Support TidBITS by Becoming a TidBITS Member
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, 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:
- A version of the TidBITS Web site free of graphical banner ads.
- A full-text RSS feed (non-members will get a summary-only feed).
- The option to receive articles in email as soon as they are posted.
- The ability to post longer article comments, with live URLs.
- Recognition of your membership (with apple icons) when commenting.
- The option to receive an article’s comments via email.
- A discount on our Take Control ebooks.
- Discounts on a number of Apple-related products, including 1Password, LaunchBar, DEVONthink, Airfoil, Keyboard Maestro, Default Folder X, MarsEdit, Dejal Simon, Password Wallet, and more. (And if you’d like to offer a discount on your company’s products to our members, just drop me a note.)
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 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.
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 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!
I'm all for supporting Tidbits; it's been a great and trusted resource through the years. However, I request one change, that you remove (or at least make optional) the auto-renew on the two lower levels of participation. Some people have an aversion to auto-renewal subscriptions and the mandate for that at two donation levels could well keep some people from donating. So please -- make auto-renew optional!
I certainly wouldn't want to remove it - I just had a conversation with a guy who thought he'd been supporting TidBITS for years through auto-renewal (which wasn't possible via our Kagi-based contribution page before), so he hadn't actually contributed anything for 7 years.
That said, the downside of adding manual renewal options at the two lower levels is additional customer confusion, since we'd have to duplicate those two SKUs in the catalog, and when the renewal time came around, we'd lose some percentage of people who would simply forget or not get around to renewing.
Still, we'll absolutely consider it - it wouldn't be a hard change to make.
If email is sent to the subscriber before the auto-renew takes place, that might help some folks, and perhaps allow them to increase their level of support (MobileMe sent an email before each renewal date, which allowed subscribers to opt out; if no action was taken, the auto-renew proceeded).
Yes, the automatic renewal is always preceded by email from eSellerate, which handles our charges. We will also be sending out a separate email. And refunds will be freely given if a renewal isn't desired.
We've been asked so many times by past donors to make it easy to contribute regularly that we rolled that into this membership service.
Glenn's spot on. Obviously, it's a little hard to know this far in advance exactly how it will feel when the renewal email messages start, but I can guarantee that we'll do whatever is necessary to make sure no one feels taken advantage of.
I'm all for auto-renewal. In fact I think I wrote to you once to suggest a better reminder system because I was never quite sure whether I forgot to renew. So go ahead, please!
Yes, indeed. We've heard from a lot of people who really want auto-renewal. I think we'll probably add manual renewal, since people clearly come down on both sides of the fence, even at the lower dollar levels, but we have to make sure we're doing it in a coherent fashion.
Can you say what are the discounts on the various products you mention, and, for a new product, what percentage discount or amount of $ discount would be attractive to your readers?
I am a 20 year reader of TidBITS, have purchased several of your excellent Take Control books.
By day, I'm CEO of Sizzlpix.com. We could offer a percentage discount or $-value coupon to
TidBITS subscribers. SizzlPix™ High Definition Photography™
I didn't want to put the details into the article, in part because they will no doubt be changing over time, and in part because they're a perk, not the core reason we expect people will become members. But there's no reason to keep it a secret, so I've updated the Member Benefits page with all the current discounts. Hope you like them!
As a TidBITS reader for years and years (my first Mac was bought in 1985), I've often wondered how two college grads could make a decent living and raise a family off the sponsor revenues a relatively small Mac web site generates...along with e-Books and the occasional speaking engagements.
I guess this membership drive answers that question so I'm in to help the cause as soon as the sorts of "perks" questions Don Sherman asked are further articulated.
We try to be pretty transparent (well, not literally). :-)
TidBITS has never made serious amounts of money, but if it were just me doing it, it would be fine. The problem arises with needing (and wanting!) to pay writers and developers, and keeping the site going. There's a big difference between a one-man show, or a mom-and-pop operation, and a business that requires more people.
Take Control has done pretty well (and that's where Tonya spends nearly all her time), but it can only carry TidBITS to a certain extent, and it has its own significant development expenses.
