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The Ongoing Struggle

After My Discussion Last Week that said True is suffering tough times due to a reduction in Premium subscribers since the election, and really needs about 1 percent of you to upgrade to just get up to the “minimum sustainable” target to make the publication fully viable, Joe in California wrote to say he didn’t like my approach.


“Telling me that if I pay will help keep the free version going doesn’t do anything at all to make me want to become a paid subscriber. We freeloaders are just that — freeloaders — and telling me that if I pay will help keep us (those if I pay) freeloaders reading This is True is, in reality, a turn-off. Rather than use that ploy why not tell me all the great benefits — are there great benefits or just a few benefits — of paying you $32 a year to be a paid subscriber? What does it pay for? Surely you [can’t] be making a living off of it at $32. Even 2,000 subscribers would only get you a gross of 64k per year. So, tell us — be up front — what does the subscription fee pay for — and leave out the bit about keeping it free for others.” Also, he wondered, if he’d just be getting another “news story or two” by upgrading. In closing, he noted, “I’m not some young kid — I’ve been around the block dozens of times (years) and I’ve run businesses — still do — but I wouldn’t use the same ploys as you to get paid subscribers.”

Actually, Joe, it’s pretty clear in every issue that there’s not just “one or two” more stories in the full edition: I list them, and you can count them if you don’t remember that there are always a minimum of ten stories, and usually around a dozen, and sometimes more (the average, last time I looked at a full year, was 12.8 stories/week). Still, sheer numbers aren’t helpful: you can subscribe to other services if you want that: Fark (arguably the best) allows you to pay $60/year to get access to their hundreds of links to “weird” stories …per day. Hell, even I don’t to wade through all that, and these stories are my business!

No, True’s readers generally want two things much more than just masses of stories: curation (in the sense of “To gather and present to the public: a blog that curates news stories.” —American Heritage) and perspective — what we have to say about the stories. And the majority of those readers — especially those who do upgrade — are doing so to support True’s mission: to promote thinking in the world. This publication isn’t just about entertainment: that’s why two other words come first in its description: “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”.

While I’m sure appealing to “support the mission” isn’t the way you’d pitch one of your businesses, Joe, it is the number-one thing that appeals to those who understand that the vast majority of the micro messes (the problems individuals face) are due to not thinking, but also the vast majority of the macro messes (the problems the world as a whole faces) are too. They like that there’s someone who understands the connection, and promotes thinking in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Your point is still taken: I could do more to point out the benefits …that are listed on the page I link to every week. Indeed, it’s a business reality that people are busy or lazy, and a business needs to carefully outline the great benefits one gets for their annual “investment” that is generally way less than what they pay for a month of online access without them having to bother to click through. I get it.

I indeed could say that (in addition to more than double the stories), you get them all days sooner in the Premium edition, and that there are no outside ads mixed in either. That there is a nice discount on the True books, and there are exclusive extras. Yep: that’s what a normal business would do. What they wouldn’t do is be very open about the business and finances …like I am, because this has to do with the mission. You put your finger right on it: yes, True runs on extremely tight margins, and the subscription fees pay 85 percent of the publication’s budget. That’s why it’s vital that I have reader financial support. Because again, we’re working on a mission together. And at least some of those who really want to support that mission sometimes have to stretch to come up with that $32 every year, but they do it because they believe in that mission and want to get behind it. They want to ensure that someone is consistently pointing out the importance of thinking, is noticing the (fairly predictable) results of the ridiculous educational system in this country that’s teaching kids to pass tests and learn helplessness (e.g., zero tolerance) rather than to think, and then continually challenge society to do better.

One other thing they’ll do? Read this terribly long response to your letter, because that’s part of it too: our soundbite culture is rotting our brains, and kids need to learn to follow longer, more involved, arguments, because problems aren’t simple and easy to solve: it takes more than 140 characters to explain complexities in life.

So yes: I said last week that just one percent of you — 300 readers — need to step up and help keep things going. In the first week, 10 percent of that number did — 30 of you (either upgrading for the first time, or reactivating lapsed subscriptions: both definitely count). That means 270 others need to get in line too: to do more than just give lip service to the idea “the world needs more thinking.” I know that reading this publication works to promote that mission, thanks to amazing letters from readers (which I publish from time to time).

Yep, I know some really can’t afford it, and those who can do, in fact, make it possible for them to get the free edition. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing. So what do you say, Joe — and all the readers like you? Are you ready to upgrade? The options (and benefits!) are, as always, outlined here. Because it really isn’t just about business: True’s real mission is pushing humanity toward the next level of evolution as thinking beings. That, I hope, is a mission worth supporting.

- - -

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 e-mail 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.

5 Responses to The Ongoing Struggle

  1. Rick, Calif. August 18, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    Truth, the final frontier. These are the stories of “This is True”. Its fifty-year mission: to explore strange true words, to seek out true life and true civilizations, to boldly go where no truth has gone before.

    Fifty?! Oh man, I’m not even half-way there yet. Almost, though. -rc

  2. Ed - Shaftsbury VT August 19, 2017 at 9:39 am #

    The premium version is well worth the less than 62 cents/week. What else can you buy for 62 cents that can brighten your day and note the number of idiots and obliviots permeating our culture. (I think they are the results of too many professional educrats concentrating on education instead of teaching. — but that’s another comment.)

    Spend the 62 cents and be grateful you’re reading the top dozen stories – not the dozens of unremarkable ones that didn’t make the cut.

  3. Mark in Corpus Christi Tx. August 19, 2017 at 11:34 am #

    Wish I could but my wife and I are on $1600 a month S.S. and the kids pay the computer and phone bill. Home care, food and utilities. We really enjoy your work.

    Thanks, Mark. I do know that not everyone can afford “just $32” — which is why it’s great that others who can afford it help fund the whole operation so others can get the free edition. It’s a terrific win-win, eh? -rc

  4. Steve, Boulder, CO August 19, 2017 at 10:14 pm #

    In response to Joe, I would say that I do not feel that the premium ‘This is True’ is worth $32 dollars per year. That is why I have been in kicking in extra to bring what I pay more in line with the value I receive.

    Why would I give a business *more* than I have to? Because, after many years of reading the premium edition (after a couple of years on the free edition), I agree with you that ‘This is True’ represents a mission as well as your livelihood.

    About 10 percent of readers do kick in more than the asking price. That fact really affirms that readers “get” the mission. Thanks, Steve. -rc

  5. "C" in Montana August 25, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    I had to comment on Joe’s snarky complaint. I am a freeloader and have been for years. Why? Because there are some days I’m not sure I’ll eat, be warm enough in winter, cool enough in summer, or able to get to my doctor. I come to the library (yay! free libraries) to be warm, cool, and check out books to escape from my unpleasant reality.

    Thank you, Joe for “supporting” me (sarcastic tone of voice.)

    Thank you, Randy for “This is True” — it makes me think, entertains and fills a hole nothing else does.

    I wish I had the money to do premium, but I don’t and won’t, have it. You do a good job, Randy, please keep at it. You help more than you know.

    Thanks for your support — yes, your words do help. So does spreading the word, as noted on the Help True page. Take care, and you’re welcome on the free distribution for as long as you wish! -rc

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