The Distribution Problem

Each year Z Magazine offers subscribers a chance to buy discounted subscriptions for friends. We prepare copy for the ad (that appears in this issue), which will then be mailed to subscribers and potential subscribers as well. We dislike doing it; promoting ourselves is not our favorite thing. Neither is trying to find new ways to convince people to buy gift subscriptions for their friends. The entire process is made particularly concerning because we are aware (after 25 years of producing radical media) of how crucial each of these yearly mailings is to Z’s survival.


Over the years, we’ve never been without good articles to publish and cartoons to go with them. They come in each month without fail. Writers have been wonderful, often taking little or no pay. The production process never gets boring, readers’ comments are usually very positive. The response to emergency fundraisers has always been generous and life-saving.


But the fact remains that without subscribers—especially subscribers who keep renewing and spreading the word—we cannot survive, nor can most progressive media. Yet, as we prepare these yearly ads and mailings, there seems to be no way to convince leftists that alternative media should be valued as an essential part of movements for social change and that subscribing, promoting, and distributing it is as necessary for countering mainstream media’s disinformation and raising awareness as marching on Washington or occupying a park. 


Which is to say, we have a distribution problem. We can’t afford sustained ad campaigns, we refuse to accept corporate ad income and we can’t afford the much-needed solicitation mailings to thousands of potential subscribers. In any case, their effectiveness is not what it once was when we started in 1988. What money we have for mailings must be used on tried and true lists (usually ex­changed with other like media; many of them no longer available) because we can’t af­ford the risk of hunting around for new audiences. One low response rate is a major crisis.


Emergency fundraisers help, but they are a last resort and usually only cover short term deficits. In addition, we can’t depend on newsstand or store sales—distributors to these outlets take a large discount and we barely break even.


What all this means is that alternative media—not just Z—needs you to subscribe, to renew, and to promote it to others. Even better, to contribute articles, cover events in your area, write reviews, interview activists, and provide needed research, as well as graphics, etc. Increased subscriptions greatly help progressive media to better counter mainstream lies and disinformation.