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Thursday, November 17, 2016

This Is Our Moment: Pledge Your Support

FEE Is leading the way toward moving out of the morass and into the light.


Historians of science would call this moment “pre-paradigmatic.” One paradigm has failed. A new one has yet to emerge. There is a struggle for dominance in politics, culture, and ideas. 

The result is an air of confusion. You sense it. It is precisely in times like these that people are looking for a new way.

There have never been more opportunities for reaching people with ideas that are essential to this mission.What happens going forward is going to depend on the ideas that are familiar and credible in the public mind. For people who value freedom, cherish human flourishing, and reject authoritarian forms of government, it’s an opportunity. It’s what we have waited for.

For 70 years, the Foundation for Economic Education has worked for a free and prosperous world through the power of ideas. Even at the highest point of FEE’s influence in the past, we’ve never seen anything like what we are seeing today. Now it is time to take it to the next level.

Today, there have never been more opportunities for reaching people with ideas that are essential to this mission. Our goal is ambitious. We want to shift the conversation for an entire generation, molding the lens through which they view the world and making the principles of a free society familiar and credible to young people.

To achieve it, we need the most advanced technology, the widest distribution, and the highest-quality content. FEE is right now achieving all three. 

However, we need to grow more, reach more, change more minds, broaden the impact. To expand this successful model, we need your support.

If you have never supported FEE before, please consider doing so today. If you have in the past and stopped, consider renewing your support.

High Demand

On a typical day, three out of five people who are reading FEE are new users.The demand for the content being produced by FEE right now has never been higher. Our readership has doubled in each of the past three years. We have broken through one million viewers per month and we are rising.

Imagine all the people packed into a football stadium on Sunday during the NFL broadcast. That’s how many people visit FEE every two days (100K). And they aren’t just the same in-crowd. On a typical day, three out of five people who are reading FEE are new users.

We are reaching out as never before. For many people, FEE is their first exposure to a different point of view from what national politics and the mainstream media have offered. 

The journey doesn’t stop with one piece of content. FEE offers a continuum of content (over 70,000 pieces) and programs to provide a journey from curiosity to immersion to expertise, one user at a time. We actively collaborate with dozens of freedom-friendly organizations to do this.

If you are already a frequent visitor to FEE.org, you might already know what I mean. This site is full of intellectual adventure, making the greatest thoughts from the greatest minds accessible in so many forms, right where people live and work.

The Young

Consider that more than three-quarters of young people today own smartphones. And they use them … a tremendous amount. Nearly 40% admit they interact more with their phones than their parents, friends, teachers, or co-workers, according to a Bank of America survey. This is where they get their news. This is how they form their views on culture, politics, and economics. They read what their friends share, and they share with their own friends what they like.

The world has dramatically changed in the last 10 years, and the freedom message must change with it. The libraries, the big books, the experts on television – for a vast swath of tomorrow’s leaders, these do not exist. If an idea isn’t on their mobile device and not easy to read and share, it just doesn’t matter.

We can regret this or see it as a wonderful opportunity. It’s just the next step of technological evolution. Nothing will ever be the same.

Nearly all human knowledge exists somewhere inside that device. Finding wisdom, clarity, and a coherent worldview within it is another matter. The progressive-leaning sites have figured out how to hack the digital experience to push their worldview.

Where does that leave the ideas of freedom? Two years ago, the Foundation for Economic Education set out on a venture. We decided to take that long tradition out of the libraries and put it into the hands of young people. We decided to go where they are.

We have deployed a three-pronged strategy:

Technology

  • In 2015, we rebuilt FEE.org from scratch on a new open-source, cloud-hosted platform, designing it for scalability and flexibility.
  • We are now able to add new features almost every day, using expert designers and developers from around the world and seamlessly integrating the best commercial applications available for specialized functions.
  • As a result, we are able to maintain high performance and security regardless of traffic, employ state-of-the-art analytics and automated marketing tools, and optimize the site for search engines, mobile devices and a wealth of distribution channels.

