Times are hard for all media, and particularly for alternative media. This is due to a combination of factors including but not limited to a growing audience disinclination to pay for information. If you couple that with alternative media being unable, in many cases, to get foundation or large donor funding, and with its commitment to not selling its audience to advertisers, which would likely yield little revenue in any event, the situation becomes dire.
In the face of such trends, only a few avenues, other than surrender and dissolution, exist.
- A project can seek to generate new income from new channels, to pay its bills.
- A project can severely reduce its costs.
- A project can convince its audiences that support is desirable and worth their attention.
Z is following all these paths.
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We are working beyond our own institution, for added income. We are cutting Z salaries of two of the three full time staff by 50%, after having also drastically cut all other smaller but significant budget items – such as costs of our online operations. And, in this mailing – which will reach roughly 100,000 people, and more if you pass it along – we are going to try to convince you of the desirability of giving Z some support.
Do you yourself personally directly gain by virtue of Z’s continued existence and work?
If you do, that would be one simple and obvious reason to support it. The widespread idea that you shouldn’t support it, in that case, because you can, after all, get virtually all its content free, has two problems.
First, if you and others take that tack – there will either be no information from Z, or we will have to charge for all information we generate and convey.
And second, even if we manage to cut costs enough – like salaries – and to generate external income enough, by taking on work outside our operations – is it right that we should do that to sustain Z, rather than its huge pool of users sustaining it?
But what if you yourself don’t directly benefit very much from Z?
Think of those who write for Z or who work for it. The former get no payment for their labor. The latter get modest payment – which is soon to be less than minimal. In short, these folks provide labor free or nearly free. Why do they – we – do this?
Well, it isn’t because of non-income benefits we receive. The writers and the workers generating Z don’t do it for intellectual or emotional gains we get in reading the final product, for example, much less for the intrinsic fun of doing the work – it is not fun. No. We do it because of gains we hope and believe others will get, and movements will get, and society will get, from the appearance of the product. Is this stupidity on our part, and thus a mindset others ought to reject? Or is it exemplary, and thus a mindset others ought to cultivate?
I sometimes get email that says why are you fundraising? Sometimes such email is civil, honest, sincere. Sometimes, however, it is really aggressive, like, where the hell do you get off asking me for money. But all the time, ultimately, such email says, just do it all free. Give it to me free. Indeed, I will get messages like that in response to this emailing, and to coming campaigns on the Z site. And I am dumbfounded by it. Can leftists really think that that posture – do it free, give it to me free – is progressive?
Then by way of explanation, someone will add, I can get the information that I want without paying for it, without donating to sustain it, so why should I send Z any funds at all? And, again, to me this is mystifying. What it says is, I can get your information if I don’t support its production and dissemination, as long as others do – whether they do so by giving free labor or they do so by donating in response to appeals. So why should I donate?
Well, here is an answer that applies even if the person who is asking doesn’t, him or herself, get much gain out of reading Z. Suppose he or she is brilliant and incredibly knowledgeable, and knows everything that Z reports, analyzes, and discusses, without reading it, for example. Or suppose that for anything that the person does need to read, the authors send the material to to the person directly, as occurs, say, for some of our writers, who write for free, nonetheless. Or as occurs, say, for the three of us who do the labor, at cut rates.
The answer is, support Z anyhow because you believe in alternative media, because you realize that alternative media benefits society and movements, and because you realize that the extent to which that occurs or not depends hugely on reader support.