Maintaining Access in the Brave New Subscription/Paywall World

June 16, 2021 5:19 p.m.

Thank you for getting us off to a solid start in our second annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund. As I explained yesterday, contributions to the Fund provide a relatively small (on a budget percentage basis) but critical part of the budget that allows TPM to remain vital and focused on original reporting about the most important stuff. It’s really important for our future. I explain more about it here and you can click here to contribute.

This afternoon I wanted to tell you about an entirely different thing the Fund accomplishes, how it protects access for all TPM Readers even if they don’t have the financial wherewithal to subscribe.

As you’ve no doubt seen, over recent years we have been increasingly aggressive in limiting access to subscribers. We have Prime only content and recently we’ve begun limiting the number of articles available each month to non-members. This is a work in progress and we’ve started with placing the limit at 15 articles per month per device. So if you have a computer at home and work plus your phone that’s a total of 45 articles. That’s many more articles than the great majority of sites with paywalls. But it places limits. These restrictions are always some level of a necessary evil. But our goal is straightforward. We want to make the site accessible to sometimes readers and new readers. But we want to nudge or maybe more than nudge regular daily readers to become members. Becoming a member is what makes the subscription fee business model work.

But of course not everyone can afford it. So from the beginning of the subscription program more than eight years ago we’ve sold what we used to call subscription credits. You could purchase a subscription credit and then TPM would provide it to a reader who doesn’t have the resources. These tend to be seniors on fixed incomes, people with some specific financial hardship, people who have lost their job, etc. etc. We also provide free subscription to registered students, full time or part time. This is our way of making a subscription model both viable and, for lack of a better word, ethical. Perhaps it’s better to say it keeps the business model aligned with values we believe in. I can tell you that many of your fellow readers who benefit from what we now call community supported memberships truly appreciate it.

When you contribute to The TPM Journalism Fund with $50 or multiple increments of $50 we create a new community supported membership for a TPM Reader with limited resources. If you contribute $50 we create one; if you contribute $100 we create two, etc. etc.

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So when you contribute you not only provide a critical margin to keep TPM thriving and focused on original reporting you help ensure that we make access possible for our full community of readers.

Want to be part of this? Click here to make a contribution for this year’s drive.

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