“Only in Premium”

The Minor Format Change introduced last week brought a lot of positive comments. Just one example: “Love, love, love the new way you tease the ‘missing’ Premium stories.” —Mark in New Jersey. That’s awfully nice. But, of course, there were protest unsubscribes last week because I stopped gathering all the “stories you missed” summaries into a large paragraph, and instead left their story slugs up among the full stories, and included a brief summary of the story there. A few examples:

  • “Your showing premium only sucks. Unsubscribe me.” —Multi-year reader Willmar in Florida.
  • “Don’t like getting teased with so called ‘premium edition’. Pathethic! Unsubscribe me.” —Real in the Republic of Suriname
  • “Too blatant advertizing [sic] for $30 subscription. New format is insulting. Unsubscribe.” —McK in Arizona, subscribed since 2009.

If “McK” thinks that’s insulting, he should try working for a guy for free for six years, and then have him piss all over him rather than say thanks!

What it Looked Like in the Free Edition:
What it looked like

I’ve Said Dozens of Times over the years that if you can’t afford an upgrade, you’re welcome to stay on the free distribution for as long as you want. But that doesn’t mean I won’t work hard to get those who can afford it to upgrade, since that’s what makes True possible — period!

The Premium subscription fee is quite nominal at well under a dollar a week, but multiplied by many readers, it brings in 85 percent of True’s budget. Upgrades stop coming in, True dies; simple as that. Upgrades last week were triple the usual number, so whining that extra summaries of what you came here to read — more stories — is “distracting” just doesn’t wash.

It’s really very simple: if you want about triple the stories of the free edition without Premium marketing messages, that’s simple to get: with an upgrade!

– – –

Bad link? Broken image? Other problem on this page? Use the Help button lower right, and thanks.

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:

One Year Upgrade

(More upgrade options here.)

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.


31 Comments on ““Only in Premium”

  1. Hah, I think you should have done this years ago! Glad it’s working for you. Love my Premium ‘This is True’.

    I would have done it years ago …had I thought of it! -rc

  2. Recognized the good marketing immediately, and do hope to rejoin the premium family again soon. Glad it seems to be helping in the meantime.

  3. I was startled to see the promo lines, then looked again and liked it. Still like it. I had the free edition for years before upgrading. It is worth the money.

  4. I liked the new presentation, I think this will more clearly illustrate what you’ve been saying all along about how some stories can flow from one to the next, especially the way the slugs/headers can tie in — it’s an observation or experience that is best absorbed first hand, and this definitely does the trick! Great presentation of another facet of premium that can get lost with the selected free stories 🙂

  5. I love this change TO DEATH, Randy. I like to read the Premium editions of your newsletter in order (like reading your books). But I feel free to bounce around the free editions, in any order. So this will sometimes show me a Premium edition I need to read NOW. Thank you!

  6. This is the cheapest, lousiest, dirtiest trick you’ve ever pulled (not that there have been many!) — but it’s probably the single most effective tactic you’ve taken toward increasing premium subscriptions. I thoroughly hate it. But it’s probably something you should have done years ago. I used to just breeze by the summation paragraph in order not to be tempted. Much harder now! I’m surprised a fellow Mensan didn’t think of this sooner!

    Sometimes, we all get stuck in a rut. -rc

  7. I actually preferred when they were all collected in one place, but… that’s exactly why the change is better for you — it’s harder to mindlessly skip past. And anyone who doesn’t like it probably wasn’t planning on signing up for premium anyway.

    Thanks for all the hard work. I hope this change pays off.

    Thanks, Joe. Lots more protest unsubscribes, but you’re probably right: they’re likely the folks who wouldn’t lift a finger to support the publication anyway. Thank you for YOUR (so far) 16 years of upgrades! -rc

  8. I have been receiving the free subscription for years and years and have wanted to upgrade for years and years but I’m wayyy too frugal (cheap!). But I finally realized this $30 is so well spent. My son dropped $80 bucks on dinner for 3 last night for Mother’s Day (and that is reasonable…but wow, 1 meal!) I cannot in good conscience NOT upgrade any longer! Thank you for all you do!

