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To Paywall, or Not to Paywall, That is the Question

BY Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 16 2012

Dear readers and friends:

We're writing today to ask for your advice.

In the last nine years, we are proud to have built a successful annual conference and award-winning news site dedicated to bringing together the community of people who are not only just interested in how technology is changing politics and government, but actively involved in making that transformation happen every day.

Close to a thousand people come to the PDF conference every June in New York City, and we have more than 50,000 regular readers worldwide. That's a lot of you that care about disruptive technology and open politics.

We work hard to make the conference affordable and our journalism independent. We don't put high ticket prices or towering banner ads in the way of this global conversation. As a result, it might surprise some of you to know that we are a social enterprise, not a nonprofit. And like other online media businesses, we are challenged by the economics of the web. Between loyal sponsors and ticket-buyers, PDF the conference has been the anchor of our business. Along with the conference, we sustain the company through various consulting contracts and foundation grants that have helped us manage to make ends meet.

But in order to keep providing the kind of independent and deeply informed journalism we do here at techPresident, we need to find more ways to make that journalism support itself. You may already be a subscriber to Personal Democracy Plus, which offers exclusive content for professionals who want to stay up to speed on what their most tech-savvy peers are doing, and the tools they're using, in politics and government. Our WeGov section includes expanded international coverage, thanks to the generous support of the Omidyar Network.

And in the last few years, we've considerably expanded techPresident's daily work from a narrow focus on the presidential elections starting in 2007 to a sweeping, knowledgeable look at how technology is changing politics, government and civic life, in the United States and around the world. We've grown our staff to include seven knowledgeable and insightful reporters and editors, and are cultivating an international network of freelance writers. But to carry out this mandate we need to find a sustainable way to support the growth we've undergone and to grow further still. We're writing to include you in the conversation about how.

Here's what's on the table now: Under the plan we're considering, all of the conference content on PersonalDemocracy.com, including archival videos of our most popular talks, would remain freely available. And the first ten clicks a month on techPresident.com would still be free (except for our PDPlus stories and the morning First Post, which you already need to subscribe to get). But for unlimited access to all of techPresident, we would ask you to pay either $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year.

We don't want to exclude anyone, so if you want to pay extra to enable someone else to get a scholarship account, we'll make that option available too.

So now we need your feedback.

What do you think? Is this a good idea? And what can we do to be more valuable to you?

Please let us know, either in the comments below, on by taking this short survey, or simply by emailing me and/or Andrew directly.

With the greatest respect and appreciation for all you do,

Micah and Andrew