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!
Not Just Curation: Commentary
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.
But That’s Not All
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.
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This page is an example of Randy Cassingham’s style of “Thought-Provoking Entertainment”. His 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 regular 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.