    Thanks much, Charlotte. Yeah, it IS a bit startling that $80 is extremely reasonable for a meal for three, but it is! I didn’t raise the cost of Premium for 10 years — until it got to the point where inflation was eating ME for dinner. I only raised it (in 2013) by the same amount of inflation over those 10 years; I work pretty hard to keep the cost down so it’s affordable for as many as possible. Thanks for jumping on board. -rc

  9. Obviously you have the right to advertise as you see fit in YOUR publication. However, I have to admit that it bugs me a bit to say that you are providing your publication for free to those who are not a Premium subscriber. I assume those advertisments are paid for by advertisers that only pay you because WE read your publication. While of course you make more from premium subscribers, you also need the rest of us for this publication to continue in existence. Please try to be a little less dismissive to us, your customers while trying to get our money.


    If you’re unhappy with the free edition, I am glad to refund to you ONE THOUSAND TIMES what you paid me for it. Do you also whine to the TV stations that run ads during the shows you watch? Even though you pay three or four figures per year for cable or satellite delivery? Gosh, they’re ALL “trying to get your money”! Why do you complain, and what do you say to them? Or is it MUCH more likely that you do not? Then why do you complain to me, a small independent operator, and not to them, large multi-billion-dollar media corporations? Why do you bow to them, but choose to be dismissive to me? And these are serious questions I’d like you to answer. -rc

  10. I was a little disoriented for a moment the first week of the change — I actually wondered for a moment if you’d sent the premium version by mistake. Then I quickly realized what you had done. As someone who gets both versions, I think I (for my pleasure) like the old version better, but I keep the free version mostly because there are sometimes interesting comments that I either notice sooner or (occasionally) don’t notice in premium.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but on David’s comment about advertising revenue, I seem to remember you mentioning more than once that advertising revenues aren’t even enough to cover distribution costs of the free version. Looking at ad prices I wouldn’t have thought it that low but then that isn’t my field — and there are all the times I’ve noticed you resorting to advertising your (non-paying and not profit seeking) Spam Primer. So, given that, it is premium subscriptions that pay for the stories, and no, you don’t truly need free subscribers except as the best source by far of premium upgrades.

    There is virtually no paid advertising anymore. The “Lady” sites that usually occupy the slots are my wife’s — better to drive a little traffic for the 75th time than to leave it empty (but not by much). IF we sold all the ad spaces, advertising would cover the cost of distribution. But we don’t, so Premium subscriptions subsidize the free distribution. -rc

  11. Wait, hold it. “Please try to be a little less dismissive to us, your customers while trying to get our money.”

    First, I see Randy being clear, and explaining. There’s no “dismissive” tone about it. Is it a fact that the “What you missed by not having Premium” has been in the free edition forever? Yep — and I can testify to that, having been getting it for nearly 17 years. Is it, in fact, part of the content? Yep: it adds to the context, and like the previous paragraph, summarizes each story in a brief sentence.

    Second, (the important part) does it offend “your customers”? Nope: Randy’s actual customers don’t see it unless they want to get the free edition in addition to the Premium, as is clear many do. You can’t be Randy’s “customer” AND not buy in. You only get to complain as “a customer” when you have. If Randy is “trying to get (your) money,” you are not, in fact, a “customer.” Shame on you David for trying to impersonate one so that your voice will count more, even going so far as to say you aren’t getting it “for free” when it is obvious you are!

    For the record, I love the new format because I can see more of the story: the previous style didn’t include the story title, and now we can see it. That’s really cool. I have obligations that soak up spare cash, so I have chosen not to upgrade, so I support TRUE in other ways, such as sharing some of Randy’s posts on Facebook to help spread the word. To whine about adding context without taking anything away just goes to show that the obliviots still exist out there. Randy will surely never run out of material.

    Alas, I have never run out of potential stories, and never expect to. Thanks for helping to bring in new subscribers. Much appreciated! -rc

  12. Wow — I’m surprised at some of the vitriol here. I’m an on-again/off-again premium subscriber, so my opinion is worth the entire two cents.

    I don’t like the new format, but I think it’s amazing. I’m also very, VERY glad it works.

    Randy’s been using the “freemium” pricing method forever. Look how many entities now use it (Dropbox, AVG, RoboForm, many more — I’ll bet between my computer and phone I use 2-3 dozen freemium softwares) and Randy might just be the inventor of the business model.

