in these since hearing, years ago, how the inventor of blood transfusions bled to death – since the only near hospital was a whites-only – what a waste! There are so many who should be recognised but people don’t know of them.

    You refer to Dr. Charles Drew. That he died when white doctors “refused” to give him a blood transfusion is an urban legend; in fact, giving him blood would have killed him sooner, and another doctor in the car with Drew when he crashed said they all received immediate, and excellent, care. Details at the Straight Dope site. -rc

  10. It’s a good solution for the short term… but within a short time, I suspect that people who currently subscribe will be used to clicking on the HU link, or will just give up that feature. More important, though, people who are forwarded the email, and who have never seen it before, probably WON’T click the link, probably WON’T see the excellence that is the HU… and, thus, probably WON’T see one of the best features in This Is True. They may then be less likely to become free subscribers, which, I’m sure, is the primary (probably only!) source of premium subscribers.

    The people who care will click the link. New subscribers will likely check it out eventually, and find a rich trove of interesting write-ups in the archive, which few people in the past have ever bothered to visit. So, instead of reducing exposure to the H.U. concept, I’ll argue that instead, there will be significantly more exposure to the amazing people that have been featured over the years. -rc

  11. The policy that Randy has published in “This Is True” concerning the Honorary Unsubscribe is more than fair to those who contribute for the Premium service…I have been a free subscriber for years, and have no objection to going to a little extra effort to see who is listed…it will give me a little nudge to join those of you who are Premium members. I hope that you who are Premium members will accept this bit of thanks in the spirit in which I offer it…certainly not in the “Boy, you guys are suckers!”, but “You Premium members help pay for us who cannot afford it (right now)…thank you!”

    And Randy, thank you for your efforts over the years, not only with “This Is True”, but with all the side pages on the web site, such as the primer on Spam, The Zero Tolerance issue, and other side issues you have covered. This reader has been, and I am sure that I will continue to be impressed positively by the newsletter.

    Thanks for your respectful words, Kenneth. It is because I respect the free edition readers that I sought feedback first, and then took the time to explain my decision. So I appreciate that you noticed that effort. -rc

  12. Quick note on pay subscriptions: With so many newsletters going to pay-only or premium, it simply wouldn’t be possible for many to begin paying for newsletters. We’re in a recession at best, cable internet (here) tipped over the $50 per-month mark, etc. Think in terms of just five newsletter subscriptions at $10 each, and we’re running into some hefty money. Our high costs have already pushed much of America off of the “Info Highway”, and the country backwards into the 20th century, and that’s just the way it is.

    Yes, I agree it’s a shame that many newsletters are going to pay-only. That said, 1) it’s because people wouldn’t support the free version of those publications, and 2) TRUE is still not doing that. Yes, doing 5 newsletters at $10 each adds up to $50 per year, which is almost as much as you pay per month for your online access. So you’re saying that expensive access to what’s left is worth far more to you than cheap access to quality. The generations-old saying for that is “penny wise, pound foolish”. -rc

  13. While it is a minor inconvenience to have to remember to look at the HU site on Mondays, I see your reasoning and appreciate that you are still making HU available for us ‘freeloaders’. I was a paying subscriber for a few years, and plan on subscribing again soon, but I’m one of those people going through some tight economic times. (Mine are of my own making.) Thanks for putting out the only enewsletter that I actually take the time to read every week.

  14. I think you need to work on the metadata for the Google Ads. Funeral home services, grief counseling x2, and teen depression for the HU main page? I thought this page was about inspiration and achievement. And the ads on the actual HU page were just as bad.

    The suggestions for further reading were a pleasant surprise.

    As I’ve mentioned on occasion over the years, Google doesn’t allow site owners to choose the type of ads to show. Yes, they can be quite inappropriate. But sometimes, they can be hilarious in the context of the actual page content. -rc

  15. I agree that you have to do what is best for your business, but I think there may be a financial downside to this. Since the H.U. Website isn’t advertiser supported, wont this actually end up costing you more since there will be more traffic raising your bandwidth used for the month?

