There is really no sexier way to sway readers to your site than slapping a mug of a balding man on an ad. This is what lefty Talking Points Memo editor and publisher Josh Marshall is doing during his month and a half long mission to fuel cash into the site. (See the ad pictured above.)
This public funding drive might be the saddest display of begging I’ve seen all month long.
On June 2, he wrote a raw note to readers announcing their “Prime” membership drive. Translation of “Prime” means you’ll pay for this news. With Prime, he promises, you’ll get “special access” to reporters and editors as well as a myriad of other stuff.
Josh begins with a mildly desperate plea. “First, we need your support,” he wrote. “I don’t know any other way to put it. So we’re asking for it. And yes, that means money. I hope that doesn’t sound too crass. But we do – not to go off and build some fancy glass walled headquarters but because it’s key to the future of our organization.”
He goes on to sound like the whole operation could go under in a heartbeat if readers don’t pounce on this new opportunity to pay for their news. “So if you like TPM, if you value it, if it’s part of your regular news diet, I am going to ask you to sign up and become part of our membership program – it’s $50 a year or 14 cents a day,” he continued. (Is this a front for starving children in Africa?)
And then sexy Marshall gets in the weeds of what’s really happening over there. Is it wise to let readers so in on how the financial sausage is made?
“Advertisers are fickle,” he said, explaining why the ad-only model isn’t working. “They change their schedules and goals, the amounts they’re ready to spend. It’s your core fans that are really invested in you being there every day and next month and next year. So it’s really important to build a reliance on people like you who want to be sure TPM is alive and well.”
In yet another revealing graph, he talks about the site’s traffic — a meager 2-3 million a month. Marshall says a third of those readers only visit the site once a month.
A day later on June 3, in maybe the most embarrassing plea yet, Marshall displays his employees like they are missing children on the backs of chocolate milk cartons. The post is titled simply, “We Need Your Support.” The email announces a six-week membership drive.
He discusses how the site was born – in his junior one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. nearly 14 years ago. And then, in an error-laden sentence, he writes, “At the first it was just a few dozen people and then a few hundreds reading.” He concludes, “We need you. And we hope you think you need us. So let’s make it official.”
Maybe they can use some of this extra money to hire a copy editor, or at least buy a wig for Marshall.