    So even though I’m not fond of this new look to my free edition of True, I absolutely love the new marketing angle and its resultant increase in premium upgrades.

    Well done Randy!

    TRUE’s free edition started in mid-1994, and led to Premium in January 1997. I’m not aware of any earlier “freemium” model online. The word wasn’t even coined until 2006. -rc

  13. I’m struggling for a pithy remark but I keep coming back to “Duh?!” for all those who challenge “only available in Premium.” Really, people??? In Randy-speak, thanks for revealing yourselves as obliviots.

    Thanks, Randy, for staying the course and providing us PREMIUM subscribers with the full stories of “This is True” (even if the real title should be “This is [unfortunately] True.”

  14. Randy, Thank you.

    I have been around for years, in the beginning as a premium member. I am 84 and happy to receive what you give me. I am on a fixed income and am no longer able to pay for premium. Tell those people to take what you give them, it is not costing anything and be happy with their life.

    You just did, Walter. You’re most welcome, and thank YOU! -rc

  15. I’m a long-time subscriber and probably mid-length Premium subscriber, and I found the new format quite startling. I immediately had the thought ‘Uh oh…’ to think of the unsubscribe.

    A suggestion along the lines of honey and vinegar: The current ‘[This story only available in Premium.]’ is rather abrupt, and maybe teasing. Consider instead ‘[story continues in Premium]’ as a friendlier tease. Once people get numb to that line, then you change to ‘[upgrade to Premium to continue]’ etc. to keep the line fresh / harder to gloss over. One thing I’ve learned in sales: People will more likely try to do something for you if you tell them to do so clearly.

    I’ve teetered on the fence of ‘gee, that $30 is steep’ even as I can afford it: I’m frugal, not cheap. The part that crossed me over the top is not that I get the Premium content, but that it is extremely tightly policed, thoroughly researched, and well written. I want to buy the product of this type of company and keep them in business, especially as my local printed ‘rag’ has really dropped in quality.

    A bonus is that if I’ve ever commented before, I get a personal reply: This is above and beyond any expectation and sincerely appreciated.

    Alas, as previously pointed out, the free edition is the biggest vehicle to the paid subscription, so it is a necessary evil. I hope that my comments can help challenge those on the fence to cross over and help keep my This is True coming, yet keep the free edition a little less threatening so that if someone can’t commit immediately, they feel more welcome to keep coming back to eventually convert.

    Thanks for all.

    I do intend to change it up, and mainly make it shorter. I thought a little more explanation (read: longer) was in order for the first couple of uses, then tighten it up. Thanks for the suggestions on even more alternatives. Also, while it’s impossible for me to reply to all of my mail (or I’d never get any writing done!), one of the reasons the Premium readership see a different address for me is to give it a higher priority for replies. -rc

  16. In response to another reader, you said: “Do you also whine to the TV stations that run ads during the shows you watch? Even though you pay three or four figures per year for cable or satellite delivery?”

    You’re assuming that these people actually _do_ watch TV with ads on it. In many many years, I simply haven’t; partly because our free-to-air TV reception has always been terrible (due to geographic structure around here), and partly because there’s virtually nothing good to watch. Most of the time, it’s better to just wait until a DVD release and then watch the whole lot at once.

    But if I want something immediately, I often have to accept ads. And believe you me, they’ll be a LOT more obnoxious than little story teasers! Every decision we make is a trade-off, and if you choose to keep your wallet closed, you’re usually paying in some other way. Is it worth it? If not, don’t consume the content… if it is, accept the price. Is this such a difficult concept?

    You bet I’m assuming they watch TV with ads! Incessant TV ads cause brain damage, yaknow. It would explain part of their behavior. -rc

  17. The Premium edition is great value for what you pay. The free edition is great value for what you pay. Where’s the problem?

  18. Got the free version for years, then upgraded for two reasons.

    1) to support an American small business;
    2) to read the full stories behind the teasers.

    I hope to remain a Premium subscriber forever, and I’d like to buy Walter in Fl a year of Premium. Let me know how to do that, and he’ll have Premium by next week.

    Thanks for all you do, exposing hypocrisy and idiocy around the world….and often allowing hypocrites and idiots to out themselves with their comments here….

