This article originally appeared in TidBITS on 2011-12-12 at 7:20 p.m.
The permanent URL for this article is: http://tidbits.com/article/12508
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Support TidBITS by Becoming a TidBITS Member

by Adam C. Engst

We need your help. Put bluntly, TidBITS is having trouble generating enough revenue to cover the small amounts we pay our staff members to write and edit the articles we bring you each week, not to mention the ever-increasing costs associated with developing and maintaining our Web site and mailing lists.

We’ve published many thousands of articles for you over the last 21 years because we genuinely want to help you navigate the twisty little passages of technology, and we’ve also always encouraged user group newsletters to reprint our articles, in order to spread the help all the further.

Now we need you to chip in. To put TidBITS on a sustainable track, I’m asking you to support TidBITS directly, by joining our new TidBITS membership program [1], which was inspired in part by the burgeoning community-supported agriculture (CSA) movement, where members share in a local farm’s harvest.

Unlike a CSA farm, TidBITS is essentially what economists consider a “public good,” since it’s available to everyone and one person’s use doesn’t prevent another from using it as well. Our concept is “community-supported content,” and while our base TidBITS content will remain freely accessible to all, TidBITS members will receive a number of perks, including:

We’re considering other benefits as well, including optional automatic entry in all DealBITS drawings, members-only feature articles, staff webcasts for members, and more.

You can choose among five different levels of support: $20, $50, $100, $250, and $1000. The first two levels renew automatically on an annual basis, though you can of course cancel any time you want. The $100 and $250 levels can be renewed manually each year, and the $1000 level is a lifetime membership that includes a fine dinner with the staff at Macworld Expo in San Francisco or with me and Tonya any time you’re in Ithaca. Seriously.

[Update: After feedback from some people who prefer manually renewed subscriptions, we’ve changed things around so the first four levels default to manual renewals, but provide the option of an automatic renewal if you prefer to avoid the fuss of going through the cart each year. We’ll alert everyone who is set to automatic renewal well ahead of time, and those who prefer manual renewals will receive reminders. -Adam]

Assuming you so wish, we’ll acknowledge your membership on the site in the TidBITS Members list [2] and with a cool apple icon next to your comments. You can control your acknowledgement status, name, and optional URL in the Account Info page [3].

Why Are We Doing This? -- The world has changed radically since Tonya and I first started publishing TidBITS 21 years ago. We were young, energetic, and fueled by the desire to help others better use computer and networking technology. Through the basic Internet technologies of email and FTP, we were able to make TidBITS available to what seemed then like a vast audience.

Since 1992, when we pioneered Internet advertising, we’ve been able to fund TidBITS largely through corporate sponsorships. But over the last decade, while Internet use and Apple’s fortunes have ballooned, so have the number of competing sites, many backed by deep-pocketed corporations and others published purely as labors of love. Our thoughtful, deep content still ranks among the best of its kind, but with so many publications and blogs covering the same products and events, without more resources, it’s increasingly hard to attract large numbers of new readers.

That’s a problem for two reasons. First, nearly every Internet business model is a numbers game. With the percent of people who see and act on banner ads so low as to be indistinguishable from statistical noise, the only way to generate significant revenue via advertising is to deliver millions of eyeballs. With a readership in the tens to hundreds of thousands, we don’t have the circulation or Web traffic necessary to generate enough revenue.

And that leads to our second problem — the expenses of staying up with the qualities that mark a professional publication. Although our virtual organization lacks many of the physical plant expenses of brick-and-mortar companies, we have to pay staff to write and edit articles, and honestly, I’d like to be able to pay more and afford additional writers. Then there’s the expense of our Web site design and development. No professional-level publication can be run by off-the-shelf software, and adding the functionality we want and readers expect isn’t cheap or easy. Don’t get me wrong — we love the writing and the development, but they both cost money.

A fair question would be what separates TidBITS from many other publications that survive on advertising alone. Most importantly, we focus on topics we believe are useful, accurate, and interesting, as opposed to sensationalist topics or false rumors designed to garner quick attention. We’re writing to help you in your daily usage of Macs and iOS devices, not so we can package your eyeballs and sell them to the highest bidder. Even with our corporate sponsors, we emphasize the long-term value of brand building and supporting the Mac community, rather than focusing on raw ad impressions or click-through rate.

Again, then, if you have found TidBITS valuable, or if you’ve received personal help from one of our staff members simply because you asked, please become a TidBITS member today [4] to help us continue publishing the kind of articles you’ve become accustomed to reading each week. You’ll have our undying gratitude, and more importantly, you can rest assured that every article you read was made possible in some small part by your generosity. Thanks in advance!

[1]: http://tid.bl.it/member-benefits
[2]: http://tidbits.com/members.html
[3]: http://tidbits.com/account
[4]: http://tid.bl.it/member-benefits