In a January 2008 article "The Greatest Media Revolution Since Gutenberg?" Lydia Sargent wrote, "If you’ve kept up with the growing concern among media people about the future of print, you know that its total demise is being predicted—some say in the next decade, others say by mid-century…. So it’s depressing to think that our 20th year may be the last for Z Magazine in its current form." Well, as you can see, the print magazine is still around, with some modifications. And Z is doing, not great, but okay.
True, we’re doing okay, but because we depend on our readers, subscribers, and contributors, if these drop off significantly, we will be in financial trouble very quickly. So far that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Sustainer donations are up and provide well over half of Z’s yearly income. The rest comes from magazine subscriptions, donations, and video sales.
We did some cost-cutting—from 64 to 48 pages, cheaper paper, and, unfortunately, stopped paying writers and illustrators except in cases of extreme need (we had been paying everyone since 1988). This has helped cut expenses of about $5,000 a month. Subscriptions are still dwindling a little, but not enough to make further changes at this point. Response to current mailings has been favorable.
We had hoped that our upgraded website would help increase subscriptions, but at the moment glitches and a convoluted ordering process at the Z Store have made it more difficult to subscribe than coming up with the theory of relativity. To counter this, we hope to make the magazine available on Amazon through EBSCO. Right now the easiest way to subscribe/renew is to fax or call us (see inside front cover).
The news is mixed on our upgraded website. The recent and first semester of the online Z School was only marginally successful. Though many people signed up, few participated meaningfully. The most likely explanation is over extension and time constraints that so many leftists suffer, but probably there are structural causes, as well. We are mulling that situation.
The site went through a two-month period of chaotic disruptions, partially due to denial of service attacks from outside enemies, partly from use-levels outrunning server power, and partly from residual problems with the upgrade. This seems to be corrected.
We are now correcting lots of bugs and working, too, on some innovations, particularly for Sustainers, Use is high and climbing. We have recently begun recycling classic content, which gives the site new life.
Z Video Productions
We continue to produce videos and have put previews of some of them on our website, along with an introduction to Z Media Institute and a handful of satiric shorts—one on Britain’s ID program, one on the National Endowment for Democracy, and one called Raditrol where staff member Lydia Sargent learns to deal with radical rage by applying Raditrol: "It’s a patch. You still get pissed off, but at much lower levels."
We hope to add to that collection of video shorts and introductions to various Z projects to "dress up" our otherwise text-heavy site.
Z Media Institute
Our nine-day school returns this year and will be held June 3 to 12 (see ad this issue). This project involves around 20 faculty, an average of 63 students, and 28 politics, media, skills, and organizing courses. It’s exhausting, especially when we have to prepare the July/August issue of the magazine two days after the students leave. But each of the sessions from 1994 to 2007 have been incredibly rewarding.
If our finances hold firm, we hope to start making some political documentaries on various themes and to produce books for activist and classroom use—Z Books and Z Readers are two of the projects under discussion right now. We also hope to get all of the back issues of Z Magazine (from 1988-2000) online. If there is anyone out there interested in helping with this project, please get in touch.
We want to take this opportunity to thank all the writers and artists who have graciously accepted a subscription to Z in lieu of payment or who have waived payment altogether or who have let us put them on account for better financial times. We also want to thank all those who have supported us. So many of you have included an "extra donation for Z" on your subscription or renewal form. We are constantly amazed at readers’ financial generosity and also by notes of encouragement often scribbled on small pieces of paper and shoved in an envelope along with a check. One of our favorites—from Kate—simply said, Thanks! And wow! Back at you, Kate, and all of you.
To contact us: [email protected]; 508-548-9063; fax 508-457-0626.