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Sep 292011
 

Spare some change, mister?

Our annual fundraising appeals, modeled on the PBS style of voluntary support in return for unlimited high quality and free content, always present a fascinating insight into human nature.  Here are some thoughts, grouped under three headings, about this year.

Why Some People Support The Travel Insider

One of the most interesting examples this year was when I corresponded with John, who has been regularly contributing every quarter for three years now.  I wrote to thank him when his latest contribution came in, and he told me that he is no longer in the travel industry, not even in the US any more, and the last time he had even read a Travel Insider newsletter was nine months ago.  But still he continues to contribute.  Amazing.

Another interesting contribution was from Frank.  He wrote to say that he found the three methods of contributing (Paypal, direct credit card, or mailing a check) all to be too much hassle.  I wrote briefly back to him accepting the sad reality that you can’t please all the people, all the time; the next thing I know, he sent in a contribution for $25 along with a note saying ‘I realized that if I was prepared to take the time and effort to write to you complaining, I could/should take the time and effort to send you a contribution too.’  🙂

One of the smaller contributions was a sum of $6.62 from Brian.  That slightly puzzled me until Brian wrote in to explain.  Maybe his suggestion might apply to you, too?  He said :

Since money is tight. I thought of a great way to help both of us out.  Everyone has those Visa/AX gift cards laying around which they have used, but not quite spent all the money on, but there is not enough to really do anything with, so you throw them in the drawer and forget about them (exactly what Visa/AX wants us to do).

When I got the newsletter today I thought I need to make a contribution, and when I reached in to grab my credit card I saw one of those cards in my wallet.  I called up to see the balance and it was just enough to buy some overpriced coffee (which I don’t drink) and that’s when the idea of using these small amounts hit me.  So I made a contribution today of a small amount, but tonight when I get home I will pull out the other gift cards and make some more contributions.

This way I get to clean my drawer of useless gift cards, and help you at the same time.  I’m sure if you mentioned in the next newsletter, everybody has a gift card sitting in a drawer, that they could contribute.

Some contributions are very moving, even – perhaps particularly – when they are small in nature, because I know that to these people, a $5 or $10 contribution ‘costs’ them a great deal more than $50 or $100 does from other people.  I am always humbled by such generosity.

Then there are the mystery donors.  Some supporters seem to consistently donate only every other year.  What about (in this case) the even numbered years – why are those always missed?  There are the ‘consistent’ donors who send in the same each year, and the ones who terribly over-compensate for inflation, with major increases in amount each year, which always leaves me wondering what will come next (answer, in at least one case, after a series of doublings of amount each year – retirement and a retreat back to a more sustainable level of support!).

Then there are the people who send in a diminished amount each year.  They start off with a bang, then each year the amount reduces from the previous year.  A puzzlement.

Another puzzlement are the people who suddenly start contributing after years of not doing so.  What was the magic alignment of the stars that finally motivated them to respond (if I could work out a reproducible answer to that question, I’d be in much less parlous financial straits now than I am!).

But enough of all these people – all these wonderful people, all these actively contributing supporters of The Travel Insider.  May I now suggest why you should join their ranks.

Reasons to Support The Travel Insider

This last week actually provides some good examples of where The Travel Insider provides unequalled coverage, content and commentary.

On Wednesday morning, Amazon announced their new Android based color tablet eBook reader.  This was widely expected, but not so widely expected was the announcement of three additional models in their existing Kindle line of eBook readers, and the very aggressive pricing that all models were set at.

While other websites parroted off pre-prepared press releases, and dutifully commented on suggested lists of talking points, The Travel Insider, alone, provided you not just with an immediate 500 word blog entry answering the key question ‘Should you rush out to buy one or not’ but followed up with a three page, 6,000 word, detailed analysis of the new products and their competitive standing compared to the Barnes & Noble Nook Color and Apple’s iPad.  No-one else, anywhere, wrote in such detail or originality.

Earlier in the last week I took a very carefully neutral item in a newspaper and changed it into a stinging indictment of how United Airlines is abusing its retirees.  That article has now reverberated around the internet, and has been picked up by various other places, including, I’m sure, various UA retiree newsgroups.

I’m not saying that my commentary will change anything, but it adds a small element of public accountability that was completely lacking in the earlier dispassionate reporting.  Maybe it will help discourage some other airline from some similar action in the future – and here in particular is where you help.  Please help The Travel Insider to have a louder and a stronger voice, so we all can benefit from the greater accountability and pressure on the airlines and other organizations that become focuses of our editorial coverage.

Then there’s another article that looks at things from an opposite point of view to that of conventional wisdom.  Instead of expressing approval that a drunk passenger on a flight to London was sent to jail, I express dismay, and contrast his draconian sentence for something that in all probability, British Airways was equally at fault with, to the appallingly ineffective ‘look the other way’ non-sentencing that is routinely handed down to career criminals in the UK.

We need to have our assumptions occasionally challenged, and we need to re-examine conventional wisdom.  The Travel Insider does this.  But who else does?

The Alternative to Reader Support

And now for a thought that is too ghastly to consider.  But a thought that needs to be understood and responded to.

At present, The Travel Insider gets income from ‘independent, third party’ advertising – that is, advertising that I don’t directly contract with, but which comes in through ad brokers and from Google, from reader support and from occasional (once or twice a year) Travel Insider tours.  I’m not editorially beholden to the advertisers (or indeed to readers, either – I’m totally free to call the shots as I see them).

What would the alternative to this PBS model be?  Here’s an interesting story about how fake reviewers can make big money readily, working on contract to post fake reviews on various websites such as TripAdvisor and Amazon.  $10 per fake review on Amazon?

I’ve occasionally had gentle feelers put out to see if I’d be interested in prostituting the good name of The Travel Insider in the form of unrealistically positive reviews, both on my site, and in my name elsewhere.  I’ve never been remotely tempted by such an abhorrent thought.

Please help me to remain incorruptible into the future.  And if you should ever start to notice a string of positive reviews of airline experiences, such as some other bloggers come ‘airline groupies’ seem to specialize in, then be afraid, be very afraid!  But, of course, there’s no way I could change my ‘voice’ so drastically, so it just never will happen.

I’ve deliberately chosen ‘the road less traveled’.  I don’t obey the clearly understood but unwritten rules associated with getting industry freebies, and so generally don’t get any such things.  I have to buy, myself, the products I write about and review.  But that frees me to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; as it really is, and in comprehensive details.  I give real useful information that real people such as yourself can benefit from, rather than useless glossy pieces of recycled public relations frippery that mean nothing to normal people.

So, please do help perpetuate The Travel Insider’s ‘take no prisoners’ approach to reporting and reviewing the reality of the world around us.  Your contribution, be it as little as $5 or as extraordinarily generous as $500 will help extend our viability through the year ahead.  Cash, check, credit card, you name it, we’ll take it with pleasure and gratitude.  Full details here.

And thank you.  Thank you for being a reader, and thank you even more if you are also a supporter.

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