Distribution

  • We analyzed all the ways people discover FEE content. We worked on developing existing acquisition channels, but also attempted to create brand new ones. These include: Google: We added keywords to 70 years of content, and ranked everything based on related and popular content within articles to increase visitor retention; Flipboard: This platform, which creates a virtual magazine experience, has 100 million users, and the FEE space has new subscribers daily; Medium: The blog-news site hybrid reaches users looking for serious content, marketing FEE to an elusive audience that takes our content to heart; Facebook: This became our top traffic source in the last year, thanks to carefully calibrated posts to achieve maximum saturation, with a result that 2.8 million individuals seeing our content every month; Twitter: Our precision strategy tags interested parties for retweets and maximum influence.
  • We employ all emerging technologies. For example: Push notifications for browsers quickly became a bigger traffic source than email; Mobile has become a more important platform than desktop – 60% of our traffic is on mobile devices; We built an email list that is gaining hundreds of subscribers per day; We built location-aware notifications to provide alerts about nearby FEE events.
  • FEE encourages re-publication: all our content is licensed in the commons, and has been translated and re-posted around the world. We built tools into FEE.org to make sharing easy.

Content and Audience Analysis

  • Our new analytic tools provide real-time views of what content people engage with, by author, topic, category, tag, and meta-properties. FEE’s editorial team monitors content in real-time and responds to traffic trends minute by minute. Our team builds an intuitive sense of what works by continuous experimentation.
  • We publish up to 13 pieces per day, seven days per week, meaning that the team works constantly for around-the-clock coverage, hitting trending topics and news. We have content designed for in-reach, to help people already in our audience travel further down the path toward discovering the fullness of the freedom philosophy. We have content designed for outreach, that is, material that our fans will share to others, so we can recruit more users into the FEE universe. We have content designed to overlap existing and new users so that we can maintain an integrated experience.
  • We carefully track the user experience with our content – crafting each new piece of content to achieve defined objectives. Our content production team includes writers all over the world who stay in constant contact, so we can respond to news relevant to the cause of freedom within minutes after it breaks, and push that perspective out to the world in record time.

As a result of these two years of hard work, building, testing, and growth, FEE now possesses an unrivaled information architecture – and a highly modernized version of what Leonard Read aspired to create when he founded FEE in 1946. It’s the best technology, best content, and best distribution in the service of human liberty ever created.

And the results are spectacular

Where do we go from here? We live at the very dawn of a new world of information, production, and distribution.Every weekday, we are generating 50,000 to 70,000 user experiences, producing more than one million per month. Every experience is designed to draw people into a deeper relationship with the ideas of liberty and provide a counterbalance to the progressive domination of the internet. FEE reaches in one day what was the total subscriber base of our magazine at its height in the 1980s. FEE built an international movement back then; just imagine what we can do with this reach today!

Our writers are frequently contacted by leading news outlets such as FOX, the BBC, the New York Times, and National Public Radio for comment and interviews. Our mass-media reach will be in the tens of millions this year.

In a short time, FEE has become the liveliest website for liberty education in the world. Within two years, it is quite possible our total digital outreach from all our online properties (FEE.org, YouTube channel, and social media pages) could exceed 50 million unique individuals annually.

The Future

Where do we go from here? We live at the very dawn of a new world of information production and distribution. FEE is dedicated to leading the way. For too long, freedom lovers have sat back with a sense of regret at how the world has changed. With all these efforts, this is no longer the case. We can look forward to helping a new generation discover a different perspective on economics, politics, and morality and how that relates to public life.

The beautiful feature here is that so many great thinkers of the past (Leonard Read, Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and so many others) did the truly hard intellectual work. We owe it to their memories and sacrifices to do everything we can in our own time to extend that intellectual tradition into the future.

We have the technology. We have the process. We are building the audience.But in the end, this isn’t just about digital traffic and smartphone clicks. It is about what is sometimes called “mind space” – the ideas that occupy our thoughts and influence the way we see the world. Ludwig von Mises never tired of saying that ideas are more powerful than armies. We still believe that – and it’s never been truer than in the digital age.

“Suppose my ideas on liberty were so widely accepted by others that freedom might prevail as our way of life,” wrote Read. “I would prefer this above all the dollars in Christendom.”

FEE is working to realize that dream.  

Your Role, Your Support

We have the technology. We have the process. We are building the audience. But more than anything right now, we need the resources to continue on this path. We need to know of your faith in ideas and your enthusiasm for this new path for FEE.

Your financial support is critically important here. We don’t take money from governments. Everything we do should and will reflect the integrity of FEE’s long history as the leading voice for a free and prosperous world.

We cannot fail to engage this current generation on these ideas. The struggle for freedom is too important. Please consider giving your most generous financial contribution today, and making FEE part of your ongoing giving plans. Onward to a freer world!

P.S. We know that technology can sometimes be a hard sell. But consider what it means to have a voice for freedom reaching right where young people are living their lives. Our progress depends on this. Please be as generous as you can.