    I’m still well under my bandwidth allowance, so there is no problem there. And indeed the H.U. site is advertiser-supported. -rc

  16. I love This Is True, and the Honorary Unsubscribe.

    I get the free version, but I agree those who get the premium edition deserve more. I don’t mind having to use a link to read the HU, but would miss it if it were removed from the free edition.

    Some day, if my husband ever stops having accidents that keep him from working, I will upgrade to the premium edition.

  17. Just a click away is fair.

    I live under a black cloud and have been for years. My husband and I have been trying to pull ourselves out and thought we were just about there, but got hit by his unemployment and me getting a severe chronic illness. Priorities have become medical insurance and medications; we actually had medical deduction this year.

    So now we’re trying to decide if we have to downsize our house, in this terrible housing market.

    I enjoy what you can afford to offer and thank the premium readers who share.

    Thanks, Sue-Ellen. And best of luck to you and your husband. -rc

  18. Randy, you deserve the successes you have worked for, and I hope this decision furthers them.

    I hope this boosts revenue. I hope it increases exposure.

    I can’t, or won’t, argue with the business logic. The decision disappoints me because I have enjoyed the HU feature. My only real regret with this decision is that it revolves around fixing the disparity of value between the free and premium editions not just by increasing what the paying customers get, but by lowering the value of what the free edition offers.

    I can’t deny that. I just physically can’t offer more; I already work about 60 hours per week, not counting volunteer time in my community. The problem is, I’ve just given too much to the free crowd. I’ve realized that, and have changed it. And I’m honest enough to be clear about what the deal is. I wouldn’t want anything less from the companies I deal with myself. -rc

  19. This is a lame decision on your part. I see no problem in giving Premium subscribers first chance to read the story, but then requiring your regular readers to click to see the story, AND your click through ads, is not a kind thing to do. It smacks of greed. Sorry, mate.

    There is absolutely no blocking ad that you have to click through, and there never has been. It’s ludicrous to imply there is, let alone state it as fact. -rc

  20. Do whatever you like, Randy. It is your writing, newsletter, website.

    But don’t say “the readers made me do it”. They didn’t. You did. It is completely your decision to make this change, and it *may* further monetize your intellect, which of course is the aim of any business like yours. Nothing wrong with that! (None of us, your readers want you to go out of business!)

    I don’t think anyone who actually read what I wrote would argue I said, or even implied, any such thing, Dale. I asked for feedback, I got it, and I alone made the decision. And that’s exactly what my write-up says. But I do appreciate your not wanting me to go out of business! -rc

  21. I enjoy your free edition and will also miss the HU feature. Clicking a link is not a problem, however, since I did it to reach here!

    I have received your newsletter for quite a number of years now and even have a supply of your GOOHF cards, but unfortunately I cannot commit to upgrade to premium since our exchange rate is minimum TT$6.3 to US$1. With the economy affecting me and everyone else worldwide, I don’t see this changing anytime soon but I live in hope.

    Good luck and continue to entertain…

  22. I actually liked the balance that you’ve had for the free version so I don’t like the idea of a click through to load a web page to view HU.

    I was on the free version for a long time before i switched to the paid version and the biggest reason i did it was becuase of good will toward the free version and the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it. I now enjoy the paid version but i still prefer that the free version be kept a quality publication and not to degrade it too much with small annoyances like this.

  23. I’m certainly not going to object to anything you do to make your work more successful, but I thought that you had long since decided not to do it this way, so as to have something to put at the end of the free edition in order to make people read through the section on upgrades. Wasn’t this working?

    Conversely, I certainly didn’t begrudge the free crowd this one early feature – your work is valuable enough as it is. Maybe I should have given you feedback earlier, but I didn’t really mind one way or the other.

