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An Important Message for Our Core Readers

Tomorrow, June 3rd, we're launching our first Prime membership drive since we launched Prime back in October of 2012. It's come a long way since then. I'm going to be telling you a lot about what you get with a membership - special longform articles, a less cluttered site with fewer ads (none on mobile), live chats, special access to our reporters and editors, and The Hive, our members only discussion forum and a bunch more.

But there are two other things I want to discuss in this post, two other reasons why subscribing to Prime is important.

First, we need your support. I don't know any other way to put it. So we're asking for it. And yes, that means money. I hope that doesn't sound too crass. But we do - not to go off and build some fancy glass walled headquarters but because it's key to the future of our organization.

So if you like TPM, if you value it, if it's part of your regular news diet, I am going to ask you to sign up and become part of our membership program - it's $50 a year or 14 cents a day. I want you to join for the smoother, faster and less cluttered site experience and all the other good stuff. But I also want you to join because what TPM does is worth supporting and so you can know that your dollars are going directly to supporting what we do and allowing us to make it even better.

In the history of publishing - publishing the printed word - there are very few examples of publications that are 100% dependent on advertising. Not only is it difficult to get enough revenue from advertising, as a revenue source it's inherently unstable. Both are distinct and important. Advertisers are fickle; they change their schedules and goals, the amounts they're ready to spend. It's your core fans that are really invested in you being there every day and next month and next year. So it's really important to build a reliance on people like you who want to be sure TPM is alive and well. This is particularly so for an independent publisher. The vast majority of website you read are either owned by some larger publisher or corporation. We're not. TPM is just TPM.

It was with all this in mind that I started making a series of major changes in TPM's business model about a year and a half ago. Part of that was diversifying revenue sources on the advertising side. But a big part of it was launching Prime.

And here's the second part of why Prime is so important to me personally and to our organization. TPM has been around for eons in Internet years, going on 14 years. And our relationship with our readers has never been a one way street. Your daily emails remain a core part of our editorial process. Our biggest stories have originated from reader tips. You catch our mistakes and give us some of our best ideas for new directions for the site. For a lot of other publications this is boilerplate. For us it's not. As anyone who has ever worked here can testify, reliance on our readers is deep in the DNA of the organization.

So we don't just want to limit our dependence on advertisers, we want to increase our dependence on you. Here's what I mean by that. Depending on what method you have of counting TPM has a monthly audience of 2 to 3 million people. More than a third of those people only visit once a month. So they're not readers of the site in any real sense. It's when you drill down to the people who are visiting once or more a day, sometimes several times a day, that you're getting to our core readership.

The problem with the ad only model is that what's economic for us is heavily weighted toward that 'mass' audience audience rather than the smaller core of true TPM Readers - the living core of the site, our most dedicated readers, the folks we get our news tips from. And when I got to thinking about this in late 2012, that seemed like a problem. We wanted a stream of revenue that could allow us to focus more of our resources on those core readers and what they want, which is different from what the mass of readers want.

That's what we're building with Prime. And I put the emphasis on 'building' because we're adding to it and improving it every day.

You'll be hearing a lot more from me about Prime this month, why it's important, what we're doing with it. Some of it I think you'll find interesting about the ins and outs of the publishing business and our future plans for TPM; some you might find repetitive, so I apologize in advance if it does. But like I said, it's important to TPM's future. You'll help us make TPM better and ensure it's around for a long time to come. So if TPM is important to you, if you're here every day, if you're miffed when we miss a beat and excited when we're in the hunt on a great story, please consider becoming a member. It's just 14 cents a day. And for us it makes a world of difference.