Joining forces with Chris

Dear Chris Martenson fans,

I recently joined forces with Chris Martenson to help him continue publishing free educational information about the American economy on I’m writing today to introduce myself and to explain the role I’ll be playing, helping Chris grow the site and the video and live education programs.


My name is Erik Townsend. I was an entrepreneur in the software industry, and was one of the lucky guys who got out in the late ‘90s when the getting was still good. Not having to work full-time isn’t as glamorous as it probably sounds. I’ve had the luxury of time to explore quite a few issues of concern to our nation, and Chris’ work stands out as the best example I’ve found of someone explaining complex issues in plain English so that anyone can learn about them.

When I discovered and watched the Crash Course a few months ago, only the first ¾ of the course was completed. I learned that Chris had been funding the site’s hosting and technical services expenses out of his own pocket. The revenue he was receiving from paid site subscriptions only partially defrayed his operating expenses.

Chris has a personal passion for making the message of the Crash Course free to everyone. In fact, he was so concerned about not being perceived as self-serving that he has resisted the temptation to put revenue-generating advertising on the site. But traffic counts have grown exponentially and the site outgrew its bargain-basement hosting plan almost overnight. One of the main reasons the completion of the Crash Course had been delayed was that Chris was running out of money and couldn’t afford to subsidize the project out of his own pocket any longer.

Why I got involved

I felt a duty to act. I thought, here’s this guy who has committed his life to educating the rest of us about what’s really going on in the economy. I was so impressed by Chris’ altruism that I sent him a $5,000 donation to help fund the completion of the Crash Course. I’m proud to feel that I personally made the completion of this great work (the Crash Course) possible, and have no regrets about the contribution. I later learned that Chris has never dared to ask his loyal readers for donations because he didn’t want to seem self-serving. But unexpectedly, after I mentioned my own donation in passing on a blog comment page, another kind reader was inspired to send Chris a $2,000 donation. Perhaps a trend is starting on its own? If you can afford to help, Chris really needs more donations or subscriptions. He’ll never come out and ask for them directly. That’s not his style. But I’m less bashful, so please help us out if you can afford to!

Chris has basically pulled off this entire project single-handedly. It’s an amazing feat, but he’s been spread too thin. My schedule as a private investor leaves me plenty of spare time, so I decided to sign up to help Chris grow the business and put in place a sustainable economic model. I’ll be using my skills as a former CEO to help free Chris’ time and attention up so he can focus on the content he is so passionate about, while I put a sustainable business model in place. I’m doing this as a volunteer, and will have no financial interest in the site.

What I plan to do

My first managerial act will be to put advertising on the site to help recover operating expenses. Folks, everyone has enjoyed a free ride thus far. Chris gives away all this great content for free, and actually pays money out of his own pocket for the privilege of making it free to you on an expensive high-performance server. We can all see that’s just not sustainable in the long term.

I realize that some of you might find advertising bothersome or unwelcome. If anyone has strong feelings about this, I’ll be happy to discuss any other ideas you might have about how to do this some other way.

What you can do

We are all in this together. I am thankful for what Chris has done and now I’m throwing my hat in the ring. If you feel, as I do, that you’ve received something important from this site/work, the question for you is, what can you offer? This could come in many forms. Are you an internet marketing expert who feels we could be doing more and would like to donate your thoughts? Do you have a high volume site with which to make an exchange link? Do you have time, money, contacts, or skills that could help here? Do you see something glaringly obvious that we are overlooking? If you want to become more involved in some way, large or small, please contact me to discuss how and when this will happen. This is a grassroots effort, and I really need to connect with more passionate Americans who care about these issues and the importance of raising public awareness about them.