    To answer the question: I didn’t think it would “make” anyone do anything, but I thought more people would see it that way. Maybe so, maybe not, but it was time to shake things up a bit. -rc

  24. It sounds like a good balanced decision on your part. I have 12 programs on this computer that I bought after using free versions and I subscribe to 8 paid lists that I started with on the free version including TiT. I believe that HU is the best service you you provide to the world. Don’t get me wrong, TiT is excellent, but when I’ll having a bad day I’m more likely to go to the HU archive that reread an old edition of TiT.

    As always, excellent work.

  25. As a free subscriber since almost your inception (1993 or so) I was taken back a bit by the news I would have to link to the H.U. every week. I quickly decided however that this would generate traffic to your web site which in turn could possibly generate additional funds to support your efforts (and my entertainment). How can this possibly be a bad thing?

    My only request is to link directly to the article instead of the H.U. home page. There are many weeks where one is too busy to read your pubs right away, but never a week that would warrant a newsletter being deleted unread.

  26. Just another reason I’m glad I finally upgraded a couple of months ago.

    I’m still keeping my free subscription as well though – I play a little game each week where I try to guess which of the stories from the premium edition will make it into the free – I usually get about 3 of them right. Besides, I’ll keep getting the free so I can keep forwarding it to people I think will like it and end up subscribing.

    Thanks for all the hard work Randy. You rock.

  27. i am a recent sub to This Is True. i cannot afford to pay for an upgrade at this time but hope to do so in the future. i just wanted to thank you for your decision about HU. i feel i become a better prson for reading it. ive learned so much from the few issues ive recd so far. but, it would be totally understandable if you decided to make it just for premium subs only. true i would miss it but i owe them for my free sub so that would be fine with me. course those who want to read the HU could always go to the website itself each week. please thank your premium subs for helping me get the free issue (for now). i am truly grateful.

    You’re most welcome. And I don’t intend to stop publishing the H.U. write-ups on its archive; you’ll be able to read them there at least as long as I’m alive and, I hope, well after that. -rc

  28. Thanks for asking for your readers’ input. Most publishers wouldn’t bother, and it’s appreciated.

    I think your solution is a good one. Perhaps the slight inconvenience of having to click on a link in their email (Heaven FORBID!) will get some folks to upgrade. I was a free subscriber since the last millennium, and I regret that I just finally upgraded last year. You long ago learned, I know, that there are always some that will complain, just because they can! You’ve certainly always shown more patience than I could in your position.

    Thanks for continuing to publish a newsletter that actually has VALUE! I hope this small change grows your circulation.

  29. I have been a free subscriber for as long as I can remember and to be fair until the last 4 years I could have afforded to pay for a Premium subscription. I guess I’m from the “Old School” of Computers Techs (35+ years) that expect everything online to be free for all.

    Regarding the Honorary Unsubscribe – given that the original intention was to highlight to as many readers people who had actually contributed positively to this world but were generally unknown I feel that the recent move is a retrograde one.

    I think you have actually shot yourself in the foot in a manner of speaking. Given the intention to get these peoples names and contributions out too the wider audience you have taken a step to REDUCE that exposure.

    I know they (and I) can EASILY click on a link to read the latest Unsubscribe but human nature being what it is – if it isn’t right in front of them most will not make the effort – thus defeating your intention.

    It’s your site and you can do what you like, i also realise there ARE financial ramifications but I feel it is a retrograde step.

    I’m unclear about what you think my “original intention” was, but the bottom line is, people read the HU or they don’t. A lot of readers love it, but I’m sure a lot more never bother looking at all. The ones who like it and appreciate it will click the link to read it. The ones who don’t care weren’t reading it anyway. Meanwhile, the ones who truly appreciate it are starting to support it. I call that a win-win, not a shot in the foot. -rc

  30. I can’t help but to wax nostalgic at your Honorary Unsubscribe. I guess it speaks to my own mortality. However, it’s more than that. It seems that all the great people are dying and there are none left to fill their place. Are they great people of today? Sometime I have a hard time remembering any.

    There are great people around still today. Sometimes it takes awhile to recognize them; hopefully, we do recognize most of them before they die. Look around you; they’re there. And it’s important that you do take the time to recognize them while they are still around to appreciate your thoughts. -rc

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