consider this my mea culpa (latin for 'my cuppa' which is british for "wanna have some tea?))
I get a lot of value from my paid subscription as is! Maybe something small to start, like a weekly discussion thread of a funny/absurd/heartfelt topic for paid subbies could be cool.
THE MESSY MIDDLE JUST LIKE A BREAKFAST SANDWICH HELL YEAH
Ok, so this is probably gonna be a weird comment because I'm not a paid subscriber, but if I were to become one, I actually wouldn't want anything extra. I'm overwhelmed by the number of Substacks I read as it is (so many. so good. but also so many. too many.). So, my motivation for paying wouldn't be to have more content/access, because I couldn't keep up with it. I would subscribe just to support a cool writer who I enjoy and think should be paid for his work. Why haven't I subscribed yet? Because omg I am subscribed to a lot of things and am trying to figure out a way to budget resources to support all the people I want to support and haven't actually figured it out yet. So, TLDR; nothing extra needed from you on my end. I just need a little extra cash be able to dole out. Hope that helps! :)
You are the only person I pay to read. I would love to pay everyone I subscribe too, but I have a mortgage two cars two kids three cats... and need to see Barenaked Ladies as much as possible, of course. I hit the big old subscribe button for you because: I love your voice. I like the way you write, I like the things you share with your audience, I like your vulnerability and humor. Also I feel like you genuinely care about your readers and want to interact with us. You rock, Alex. Don't doubt yourself. Have an amazing weekend!
Ok babe buckle up.
No more channels and nothing else to read (ie roundups, reading recommendations) for the love of Pete please pretty please.
I love the idea of read-alouds for BATheads. I rarely read with my eyeballs these days. We can all use the accessibility features on our devices to have an AI voice read to us but I’d 💯 prefer to listen to your very much more human voice. Can we do that, though? Paywall just the audio?
I would LOVE more comedy videos but I care about you and very much worry that If you try doing things like that regularly you’ll burn out and end up miserable. It’s like adding a whole new content calendar because you have the idea people are counting on you.
My author newsletter is pay-if-you-want with no paid content. Maybe one day I’ll have the capacity to do paid content but I don’t now and I just sell it as “you’re helping a creator make a living from her writing” but it could also be “you’re giving me more time to work on ____ or money to buy ____ and [a new podcasting microphone, a new Prius, whatever]”
It’s just really important to consider your mental health as you also consider what your super fans want. I’ll take the perks, but I don’t need them. I just want to support your work.
I’ve been thinking the same since I turned on paid subs for my podcast. Mostly I regularly think: “haha loser who are you to ask people to pay you for this shit podcast”, but then I snap out of it.
Then I think, well, the option is there for people who appreciate my work and who want to offer me a little money for it.
Then I think, right, I know what I’ll do. I’ll make a weekly radio show that includes music and sketches and other stuff and that’ll finally make people buy.
Then I go back to the beginning.
Do what feels right and don’t overthink it too much. I’d like to see the more intimate stuff personally, but also stuff you’re trying out or random ideas. The people who pay for your sub are obviously the people who are more interested.
I agree with the rule of punching up vs. punching down. But there's also punching laterally, where a comedian makes fun of someone with roughly the same amount of power. To me, that's what your Brad character does. Yes, there are writers who genuinely want to help other writers, but there are also writers who spread lame advice and pose as "experts" for cash. Making fun of those people warns others about that kind of scam, which I think makes for good satire.
As a print zine collector, I LOVE the Parcel idea lol.
And I would LOVE to get a monthly zine in the mail.
I usually try newsletters out for free, then convert a few to paid subscriptions each year. My main problem is the one Kerri nailed: I'm trying to figure out how to support ALL the good writing out there and my budget isn't big enough.
What about adding a one time donation button? Or a buy me a coffee/tea/whatever link?
I really enjoy this newsletter and appreciate your labor creating it. :)
Idea: you could mail a single strand of your hair to paid subscribers, just collect the clippings from each haircut. Eventually they could clone you, so how cool is that? (only half joking)
Completely shocked by the Brad revelations. (only 25% joking)
I'll defer to Craig Burgess's comments as I've not yet turned on paid subscriptions., but good luck none the less. (not joking at all)
Alex, I don’t know if I have the best advice for this, but here it goes.
I’m partial to Anne’s model, which I think she stole from NPR. Like you, I dig the all are welcome vibe, but I think there’s another bonus to that model.
Basically, Anne’s stolen NPR model gives you the chance to win over paid readers slowly. Will I pay for exclusive information? In a heart beat. But I’m also quick to cancel those subs if I don’t need that info anymore. BUT I also pay for things I love, and I tend to stick with those things indefinitely.
The catch is that love is kind of a slow burn most of the time. I found Both Are True about a month ago. I’m slowly falling in love because your words are becoming part of my week (a lovely part!). Keeping all posts free gives readers like me the space / time to fall in love at my own pace. Posting regular reminders that’s there’s a paid option for those who love your work and want to support it is a subtle (or not so subtle) nudge that pushes me to reflect on the love question. Yes, there’s an element of guilt here and I know that can feel icky, but here’s the thing, I don’t think I’d feel guilty about getting something for free if I didn’t love it. Put another way, if I love something but I’m not really showing up to support it, I feel guilty, and eventually, if given the opportunity at regular intervals, the guilt overcomes me and I just subscribe. That’s how NPR got me and it’s how Anne got me, and they both have me FOREVER.
