Mystery Solved

I ran three letters in tonight’s issue that finally solves something that has perplexed me for years. (The meat is in the third one, but the first two lay the groundwork.)

The first is from Daniel in Ohio:

Unlike most people who try to butter up the author by saying that they make a point to read your ezine first, I save yours for last. Like the tastiest part of the meal, or desert, so that I can savor your stories throughout the day. Thanks for all your hard work, and keep them coming.

Belinda in NSW, Australia:

I thought after having had the ‘freebie’ version of True for the past year or so, I should do the right thing and get the Premium edition. As Santa was kind enough to visit me and give me the job I asked him for (I had been looking for a number of months) you were my first on my list of non-essentials to buy. (Hang on I think I should class True as an essential).

Well I certainly think so!

My most interesting letter this week, though, was from Dan in North Carolina. He wrote to say:

Thanks for True. I’m in my first year as a premium subscriber, and you can count on me re-upping for life.

That’s not the interesting part. Keep going.

I replied that I was glad he likes it, and asked him, “So… can YOU describe what the difference is between free and Premium? What makes it SO worth it to you? I’ve never been able to adequately explain the difference….”

Here’s the interesting part. He responded:

In my opinion, explanations are overrated. Anything really worth experiencing in life defies explanation and description. Explain falling in love. Describe a fantastic steak dinner. Even if you could find the words to do the experience justice, the person you’re explaining it to is left with the explanation, not the experience.

Even worse, they now ‘understand’ something, and they’re no longer curious or interested in the experience itself. And knowledge is a poor substitute for experience. Case in point: I ordered my Premium subscription after you sent out a free sample copy of Premium to all the free subscribers. You’d been explaining to me for a good long time the value of Premium–and I even ‘understood’ the value of it and thought I’d probably subscribe eventually.

But GETTING it, SEEING it, EXPERIENCING it was a completely different thing from ‘understanding’ how good it is. Your records are more accurate than my memory, but my memory is that I subscribed that very day. So feel free to let ‘free’ folks know this from me: you can’t know how good a thing is until you experience it first-hand. That’s true with a lot of things in life, and it’s definitely true with True.

Beyond Explanation

Well, no wonder I’ve struggled so long trying to figure it out and explain it; why I couldn’t explain it has perplexed me for some time. I think Dan is right: that’s impossible.

All I know is that many Premium subscribers absolutely love it, and say things like Belinda did — it’s a life “essential” — or liked Daniel, who “savors” it. Or like Dan: he’ll read it for life (his or mine, I guess: whichever comes first!)

I couldn’t continue to write True without the support that comes from the Premium subscriptions, so I hope you’ll support it too. As Daniel says, you can’t “know” how good it is until you experience it first-hand, but I’ll add that it doesn’t usually hit you until you’ve read several Premium issues.

(Can’t afford to upgrade? No problem: stay on the free edition as long as you’d like.)

I’m interested in your thoughts, too: you don’t have to register to comment below. Mystery solved …I think!

20 Comments on “Mystery Solved

  1. Why did I upgrade?

    Because, This is True… is true!!!

    Here in Australia, a lot of strange things happen, but not some of the things I saw in other trivia and news sites I was subscribed to. I realised that at least what I was reading had been taken from reliable sources and confirmed, unlike some of the others.

    I have as a consequence become much more informed and will now ask owners of sites to supply me with a primary source. (Wikipedia is not a primary source btw). If they can’t, I unsubscribe. Guess how many I am still subscribed to?

    As an aside, one of the only times I questioned one of your comments, you provided me with a very reasonable answer.

    The truth, the ability to report on stupidity from no matter what corner of the world, your accuracy and your ability to answer questions is what made me upgrade. These very same things make me stay.

  2. Really good point. Try reading a book about sex compared with actually experiencing it. Not that True Premium is as good as sex, but the principle is the same. (Now how’s THAT for buttering up the author…?)

