'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

All topics about cryopreservation costs, membership dues, etc.
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jcherry1111
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'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by jcherry1111 » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:03 pm

Hello,

As a medium-to-long time member (circa 1995), I wanted to provide any constructive feedback on Alcor’s financial status. At this point, I am concerned that the organization is possibly reaching a breaking point, which would be a shame since so much effort and hope was invested into Alcor’s future.
What concerns me the most is the move to rapidly increase membership fees beyond realistic means, such as occurred with Netflix, a company that saw a decline of 800,000 customers after an approximate 60% price increase. At least in Netflix’s situation, the product they offer is something tangible with mass appeal. In Alcor’s case, the product (reanimation) is barely tangible and offers basically “Hope” in the face of the inevitable end. At what price does “Hope” comes, and will such a rapid price increase make Alcor’s product even less attractive, resulting in further membership loss and a termination of the organization?

Rather than being a “doom sayer”, with no resolutions to offer, I wanted to present some ideas that might assist Alcor in its continued role as the manufacturer of “Hope”.

Increase Membership by Targeting Alcor’s True Audience

As of 1995, the growth of Alcor’s membership has remained tepid, almost stagnant. At that time, Alcor had around 400 to 450 members. I believe that the lack of growth is due an absence of aggressive efforts to increase its membership and the organization’s desire to cater to everybody. To resolve this issue, Alcor need to get its message out and to target its true supporters. Sure, Alcor’s plan can appeal to Christians and other religiously-minded individuals, but let’s face facts; if you truly believe you’ll be saved after your death, why would you invest in any alternatives? This point is not to dispute religion, but only to focus Alcor’s efforts on its true disciples; those who have chosen to put their faith in Science.

Anyone who attends the Alcor meetings and reads the blogs can determine the common factor with the majority of members, these are scientifically-minded people. They are attracted to hard science, science fiction, pseudo-scientific pursuits, fringe-science, innovations, and inventions. And like me, they were drawn to Alcor due to a faith in Science. My recruitment came as a result of an article regarding Alcor in the now-defunct Odyssey Magazine, in which the hard science of cryogenic was debated and emphasized. The article was followed up with a public television documentary on cryogenic. Both mediums channeled the “Hope of Science”. It’s this approach that should be our guide now and in the future.

Get the Message Out

I know that infomercials are a dirty word and bring about some negative connotations. However, this medium is successful in terms of acquiring market presence for a low outlay. The message can be dignified and informative, without resulting in something tacky. My recommendation would be to film a 30 second advertisement, just to see if the medium works for Alcor. It is either that or risk alienating the membership with continued price hikes or cutting overhead to the point that Alcor becomes inoperable. The organization needs revenue and members. It needs to grow and innovate.

Thirty seconds would give our Scientific Advisors and/or Directors (maybe Dr. Merkle with a message on nanotechnology and Dr. Wowk on the procedures for cryogenic preservation ) the ability to get that message of “Hope” to the right audience, and back it with hard science. A narration by Dr. More (is there anything a British Accent cannot make sound legitimate and scholarly) would also go far in sending Alcor’s message as well. Place that 30 second spot on the SyFy, Science Channel, Discovery, or a similar media channel, at an affordable time and place, and the organization takes the step from letting the financial situation deteriorate to innovating for improvements (just like every other successful business).

On Two More Issues

I did read in the blogs that Alcor’s problem was not the amount of members, but the growing costs that required an increase in membership fees. Assuming that the expenditures for overhead are the culprit, I still advocate for more aggressive efforts to increase the organization’s membership. There is not a business out there that does not benefit from the Economies of Scale. If it’s determine otherwise, then the overhead problems will definitely spell the end of Alcor.
Second, is to protect the money. As a former attorney, and currently employed as a White Collar Crime Investigator for the last ten years, I have seen too many nonprofits fail due to the greed or ambitions of one person. All the dreams, efforts, and hope simply get embezzled as well as the money. I know Alcor has had issues with embezzlement before, and hopefully auditing and accounting measure have been enacted to protect the organization. However, it’s always a constant problem with nonprofits, since they often employ lax auditing and have readily available resources
.
Again, Alcor has been a great salve for the issue of mortality. I wish everyone well and add my hope to Alcor’s future.

Thanks for reading.

Jason S. Cherry

TDK
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by TDK » Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:53 pm

I agree with you 100% on all fronts.

