Introducing TR subscriptions

We've been independently publishing The Tech Report for nearly 15 years, and today, we've come to a crossroads. You see, TR has been supported primarily by advertising sales since its beginning, but that business has been difficult for a while, for a number of reasons.

Although PC gaming and enthusiast systems are a growing segment, the overall market for PCs has been in a prolonged slump. Advertising dollars have moved elsewhere. We have been attempting to hold steady and keep our current, long-tenured staff intact for the past few years, but the reality is that we've been slowly bleeding money.

That reality is a strange one for us to face, since your interest hasn't waned as the ad market has weakened. TR as a publication is more vibrant than ever. We know from our daily experience that you all, our readers, crave the sort of in-depth reviews, articles, and podcasts we produce. Our web traffic is strong. We've had huge appreciation for things like our Inside the Second gaming benchmarks and our SSD endurance experiment. And the TR Podcast has become so popular, we had to find a higher-bandwidth hosting arrangement.

Our challenge, then, has been finding a way to enable the community to support us. Heck, we want to depend on you. We've always tried to run the site with our readers' best interests in mind, and we've given up countless business opportunities as a result. Might as well make our relationship official.

We've been pondering adding a subscription option to the site literally for years, but we couldn't find a satisfactory way to make it work. Lots of independent web publications face a similar struggle to fund the production of high-quality journalism. We searched far and wide to see how others were handling it. Sadly, virtually all of the existing crowd-funding approaches have obvious drawbacks. Too often, they involve gating off public access to core content, hours of tedious rewards fulfillment work that distracts from content creation, or setting an arbitrary subscription price that doesn't work for everyone.

We didn't think any of the existing models were right for TR and its community, so we did what we've done in the past in tough situations: we innovated. We conceived of a better model, and we quietly spent the last of our cash reserves building it. What we've come up with is somewhat unique, and we think it's the best attempt of its type so far.

We've created a "subscriptions" system, but we're not gating off our articles from the public. Virtually everything we publish will remain freely available to all. Instead, we've built a number of new features into the site, many of them often requested. If you subscribe, then you'll get access to them.

Best of all, you can name your own price for a subscription, so folks are free to support TR as much or as little as they think is appropriate. If you like what we're doing and want to support us further, you can add to your contribution total at any time.

If you contribute any amount, you'll get access to a full year of our Silver subscriber features:

  • A membership tag next to your username in the comments and on the TR Forums.
  • Optional e-mail notifications when other users reply to your comments.
  • Access to single-page versions of our multi-page articles.
  • The ability to print multi-page articles with a nice, clean template in a single click.
  • Access to the Smoky Back Room, our contributors-only forum.

Those who contribute enough to beat the current average payment will get a Gold subscription, which gets them:

  • All the perks of a Silver subscription: a membership tag, e-mail notifications, single-page and printable views, and Smoky Back Room access.
  • The power to upvote or downvote posts in the comments section as many as three times.
  • Going forward, we've raised the resolution limit in our image galleries to four megapixels, but only Gold subscribers get access.

Additionally, the usernames of our very best supporters will be shown on our list of the top 10 contributors, visible in various places across the site.

1. FrodoB $424
2. Anonymous Gerbil $286
3. Damage $150
4. SamwiseG $116
5. Merry $96
6. Saruman $75
7. Mr. Took $50
8. Anonymous Gerbil $50
9. tbombadil $37
10. tbeard $36

Of course, the biggest benefit of subscribing is TR's continued health and ability to publish the sort of high-quality content we always have. In fact, if this crazy scheme works out well, we'll put any extra funds we receive back into producing articles for the site and building additional features for subscribers. We have a whole bucket-load of cool ideas for subscriber perks that we'd love to implement.

Speaking of added perks, we've decided to kick off our subscriptions push with a little something extra. The top 10 subscribers as of noon Central time on March 21, 2014 will get to choose from one of these three items:

  • Dinner with a TR editor. If you can make it to our location, you can can dine with either me (in Kansas City or perhaps San Francisco/Silicon Valley, since I visit there fairly often), Geoff and Cyril (in Vancouver) or Jordan (in New York City). We'll pick up the check.
  • An appearance on the TR podcast where you can talk tech with the panel for a segment.
  • An executive producer credit for one episode of the podcast.

Don't worry if your initial contribution gets bumped out of the top 10 by a small amount. You can add more to your total at will.

I'm hoping I can treat somebody to some genuine Kansas City barbecue.

Right now, though, we need your help. You can go right here to sign up for an annual subscription. If you still have questions about how this whole deal works, you can check out our FAQ for more info. And I'll be answering questions not covered by the FAQ in the comments below. Thanks in advance for your support.

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