    Um, I would have preferred a woman wrote such a comment, I guess! 🙂 -rc

  3. Years ago I was a premium subscriber – my husband and I shared the subscription. We have since moved to Australia but I continue with the free subscription because I cannot afford the premium edition. I love This is True. And HeroicStories and The Stella Awards, I get them all. It’s like having sight. You can describe all you like, but to someone who has never seen the blue sky of midsummer, or the angry grey clouds of a winter storm… they cannot understand without experiencing it for themselves. And I know you hear this all the time, but thank you for the service you provide. You give me a laugh – generally right when I desperately need one.

    Sorry you can no longer afford it, but how exciting that you were able to go on such an adventure to Australia! It’s high on my list of places to visit before I die. -rc

  4. I believe that what Dan said is often true, especially if the named experience is “quick” and not-too-difficult to achieve.

    I was able to tour a teensy bit of Mexico with a local for only 4 days (reluctantly, feeling that I should take *weeks* to make the trip worthwhile) but came back overwhelmed with the “AH HA” insights I gathered into the custom and culture and the “why” of things being as they are there AND here…despite my 40+ years of getting explanations from reading/TV/movies/pals. So my new idea is “just go…even 24 hours on the ground is FAR better than secondary info”.

    On the other hand, explaining the benefit of obtaining a graduate degree is both much more practical than undergoing the process AND the time/variables of your grad experience will likely dilute the difference between the explanation and the experience. Similarly, we marathoners do say you have to cross the line to “get” the reason why…but know that few would attempt the arduous process on that promise alone.

  5. I found Dan’s comments most interesting. As a retired science teacher (now doing professional development for other science educators), his analysis fits in with current findings of cognitive scientists. In order to understand the world around us, one must DO things, not just read about them or have them explained. The implications for educators are numerous. And, as a premium subscriber, I have to agree that True is high on my priorities for subscription.

  6. As a relatively new Premium subscriber, I too struggled with explaining what made the Premium edition such a value. I have to say that Dan NAILED it. And like Dan, I too have decided to continue for life. You brought a laugh to me though (along with a dose a reality) when you replied, “his or mine, I guess: whichever comes first!”. So I must two questions:

    1) Are you in good health ?
    2) How old did you say you were ?

    Thanks for the laughs.

    1) Yes. 2) I didn’t. -rc

  7. Dan from North Carolina is right. Understanding is the booby prize of life. Experience life. Experience This Is True Premium Edition. I’m glad I do.

  8. Reading these “Just do it” posts remind me of what E.B. White said: “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” I guess the value is so obvious to those of us who are Premium Edition subscribers that we don’t analyze it any further.

    I hope that Randy is making a regular (yearly?) practice of sending out a free Premium Edition sample to the free list.

    Probably slightly more often than yearly, yes. But it really does take a few in a row, I think, for it to really sink in. -rc

  9. My premium edition expired on Christmas Eve. With all of the holiday hustle and bustle I forgot to renew before it expired. I missed one premium edition and realized how much I look forward to reading it each week even though I get the free edition at work. Like Dan I plan on being a subscriber for life. True is now and will remain at the top of my subscription list.

  10. Why the premium edition? That’s easy. After reading the free edition for several months I was hooked. I knew there was a chance if I didn’t pay you’d have to stop publishing, so I pay and receive great value.

  11. Hmm, I’ve read a couple comments to the effect that to truly appreciate an experience, one has to experience it. And that learning about it isn’t enough. You have to do it.

    Does that mean that to get the real, firsthand, hardcore experience, one actually has to DO something really weird and stupid?

    Hah. Well, I’m not a Premium subscriber, mainly because I don’t like to spend money on things I don’t really need, but I do very much enjoy the Free edition and am always a little saddened when I finish it, wishing there was more.

  12. After riding free for several years, I finally upgraded to Premium last year, and would only let it lapse if in the throes of bankruptcy! Like Dan, I also made the decision after trying the free sample you made available, Randy. Keep ’em coming!

