Think Pieces

Michael's thoughts on the auto industry, its products, and/or this website.

How TrueDelta Will Pay the Bills

Every once in a while someone asks, "You say you'll provide results free of charge to anyone who participates in the research. But you've got bills to pay. So what's the catch?"

Well, there isn't one. Here's how it's going to work...

People who complete the surveys deserve to see the results

Those who take the time to provide the reliability data deserve to see the results of their efforts. Now, Consumer Reports doesn't operate this way. They charge those who return surveys the same subscription rate as those who do nothing to help out. Neither does J.D. Power, which simply doesn't provide consumers with detailed reliability information. Instead, they sell the details to the manufacturers for far more money than any car buyer would be willing to pay.

TrueDelta is different. If you help provide the data, then you get to view the product of your work.

People who don't help out won't get a free ride

Thousands of people have already signed up to help out, and I'm grateful for this. But many other people simply don't want to fill out surveys. It wouldn't be fair to give these people access to results they were not willing to help make possible. So, starting in the spring of 2007, TrueDelta will start offering the alternative of a paid, non-participating membership.

The amount hasn't been settled, but I'm leaning towards a choice of $10 per quarter or $25 per year. The top priority is the size of the panel, so the amounts need to be high enough that anyone willing to participate in the surveys takes that route.

A problem: people who sign up to participate, but who don't respond to the surveys

Currently, about half of the people who sign up to participate actually respond to the surveys when asked to do so. Which means half do not.

This isn't the same as illegally downloading music off the Internet. Having more paying customers doesn't increase a band's ability to make music. In contrast, the quality of TrueDelta's reliability results is strongly influenced by the number of people who participate. The larger the sample, the more precise the results. So when people sign up to participate, then don't, everyone suffers.

I have not yet decided what to do about this problem. It's possible that in the future new members will have to pay the quarterly fee to join, but that those who participate when asked to do so will not have to pay anything else after that.

If anyone has suggestions, please send them.

Everyone Wins

Through this combination, everyone wins. Research participants get free access to the results. This encourages participation, improving the quality of the results for everyone. It also properly rewards participants for their time and effort. Meanwhile, those who don't participate will help pay the expenses of the site, so those who do participate won't have to.

Thanks for reading.

Michael Karesh, TrueDelta

First posted: December 14, 2006
Last updated: December 14, 2006

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