This is True
Randy Cassingham

Randy Cassingham’s Blog

Author’s Notes from This is True® — Thought-Provoking
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Last Week, I Noted I Had a High-Risk (but “audacious”) goal for True — and came up with a way to take most of the risk away.

The Goal is This: I want to be able to have only one edition of True — Premium — and everyone would get it on a “Pay What You Want” basis. I think that could do several things: bring in more financial support, since the “free” edition readers might pitch in something; the “free” publication would be more compelling with more stories, just as you see every week, and thus grow; and (the big one): If True is changing even just a corner the world for the better (and I think it is), then let’s expand the audience to have a bigger impact. Imagine if more people actually thought before acting! That, after all, is True’s mission, and it needs a bigger audience to counter the growing ...well... stupidity in the world.

The risk, of course, is what happens if that doesn’t work? That instead of getting more support, Premium subscribers stop paying because they get the whole thing for free? I certainly know many of you will continue to support it, because quite a few of you already pay more than the asking price because you believe in the mission and want to support it. But if there are not enough of you to balance the other side, well, then the publication could, and probably would, fail. There may be no way of going back in time to save it: I’d have to go get a job or something to pay my mortgage.

This is True joins PatreonTo try it with much less risk, I’ve set up a secondary support pillar for those of you who do want to push toward reaching that goal. Don’t care? Don’t want to do that? No problem: stay on the regular subscription program. For those of you who do want to try reaching that goal, I’ve set True up on Patreon, a “crowd funding” site designed especially for creative endeavors. Unlike sites like Kickstarter, which try to get new products off the ground with a one-time funding target, Patreon allows for more consistent, ongoing funding: patrons provide funding either every month, or every project (such as, every time a new music video is released). I’ve chosen the monthly option, since obviously True consistently comes out weekly.

The beauty of it is, if enough people sign on, even modest contributions multiply out to provide truly meaningful support. There are multiple funding levels, starting at $2/month, and corresponding multiple “reward” levels. Once the “crowd” meets the ongoing dollar goal, it triggers some benefits for everyone, not just those who contribute. Unlike product crowd-funding, there’s less risk: there, if the project fails, you’re out the money and don’t get the product. (Whoops! Too bad!) With Patreon, if I don’t produce, you simply stop your pledge, and it’s over.

My Patreon campaign has several steps:

  1. At $1,000/month, the remaining ads disappear from the True web site (I’ve been experimenting with non-Google ads, and they are helping bring funding) — with the exception, of course, of Patron badges and links, which are available at certain pledge levels.
  2. (New Goal!) At $2,500/month, the free edition gets the full text of the Honorary Unsubscribe, rather than having to click a link and go to the web site to read it.

  3. At $5,000/month, ads disappear from the free newsletter, too (with the same exception).
  4. And at $10,000/month, the “free” distribution gets the Premium edition every week.

“What If” after that, the support level drops below the goal amount? Then the free list goes back to the truncated newsletter (just 5 stories, vs. the “at least 10” of Premium), or ads reappear, or whatever.

Do I expect you to pledge on Patreon in addition to your existing Premium subscription? NO! I’m not “expecting” anything. If you’re already a Premium subscriber and do pledge at a level that includes Premium, I’ll consider that a “recurring” subscription and you’ll stop getting renewal notices (or I’ll cancel your Paypal “recurring subscription”), but there’s no “must” or “expect” here: it’s simply a viable way to try to meet the goal I’ve been thinking about for two-plus years now.

The Flip Side to those potential negatives though, is what if this does work? Then I get to spend much less time on marketing and promotion, and will thus have more time to do what I do best: write. I have articles I want to write, such as the one I’ve mentioned before about parents teaching their kids about “the real world” by reading True to them; I want to explore that, but haven’t had time to do it yet. I have book ideas I want to pursue, such as a deeper exploration of Zero Tolerance, and (yep!) an all-Florida story book. And more: I have the ideas, but not the time to accomplish them because I spend so much time just keeping the basic publication going.

