Some people even whine when I say maybe they wouldn’t like to upgrade. Really.
Here’s what I said in last week’s newsletter:
It’s not for everybody. Now and then I’ll give an extra push here for the Premium edition. This free edition is about half of what I write each week — four stories; the full column generally has eight. The most common response from people who have “finally” upgraded is “I should have done this sooner!” when they realize that they truly do get double the pleasure from the Premium edition.
But who shouldn’t bother upgrading? If you think True is only “funny stories” that don’t speak to the human condition, you might be content with the half dose of the free edition. If you enjoy being on the left side of the bell curve (or don’t know what that means), maybe you should skip it.
But if you enjoy True, if it makes you think and appreciate life more, then the Premium edition is for you. No time? You might think that Premium takes much longer to read, but it’s about the same length as the free edition. How’s that possible when it has double the content? Because there are no outside ads, and there are no pitches for you to upgrade, etc. In other words, it’s more “concentrated” with stories, and has less fluff. Of course you still get the Honorary Unsubscribe, the Bonzer Site of the Week, and you get first dibs on the special items that I make available, not to mention a significant discount on True book publications. And of course, it’s fine to stay on the free distribution too — many Premium subscribers do.
Once you weed out the people I spoke of — plus those who don’t ever read this section of the newsletter (they lose out on a lot of great material!) — who’s left? Frankly, a minority! But it’s an important minority: the “cream of the crop” that does understand what True is really about. And that describes the Premium subscribers. Once they “get it”, they really get it: the first Premium subscriber is still on Premium, from January 1997. And most of those who upgrade renew, usually for two years, adding notes to their renewals like “I wouldn’t THINK of not renewing!” and “I’ll be a subscriber for life — yours or mine, whichever comes first.” What causes such dedication? Well, you won’t really know unless you are one of the select few who decide to give it a try.
Sure enough: hundreds of people unsubscribed in anger, and I got plenty of whining complaints.
Mark in Virginia was one who didn’t whine, but he was quick to write:
There is one [other] small class of people who won’t upgrade to your premium edition: The poor. I would love to upgrade but I can’t. Due to my wife’s disability and me being her caregiver we can’t afford it. For us free — newsletters, computer programs, etc. — is the way to go. Since I can’t pay, even though I would like to, I try to pay for these freebies by spotlighting them in [own] my free newsletter. BTW this is not a gripe. I just want to remind you that some people online wouldn’t be online at all if it wasn’t for free newsletters, free programs, used computers, libraries and free ISPs.
Thanks for not griping, Mark. Mark has been getting True at his current (free access) address for two-and-a-half years. So he knows I have several times in the recent past made it clear that I know not everyone can afford an extra $24 per year.
“Just $2/month” sounds like a pittance to most of you, I know, but I also know that even many people who do have Internet access can’t afford that because I’ve been there myself at various times in my life. Like the time I bought my first new car ever, and then was laid off from my job. Two weeks of unemployment insurance covered the car payment; the next check covered everything else for the rest of the month. Would “just” $24 make a difference? You bet: between making it to the end of the month with enough food — or not.
And I’ve acknowledged this in this space again, and again, and again over the years. Yet plenty of readers chose to be offended by my editorial last week. By the next day 180 people had unsubscribed. By Monday 267 more. By this morning 70 more.
Sure, there are always people dropping off the list — every day. Some just move on, more are switching to a new address (and there’s a corresponding new subscription). But those 517 people were double the usual weekly dropoff — 250+ more than usual.
Not Going to Walk on Eggshells
If I had the time or inclination to read books on marketing and paid attention to never making anyone unhappy, maybe people wouldn’t choose to take offense and would stay.
But you know what? If I wrote like that True would be a very boring publication. As I’ve also said many times in this space, I want readers who can think; I don’t want readers who can be led by the nose to open their wallet to me whether they can afford it or not. That’s not making the world a better place, and I wouldn’t want to be that sort of publisher.
But when I said the Premium edition “isn’t for everyone,” I meant it. Those who would stomp away mad because I don’t address them specifically every time Just Don’t Get It, and I’d rather they move on rather than upgrade; life’s too short to deal with that kind of person.