The increases in membership fees are a very bad idea.
It makes cryonics seem too expensive for the average person.
The cost of the yearly fees alone is going to scare away many potential members.
It makes current members doubt if they can afford to pay those fees the rest of their lives,
once they are on a fixed income. People have already talked about signing up at CI,
and then transferring back to Alcor once they are diagnosed with a terminal illness.
I know if my income decreased, and I couldn't afford my fees, that's exactly what
I would do. So that is really a bad thing, in terms of retaining members. And the
worst part, is that I used to be able to tell my "average" income friends, that being
an Alcor member is very affordable. That anyone who believes in science and
technology, can afford to become a member. That the cost is similar to their
cable tv bill. And it used to be. But that's no longer the case.
I think the fees need to be dramatically REDUCED. Not increased.
If the organization needs more money, that extra money should come
from increased life insurance contributions from cryopreservations.
Not from membership fees.

I have mentioned the infomercial thing many times before on these forums.
It's one of those things, that may or may not be successful. But you never know
until you try. Run some commercials for 6 months. See what happens. If you
get no response, no new members, then stop running the commercials. But
every company I know, who has done advertising, has almost always gotten
an excellent return on their investment. Generally they just start advertising
more, and more, and more, because they see the dramatic increase in sales.

I happen to have quite a few contacts and resources in the film and television
industries, and could probably help Alcor produce an infomercial for a very
reasonable price. Then it would just be about buying the air time.

Curator
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by Curator » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:00 am

I also have to concur here. Although most members are probably able to absorb the membership increases, I'm finding it difficult to make a case to others for Alcor anymore when it's no longer in affordable ranges for someone with an income that's subsistence level. It was bad enough when my ex considered Alcor too expensive at the $30 a month range back in the early 2000s and refused to join on account of financial reasons when she made six times what I do now.

I doubt I'd drop off the roster myself, as I honestly wish I could donate even more to Alcor for R&D into better cyro-preservatives and lobbying for changes to the legal system over the status of patients, but I fear at this stage it's impossible to convince my friends to join me in this endeavor.

TDK
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by TDK » Wed Apr 11, 2012 2:11 pm

It's also a fact that once people are signed up to any service, such as cable tv, internet, a cel phone contract, Netflix, etc, it's easier for people to just absorb small increases, rather than go through the hassle of canceling, and signing up with another provider. But as you mentioned, as the fees go higher and higher, it becomes harder and harder to get new people to sign up. Essentially the only people who will sign up, are people who are extremely committed to the technology, and consider cryonics extremely crucial to their life.

And honestly, when I first signed up, I was in my early 30's, and I was not considering it essential. It was a novelty. To me, it was something cool to try, even if the chances were slim. But because the chances are slim, it would never be something I would spend massive amounts of money on. But as long as the cost was minimal, I figured, "Why not?" Obviously, as people grow older, and run into more death, more illness, and become more aware of their own mortality, cryonics becomes more critical, more important to people. But by then, the cost of life insurance is very high.

So you really want to sign people up when they are young, adventurous, and willing to try something like this. But if you want to sign up younger people, the cost needs to be very affordable. Which means $100/month or less, including the life insurance. People pay $100/month for a cel phone data plan, $15/month for online gaming, $50/month for cable, and so on. So people are generally willing to add another $50/month, or maybe $100. But once it gets up to $200/month, it becomes beyond what most younger people are comfortable with. My life insurance runs about $100/month on it's own. Then Alcor fees add another $60-70/month. And that makes it beyond the comfort zone for most 20-something's.

So it really doesn't matter if you do massive advertising, if no one can afford to sign up.
If the price is so high, then you might as well focus on ways to pitch cryonics to the wealthy.
Because you need to look at the cost of life insurance. If people who are 50+ can't get new life insurance
policies that are affordable, then those more established adults who could afford the yearly fees,
won't be able to get the life insurance to fund the actual cryopreservation. And if you go for the
young people, who can get cheap life insurance, then you need to get the yearly fees down.
I think the best route is to focus on young people. Because they are more into technology,
science, and things like this. They are less religious than previous generations as well.
And if it's affordable, many more of them will sign up. And once they are signed up,
then they will stay the course, even if there are minor increases due to inflation, etc.
But the base cost always needs to remain affordable.

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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by Lisa » Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:59 pm

If anyone here would care to donate funds to create and run a national television advertizing campaign, I'd be more than glad to accept them. Just be aware that one 30 second spot in nationwide primetime costs upwards of $100,000 each time it airs. (and costs about $350,000 to produce) While, I love the suggestion to run such an ad for six months and see how it goes, the budget for such a project would represent a sum in excess of Alcor's operating budget for a decade and would require a substantial seven-figure gift from a very generous visionary. -Unless you want to increase dues to cover the costs...j/k!

TDK
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by TDK » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:56 pm

Each channel has different rates for every time of day, and every day of the week.
A cable TV system or satellite TV system has multiple prices for each and every channel.
Each local region has its own rate for its own local airings.