Future improvements

I’ll also be making more announcements in coming weeks to keep interested readers informed of my efforts in the following areas:

  • Updates on completion of the Crash Course, including Ch. 20 and a new “Chapter Zero” video introduction by Chris, which will overview the content of the Crash Course
  • Plans for new video, audio, and blog offerings
  • Introduction of a donations program and honor roll for major donors
  • New Live Speaking Tour program
  • Monthly Conference Call Program for subscribers
  • Development of a viral marketing strategy to promote the free content on the site
  • Plans to repackage the Crash Course and weekend seminar materials as courseware for a semester university course on practical economics. The courseware will be made available to professors of accredited universities and other institutions on a discretionary basis

One more thing…

I’d like to ask regular readers to take to heart that Chris has been working phenomenal hours for the last several weeks, and is swamped keeping up with the bailout, the new site and related migration issues, and getting Chapter 20 finished and online. Your patience and understanding will be appreciated if Chris cannot personally answer every e-mail as he’s done in the past. We need to keep focus on our key strategic priorities, and the only way for everyone to enjoy the quality of the Blog content and still see Ch. 20 on time is to scale back the amount of time Chris spends personally attending to all his fans. You can blame me for this, too, but I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s necessary. Recent blog comments have indicated that you’d like to see more of Chris’ objective content, so that’s what I’m going to work on bringing you.

I’ll be starting some conversations in the online forums on this site, soliciting your feedback, suggestions, and ideas about the future direction of the site and related video, audio and blog products.

I look forward to working with you to help Chris serve everyone with more top-quality free content pertaining to the American economy in plain English that Main Street can understand.

It’s the most important challenge of our time. If you can help me spread the word, you’ll be doing a great thing for our country.

If you need to contact me, don’t hesitate to e-mail me directly at

Erik Townsend
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Erik, thanks for helping Chris out. And the other donor you mentioned. I recently read Chris’s bio and was impressed. Having come across this site a couple months ago by a friend who highly recommended it, I agree… the site is nicely laid out, focuses on important issues, and I appreciate the work Chris has done.

Check is on the way…


Thanks for offering to chip in, John. Your help is really appreciated.

We’ll have a bunch of announcements in the next few weeks about new directions after the Crash Course is completed.



Welcome aboard, Erik! Glad to see Chris is getting some assistance. Since you’re associating with greatness, we’ll be expecting great things from you…

A few comments:

One idea about ads is to have a mini-membership. Something reasonable on the order of $10 or $20 per year. Mini-members don’t get the ads. Non-members still do. Weather Underground ( used to be set up this way and I thought it was a great solution. No one likes ads, and this way site regulars can choose to help support the cost of the site, even if a full membership is not quite comfortable yet.

A targeted membership drive to frequent visitors might also help. Perhaps there’s a way to set a cookie so that the site can keep track of how many times a visitor has come to the site even if they haven’t registered. Frequent visitors could occasionally get a special message showing them their usage and encouraging them to take the next step (register, mini-membership, full membership, sponsorship).

Personally, I’d like to see some part of the site orient towards local community building. Have visitors enter their zip code when they register. Then create heat maps so we can see who’s nearby and get some of these great connections to transfer to the real world beyond ones and zeroes.


Well, that’s the thing… Chris took it upon himself to do something good for the rest of us. And now, we’re stepping up to the plate. Many thanks!

Thanks Erik for helping Chris with his fantastic site.

A couple of suggestions on how to generate some revenue to keep all this going.


Why not capture everyone’s name and email who views the course. So in order to view the course you have to give your name and email. Probably best to use Aweber if you are not already using it.


That will enable you to build a list.

Then promote products to this list. They could be affiliate products or your own products.

Chris talks a lot about "the problem" and what he could also develop is the myriad of solutions to this problem.Chris could be making money ot of pointing us in the direction of those solutions.


Let me give some concrete examples:

If holding money as gold was a recommendation then Chris could bring our attention to a company such as Bullion Vault and get a commission for everyone who signed up.


If generating your own power was one of the solutions then Chris could point us in the direction of and get a commission for everyone who purchased the product.


If Chris has got his own product called " How to flourish in Changing Times" promote that to the list


I would have no problem in Chris recommending products and services to me on a monthly basis. The big caveat is that Chris has to recommend with integrity which is the basis of his "brand".


I would personally like to see Chris make a handsome living off this site


Keep up the good work




I think that the idea of reaching university professors via the crash course is an excellent idea. I also wouldn’t be surprized if Chris finds himself invited to a place or two as a guest lecturer.


