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They say the magazine and newspaper industries are dying.

In a day and age when literacy is unprecedented and people are consuming information in greater quantities than ever before, how can that be?

One of my neighbors happens to be a precocious first grader.  

Well, when we first met he was a precocious pre-schooler.  He's the sort of guy who will be tearing through the neighborhood chasing one of the other neighborhood kids is some game or other, notice you getting out of your car, stop dead in his tracks, and as formally as you please say, "Hello Kos.  How was your day?"  And damn it all, he's actually interested in how your day was and what you've been up to and any plans you may have for the evening.  When the (usually lengthy) conversation starts to wind down, he'll excuse himself with a polite "Nice talking to you" and tear off after the kid/s he was previously involved with.

In short, this kid cracks me up.

So I was completely defenseless last September (2011) when my little neighbor showed up at the door selling magazines as part of a school fundraiser.  I haven't subscribed to any magazine in 10 years at least.  And the prices in the brochure were easily double what you'd pay subscribing through normal channels.  

His sales pitch was flawless:  "Hello Kos.  I'm selling magazines for school.  [Hands me flyer.]  You pick your magazines from here.  [Shows me form on a clipboard and points.]  You write you name and address here and mark what magazines you want over here.  You make the check out to Ourhometown Elementary and I put it in this envelope."  There was no question as to whether I'd be buying.  As far as he was concerned it was all about me picking which magazines I wanted.

So my wife entertained the little dude as I searched for the checkbook.  (Something I haven't used in at least 9 months as I do all my banking online).  I manage to find the checkbook and wife chooses a couple of magazines while I make out the check.  I fill out the form and neighbor dude places the check in the envelope as promised.

Clockwork.

This is where 2011 (and 2012) collides with 1970s Americana.

Sure, you expect some delay as the school handles the paperwork and checks.  But my wife and I live in the 20teens.  Everything happens at the speed of the internet.  

As I said, I haven't subscribed to a magazine in 10 years.  I would have thought the magazine industry had kept pace with (or lagged slightly behind) our changing world.  I would have thought to get the next issue of each of those magazines.  Or at worst, the issue after that.  Since the magazine business is lagging, they'll be playing their best to get and keep customers.  I'd be wrong.

In the 1970s, I'd fill out a little card from inside a magazine asking to subscribe.  And in 4 or 5 months, I'd start receiving issues.  

In the 20teens I filled out a form and now 5 months later, I've received the first issue of one of the two magazines we ordered.

Really?!?  Not even a one month improvement thanks to automation -- in 40 years?

They say the magazine industry is dying.  I wonder why.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The main problem is that magazines tend (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, blueoasis, radarlady

    to pile up unread or barely perused.

    I only subscribe to Popular Photography. It is compact, laid-out properly, and has good content.

  •  I find that quality (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, G2geek

    is declining as fast as my income.

  •  My family have been subscribers (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nailbanger, andgarden, Catesby, Oh Mary Oh

    to The New Yorker for about 50 years. I can't wait for that magazine to show up in my mailbox. It's like Christmas every week.

    The content is amazing, too.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:40:06 PM PST

  •  I think that it may be at this point in the movie (9+ / 0-)

    where we are supposed to say "Welcome to the world of school fundraisers!!"  My experience, as a parent frequently dragged into the process as an innocent bystander, has been that there can be a couple of degrees of separation between the suppliers of the product - whether it be cookie dough, magazines, gift baskets, or whatever - and the "sales staff" that the school kiddies are.  I've been involved in any number of these fund raising experiences (some of which offer promises of prizes like mountain bikes or computers or whatever for the Biggest Sellers and BoyOhBoy do I have thoughts on THAT) and have occasionally found that the lag time between the purchase and the delivery can be long enough that the purchaser will look in confusion at you and your child when you show up at the door months after the point of purchase (or donation or whatever), totally at a loss to recall the actual moment when the deal went down several months before...

    It doesn't surprise me in the least that it took several months for you to receive your first subscription issue.  I would have expected nothing less, because it probably has nothing to do with the magazine and everything to do with the middleman running/offering the fundraising opportunity...

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:51:53 PM PST

    •  Ditto (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, Bush Bites, Oh Mary Oh

      I do subscribe to paper magazines, and my experience is that if you subscribe today you'll have the next issue in your mailbox. You can subscribe online, too, and often get access to online content as part of the deal.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:57:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yep. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh

      He could have subscribed online and started receiving his issues -- digital or print or both -- as soon as his payment cleared.