  19. I like the new format. I have been a premium subscriber for a while. (I suppose I could look it up to get the exact number, but I don’t want to, and the program is already open.) I don’t subscribe to the free edition, because I would be reading the same stories again, essentially. The only thing, I think, I would miss is any comments made specifically to the free edition.

    The people that unsubscribed in protest over a format change is probably the last straw in their mind, unless they’re an obliviot. People get offended over the most bizarre things. (I’m probably included in there somewhere.) However, you can’t please everyone, and you can’t try very hard. Fortunately, you please enough people that subscribe to both mailings, and I don’t necessarily agree with everyone you do and stand for, I certainly enjoy your newsletters. Thanks for the entertainment of this stupidity.

    (Okay, I realized as I was typing this that I have been premium for about ten years. I started sometime after my divorce.)

  20. I just wanted to give Kate in Georgia a big THANK YOU! I am on a fixed income too but still wanted to try to get him a subscription. I am so happy I am not the only one that still respects our elders!

  21. Randy, I continue to be glad that you refine your methods to spur Free users to upgrade to Premium, just as I’m glad I did so a couple of years ago. Sorry I couldn’t afford it until then, but it definitely continues to be the best subscription fee I pay all year.

  22. It has been my experience that the ones who pay the most complain the least and vice versa.

    …and the evidence continues to mount.

  23. I have been a free subscriber seemingly forever and had a premium subscription for a year or two many years ago. The free edition’s teaser content finally broke down the last barrier to upgrading again. Great job!

  24. Saw an news item about a fellow that robbed a tourist at gunpoint and took his jewelry. A few minutes later he went back to complain to the victim that the jewelry was not real gold. Could be one of your free subscribers.

    BTW when he returned to complain he was in his own vehicle so the victim gave a description and plate number to the police and he was apprehended a short time later.

    I am a premium subscriber but will say I really like the new format.

    OK, your first paragraph made me laugh — out loud. Thanks, Patrick! -rc

  25. I love the new format! One of the reasons I love this new format is that you often have a theme of stories, and this way, the free subscribers can see the theme, even if they can’t read all of the stories.

    See? You’re making it better for THEM too! And it’s not like you had put this information in the Free edition before anyway… oh wait, you DID!

    Keep on keeping on, Randy, and ignore the obliviots! 🙂

  26. I think there’s another force at play: FOMO (fear of missing out). When the list of Premium stories not in the free edition was collected at the end, the FOMO was a lot less, because you could just skip over that paragraph. Now, those missing stories are right in your face and it’s impossible for the folks on the free edition to ignore that they are missing 2/3 of the content.

    I’m not surprised that some folks chose to see the change as taunting them — “neener, neener, the cool kids got to read all these stories!” — but then, entitlement is very strong with a lot of people on the Internet. I’m very glad that the change had the desired effect with more people who couldn’t ignore their FOMO any longer. As for me, I never intend to give up my Premium subscription!

  27. Thank you for blowing David/Pittsburgh promptly out of the pool. He did ask for it, after all. LOVE my recent upgrade to premium!

  28. I want you to know I like the new format, unlike those readers who unsubscribed because of the change! I get a kick out of the missing story “blubs” in the midst of the others. I always read them at the end before to see how many I recognized from my other news readings and it is always a ‘hoot’ when I see one that i realize I know the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.

    One of these days I will be a premium subscriber again but until then…keep up the good work!

  29. Sorry, but quite bit strong dislike. Feels bit too much in the face. Not enough dislike to unsubscribe… 😀 Though, My primary real problem is it wastes some time as I usually read email nowadays on my smartphone. (Only read, not enough masochist to use it for writing…)

    On the other hand I must admit like other “dislikers”, it will likely be quite successful thing.

  30. Your records probably have a better idea of when I first subscribed to the free edition sometime in the mid 1990s (I think). However, since I upgraded to the premium edition I keep getting the free edition so when I see a story I feel will really interest my friends or family I can send the free edition on to them with your approval; NB: I was doing that even when I only got the free edition. I know a few have become subscribers since I started sending them copies. Because I get and read the premium edition before the free one comes out I don’t re-read it, all I do with it now is to forward it to those I think will like it. The result is I hadn’t seen the change until you pointed it out, despite having got each edition with the changed format. I like it as it makes it clearer to readers the advantage of having the premium edition, keep up the good work.


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