By law, local cable companies must allocate a certain amount of airtime to local commercials.
So when you see an ad for your local furniture store, or food place, they aren't paying $100,000 for 30 seconds.

http://www.spotonmediatv.com/NEWS/comme ... eMedia.htm

Since we mentioned that our target demographic would be non-religious,
intelligent, science-oriented people, you could probably bias your advertising
to run mainly in SF, LA, NY, and other major cosmopolitan cities, and not
bother spending much on airtime in more conservative markets...

Lisa
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by Lisa » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:08 am

You're still talking major market prices, and the above suggested minimum 6 month test with ads running several times a day in most major metropolitan areas represents a significant amount of money. Even at the quoted article's price of $12,500/each for a second tier national cable channel ad, just once a day, multiplying that times 182 days is more than 6 years worth of regular operating expenses. Sure, you can get local insertions for $500-$900 each, but you need to multiply that times the number of cities you want it to air in (six, maybe seven?), times the number of repeats per day, times the suggested 182 day try-it-and-see period. (most local stations rotate ads in a way that you can't buy just one insertion per day)

Additionally, of course, there would be production costs. Even if we didn't go to the $350,000 average for a 30 second spot, it would still cost a significant amount to produce.

Yes, it would be great to have television advertising. The budget already operates on razor-thin margins, we simply don't have funding to start and then operate such a project. If you're offering to donate those funds, great, give me a call during business hours. I will gladly accept your donation.

criley
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by criley » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:57 am

Hi,
TV is definitely expensive, so perhaps a better goal is to get people to sign up for an associate membership which will allow Alcor to inform people who are already receptive, on the benefits of full membership. I think the associate membership is a good idea because it allows people to get their feet wet and Alcor knows they are already interested.

Using AdWords or other similar online advertising could help sign up associate (or full) members inexpensively. The steps I would see are:

1. Allow people to sign up for the associate memberships on line - complete. (http://www.alcor.org/BecomeMember/associate.html)

2. After setting up an AdWords account, use it to define "goals" (in this case having someone join). These are used to track the success rates for various search terms. Takes about 5 minutes.

3. Determine keywords that could indicate interest and then track to see which ones actually convert into signups, then concentrate on those keywords. So, someone searching for "life extension" or "cryonics" might convert into memberships at a high percentage while someone searching for "brain freezing" might not (since it might be a search for "brain freeze from ice cream"). Not difficult.

4. If Alcor has a good sense of geographic receptiveness, then geo-targeting is also possible. By the way, I would also think that Florida may be a target (in addition to the ones mentioned) given the SA is located here.

5. If Alcor has a good sense on demographic information (e.g. education, income levels, gender or something) one can even target that to a certain extent.

The benefits are that the initial costs are zero, and you can set a daily/monthly budget so there are no unexpected expenses. You could say, spend $20/day max and change it day to day. Given the competition for some of the terms looks to be really low, you might pay $0.10 per click which means 200 clicks per day that are targeted for $20. Likewise, it is much easier to get someone to sign up for a $120/year membership than a full one to start, so targeting the associate membership might be the smart thing. Then people become educated and realize that having a chance to live longer is better than not having one at all.

And yes, I'd be willing to pay some $ to see how it works. I have done this before many times with various web sites, and it can work quite well if you target the right searches and correct geography.

The key would be determining search keywords. Some obvious ones would be: "cryonics", "life extension". Probably some more. "Alcor" for sure is a keyword, but one wouldn't want to pay for clicks for it since Alcor is listed first in the search results already.

The non-obvious ones would be much more difficult. For example, someone watching the Star Trek episode "Space Seed" or Star Trek TNG "The Neutral Zone" might be open to signing up for an associate membership given the subjects of those episodes, so displaying an ad there might be useful. Or there might be some correlation between people doing AI searches or cancer searches or who knows what else.

One useful thing to look at would be Alcor web logs showing incoming search terms, and in particular incoming search terms that result in an associate signup. Also having Diane ask people who start the signup process for a reason or five that they decided to sign up, might give some insight.

I don't know if Alcor has considered any of this, but it is not difficult and not time consuming and there are no doubt volunteers (I'd help) who would be willing to do a lot.

Just a few thoughts. ;-)

Chris

criley
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Re: 'Ware the Netflixian Price Increase

Post by criley » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:02 am

Other keywords I think would be worth trying given the topics indicate an interesting in some of the necessary technology:
"The Prospect of Immortality"
"Nanomedicine"
"Engines of Creation"
"Transhumanism"

I am sure that there are plenty more and Alcor no doubt has a lot of useful data in the web site logs.

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