      The school's using 1970s methods, not the magazine industry.

      If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

      by Bush Bites on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 12:12:55 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  it's all about the stinking middleman. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Catesby, Oh Mary Oh

      The dealie-o goes like this:

      Middleman works a deal with magazine publisher for a discount on the price of subscriptions he sells via school kids.  

      Middleman offers deal with schools where his price to the school is the same as the price normally paid for subscriptions, but his promo material the schools can use offers subscriptions at inflated prices.   Middleman's profit is the difference between his discounted cost and the normal price for subscriptions.

      Schools want any money they can get, so they go for it.  After all, "it can't hurt."

      Little Kid shows up at your door offering subscriptions for double the normal price.  You know you're paying double, but after all "it's for the school" and you don't want to hurt the little kid's feelings.   The middleman knows this.

      In effect the middleman is making bank on the exploitation of school children as "sympathy figures."

      Frankly I think it's gross.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 01:18:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hard-copy delivery lag (4+ / 0-)

    My partner and I live in a fairly large city in western Canada. We subscribe to a small (and smaller as time goes by) handful of magazines, including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Men's Health.

    I'm really fed up with magazines arriving in my mailbox, and the content informs me of "upcoming" events that are actually in the past.

    For example, EW magazine has a section on "What to Watch" for the week ahead. It is intended to be in your hands prior to the first published event. And yet, for at least the past year or so, the weekly issue has arrived in the mailbox well into the week to which "What to Watch" applies, and quite often very near the end of the week.

    When Rolling Stone arrives, it sometimes has a full page ad on the back cover for an HBO special, listing a date which has already come and gone by the time I have the paper edition in my hand.

    On a trip last year, the fellow sitting across the aisle from me, on a flight from the U.S. back to Canada, was reading a hard-copy of a Men's Health issue for which I did not recognize the cover. It was almost 3 weeks later that I saw that particular cover, in a local retail store near home. And, as luck would have it, that particular never even made it to my mailbox, ever. It was consumed somewhere by the delivery system.

    Yes, these are minor problems that don't amount to anything that will change my life. They are annoyances.

    But I am now subscribed to the iPad edition of EW, which is free of charge to subscribers of the print edition (note to EW: when my print subscription runs out, I will happily change over to a 100% digital subscription, thank you).

    Men's Health has digital iPad editions, but they want to charge extra, over and above the print subscription price. When the hard-copy subscription runs out, I will pay for the digital edition, but I'm not going to pay separately for both.

    And so it goes. As the paper subscriptions run out, I replace or supplement them with iPad editions. I have access to current editions in real time as they are published. The alternative is to wait, wait, wait, while Canada Post holds stacks of paper hostage in a warehouse, or on a turtle-powered truck, or wherever the hell they keep them to prevent them from being delivered in a timely manner.

    Post office, good bye.

    I need a new sig line.

    by lotac on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:52:29 PM PST

    •  The good thing about The New Yorker (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotac, G2geek, Oh Mary Oh

      is that you can get every issue going back to the very first one in the 20's on disk. If you're a subscriber, as I am, you can update that at will.

      Canada Post must be a bit behind: the USPS delivers my New Yorker every Tuesday, without fail.

      Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

      by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:56:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Canada Post sucks (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, blueoasis

        The less contact I have with them, the more content I seem to be.

        I need a new sig line.

        by lotac on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:59:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm wondering though if part of the problem (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotac, ssgbryan, G2geek, Oh Mary Oh

          is that you're subscribing to foreign journals.

          When I lived in Austria, a letter would come to me from the US within three days. If I sent a letter, it would take the better part of a week to arrive in the US.

          There is a kind of political assault these days on the USPS. It's unwarranted and unwise. The price of a stamp is still lower than in most countries and our US Mail is still the most efficient postal service on the planet.

          Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

          by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:02:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Some are more equal than others (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            commonmass

            When we lived in Toronto, getting U.S. based magazines was never a problem. Issues arrived in a timely manner, and I never seemed to have this problem.

            Same country, out west, and delivery lags by several, and in some cases many, days. Perhaps the covered wagons they use get stuck in the snow. Of course, that doesn't excuse them in the summer.

            I need a new sig line.

            by lotac on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:14:03 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Toronto, in many ways, is the NYC of Canada. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lotac, G2geek

              The postal service probably follows that rule there.

              Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

              by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:18:44 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Sometimes it can come down to who is workin (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              commonmass, lotac, G2geek

              the post office. In my little town, we have two guys that deliver the mail. One of them is an A-hole (and I mean really, really an a-hole) and the other is a real nice guy. More often than not, (and we get a lot of mail) when a little itty bitty pile of mail is in the box, a-hole delivered that day. The next time nice guy is on the route, the mail box is stuffed FULL. Nobody can tell me that a-hole isn't somehow squirreling that mail away until nice guy comes on duty and makes him deliver it all. It's happened too many times.

              "We're here to start a dialog, nothing more. We keep quiet and let the press, the politicians, and the Wall Streeters hang themselves." From a veteran protester in the civil rights days at Liberty Park. h/t to pistols at dawn.

              by mrsgoo on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:18:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Our volume is way way down (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                commonmass, mrsgoo, blueoasis

                It used to be that, going away for a week or so, we would have a friend or neighbor pick up the mail a couple of times to keep the mailbox cleared. That is simply no longer necessary, as the overall volume of mail we get has been steadily declining.

                Now, when we both travel, we don't even bother having someone get the mail...coming back after a week or even 10 days, the mailbox is not even close to being crammed full.

                There are even days now and then when we get no mail at all. Nothing. In years gone by, that simply did not happen, ever.

                I need a new sig line.

                by lotac on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:26:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Weird. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek

                  I forgot to tell the post office that I was going away for a couple of months. I have a PO box down at Port and a mailbox here in Portland. I got back and there was a rubber band on the box, which was crammed full. No more new mail. I called the Post Office and they delivered the rest within hours once I got back.

                  My experience with the post office is that they really know what they are doing. Call your MP and complain. Canada should be able to do the same.

                  Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

                  by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:29:37 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Our mail load varies. If we have a lot of extended (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  commonmass, blueoasis, G2geek

                  stay customers, more mail. 'We get a lot of mail just for the business anyway. Right now, we're ramping up extended stay customers as we've got a couple of power plants coming out of the ground and those travelling workers in their RV's will be here for almost a year. I have noticed a sharp decline recently in credit card junk mail.

                  "We're here to start a dialog, nothing more. We keep quiet and let the press, the politicians, and the Wall Streeters hang themselves." From a veteran protester in the civil rights days at Liberty Park. h/t to pistols at dawn.

                  by mrsgoo on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:32:47 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  "political assault these days on the USPS" (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek

            What *IS* it about Rethugs & conservatives that the are driven to hate anything that works like it's supposed to?

            A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

            by The Werewolf Prophet on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 12:37:30 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Republicans down here agree... (0+ / 0-)

          They want us to have less and less contact with the (unionized public employees in the) Post Office.

          Be careful what you wish for.  

          The thing to demand is for postal service to be upgraded, improved, well-managed, and efficient.  Even if that means an increase in postal rates.  

          After all there are still numerous items that require physical transport, such as parcels and legal documents and handwritten letters.  The non-union private carriers would just love to make bank on all of that stuff while paying their workers jack shit and jacking up the rates for rural pickup and delivery.    

          Bottom line is, either we support the race to the bottom, or we demand a return to a civilized society.  There ain't much middle ground on that.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 02:11:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I get loads of industry magazines at work. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      I switched all my paper editions to digital editions over the past few years.

      If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

      by Bush Bites on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 12:15:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  All Sectors Are Dying Except Gambling. (5+ / 0-)

    We spent 40 years painstakingly building an economy in which nothing else makes any economic sense.

    The history books are full of policies that make a better world. Both political parties oppose all that and most living Americans became aware after the 2 parties had torn them down, and so regard them as radical & bizarre.

    I've counted half a dozen core rightwing policies that our "revolutionary" Occupy has spoken for.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:53:40 PM PST

    •  The Internet has killed magazines (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lotac, commonmass, G2geek

      They took all their advertisers. Exactly the same thing that is happening to newspapers.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 09:57:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I still like the feel of a magazine or newspaper (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, mrsgoo, G2geek

        Call it an appreciation for the portability, the texture, the layout, the satisfaction of holding something in your hands. Call it nostalgia, if you like. It feels like I have something of (even very small) value when I have a magazine or newspaper in hand.

