Dear The Sophist:
I am a principal in an online publishing concern, which was a website until we ran out of funding and which now operates as an email newsletter. We raise money for our expenses by asking folks to subscribe to our posts as paying customers, in exchange for which we will email them, at our discretion, exclusive posts not available to the general non-paying readership.
In order to ensure the continued survival of our publication, we have now banded together with a larger collection of other publishers into a cooperative enterprise. Some of these publications are our fellow publications from our previous web endeavor, whose worthy individual editorial missions were likewise set back by an ill-starred business plan.
We enjoy reading these sites! We enjoy writing for our own publication! Through the cooperative, we have a chance to mutually stabilize each other, by inviting the public to subscribe to the entire cooperative, where readers will get access to nine different publications under a single umbrella.
Already there is a fundraiser going on for the cooperative, and it has collected a decent sum of money—some of it specifically pledged to support our own publication. But the fundraiser is an all-or-nothing deal, and it is still short of its target. We need to rally our own readers and supporters to the cause, directly, if the effort is going to succeed.
This involves many activities that make us uncomfortable: self-promotion, for instance. Asking people for money. Asking people for money to support one thing when we've alredy been asking those people for money for a related thing. Meeting deadlines. Drawing invidious distinctions among our own different kinds of output, to carve them up into various tranches of paid and unpaid material, to induce people to pay for them.
We like our readers. Many of them seem to like us. Is it really OK to hassle them, to get money?
Things That Make You Go Hmm
Dear Humming Weakly,
Sometimes self-effacement is the most annoying expression of egotism. Look at yourself. Thousands of bucks on the line—a test case in how to sustain independent journalism—and you're mumbling into your handkerchief like a consumptive in a third-rate melodrama. Fascinating approach, to make yourself totally abject in the name of not embarrassing yourself.
It's time for some proper nouns, in all caps, so people can do something with them: HMM WEEKLY, the successor publication to HMM DAILY, has joined the BRICK HOUSE COOPERATIVE. There is a KICKSTARTER underway to fund the cooperative, and supporters there will get PRIZES and REWARDS. There are FIVE DAYS LEFT to hit the target of SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. (NOTE: The Kickstarter goal has been met, and then some, so it’s now closed to further contributions. Thanks to all who are in support, and if you would like to contribute now, please visit this donation page, thank you.)
What will the readers get in exchange for spending their money over there, in addition to having spent it over here? Access to nine different but sympathetic publications, including the eclectic and global essayists of POPULA, the politics-money bloodhounds of SLUDGE, and the irreverent yet reverent souls of PREACHY.
But also...more from HMM WEEKLY: a steady slot for the return of the legendary MR. WRONG column! New opportunities for FREELANCE CONTRIBUTORS! And a stable, long-term archive for all the content previously published on HMM DAILY!
What else? Who knows! More dispatches from THE MACHINES? A few more rounds of DISPOSSESSIONS? Something about the WEATHER? A serialized TIME-TRAVEL NOVEL for young readers? We've got twenty-some chapters in the can!
The Sophist is about results. The reason for asking the readers for more money is that the more comes in, the more can go out. The more goes out, the more people can read it. The more people read it, the more of them might send their questions to The Sophist, and the less The Sophist will have to scrounge.
Please! We're asking. Support the BRICK HOUSE COOPERATIVE. Thank you very much.
Ain't too proud to beg,