The Backer-Barter Model

A different kind of membership for a different kind of magazine.

Pipe Wrench is an online magazine that borrows its unique structure from conversations. It’s primarily funded by its readers, so how we approach reader revenue also needs to be a conversation.

As writers and publishers each ask more readers to support their work directly, there are two consequences. One is subscription fatigue: households and individuals can only afford so many recurring payments, all of which compete with every other cost of living. The other is that subscription businesses, like most businesses, tend to underprice everyone’s time.

Even people who love writing pick up extractive habits. Many readers, unless required to pay, expect free content. Many publishers, to satisfy advertisers or investors, do not respect readers’ time. Free content requires cheap or devalued labor. Free time requires an ability to postpone commitments and constraints.

When the right solution meets unmet needs, people make time or find the money. Since most of us have more of one resource than the other, we’ve created a membership model where money and time count equally as forms of payment. 

At Pipe Wrench, Barter Members can make time, and Backer Members can find the money. No one has unlimited resources, but Pipe Wrench members can afford one or the other — and every member values reciprocity over extraction. Material circumstances change, so Pipe Wrench accounts for that inequality in our business model. 

In exchange, Pipe Wrench will: (1) publish a great magazine; (2) set a high industry standard for working with contributors; (3) address unmet needs in conversation with members; and (4) exist, sustaining ourselves as a small business. Members can also opt to receive Vicarious Therapy, a human-first newsletter about what publishing does to our emotions.

We believe that the Backer-Barter model will help us deepen our conversations with readers, expand what we can offer, and last. As membership grows, we will be able to increase our capacity, meet more needs, and take more requests. No one does their best work without conversations or collaborators. We don’t, either.

We’re trying to survive the same pandemic everyone else is. It’s radically altered our perception of time, a resource we underestimate at our own risk. It’s made us value labor more, too. We suspect we’re not alone.

More money than time? Back us.

$89/year

Help us sustain a more human media company. Underwrite graduated payments for creative work, compensate Pipe Wrench‘s staff, and support Barter Members’ investment of time.

More time than money? Barter.

90 minutes of time/year

Help us decide where to invest resources, understand what’s working and what’s not, fill our expertise gaps, and expand our mission to meet members’ needs directly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a Backer Member and a Barter Member?

Backer Members support Pipe Wrench with money. Barter Members support Pipe Wrench with Time, Expertise, or Introductions. Backer Members and Barter Members are the same. They are just paying in a different currency. 

In exchange for becoming either type of member, Pipe Wrench will: (1) publish an online magazine that members value; (2) set a high industry standard for supporting and working with contributors; and (3) exist, which means Pipe Wrench Media LLC will function, work, and sustain itself as a profitable small business. The version of Pipe Wrench that members value will last.

Can I join as both a Backer Member and a Barter Member?

Yes! Please join as a Backer Member first.

How do I barter time? What does that mean?

In Pipe Wrench currency, Time is worth $75/hour. If you are bartering Time, we cap our requests to ask for about 90 minutes of any one member’s Time in a year. This will most often look like filling out surveys for up to 15 minutes every other month. The surveys will often be short questionnaires about your interests and opinions. This will allow Pipe Wrench to research and understand what members want and need. Do you have 15 minutes of free time every other month? Do you like thinking about ideas, writing, work, and ethics? Are you a fan of quizzes, personality tests, Scantrons, trivia night, therapy, self-help, or astrology? Do you have a lot of opinions about this membership page? Does your variable income or crushing debt make it difficult to commit to recurring payments? Barter Time.

I subscribed to Pipe Wrench — with money! — before September 28, 2021. Can I become a Barter Member before my paid subscription renews?

Sure!If you’ve been a monthly paid subscriber, we’ll convert your subscription as soon as we can. You will get an email confirming the end of your paid subscription, and a welcome email to your Barter Membership.

If you’re an annual paid subscriber, use the buttons above to join as a Barter Member whenever you’re ready. You’ll get a welcome email to your Barter Membership within a week, and a separate email confirming the end of your paid subscription in November 2021 well before what would have been your annual renewal date.

We appreciate your patience! We’ll get to everyone, we promise.

Have a question that’s not answered here ? Get in touch with us at members@pipewrenchmag.com.

More money than time? Back us.

$89/year

Help us sustain a more human media company. Underwrite graduated payments for creative work, compensate Pipe Wrench‘s staff, and support Barter Members’ investment of time.

More time than money? Barter.

90 minutes of time/year

Help us decide where to invest resources, understand what’s working and what’s not, fill our expertise gaps, and expand our mission to meet members’ needs directly.