  13. Wow, I could not have said that any better than Dan. I enjoyed True for several years as a freebie, always wondering how much better the Premium issues were. I, too, subscribed immediately after receiving your complimentary Premium issue a couple of years ago. Seeing is believing. My only regret is that I waited so long.

  14. Thanks for the feedback on my comments to Randy, guys. I guess it’s true what Randy keeps saying — that True readers are THINKERS. Sometimes I suspect we’re one of the only communities on the internet where people engage their minds on a regular basis (I mean, have you ever read YouTube comments? Yikes!).

  15. All I know is that I got a email notice this morning that my Premium was going to elapse before the end of the month.

    The check was in the mail this afternoon.

    Check? Mail? What are these strange concepts? 🙂 -rc

  16. Dan’s comments as to ‘why he took the plunge and upgraded’ are spot on … that was exactly how it came about that, a month or two ago, I likewise upgraded, after being subscribed to the ‘regular freebie version’ for some time. It happened on a day that I got to sit back and read the complimentary ‘see what you’re missing’ full version of the newsletter … for once, not at a stage when I was ‘rushed off my feet’, so I was able to sit back and appreciate just ‘how much more fun’ it was to relax and and read the extended range of stories, presented as they are, ‘one after the other’.

    I’d never begrudged the subscription charge for the ‘full version’, but hitherto, I’d been more focused on ensuring that my my monthly expenditure patterns matched my pension income! However, on this occasion, having so enjoyed the ‘full version’, I was in the mood to decide it was time I started to enjoy life just a little bit more … and I became a premium subscriber.

    Overall, it was just a case of ‘the right thing at the right time’.

    I’m delighted that Dan and Dottie communicated their views on the matter … readers’ actions naturally aren’t always that obvious to the publisher, and publishers need to know ‘why’ readers act or react the way they do.

    Thanks Randy for the opportunity to reinforce Dan and Dottie’s comments.

  17. I too was impressed with the deeper or broader meaning of Dan’s thoughts on the value of experience.

    I intend to quote him on my blog about living on a Greek island–with proper reference to “This is True”, of course.

    If you’d like to credit Dan directly, I can pass along a request to him for you; just email me with a request that I forward a message, and he can reply (or not) as he wishes. -rc

  18. I have been a free subscriber for years and at this time, I do not check my email regularly. I have a set folder that all my TRUE emails filter into so I can enjoy them when I have time. SOMEDAY I hope to be a PREMIUM subscriber, but I am waiting till I once again have home internet access so I can enjoy each issue when it arrives. Until then, I will not ask for charity – I am just thankful a free edition exists! Anyway – thanks to Randy for all his time and efforts to keep TRUE alive.

  19. True, priced at $24, is one of those subscriptions that would be well worth the money. The main reason I don’t upgrade, however, is because I just can’t take that much stupidity in our world. I get by perfectly fine with 4-5 stories each week to provide a “Reality Check.”

    If I received more than that, every week, I would lose faith in our society and have to move to some remote mountain in Colorado. Oh, sorry Randy;)

    This blog has made me take time to appreciate my free edition, however. Randy, if you could provide some preferred on-line retailers that some of your free subscribers could send you an e-gift card (particularly around the holidays), we would be able to show some appreciation for your hard work.

    I appreciate the thought, Darin. Unlike many sites, I don’t solicit gifts for me or my part-time staff, but some people send things anyway. I order most of the things we need, from books to hard disks, from Amazon.com, which is both cheaper and more convenient than anything near us here in the boonies of Colorado. -rc

  20. I thought I would chime in, even if late, that I get the Premium to support your most excellent efforts to entertain me. Quite frankly, I have had the Premium for so long I don’t even remember what the differences are.

    I figure that I can give up a dinner and a movie once a year to help keep you in the business.

    That’d be a pretty cheap dinner before your movie, considering ticket prices these days. McDonald’s, maybe? -rc

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