The Amazing Thing is, I’ve not announced this yet, except to one small group: the This is True Community members — the “Super Premium” effort I launched last year. (That’s about to be revamped to simplify it dramatically.) But an amazing portion of that very small group have already jumped in: a dozen Patrons who have signed up at $4 to $100 a month! None of them have even gone for the lowest level yet.

So with that introduction, here’s the link so you can take a look at the fun video I made, the “Reward levels” offered, and a completely transparent look at what’s being pledged by the patrons: This is True on Patreon.

Note that no matter what the level, you can raise the actual dollar amount. For instance, there’s no $5 level, but you can click $4 and edit it to $5, if that’s your desire.

The whole thing doesn’t really launch until October 1: to simplify things, they charge Patrons’ cards on the first of each month.

Thanks, and let me know what you think: comments are open below.

P.S.: You might wonder why the numbers on True’s “transparent” Patreon page don’t quite add up: as of this writing, the 5 paying $4, plus 3 paying $7, plus 2 paying $15, plus 1 paying $30, plus 1 paying $100, equals ...$181? What the heck? Well, in addition to credit card charges, which naturally come off the top, Patreon itself charges a modest 5 percent to run the whole thing. So they expect, if everyone comes through with their $201 worth of pledges, True will actually net around $181.

 

13 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Brian, CT on September 20, 2016:

See, this is what I like about you, Randy -- you solve all my problems for me before they're even on my horizon.

You see, I have no problem with Patreon, but I vastly prefer the yearly bill because bad things can happen (like last month, when I spent it off work due to a bicycle injury). But I don't have to say a word or do anything, because you're not changing everything all at once.

I wish that wasn't so rare these days.

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I will always have a direct pay option, simply because I know someone won't want to sign up for an account on "yet another site" (whether they like the idea of Patreon or not), and that's a rational decision that I should accommodate. Because frankly, it's also a rational decision to not have the entirety of my business dependent on someone else's business, which could (like any other business) fail. -rc

Posted by Nick - UK on September 20, 2016:

OK Randy, let's give it a go! Signed up already, will you be able to cancel the existing recurring PayPal payment or do I have to do that?

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Do it if it's easy. Otherwise, we'll take care of that for you, and keep a record of how much time was left on your subscription in case of future problems on Patreon. Thanks for your support! -rc

Posted by Nick - UK on September 20, 2016:

Existing PayPal cancelled, just three mouse clicks!

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Thanks: takes us many more. -rc

Posted by Doug H - Colorado on September 20, 2016:

What has the lower cost to you? To do a monthly through Pateron or a one time yearly through Pay Pal? I don't want to change and have you incur a greater expense to go monthly.

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Patreon has higher fees, since they charge the credit card charges I already pay and a fee to use Patreon. But: the year's worth of Premium on Patreon costs more, in part to compensate for that. So the bottom line is, whichever works for you works for me. -rc

Posted by marion in toronto on September 20, 2016:

Randy, love your Patreon idea.

My hesitation is generational ~ I don't want to 'open' my bank account to an automatic monthly withdrawal, i'd rather control it 'manually'. is there such an option?

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To clarify, I'm pretty sure they only will use credit/debit cards, not direct access to a bank account. And no, seeing their business model I can't see any real mechanism to have a manual side system, as that would be labor intensive -- even if it's just to program in the capability. Sorry. -rc

Posted by George, San Diego on September 20, 2016:

I'm subscribed until May of 2018. What do I need to do to get access to the "This is True" Patreon Only content (that would come with a $2/month support)?

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As noted in a previous comment, if someone pledges on Patreon at a level that includes Premium, we will keep a record of how much time was left on your subscription in case of future problems on Patreon -- you'll always get credit. As far as "Patreon-only" content, I pretty much have to ensure that's true, or it's false advertising. So the only way to get Patreon-only content is to pledge on Patreon. -rc

Posted by james, ut on September 20, 2016:

1st of the month may work for a lot of folks but my payday moves (every other Friday). I usually prioritize and pay what I have to first and then live on what's left -- assuming there is something left. If I wanted to use Patreon, I would need to pay every 2 or 4 weeks rather than monthly. Any way to do that or will I continue to be one of the traditional subscribers?

