Thomas L. Knapp

Tom Knapp is the publisher of Rational Review.

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Getting from here to there
by Thomas L. Knapp

On May 23 -- a little more than a month ago -- I came to Rational Review's readers with my usual periodic plea for financial assistance ... and a bit of an ultimatum. The publication, I said, wasn't making it financially and couldn't continue as it had. And I specified something of a deadline (June 23), after which we'd re-evaluate things and see where they stood. Having done that, it's only fair that I should now report back to our readers, so here we go:

  • A number of readers responded with one-time contributions and "subscribing donor" pledges. We're still not where we need to be, but we're making progress. THANK YOU for your support!

  • Rational Review introduced its partner program, which promises to generate additional revenues; in tandem with that program, we introduced our "resource directory" feature. We still have high hopes that this combination will prove key not only to the financial survival of Rational Review, but to our effectiveness in putting libertarian ideas in front of more readers.

To summarize, we ain't goin' nowhere. You came through; not with enough to keep us afloat permanently, but with enough elicit our rededication to seeing this thing through.

Rational Review News Digest just completed its sixth full calendar month of daily email publication, without a single interruption or missed issue. Our email circulation is fairly stable at 2,200, with another 50-100 subscribers "bouncing" and then coming back at any given time.

Web traffic continues to grow, although the stat package on our old site had been overly optimistic as to how many readers we had -- the actual number is closer to 7,000 unique users per month than the 11,000 we thought we were serving.

And then, of course, there is the matter of the server crash we experienced last week. With Murphy's Law in operation, we lost our entire "resource directory" database and the scripting used to create it. We learned an important lesson about trusting the data center to adhere to its stated backup policy.

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Our web host learned the same lesson, and is moving to a new data center, and we'll be keeping our own backups as well in the future -- something we should have done anyway, but that just didn't happen due to my absent-mindedness. On the new server, we are building not only a new "resource directory" system, but a whole new Rational Review site at this very moment, hopefully to be unveiled in the next 10 days or so.

The downside to this is that we cannot, in good conscience, recruit new partner organizations until we can provide them the promised benefits. As a matter of fact, we'll be extending our current partners' terms to account for the loss of some services during this rebuilding process. That policy is sound, moral, and in my opinion necessary to preserve our reputation as square dealers. Of course, it also affects our finances adversely.

So, ladies and gentlemen, it's pledge week again. I try to keep these donation pitches to a minimum, because I'd rather spend my time getting the great content Rational Review has become known for in front of you than trying to get you to disgorge money from your wallet.

But let me get back to that great content.

Did I mention that Rational Review News Digest will be publishing its 141st consecutive edition overnight tonight? That we haven't missed one yet? Based on the "normal" size of RRND, this means that we've brought our email readers somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,600 news and commentary links and descriptions and our web readers more than 7,000. And although our masthead claims that we publish each weekday "except holidays," we've already decided that there will be an RRND on Independence Day this year.

Did I mention that Rational Review has already published more than 70 original columns and cartoons this year -- more in the first six months of 2003 than in all of 2002?

Or that the "resource directory," which was approaching 2,000 linked and described items at the time it disappeared into Ye Olde Dustbin of History, will be back in the immediate future and will likely exceed 10,000 searchable links by the end of the year?

We're making our mark on the libertarian movement and on the American and world political cultures. It's just a scratch at present, but that scratch is getting deeper and longer. Our readership continues to increase. Our editors are increasingly being noticed and asked to speak before groups or give interviews to print and radio media sources. We're seeing an increasing trend of Rational Review and Rational Review News Digest material being quoted and forwarded on the Internet -- including outright plagiarism of Mary Lou's column by a "conservative" site at one point. Theft is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess.

This is the kind of stuff that you're making possible with your donation or subscription pledge.

We're still dedicated to becoming what our masthead says we are: "The premier web journal of libertarian news and commentary on politics and culture." And we're even expanding our horizons beyond that lofty goal, as I expect to be able to report in more detail in the next week or so.

But getting from here to there does have costs, and I'll reiterate a few of them once again:

This is my full-time job. I've been working "on the side" as necessary, but every hour I spend hawking ice cream is an hour that is not spent building Rational Review. Three other editors work part-time, five nights a week, to bring Rational Review News Digest to you. They deserve to be compensated, and I'd not ask them to continue without being compensated. All six of our editors -- and a de facto seventh editor who is doing substantial tech work on the site, Brad Spangler -- spend significant time making Rational Review happen.

Then, of course, there's hosting, bandwidth, domain registration ... and, on my end, the simple fact that I can't work without Internet access, a phone line and a roof. It looks like the house payment will be made -- this month. But at some point, things have to be caught up, not just strung out enough to keep the wolves away.

So: Help us out.

There are bunch of ways you can support Rational Review. Links for making a one-time contribution are located in the left column of the news page. We also have a page covering donor premiums and subscription pledges which come with goodies. Our Rational Review Premium feature includes more content, file downloads, advance access to articles, advertising and media services. Finally, we offer "Six ways to support Rational Review" that don't necessarily include forking over money, and the ability to support the individual editor of your choice. Call us anything you like, but don't say that we lack variety!

That's about the size of it folks. We're here. We're staying the course, improving and expanding our offerings and continuing to serve our audience. Operators are standing by ... well, no they aren't. But the web is 24/7, and we appreciate your support.

Yours in liberty,
Tom Knapp
Rational Review