        Don't get me wrong, I like the new digital formats, and I've already adapted to new ways of receiving and using media quite well.

        We still get the local morning paper delivered to our front door, 7 days a week. It is part of our morning ritual with coffee, breakfast, and the newspaper, swapping sections back and forth. We don't have a "paperboy" walking or riding around the streets delivering the morning paper anymore. Now, it is some guy in a car, at around 5AM. I sometimes hear the car coming down the street, stopping at our driveway, taking a few steps toward the front door, the "thunk" as the newspaper lands at the door, then the driver zipping away. Looking up and down the street, for a couple of dozen houses or so that I can see from the front of ours, we are the only ones getting the morning paper. I know this, because ours is the only house the car stops in front of.

        I sometimes read the digital edition of this same paper, when travelling. I suppose it's just a matter of time before we cancel the hard-copy delivery.

        And then I picture us, as if from a camera above the table, staring at our respective tablet computers, reading, and eating. Just like in the carousel sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. But HAL isn't watching our every move.

        Yet.

        I need a new sig line.

        by lotac on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:10:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That "thunk" sound is great! (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          lotac, mrsgoo, G2geek

          When I lived in Texas, I subscribed to the New York Times. "Thunk". I loved that sound.

          Now that I am back in New England, I don't feel the need. I get the New Yorker and the Portland paper. If I wanted to, given the Franco-American presence in Maine, I could get a paper in French.

          Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. equalitymaine.org

          by commonmass on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:17:23 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Back in the early 80's, when we were just 20ísh, (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            lotac, commonmass, ChuckInReno

            and still living at home, we gauged if we were out too late by beating the newspaper to the porch.  If you got home before the paper was delivered, you were golden.  

            "We're here to start a dialog, nothing more. We keep quiet and let the press, the politicians, and the Wall Streeters hang themselves." From a veteran protester in the civil rights days at Liberty Park. h/t to pistols at dawn.

            by mrsgoo on Wed Jan 18, 2012 at 10:27:59 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Yet? Do you use gmail or google voice? (0+ / 0-)

          I gots newz 4 u.  

          If you're on Failbook or use anything with Google in it, HAL is watching, listening, and sniffing your butt, whether you know it or not.

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 02:19:25 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I too love newspapers and magazines (0+ / 0-)

          I don't get the same enjoyment reading my computer screen.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 09:15:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Newspapers will survive. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        The two biggest portals in Chicago are, you guessed it, the ones run by the city's newspapers.

        Trouble is, papers got used to double-digit profit margins in the 20-30 percent range and financed all their purchases expecting those margins to continue, and now they're deleveraging.

        They'll be fine once the speculators realize they can't squeeze those kinds of profits out of papers anymore and eventually leave the industry.

        Prior to the 70s-80s, newspapers were a high single-digit margin business -- largely because they had many more competitors -- some cities had 3, 4, 5 papers.

        It'll go back to that because the Internet has once again made it a competitive business.

        If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

        by Bush Bites on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 01:00:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Same with magazines. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        They'll survived but they lived fat for a long time and have to learn to operate on leaner margins.

        The Ipad and similar devices, by the way, might be the best thing to happen to magazines. I was just made for that kind of light, graphic-intensive brand of journalism.

        If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

        by Bush Bites on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 01:05:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  The problem is (or was) the business model, then. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, VClib

        Similar to the situation with commercial-sponsored TV, the readers of the newspaper or magazine aren't really the ones whose payments keep the enterprise afloat and whose interests therefore rule the roost.

        It's the advertisers who fill that role and exercise that power.

        From the linked video from 1973 by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman:

        In commercial broadcasting the viewer pays for the privilege of having himself sold.

        It is the consumer who is consumed.

        You are the product of TV.

        You are delivered to the advertiser, who is the customer.

        He consumes you.

        Life, Look, and the Saturday Evening Post still had plenty of readers in the 1950s. Yet they folded because Madison Avenue redirected into TV most of the money stream that had been going into mass-circulation print advertising.

        Looks like that same phenomenon is now finally catching up with everyone else, with the Internet playing the role of TV.

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

        by lotlizard on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 01:06:38 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Magazines look pretty healthy to me... (0+ / 0-)

    ...at least compared to newspapers.  There's a big niche, between the need-to-know utilitarianism of newspapers and the pure frivolity of LOLcats, where people still want that glossy print.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Thu Jan 19, 2012 at 03:49:53 AM PST

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