As for speaking, I'm apparently a cheap date - I'll talk to MUGs in exchange for travel expenses and dinner, and most conferences just provide a free pass for speakers! Not that I'd mind a big speaking fee to share my hard-won wisdom, but no one has offered yet. :-)
I've only been reading TidBITS for a few months, but I wish I had started sooner - it's an invaluable resource for technically complete, original and insightful articles. This is coming from a Mac user who started with System 7.
I'm glad to support it!
Personally, I'd love the option to support TidBITS by becoming what our public radio station calls a sustaining member - we contribute $15 per month, automatically from our checking account via ACH transfer (or they'll do the same with a CC). If Kagi offers that and you're interested, I'd love to make this a regular contribution to the bottom line of such a great resource! It's much easier, for us at least, to budget $15 per month than to drop $180 at once.
Thanks for the suggestion, Matthew! It's certainly possible to do an automatically renewing monthly subscription with eSellerate's subscription tools; the problem comes in explaining and integrating it with the rest of our system, which relies on annual cycles at the moment. We'll think about if there's a good way to do it, though!
I'm happy to support you, can't afford more than $50 but, having been caught out once (absolutely no slight intended on you), will not do auto-renewals on principle. Look forward to a non-auto-renew with email reminder option becoming available.
I am having difficulty with the eSellerate pages. I have gotten several error pages (including one after I had entered my credit card information - always a BAD time to have an error message since it leaves the question as to whether or not the charge was processed. Just wanted you to know in case others are also having problems. Trying to use Google Chrome browser via Snow Leopard OS
Thanks for the heads-up! We have heard from a couple of people who are getting these error pages, and I'm working with eSellerate support on it right now.
Everything should be working normally again if you wanted to try again. Sorry for the inconvenience!
I've enjoyed (and benefited) from TidBITS for many years, and am quite willing to become a 'member'. But not through eSellerate. As I've pointed out to you and Tonya in the past, eSellerate charges excessive amounts on FX. I live in Canada. Their present conversion on your $100USD membership is $115.54CAD. I hate to break the news, but the US dollar hasn't been that strong for quite a while. According to xe.com, the inter-bank rate today on CDN funds is about 1.033. So eSellerate is taking a $12 cut, on top of the 2-3% I assume they charge you for their services.
I can send you a check, or send you Paypal, but I'm not going to give eSellerate $15 of my hard-earned dollars just to convey a membership donation to you.
You must move fair bit of cash through eSellerate, what with Take Control and all. If you want to encourage sponsorships from readers outside the USA, perhaps you should have a heart to heart with them about their FX practices.
Right - I do see your previous note from February, and I assume Tonya passed along eSellerate's explanation to you. Here's the story, for anyone who's concerned about this.
When you change the currency to something other than US dollars eSellerate provides what's called a "hedged transaction" for exchange conversions that guarantees the price won't change between the time you order and when the transaction is actually processed by your bank. Getting that lock-in costs more and thus raises the cost of conversion, accounting for the difference you're seeing.
The workaround is to order in US dollars, even if you're from another country, which has the effect of letting your bank do the conversion whenever the transaction hits their servers. Since there's no hedging fee, it will likely be cheaper that way. The downside is that you don't actually know what the cost will be, since the exchange rate will fluctuate. So it sounds like that's the best approach for you, David.
All that said, although we obviously wouldn't want to do this for everyone, if someone is constitutionally allergic to credit cards or eSellerate, we're happy to take a check and tweak the database manually. Just bounce me email at [email protected] and I'll give you the details.
eSellerate's explanation that the markup is due to "hedging" is preposterous. I'm surprised you accepted it at face value, as your analysis/synthesis skills are second to none.
The spread between the actual FX rate and what they're charging is over 11 cents on the dollar (as at 17Dec2011). There's no possible way that the FX rate could move that much in the short interval from when I click OK and when the bank actually processes the transaction. Even if were elected tomorrow, the US dollar would not move by 10% in a day against $CDN, or against any G7 currency.
I'll grant eSellerate a few per cent for their FX conversion costs, in line with what's charged by Visa, MC, Paypal, etc. But there's no way that 11% is defendable as a hedge against short-term FX variations.