I’m really glad to see that Chris is getting the support he needs. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that Chris deserves to be compensated for the incredible contribution he’s making with this site. I completely support the idea of monetizing this site to that end.
I like the idea of different levels of membership that was suggested elsewhere, with perhaps an ad-free site for the top-tier level of membership. On the other hand, advertising on websites is pretty much a fact of life these days and if it’s done tastefully I don’t think I would be bothered by it.
The main request I have in terms of functionality I have already mentioned elsewhere, but I’ll mention it again here. I’d like to see the ability to subscribe to an RSS feed or email notification for comments on blog posts and for individual forum entries. There is some RSS functionality in the forums area, but as far as I can tell in my RSS reader I am only notified when a new topic is added in a forum. I am not notified when someone replies to that topic.
I run a blog myself and I can tell you that allowing people to subscribe to comments and forum posts has dramatically increased the level of participation on the site, and it keeps people coming back again and again. The technology is simple and freely available, so it shouldn’t be much of a challenge in that regard.
Oh yeah, one other thing. It would be awesome to be able to buy a DVD of the entire Crash Course once it’s completed and send it to friends and family. I vote for doing it ASAP and not spending time on unnecessary bells & whistles. The message is what’s important, and we need to get it out there immediately.


I’m not sure. First of all, I personally wouldn’t do it, but if I were forced to give my email address to view the crash course, and then submit myself to targeted advertising for the priviledge, then I wouldn’t be able to overcome the impression of commericial bias no matter how good the course was. It creates the (very legitimate) impression that the person giving the talk is financially beholden to the people from whom they are receiving commissions.

What would you think of a professor who made a pitch for a gold company while giving a talk about the history of money? And what if that professor’s material just happened to imply that owning gold might be a desirable way to hold assets? Would you become more skeptical of the material in the lecture? Or how about a university professor who used audio-visual material from another person who did such peddling? They would be regarded as academically irresponsible for using sources of questionable integrity! The taint of pecuniary conflict would be inescapable.

Thank you for investing your passion with Chris’s.

I agree with the idea of a mini membership. I cannot afford a full membership as I am one of the unfortunate unemployed. Temporary I am sure but no income nonetheless. I would however pay $25 - $50 per year to subscribe. I have sent the Crash Course to everyone I have on my contacts list and have received nothing but thanks for the eye opening experience and plain talk.

Thank you for the chance to post a reply.

Bless you in your efforts.



I would like to disagree with the idea of promoting specific products. I’ve only known about this website for a couple weeks, so it is easy to imagine arriving for the first time. If there were a bunch of "I think you should buy gold, so visit my sponsor here to do so," I would have had doubts about if Chris was really giving good advice, or if he was just out to make money. I think it would hurt the credibility of the site.


my two cents…

Hi Switters!

Thanks for the kind words, and for your suggestions. Ron Shimstock has done a great job getting the new site online. The "do-ability" of your suggestion will depend on how much is already built into the software platform the site is based on. I agree completely that RSS subscription on a per-thread level is highly desirable. I’ll have to consult with Ron on how feasible it is.

On the DVD idea, we’re on it! I have mixed feelings about how to package it. One idea is (similar to An Inconvenient Truth) to package the DVD in the cheapest possible way so we can sell it cheap and get more copies out. The other approach would be to do a really nice case, autographed by Chris, and sell it for a much higher $ amount, which would be equivalent to buying dinner at a charity event: everybody knows the price has been inflated to help the cause. I’ll be posting more forum threads looking for your feedback on this as well as several other issues.



Hi Erik,

Yes it is difficult to maintain a website while it grows, and it takes more capital then most people realize. The time spent alone just maintaining the website as it rises in popularity can be daunting. I see nothing wrong with making some money to help in educating people about these important issues. I suggest you refine the crash course a bit and sell it for like $20 dollars. Yes you can still see it for free online, or buy and watch a refined version with maybe more videos or whatever. A teaching kit can also be sold for a higher price, including a companion teachers guide. It really is something that can be taught at any level from high school up, and you could make even more money on updates to the course. The teaching DVD would be set up with software that allows the instructor to control the software in a locked presentation style manner, and not hard to do. Another revenue generation tool would be not only to present the problems, but what our PhD man thinks the solutions are and integrate these into the DVD for sale as well as included with the education kit. As for online advertising, that’s fine. But as stated before, if you push people in the direction of gold purchasing or survival skill training in the woods, it might make them think that an agenda is being served here, or it might actually scare them. It might make them form an opinion about Chris that could be negative. I suggest neutral advertising that really only skims on general economy related purchases.