But There Are Worse
Here’s another example email that I got this week, from Jude (who didn’t say where he was):
Why I am never going to subscribe for premium and why I am dropping the free subscription: Because there are a few people who just plain can’t afford a paid subscription to anything, and don’t enjoy being ridiculed and insulted in your free publication. No I am not to [sic] stupid to get it, no I am not a moron, I am broke.
Here’s why I think Jude is too stupid to “get it,” and why I do think he’s a moron: no, not even because he consciously chose to be insulted; that doesn’t make someone stupid.
Rather, it’s one word he used: “never.”
He’s “never” going to upgrade because he’s “broke.” With that attitude, he’ll always be broke; he’s not even trying to get out of the hole he’s in. (Unlike Mark, btw, he isn’t using a free Internet access service.) He’d rather whine and stomp his feet than do something about his situation. And that’s exactly the kind of person I was talking about that shouldn’t upgrade.
Yeah, the marketing books would have me take a different tack here, but I don’t care, even though I know that some segment will be offended by what I’m saying now, and will unsubscribe in trembling rage over it.
I’m not here to make every last buck possible, I’m here to make an honest buck by saying what I really think, just like this. I’m coming up on my 12th year of doing that as my full-time job, so clearly I’m doing something right. Can’t afford to upgrade? No problem: stay on the free distribution for as long as you’d like.
Want to help in other ways? Spread the word, like Mark does: invite others to check True out; it’s written by a guy who refuses to be bought, preferring a business model of letting his “cream of the crop” readers support his work by upgrading their subscriptions to get more of that hard work.
Have a web site? A link would be lovely, and thanks. I even have a cool free service for you that allows you to put a True story on your site that automatically changes every day: True-a-Day.
Does This Make Sense to You?
If you “get it” and can afford it, I’d appreciate your support too, making you 100 times more useful in this world than people like Jude who can only whine — and refuse to read something he enjoyed for many months (for free!) because (wahhhh!) it reminded him of how freaking lazy he is. I make upgrading as painless as humanly possible, taking credit cards, Paypal (with “one-click” access and automatic Paypal renewals available), even mail order. If you can’t afford it, no problem: maybe you’ll be able to later. Either way, I thank you for reading.
True is a social commentary column; it uses news items about “dumb people doing dumb things” as the vehicle for that.
To say it with fewer words: True is about laughing at the stupid things people do so that we can learn from them. Yet some who have been reading it for years don’t seem to get that; they think I’m “upset” at people who protest. No, I make fun of them. They think I need to “watch my blood pressure.” What, in this job? I get to laugh for a living! I say what I think in order to spark thought. So many thought I was off my rocker for challenging people so much that they unsubscribed. Not even!
If people are so scared of the opinions expressed in a free newsletter that they flee in terror, they’re not the kind of people that I really want reading it, are they? It’s simply my way of weeding out the true morons so the vast majority who are left make the reader pool that much more “the cream of the crop.”
In other words, I challenge my readers on purpose — and it works. But even more than that, those who truly get it are very entertained by such letters and my responses. And that’s True’s Number One Mission. Here’s one who grasped it instantly, Doc in Mexico:
First, Randy, I’d like to seize this opportunity to thank Jude for freeing up some space for someone else. Then, I’d like to congratulate you on thinning the crop a bit (by 517, at least SOME of whom were probably dead-heads). The folks that can’t grasp the concept of thought-provoking journalism are folks that are in no great danger of having any original thoughts provoked! I, for one, don’t want you to change your style one bit. Even when I disagree, I find that considering your position at LEAST makes me see that another point of view may have some merit.
Patrick in Missouri was the most succinct. He upgraded and appended this note to his order: “I’ve been wanting this for years, so here’s a present to me. Thanks for making me think — that’s a Real present.” To join Patrick in the ranks of the Premium edition readers, please upgrade. It really does help to make the publication possible.
There are more great thoughts in the Comments section below.
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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 email subscription.
To really support True, sign up for a paid 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, 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.