A couple weeks ago I told you about an offer we’re going to be making to existing Prime subscribers later this month and also a request, one that is very important to the future of TPM. If you didn’t get a chance to read my note then I would greatly appreciate if you could take a few moments read what we’re doing and why it’s very important to the future of TPM.
First, the very short version: Later this month we’re going to launch a special offer that will allow Prime subscribers to try out Prime Ad Free (AF) for two weeks for no charge and no obligation. AF has zero ads. So whatever annoyance ads constitute is gone and this has the additional benefit of making the site significantly faster. Quite candidly, I have not met anyone who’s tried Prime AF who can imagine going back. It’s just a much more pleasant reading experience. That’s a big deal if you spend a lot of time with us. As you can imagine, it’s also why we’re doing this free trial. Because we think a lot of you won’t want to go back.
Second, the slightly longer version: I’ve described in various contexts over the last few years how we’re moving TPM from a business model based almost exclusively on advertising to one in which subscriptions make up a significant majority of our revenue. This is a quest, struggle, marathon that we’ve been able to be largely successful at because we got started much earlier than most other publications. Still, it’s an immense challenge. You’ve all the carnage in the digital publishing industry. Just yesterday the Center for American Progress announced its putting ThingProgress up for sale because it faces a multi-million dollar a year operating deficit.
2019 is a critical year for us, perhaps the critical year for all of this. Each of the last four years we’ve been able to grow memberships faster than ad revenues have declined. This year was the first year in which ad rates declined faster than we’d predicted. That put extra pressure on our budget. At the same time we started the year within shooting distance of membership levels that make that transition complete.
What does complete mean? Nothing is ever done. Everything changes. But by ‘complete’ in this case I mean a level of membership which makes the model viable going forward without needing to go to heroic lengths to grow membership to make up for other shortfalls. We will have a robust and stable business model and can focus on incremental growth going forward: more reporters, new contributors to the Editors’ Blog, etc.
To accomplish this we will need to continue adding to the number of Prime subscribers in the second half of 2019, which we’re doing. (We just got the milestone of 30,000 total subscribers a few weeks ago.) We also need to convert a significant number of existing Prime subscribers to Prime Ad Free (AF). That of course is where this free trial comes in.
I make a pretty hard sell for people to sign up for Prime. It’s the life blood of this organization and for those who truly cannot afford it we have free credit memberships. We don’t want anyone to feel obligated to upgrade to AF. If you’re a member with a Prime account you’re definitely good with us. But I would like to ask you to give the free trial a shot. The worst that happens is you’ll get a better reading experience for two weeks. You may decide you really it and upgrade and become a critical part of making the future of the TPM possible.
If you think you might be game for the free trial please click the thumbs up button at the bottom of this post. If you clicked in my earlier message, no need to do so again. If you can’t remember, clicking a second time is fine. Our system will record your interest only once. Then we’ll send you an email when the free trial is ready to go. Thank you so much for considering this and thank you for being members.