BTW, I didn't change the currency to something other than US. eSellerate did it automatically, probably using my IP to determine my location. Clever.
Just an update on this. We've determined that the hedging fee is indeed larger than we previously realized, so we've addressed this by defaulting everyone to US Dollars (normally the cart guesses at your location by IP range) and adding an explanatory note that hopefully clarifies what the advantages and disadvantages of each approach are.
I have tried several times to sign up for membership but got an eSellerate error. Have I been charged several times?
Also I'm concerned that the information doesn't highlight that agreement lasts for three years, even though there is manual annual renewal. Isn't that a contradiction?
No, you haven't been charged. This eSellerate error is maddening, and they've had engineers working on for two days now, since they realize what a problem it can be. Not that there's anything wrong with waiting until we know it's resolved, but several people have said that they were able to get through after a few tries.
The language surrounding the duration is a little wonky - a case of introducing confusion by trying to be too clear. In essence, all it means is that the system will send you a renewal reminder for 2 more years after the order (for 3 years total).
eSellerate also crapped out on me at what would have been the very last screen of the ordering process...got a "server could not be found" error message. Will try again tomorrow.
Sorry to hear it! A "server could not be found" error sounds almost more like a connectivity problem somewhere along the way. Regardless, trying again should work - eSellerate runs 7 redundant store servers, so even if one does fail, the others continue and only the orders in progress on the failed server would be interrupted; all other orders would be routed to a different machine.
BTW, I haven't mentioned this here, but the nagging problem with "unexpected eSellerate errors" we were having is now resolved.
I have read your articles and also listened to your informative MacVoices discussion with the "erudite" Chuck Joiner.
I have purchased a fair number of the excellent Take Control books over the years and had always thought that they paid for TidBITS. Thanks for correcting that particular misapprehension. I am considering becoming a TidBITS member, but living in Scotland, I am not keen to use eSellerate. I wonder why there is no option to use a credit or debit card, which is the way I have always purchased the Take Control Books. I trust you will be able to offer the card option and I wish you every success for the future.
Yay - another chance to correct a misapprehension! :-)
eSellerate is the ecommerce site we use for both Take Control as well as the TidBITS memberships, and they take credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal.
Right now we're having some problems with their system, but I have them working hard on solving it (which is better than me beating my brains out trying to solve problems with something I've created - been there, done that too many times). If you get an "unexpected eSellerate error" just sit tight and hopefully they'll have it fixed soon.
Knowledge is preferential to misapprehension. I am happy to offer you the chance to illuminate darkness.
I'm listening right now to Adam and Glenn with Chuck Joiner talking about this new plan.
I'm an older guy but a fairly new Apple user. The iPad, which I bought primarily to be a reader with some added functions, turned me into a complete Apple head.
In my first year-and-a-half, I have devoured every bit of Apple information I could find. Each source has its own voice. I have found the voice of Tidbits to be a most congenial voice.
So, though I am not a long-time reader, I was happy to make a modest contribution to the cause.
Thanks for what you are doing.
Fantastic and thank you. We are trying to understand our audience better all the time, and part of our intent with memberships is that our audience can make a “claim” on us! We always listened, but we think members will make more demands, and that's a good thing in our book (and on our site).
Thanks for the kind words, and for letting us know where you're coming from, Randall. As Glenn said, the more we know about what people want to hear about, the better we can meet those needs.
And I'm very happy that you find our tone congenial - that's very much one of our goals. We're just not interested in the hack-and-slash controversy for controversy's sake, or publishing rumors that could have been generated by a Magic 8 Ball just as easily.
As the editor of a MUG newsletter, TidBITS policy of letting user groups republish articles (with attribution) has made my life much easier. Many of our members are not high end users, so the ability to select articles that are of interest to my readers is invaluable. My MUG Board has just agreed to submit a donation to the cause and I'd encourage all other MUG groups to do the same.
That's tremendously kind of you, Lynda, and it's much appreciated. We know how hard MUG newsletters work to get content, and we're happy to be able to help!