Defector has ambitious, groundbreaking Year 3 goals, like making more money so we can keep making more Defector and reaching more people with our work. In service of achieving these goals, we are going to send David Roth, along with a life-size cut-out of David Roth, to someone's house.
Why are we doing this? Well, it's simple. Over the course of this summer, our Growth Committee had several meetings in which the question of how to increase revenue in Year 3 was discussed. We considered and ultimately decided against increasing our subscription prices.
For a subscription business like ours, increasing prices tends to increase revenue by wringing more revenue out of existing subscribers, which more than offsets the costs in terms of foregone new-subscriber growth. We decided as a group that the additional revenue we could capture through a price increase was not worth slowing new-subscriber growth, reducing the reach of our journalism, and inducing churn among existing subscribers who couldn’t afford the increase.
On this final point, while we often joke that everyone in the commentariat is a (well-paid and bored) lawyer, we know this isn’t true: nearly 50 percent of the respondents to a former-subscriber survey we ran this year pointed to financial hardship as a primary reason for their subscription cancellation. We want to keep these subscribers in the fold—pricing them out makes our community weaker and worse.
In general, price increases in a subscription business work where slack exists between what customers are paying and what they are willing to pay (the “surplus” value). Given our stated goals, an ideal strategy would capture some of the surplus from our existing subscribers and convert it into additional reach without reducing growth or inducing additional cancellations.
So we landed on this plan: a one-time contribution drive among existing subscribers, which will result in one of those subscribers having a 2-D David Roth delivered to their house by a 3-D David Roth, in the flesh. This is serious: Anyone who makes a contribution of at least $20 into our tip jar, which we use to subsidize subscriptions for students and people in financial need, between Sept. 9, 2022 and Oct. 31, 2022 will be entered into a raffle. At the end of October, a winner will be drawn from this list of contributors. We will contact that winner to find out where they live, and then we will buy a plane ticket for David Roth, and then David Roth will pack a cardboard cut-out of himself into a suitcase, and then he will fly to whatever city that winner lives in, go to the winner's house, and deliver the cardboard cut-out.
Although it could flop, we are excited about this idea and hope that it might become a repeatable alternative to across-the-board price increases.
Full legalese on the drawing is available here. The short version is:
- Any contribution to the tip jar between September 9, 2022 and October 31, 2022 will earn you an entry in the drawing. We are asking for a minimum contribution of $20. One person, one entry.
- You must live in the United States to qualify.
- We’ll also count upgraded subscriptions (i.e., going from Reader to Pal) as entries. Accomplices, we’ll toss you into the drawing automatically.
- Contributions can be made through this page.
- We will work with our winner on scheduling delivery of your priceless heirloom.