How do you get people to pay for something they can get for free?

That’s the question that worries me during our fundraising drive . Obviously, I don’t have the answer. Because, to be perfectly honest, if I did I wouldn’t be working here: I’d be getting rich working for some billionaire media mogul who wrestles with the same problem.

But then when I became independently wealthy I’d come back to First Things and work for free. No lie. I really would. You know how people always say you should choose a career doing what you’d do even if you didn’t get paid? Almost no one gets that lucky. But I am.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way that I do about First Things . If they did I wouldn’t have to bother trying to convince them that they should support this venture . But it got me to thinking: How much do people value First Things ? Could it be more than they realize?

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine you visit this website tomorrow and find it’s gone. It’s simply disappeared into the ether. Some people wouldn’t think much about it before clicking away to watch more cat videos on YouTube. But some people would care—and this next question is for them: What if someone said they could bring back First Things for, say, three cents. Would you be willing to pay three cents for another day of First Things ? Don’t answer just yet. I want to you to consider one more point first.

How much is your time worth? You probably have a job, and likely one that pays more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. But let’s start there. At that rate you could earn twelve cents a minute. So at a minimum, your time is worth twelve cents a minute; three cents would therefore be equivalent to fifteen seconds of your time.

If you’re the type of person who would read this far (and I’m glad I’m not having to pay you for wasting your time) then you probably consider you’re time spent on FirstThings.com worth more than three cents. Hopefully you find, on average, at least fifteen seconds worth of value each day.

So if you were forced to choose, you might be willing to pay three cents a day—$10 a year—to bring this site back. Why then wouldn’t you give to keep it from going away?

I’m sure you can think of a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t donate $10 to this magazine . But I can think of one good reason you should: Because, more often than not, you get your three cents worth of value each time you visit.

Articles by Joe Carter

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