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.

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