Typically, around Christmastime, I send the Premium edition of True to the free edition readers.
The first time I did that, I was surprised that so many took the time to say “thank you.” A simple thing — and meaningful — but actual, sincere thank-yous seem so rare these days. Then again, True readers are a good bunch, so I’m no longer surprised to get the warm notes of thanks. I’ll let this letter represent the many who wrote about last week’s Premium:
I just finished reading the Premium edition that you sent to all of us Free subscribers. You mentioned that the Free edition is a sample of the Premium edition – yes and no. Yes, it contains the same type of stories and major features; No it isn’t the same experience AT ALL. While I was satisfied with the free edition, reading the Premium edition was like a completely different experience. —Bruce, Hawaii
So much so, Bruce immediately ordered a two-year upgrade. Indeed his was part of a much higher-than-normal upgrade surge: There were 40 upgrades in the last week, 13 of which were gift subscriptions.
So the question is, do I give you the Premium sample in order to stimulate upgrades? Well, 27 people out of 120,000+ decided to upgrade — .0225 percent of the readership, which I’ve found over the years is about typical. (About half that number normally upgrade each week, dropping the actual “surge” to only .0113 percent.)
So no: if I was doing it for effect, it sure wouldn’t be worth it. Rather, I do it truly as a gift, since so many readers like Bruce are startled by the completely different experience Premium is. I get that comment all the time, but I’m at a total loss to explain what the difference is so you all can “get it.” When I ask Premium subscribers if they can explain it, they can’t either. I asked Bruce if he could; he replied that he’d get back to me in a few issues, and meanwhile could only say, “Over the last 2 or 3 years of receiving it, the free edition NEVER induced me to go Premium, but one issue of the Premium and I was hooked.”
The most-common comment I get from people who have recently upgraded is they’re “kicking themselves for not doing it sooner,” and the most-common comment I get from people renewing their Premium subscription is “I don’t want to miss a single issue.” That’s why I instituted a cheaper “sample” upgrade — four months of expanded Premium issues so you can try it and see for yourself. You probably won’t be able to describe the difference either, but I’m sure you’ll see it. The sample option is part of the info here. [Update: there’s now instead a quarterly — three-month — option.]
The Other Shoe
“Wait a second,” I know some of you will say after seeing the numbers above. “About FOURTEEN upgrades a week is NORMAL?!” Yep, that’s all. I’ll even do the math for you: 14 times 52 weeks is 728 people who upgrade during a typical year, plus perhaps a few surges here and there. Multiply 728 by $24/year for a whopping $17,472 — maybe $20,000 with surges. That’s it for upgrades, out of which comes collection costs (Paypal and credit card fees, mostly — about 3 percent, or $600 right off the top), server expenses, and plenty more.
So why aren’t my wife and I starving? Because the vast majority of those fewer-than-a-thousand people per year renew — remember that second comment above? — because once they see what they get, they consider the subscription fee a huge bargain. Luckily for us all, it adds up to thousands of people who keep True going.
Really: the Premium subscribers make True possible; the meager revenue from the two ads per week only covers distribution costs with almost nothing left over for daily operations. That less-than-one-percent of readers who upgrade each year is how thin the margin is. That is what I mean by I really need your help to upgrade if you can, and to help the newsletter grow by recommending it to others.
That means links on your own web sites or blogs with your endorsement, and forwarding issues to friends with your reasons why you like True, since your reasons why they should subscribe mean more to your friends than mine ever could. Word of mouth is the number-one way True has grown over its entire lifetime — now 12-1/2 years — and it will be without a doubt very helpful if you pass on the favor of the friend who told you about True.
Just please don’t put any stories on any web sites: if you need “sample” stories, see the free True-a-Day service. NOTE: stealing the stories for your site doesn’t help True, it hurts it, and hurts me. If you’ve done that, please take it down and put in True-a-Day or a link in its place.
I hope to keep True going for 12-1/2 more years, but I can’t do it without your help — either by spreading the word or upgrading: this page has info on the second part; you already know how to do the first. Either action really helps if you can’t do both. Just imagine if every reader recommended True to just one friend, and a mere 1 percent of those people actually subscribed: an instant surge of 1,200 new readers. If everyone made ten recommendations and 5 percent subscribed? That’s 60,000 new readers — and about one percent of them could upgrade in 2007, giving True a real push.
But the reality is this: the majority will do nothing, and little will change. Please: if you like True, don’t do nothing — that’s why so many of your favorite online resources have died out over the years; people just didn’t care enough to bother. What a waste that only huge media companies really thrive, like MySpace (owned by the gigantic News Corp.), AOL (owned by Time Warner) and “Live” (owned by Microsoft). We independents need your support to compete since we don’t have billions of shareholder dollars to spend on promotion. That’s why I give some of my space in True to promote the “Bonzer Sites” every week — have you ever noticed that the vast majority of the sites there are tiny labors of love? I want to support them so they aren’t swallowed by the media giants either!
Something to think about, eh? So do something about it — today! Thanks, and may 2007 be good to you!
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This page is an example of my style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. This is True is an email newsletter that uses “weird news” as a vehicle to explore the human condition in an entertaining way. If that sounds good, click here to open a subscribe form.
To really support This is True, you’re invited to sign up for a subscription to the much-expanded “Premium” edition:
Q: Why would I want to pay more than the minimum rate?
A: To support the publication to help it thrive and stay online: 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.