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See previous comment: I doubt it, since it adds complexity. They're trying to keep costs reasonable since otherwise, they have to charge creators a bigger cut. -rc

Posted by Tom, Kansas on September 20, 2016:

So I was struck by the Terms of Use of the Patreon site. Under User Conduct, the summary was "Don't do bad stuff. Be responsible and use common sense." There is so much which could be said for that simple little summary. I sure hope it isn't subverted by the obliviots of the world.

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I have the same hope. -rc

Posted by Walt from Massapequa Park NY on September 23, 2016:

For me, to "join" was a no brainer. I have been reading This Is True for years, perhaps even from its start back in 1994. Furthermore, it is one publication that I thoroughly enjoy, every issue, without fail, issue after issue.

Considering where else I spend money, to not help here was just out of the question.

Besides, This Is True is ... truly ... a worthy read.

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Thanks, Walt, for your ongoing support, including Premium since 1999! -rc

Posted by Mart, WI on September 23, 2016:

My guess is that there are a lot of busy people (like me) who really don't want the additional stories each week. The current amount in the free edition is just right for us.

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Certainly that's true for some percentage. Sadly, most don't know what they're missing! -rc

Posted by Deborah, Washington on September 24, 2016:

I'm happy to support This Is True via Patreon. The little bit extra won't hurt me much (I do have fixed income) and will help you a lot. I support another blogger on Patreon as well and it made a tremendous difference to her.

Randy, thanks for This Is True, your humor, your insight and your newsletter.

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Thanks not just for supporting TRUE, but using Patreon to support other independent voices you find valuable. Such support really does help us continue. -rc

Posted by Vince, Vineland NJ on September 25, 2016:

Reviewing the Patreon site, it does not appear as true donation patronage. It may be more attractive to specify a minimum where the premium edition is included. For example, a tech site I patronize states a basic membership and moves from there. Were I to contribute $25 / year, I would want the premium newsletter. It would seem to me that if the premium newsletter was available for $25 it may improve your desire to do away with the free newsletter.

The notion of donation funding is a trend that I see on several websites presently. AskLeo! (an associate of yours) is now using the Patreon site with a similar model, and Paul Thurrott now wants a fee. I'm sure there will be others. Having to decide to buy the web content puts those on a budget (and further places the consumer with limited funds for such purchases at a place to determine how much it is worth) may cause folks to begin to choose other alternatives for content.

In summary, I would pay $25 for premium but at $48 it seems expensive.

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Yes, many creators are turning to Patreon because the classic funding model -- advertising -- is an abject failure for small sites. (I have no insight into the economics for large sites, such as big newspapers.)

TRUE's Premium edition was indeed $24 (not $25) -- starting in late 2004 -- and is now $32: not coincidentally very nearly the same price as 2004, adjusted for inflation. And that is certainly still available, as noted. The Patreon model, however, is about a LOT more than just getting Premium. As the series of goals clearly note, at each level I'm providing more, while at the same time foregoing other revenue, with the express purpose of making the experience better for the reader (e.g., removing ads, click-throughs to pages with ads, etc.). You, as a reader, have a choice: the regular upgrade path, or the Patreon path where you not only get what you want but, because you're paying a little extra, you also help others get a better experience even if they can't afford to fully participate in supporting what they, too, value. That, sir, is a win for everyone. -rc

Posted by Susan, Bradenton, Florida on September 26, 2016:

I'm intrigued by this idea, but like the other lady, don't like giving access to my bank account or credit card. Any possibility that they would accept PayPal? I much prefer just having one place hold knowledge of my credit cards.

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I don't think Paypal would do it, frankly -- seems contrary to their method of operation, where you actively pay, rather than passively accept random charges. I think if that would work, they'd be doing it by now. So, pretty much, "Same answer." -rc

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