One other point. You’re already doing a lot. I hate the idea of you building this beautiful thing and then stretching yourself thin to build an extra thing just to monetize the first thing. That sounds exhausting. The only small exception I’d make to that is an audio version of Both Are True. That’s another thing, but it’s a closely related thing that’s in your wheelhouse as a performer. If audio is paid but all text is, I still think you’re keeping the opportunity to fall in love wide open without stretching yourself too thin.
Hope this helps!
Recently, I terminated my paid subscription to one newsletter that sent out A LOT of additional stuff (stuff that were the reason for me to subscribe). I just couldn't find the time for it. So paywalling stuff is definitely not the only way to go. I really like Anne's approach to paid subs.
I vote for staying free. I plan to pay for your newsletter when I get a few more paid subscribers myself. Your personal stories are hilarious and sweet and worth paying for. I’m struggling myself, but finally have made my decision thanks in large part to Anne, and you will be reading about it probably next week. Just finishing up my email about my choices. Keep the faith!
I’m here for reading more than watching/listening/interacting. Commenting and an occasional interaction in that context is fine (as shown here, duh), but more is not an attraction for me.
Three possibilities might (NOT will, but elsewhere did) work for me:
1. Cafe Anne model.
2. Cafe Anne model, but only paid subscribers can comment. I think the Substack software enables that. (This also guards against trollishness.)
3. Option 2 but with occasional “paid only” posts.
Oh, yeah, the cheaper annual rate the better, too.
So I am going to try to offer a bit of a different perspective here. I am what my cousin once referred to as a NARP (she was a college athlete - NARP = Non-athletic Real Person, aka not a college athlete) for Substack and other such content platforms. I generally live about 10 years behind technology trends. I came to this Substack first because I am a personal friend of yours (as a nod to my technological prowess I tried to figure out how to not reveal my name such that you get to play the fun guessing game of who I could be, however, I don't know if I have pulled this off. I suppose I'll find out when I hit Post). However, I have stayed because of what you are doing. Something about your writing has compelled me to not only subscribe, but also pay and now make my first ever public comment on the internet outside my personal social media accounts.
I have some ideas about what attracts me to the content (spoiler, its a lot about what attracts me to you as a friend), but instead of answering your question with my own thoughts, I would like to just reflect back something you wrote last week:
"Both Are True seeks to answer a question I’ve wondered about since I was young - can art be simultaneously vulnerable + honest AND absurd + weird? Generally speaking I know the answer is yes, but can I pull it off? Sure hope so lol." Whatever choice you make to try to make this more financially viable, I hope that you will stay true to this purpose you set for yourself. So while I, too, appreciate the engagement with your audience, I hope you only follow those options that serve you, as well as us (because really I think those will end up being the same).
I subscribed because of the realness, the raw truth and vulnerability in your writing about human feelings and relations. It doesn’t get any better than that. ♥️
To: A. Dobrneko
Fr: E. Rooster
In rising order of importance
1) Thank goodness it was getting close to a "Brad, come to the principal's office" or "see you at 3PM", can't do that with someone who doesn't exist (or does he? and this is is some M. Night Shyamalan plot twist before the credits roll (Dr. Evil pinky in mouth moment)).
2) Onversion, Onversion & Dobrenko, LLP (a Plan Z for multi-year takeover of Substack and reapportion its balance sheet into a trust for your kid, you'd all have to go to school and get licenses.)
3) spot on on punching up, this is a power relegated to court jesters and journalists like Murrow but it's a good framework to adopt if one chooses to get into these kinds of cage-matches.
4) The key is you making this a long runway to experiment, and find out what works and what you can keep going on a consistent basis. It does no good if the "wins" push you right off the cliff into burnout ravine. It might mean trying things every 3 months and seeing what fits. It might take time but that's the point, you want to be here, and be here to stay. It's the kind of reps that can't be repeated since you're one of a kind, and that's valuable. Indeed, like that song "know that you are home. come just a little closer." You have several bullet point of great tests. Maybe it is the Cafe Anne expansive long game way of approaching both people and what she's created, the anti-thesis of punching down.
5) I also saw Elle's intro into how to make the unit economics work (sorry for the buzzwords), and her willingness to pursue her bliss (about the future) is amazing, and maybe this is where your focus gets intense enough, like a magnifying glass lasering anthills in front of your house. (I like her essay + fiction format ( which I embrace in a novel I will finish in the next 30 days, like it or not.) and maybe that is where you begin, by mining her insights for your tests. If your thing is the evil twin/triplet brothers, there are 8+billion people and out of that there is a gang of people who want that, maybe you double down (no puns) on this (and those great footnotes, where secret prizes will be hidden).
6) Remember to call your mother.
"There is a door knob glowing like chance before you.
Grab it, turn and pull, step through, back straight, chin up, eyes open, hearts loud."