Our Experiment

If you’re a Prime member and have been asking about ‘credit subscriptions’, we finally plan to start selling them this week. If you don’t remember what they are, please give me a moment to explain what they are and why we think they’re so important to our readers and to TPM as an organization.

As you probably know we launched TPMPrime a bit more than a year ago. And it’s really cookin’ since our site relaunch in September when we rolled out a slew of new features and debuted our first Prime-only longform article. (We’ve got a really cool longform coming shortly on the demise of the filibuster.) Now Prime members get exclusive access to our Longforms, the cleaner, faster Prime version version of the site that has fewer ads and none of the intrusive ones people hate, our new ad-free mobile site, full ad-free RSS feeds, access to The Hive, our members only discussion area, special Prime site navigation features and a lot more.

Prime is the premium version of the TPM experience, designed specifically for people who are really into TPM. We built it for two reasons – first to create a funding stream for features and stories we think will mainly appeal to our core readers (and aren’t economic for the total audience) and to build in another pillar of funding to help TPM thrive and grow. The two go together.

From the outset though there was a problem we wanted to avoid. TPM is a for-profit company. The $50 a year subscription fee is a key part of our funding. And we want to make the service valuable enough that people are willing to pay that money to subscribe. The sum is well within the means of most of our core readers, if TPM is something that’s really important to them and if they want to support our work. But it’s not an easy lift, even a possible lift, for everyone. And we wanted to avoid a situation where the velvet rope we put up around the premium version of the site is one that excludes people who can’t afford it.

That’s where the idea of credit subscriptions came from. There a subsection of our core readership that would like to support TPM to the tune of more than $50 a year. There’s another subsection that reads TPM everyday and has it as a core part of their news-reading lives but don’t have the cash to join. So why not marry up these two groups and support our values while we’re supporting our operation? There are plenty of publications at this time of the year asking you to “give the gift” of their publication. To your friends, your colleagues, as virtual stocking stuffers. We have a different take on this standard pitch: give the gift of TPM to someone you don’t know and won’t know.

So how do we decide to assign these credit tokens?

We’re going to use a combination of documentation and attestation of need. Our most important commitment is that we will only hand these out on the basis of need, nothing else. And of course it all remains anonymous. The only exception to that is that we plan to allow purchasers of credit subscriptions to have a “badge” on their TPM avatar or bio page that shows they’ve purchased credits subscriptions for other members of the community – but only if they chose to.

We plan on opening this new feature soon. I hope you’ll join us.