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.

Have more money than time?
Back us.

$89/year

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

Have more time than money?
Barter with us.

90 minutes of your 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

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

Have more money than time?
Back us.

$89/year

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

Have more time than money?
Barter with us.

90 minutes of your 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.