People and Money

Running Wizard’s Tower is proving interesting and educational in a number of ways. Unsurprisingly, I have discovered that I am not a very good salesperson. Making stuff is no problem. Persuading people to part with money is quite another. Some of that is personal. A Welsh Methodist upbringing drums into you that asking for money for anything except charity is a bad thing to do. And for very obvious reasons of personal history my self esteem is not exactly stellar. However, there are also techniques to be learned, and that’s interesting in a different way.

One observation that I would cautiously advance is that the behavior of human beings en masse is very different from their stated individual behavior on the Internet. No matter how much people may rail against the evils of commercialism, much of it works. I suspect, for example, that it is much easier to sell things if you price them at a ridiculously high mark-up and then offer periodic massive sales than if you were to price them closer to cost, no matter how “evil” such behavior might seem.

The other thing I am learning is that there are all sorts of delicate balancing acts to be negotiated between reminding people to buy and not being irritating. I’m currently erring on the side of caution, I think. Of course it may simply be that what I’m doing is utter rubbish and no one wants to pay for it, but that way lies surrender and I’m not prepared to give up on life just yet.

Here’s an interesting concrete example. I tend to think that it is better to ask for money in return for something than to ask for money for nothing. Hence I’d prefer to have people buy ebook editions of Salon Futura than donate money. But that falls down in a couple of ways. Firstly many of you don’t have ebook readers, and while you can read epubs on a PC, you might as well read the website. Secondly it requires you to actually go to the store and make a purchase. That’s work. It is easier to persuade people to pay money if you make it easier for them to do so.

(This, incidentally, is one reason why most people will still buy their Kindle books from Amazon, rather than from independent retailers like me, even though the Amazon ones are DRMed and mine are not. Buying through the Kindle shop is easier, because the book downloads automatically.)

So here’s a question for you. If I were to offer a £1.49 monthly subscription to Salon Futura, via PayPal with automatic billing, would any of you sign up? It is cheap — only £1.49/month — and easy — sign up once and not have to worry again. Of course you wouldn’t have to do it — the magazine will still be available for free online. But it would help pay the bills if enough people do it.

If you don’t want to comment about it here, but would be happy to pay, email me. I want to get a good sense of whether this is worth doing before offering it. Thanks!

11 thoughts on “People and Money

  1. I read it for ‘free’ online, and that’s the way I prefer to get it–less muss, less fuss, as it were. But I’d love to be able to donate for all that ‘free’ content, and it’d be great if I could set up a little monthly recurring donation for it.

    I feel the same way about Lightspeed–I read it for free online, and I prefer reading it online to any other format, but I also want to pony up some cash to support the venue.

    1. I’m with Karen – on both counts. Prefer to read it online and would love to make a donation to do so (which is odd, because I get irritated when I have to “pay to play” for a mag like “Time” – but I still haven’t figured out why…)

      In any case – while I don’t have an ereader*, I understand a pub wanting to be able to function and £1.49 seems eminently reasonable.

  2. My observation is that if you offer content for free, people appreciate the option to be able to throw you some money when they can, and the easier that transaction is the better for you both. So always offering a donation button is a good idea.

    The Foglios use themed wallpaper as “thank you”s for people who donate. This serves several goals at once – they get to feel like their readers are getting a little something extra for the effort of donating, readers who donate get an immediate, tangible (well, OK, not really tangible) response, and changing out the wallpapers serves as a periodic reminder and incentive.

    In some ways that last point is the most important. It’s hard to balance the “remind people to help” with “don’t be an annoying pest”, and having a changing reward makes an excellent excuse. In practical terms, don’t make the change any more frequent than monthly, or any less frequent than two or three times a year.

    Subscription-wise, I really appreciate the ones that give me the option to pay by automatic draw monthly, or let me buy into a whole year for a one-time payment. (A slight discount at those times is nice, but not really required.)

    If your projections and support system can handle it, I have also enjoyed the option of paying a one-time, truly massive, life-time subscription fee. In my mind, it’s less of a graduated payment (will this be worth the number of issues I’m likely to see?) and more of a big donation that comes with not having to fuss about subscriptions. This option is probably down in the noise as far as real usefulness goes, but it came to mind while I was thinking about subscriptions.

    1. I think I’ll pass on the lifetime thing. Firstly it only really make sense if you have to buy a subscription to get the magazine. And secondly I’d only be comfortable offering it if I felt that people signing up were certain to get something approaching a lifetime’s worth of magazines. Given my age relative to the general population, I think that’s unlikely.

      1. Hmm – perhaps something akin to a “Friend of bid” and “Opponent of bid” – where it cost more to Oppose? That could be fun…

  3. Don’t overlook the fact that people like the good feeling of having supported something in a hobby or industry that they want to see flourish, and so can actually enjoy donating even without some expected small payoff (of future issues or freebies or something).

    I am no expert, but when it comes to self-promotion (of oneself or business) it’s my thinking that you should be careful about mixing in too much of your own feelings of what’s legitimate and worthy, as many people are self-deprecating and will always under-value.

    I, myself, am unlikely to find the time to do much reading at all outside of work stuff, but I love the idea of what you are doing so much that I could happily donate because I like the idea that it exists 🙂

  4. I would, although for such a small sum I’d rather pay you annually. To follow through on my statement, I just dontaed what seems to be the US equivalent for the first year.

  5. I’d definitely go for a monthly subscription! For me personally, that would be better than paying a yearly sum — not because the sum would be large that way, but because I could then set it up once and forget it (too many yearly things I just forget to renew).

    Also, you might want to look at something like — they make it very easy to support content on the web (it’s meant for “liking” individual articles with small donations). And there aren’t too many content creators using it yet, so that would mean bigger shares to those jumping in early (I have an account but have trouble finding places to give money with it).

  6. subscription = yes. Just include me on the email list telling folks about it, or I will forget. As it is I am known to forget to eat.

  7. A few follow-up points on this.

    Jo – Thank you very much!

    However, I’m generally reluctant to ask for annual subscriptions because should something bad happen and I have to stop publishing then I’d need to refund the unused portions of the annual subs.

    The beauty of doing this through PayPal is that they will automatically take the money each month, so there’s no need to issue reminders.

Comments are closed.