Unfortunately, even living in the age of the Internet likely won’t help fledgling publications as they struggle to overcome these new obstacles. The fact of the matter is, for most publications, large and small, the Internet is barely — if at all — profitable. The irony is that, for smaller magazines, which have managed against the odds to provide valuable online material, mail subscriptions are more important than or as important as advertising profits. Neither the National Review nor the Nation would be able to maintain their Web sites without their subscription revenues.
To add insult to injury, the economic ability of big companies, such as Time Warner, to offer potential readers cut-rate subscriptions, thanks to already favorable postal rates, amounts to an unintended subsidy that they can enjoy in a way that economics forbids to the little guys. Many small magazines lose money each year. The deficits are matched by committed owners, fund-raising appeals, foundations, luck, pluck, and Yankee (as well as socialist) ingenuity.
So how severe will the fallout of this new ruling be? It’s still too early to tell, but, before Time Warner worked its fetid magic, all publications were looking at an increase of 10 to 11 percent. Now, large publications will enjoy increases averaging 9.94 percent, while the American Conservative will face a 23-percent rate hike, the American Prospect a 21-percent hike, Mother Jones and the Nation 18-percent increases, the National Review 16 percent, and Commonweal 15 percent.
To put that into dollars, the Nation has estimated that postal increases will cost the publication $500,000. That’s nothing to a huge company such as Condé Nast, which pays the editors of Vogue and Vanity Fair each well over $1 million a year. But to the Nation and similar magazines publications, these new rates mean less money to pay for good articles. Fewer good articles threaten to result in fewer readers. And fewer readers lead to an even more uncertain future.
According to a McGraw Hill estimate, 5700 publications face increases in the range of 20 percent; hundreds more will be hit with hikes of 30 percent. For most of these journals, postage is their single biggest expenditure
The math is simple. The answer is cruel.
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