mimulus_borogove: (Default)
[personal profile] mimulus_borogove
Today I renewed our Natural History subscription for another two years. It's one of Sweety's favorite magazines, and it's associated wth a museum, so I'm all for it. Didn't hurt that you get such a good rate when you re-up early.

But I paused for a minute when I remembered the latest issue ran 48 pages. I've never counted their edit-to-ads ratio, but a thinner mag usually means less content. Subscriptions help, sure, and so does selling mailing lists (although we're no help in that regard), but ad revenue is still where most mags make their money. When ad pages drop, so do edit pages. I'm not saying NH will stop printing or anything; I don't know how their overall finances are, and I think they probably have some core readers who will never give up on the mag.

I've been told that the first thing people let go when their household budget gets constricted is magazine subscriptions. They're not all that expensive over the time you get them, but if you're up for renewal and see a fast way to not spend forty bucks, a lot will depend on how much forty bucks means to you at that moment. I guess I've always seen dropping subscriber numbers--and you can easily track these at a magazine's Web site, because they have to reassess their rate base quarterly--as a bad sign for not just the mag staffers, who lose jobs if this continues, but for the economy in general. Of course there are surer ways of showing how the economy's doing, but it's a segment I find a little sad when things aren't going well.

The case of Natural History is especially worrisome because it's such a good magazine, always very solid and interesting. Sweety loves the science articles, and even I often tear out their book reviews and add to my Amazon or library list. Discover went ridiculously fluffy a few years back, so there aren't a lot of science magaziness that I can both comprehend and stand any more. If NH gets thinner, it is a loss for both of us. And not just for us; it means there are fewer ways for average joes to learn about science, and it might mean the museum is suffering, too. That's a bad sign not just for the current economy, but for the future of our economy.

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March 2009

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