Why not? I know personally, I am happy to donate to Chris, especially if it is made easy and convenient like a link to Paypal. Actually writing a check, finding a stamp (and an address) slows me down and I suspect I am not alone here. Removing that activation barrier would probably help many folk to overcome that same inertia.

Thank you Chris for the incredible work you are doing here; if only our leaders had your good sense and clear vision. And thanks to Erik for the courage to ask for money…


Thanks for the kind words. Indeed, the plan includes putting Chris in as many high-visibility speaking engagements as we can. And we need your help with this! Readers with connections in the TV and radio world, we need your help! Most TV interviews are brokered by publicists who charge $5k/mo+ to hook their clients up with TV interviews. We just can’t afford that kind of support, so we need to rely on the grassroots network to put the word out that Chris has something important to say to America.



Good points, Ike.

To be honest, we haven’t thought much about ad policy for paid subscription members. We absolutely have to put ads up on the "free site". This was long overdue.

If there is a strong desire for "ad-free content", I am open to offering that to paid subscribers. We’ll be soliciting your input before we make any major changes.

We also need to work on how to get more people to "register for free". While to the user this may seem like a pointless time-consuming thing, it really matters to us. When we portray the site’s traffic counts (which are very impressive) to a potential grant funding source, they tend to want to know how many "registered users" you have, as opposed to just page views which could be attributable to non-serious users.

We’ll be starting the advertising program using Google AdSense, which is designed to crawl the site and post ads that are of interest to our readers. Hopefully this "context-sensitive" functionality will make the ad experience more tolerable.



I am so happy to have "met" Chris pre-Erik, not that there is anything wrong with Erik. I personally received the good graces of Chris (yes he took the time to answer all the e-mails I sent him). I propose we find out what it takes financially to get Chris the tools he needs to do his work and raise it, if we are unable to provide for him through our donations, subscriptions, new subscriptions, etc then by all means throw up the banners. I too was/am very attracted to the whole "some guy in the NE is up there spreading his knowledge around for the greater good all by himself" thing and would hate for others to miss that. Now more than ever we need it. Erik, is it a move to profit from Chris’ efforts? Which I’m all for. If its not give us a crack at it. Either way you have my subscription at the very least, I’m staying.

Again, we need a way to ‘endorse’ a message instead of reposting under it.

Excellent comments. It’s interesting how quickly the conversation came to this topic on its own.

Chris and I have discussed this, and we both feel frustrated and unsure what to do. On one hand, Chris really does believe from the bottom of his heart that one of the best things he could do for his readers is to check out the gold purchase market, find the credible companies, then publish a how-to-buy-gold video or white paper. Meanwhile, there are gold companies that have expressed an interest in sponsoring such an effort with money that we need desperately. But Chris is also smart enough to realize that the perception that would create could completely undermine the credibility of the message.
So, what to do??? It's a real conundrum. On one hand, I fully appreciate and agree with your comments to the effect that if the site starts to look like a vending machine for precious metals, credibility goes out the window. But at the same time, some of Chris' most loyal supporters urgently want that kind of content from Chris, and he feels bad about not providing it.
We'll do our best to find a balance, but your ongoing feedback is always welcome to help keep us on the right path.

That reminds me, about advertising in general. And I personally think that this is very important. I said earlier that it would be a great idea to introduce this material into universities. Most professors that I know guard their academic and intellectual integrity closely. Ideally, they prefer to use materials from people with whom they are professionally familiar, and who have a track record of publications in reputable peer reviewed journals, but in all cases only after checking that person’s other works carefully for any appearance of bias which could embarass them later.

If a professor were considering using any material from Chris, and visited his web site to find a banner that said "BUY GOLD CHEAP" chances are greater than 50% that they will run away, never to return, even if such advertising were discontinued in the future. And you will also lose many other people as well.

My point is, if you’re going to put advertising up, IMO you have got to be absolutely certain that it is neutral. There can never be a single advertisement for gold, gardening, solar, or silver! There can be no impression of any funds whatsoever received from any party who could reasonably benefit commercially from the message of the site.