Overnight we crossed the $500,000 mark. And, as I’ve told you maybe five million times now, that was our goal. That’s amazing. We are all super pumped. We’re really grateful.
It reminds me of a central reality of this organization and this community: the sheet anchor of a robust and resilient news organization is a community of readers who are engaged with and feel personally connected to its work and existence. I wasn’t kidding when I said yesterday morning that I thought we were going to miss this milestone. Yesterday mid-morning we were at about $455,000 and we’d been averaging in the low-teens of thousands on weekdays in the final days of the drive. I figured we’d have some final surge. But the math with two more days was still a stretch. But over the whole day yesterday we ended up raising just under $50,000. So what seemed like a stretch over two days we ended up accomplishing in a single day.
Let me go back to my point about the centrality of a publication’s relationship with its readers. I mentioned to a couple of my colleagues yesterday that our relative under-performance over the years in things like social distribution, page views and the like had often turned out to be a hidden strength. It’s not that that underperformance itself helped us per se. But it obscured what turned out to be more significant strengths. As we’ve been discussing on other fronts in recent days, the distribution power of social platforms is ephemeral and, more importantly, really beyond a publication’s true control. A relationship with a community of readers is not. You don’t “control” it exactly. But its vitality is very much tied to your actions. And it was that relationship, that dense fabric of connections with our readers, that allowed us to get a head start on building a robust membership program years in advance of most publications even realizing one would be needed. TPM remains a vibrant operation directly because of our readers when so many other publications are gone.
I’m too respectful of the karma gods to make too much of a point of it. But let’s be honest. Half a million dollars is an absolute ton of money. As I’ve said, that goal wasn’t just a lark or a flex. It’s what we needed this year. But I’ve seen many other independent publications (and some not at all independent publications) struggle to raise substantially smaller sums. Again, karma: not going to point to other examples. We’re in a posture of gratitude. I raise this simply to make the point again that that relationship we have with you is critical.
I had several emails from readers over the course of this drive who told me that they had contributed because they felt a personal connection with TPM that they don’t feel with other publications they read — even publications they subscribe to, believe are important, etc. The most consistent refrain is that they felt like they know us. They hear from David and Nicole and me every day. You hear from our reporters every day. You hear Kate and my freewheeling podcast conversations weekly. You don’t hear as often from two other principals of the organization, John and Joe. But you know them by their work. And I’m not forgetting Josh, Jackie, Matt, Jacob, Hunter, Emine, Christine and Derick. Some names are less visible to you but everybody listed here is a critical part of what you see on the page everyday. It’s a small team. The point these emailers made to me — not as the reason they contributed per se but as their own understanding of why they perceive us differently — is that we speak to them directly every day, not just during a pinch or an annual drive.
Let me round this out by noting that this feature of this organization goes back to its editorial core. It grows out of our editorial process. I had very little sense of any of this, the various ways it would be important, when I started doing this 23 years ago. From literally the first day, emails from readers became a core element of the editorial process: feedback, tips, links to stories I hadn’t seen, pointers from people who had a professional understanding of the dynamics of something I was reporting on, people on the inside who had a lead. (Executive Editor David Kurtz’s relationship with TPM began as a reader who flagged stories to me and insights about how new leads might fit into larger storylines.) This dialog with readers was an organic part of the editorial process and that’s what got me hooked. That’s what makes this organization work and thrive: the business model and publication strategies are umbilically tied to the editorial process.
We’ll probably have more to say on this today. We want to celebrate. But no more asks. We’ve met our goal. The drive continues through today. If you want to contribute, awesome. You can contribute today to celebrate our joint success. All additional funds will be put to use, I assure you. But we’ve met our goal. So don’t feel obligated. We’ll be able to dispense with daily updates and pushes. I’m tired of them. I know you are too. But they were necessary and they got us here.
Thank you. We literally could not have done it without you.