Popcorn and Z
By Michael Albert at Dec 23, 2007
Last night Lydia Sargent,, my sister Anita, and I went to see a movie: PS, I love you. But this blog isn't about the film or our film taste, though for the record the film was moderately entertaining.
On entering the theatre, we bought some munchies to eat while watching: a mid size popcorn, a mid size soda, and a package of Twizlers (red licorice). The bill for this smogasboard was over $14. We didn't finish the soda or the popcorn, though we did polish off the Twizlers. But this isn't about our munchies taste or appetite, though for the record the "food" was rather tasteless and probably took minutes if not hours off our lives.
Our munchies purchase was not the height of frugality or wisdom - but it was revealing, after the fact, it seems to me, about what ZCom is seeking when we ask people to become Sustainers for as lttle as $1 a month, which is, I guess,about the price of a fifth of a bag of popcorn.
This morning, the morning after the Twizlers, I woke up. The movie substance was essentially forgotten. The food expunged. I sat down to my email.
Making my day, I have to admit, I opened the following blog post from a ZCom Sustainer, David Bonner, which was relayed to me by a friend, Brian Kelly, who saw it online...in the new Z Sustainers Blog system.
"I've alway liked Z's promotions. Like those ZCom e-mailings we received on Friday. According to my computer, the total wordcount of those letters is 4,604. Conventional wisdom says that nobody will read that much copy. But conventional wisdom, as Michael Albert notes in his memoir, is based on sellers "manipulating and deceiving audiences into desired outcomes while having zero faith in the actual worth of what they have to offer" ( p.276). In contrast, M.A. and his colleagues know their audience, and that we want truth instead of manipulation and deception; and they obviously believe in the worth of what they have to offer, and that we do, too. As for me, I was sold by the time I finished the second paragraph of Letter #2, when he said that ignoring it "will be like a knife to our heart." (The letter is signed by the whole staff, but unless they really Pareconed it, I assume the words are M.A.'s.)
"The first promo mailing I ever received from Z was the one shown in my ZSpace picture. It is actually a 12-page mini-magazine, which made it a far more interesting piece of direct mail than what I had been receiving from other political sources. True, it's design was a bit amateurish, with a typo in Editor's letter, but it's deficiencies were outweighed by excerpts from previous articles, and pictures of some of the writers. That said, I apparently didn't act on this offer, because the reply envelope remains stapled in the centerfold. But I did subscribe shortly thereafter. And even though my subscriptions to ZMag and ZNet have lapsed several times, they always get me back. In fact, until last Friday, I was a Sustainer "in name only" -- i.e. a former sustainer. Of course, former sustainers were given the privilege of Beta Testing the new site because former sustainers, like former subscribers to Z or anything else, are good prospects. Even, or perhaps especially, when solicited by very long letters. (But I still don't know what the "Beta" part of the testing means. What if I prefer to "Zeta" test it instead?)
"In his memoir, M.A. tells of a particularly interesting Z-related promotion. During one of the periodic crises, he came up with the idea of unilaterally raising the donation levels of all ZNet Sustainers. (I must not have been Sustaining at that time, because I don't remember it.) Instead of asking them to raise it themselves, Sustainers were told that their donation levels would be automatically raised unless they specifically requested otherwise. In direct marketing lingo, this is called the "negative option," but I have never heard of the negative option being applied in such a daring fashion."
Thank you David.
But my guess is the biggest obstacle to other ZCom users following your lead, literally tens of thousands of them - and imagine the impact that would have - is not attachment to the cash they would be donating if they took your route - which could be as little as $1 a month - and is not frustration at my verbosity (which you kindly rebut) - but is instead hesitance to actually entering information in an account page, hesitance, though not mostly financial, to the idea of being a donor/supporter of a left project, and also taking the time to enter data as compared to abiding the ubiquitous time pressures that restrict us from undertaking such acts. To win change we have to overcome all those kinds of hesitance, someday, so why not now?
Returning to the popcorn in the movies...consider the $14 the three of us collectively blew. What might we have done with it, instead? Well, for a bit over two thirds of it, that is, for $10 a month, any one of us willing to forego the once a month "treat" at the movie, or something comparable, could get the following...and, of course the main news is - and it may push both ways, oddly - the payment - a donation - wouldn't pad the coffers of three profit seeking corporations (which rarely deters our expenditures), but would instead help finance the whole of ZCom - including Z Magazine, ZNet, ZVideo, etc. - all of which is not only non-profit but anti corporate.
Dumping the verbosity, for $10 a month to the Sustainer Program - you get all the following (and you get the best part of it, even just for $1 a month)
Sign up as a free member, and you get:
Access to all parts of ZCom including reading forums, blogs, etc.
Weekly Update EMails
Donate $1 a month to add:
Your own ZSpace Page, uploading a bio and photo - with friends features coming...
Uploading book and film citations, and full lyrics and quotes
Uploading book, film, and web preferences and reviews
Donate $3 a month to add:
Commenting throughout ZCom on all content
Nightly Commentary Email
Full Z Magazine online access
Full Forum and Mutual Aid posting
Join and Create ZSpace Groups
Donate $5 a month to add:
Uploading unlimited graphics, articles, and poems to your ZSpace
Your own online Blog System
A weekly newsletter
Donate $7 a month to add:
Extensive RSS options
Extensive Customization of your ZSpace page, coming...
Upload unlimited audio and video to your ZSpace page
And donate $10 a month to add:
Free Print Z Magazine Sub
And a 30% Z Store discount on all videos, subs, and Z Books (coming) and Z courses (coming)
I myself would rather not write letters, blog posts, and engage in clever ploys to elicit from our users the time it takes to go an account page and sign up at some level. Coming from me, for one thing, it isn't very compelling. After all, I am subjective about the merits of ZCom.
So, David, I thank you for doing what few of us on the left ever do - giving sincere praise and support, for no gain, to a project we like but are not intimately involved with, and trying to induce others to do likewise. I hope many people follow your exemplary lead, not just about ZCom, but all all the projects that people respect and feel worthy.