Our Dilemma

Staying Alive, But For How Long?

As many of you know, predictions of the death of all print media have been declared over the last years. Media—both alternative and corporate—has been scrambling to stay alive during the steady decline of print subscribers, sometimes at alarming rates. Meanwhile, postage and printing costs have gone up as income has declined. Most magazines now offer various combinations of print and online as they try to keep some form of radical media alive. Others, seeing the writing on the virtual wall, have gone to online only or gone out of existence.

 Over the years, we have found ways to keep print alive through creative fundraising efforts, finding new income sources—Z books, Z Readers, and Z Videos, online projects like Z Social—that offer radical content in as many ways as possible.

In 2013, Things Got Worse

  • Costs of print production and postage keep going up
  • Costs of maintaining the website have gone up
  • Cost of mailings and advertising are prohibitive
  • Contributions to our online Sustainer Program have dropped
  • Store/newsstand sales barely break even due to large distributor discounts and slow/low distributor payments
  • Print subscriptions have been declining steadily

Cutting Costs

We have been cutting costs as best we can in the last few years and will continue to do so, but we fear this will not be enough in the long run. Recent attempts at emergency fundraising have not been very successful.

We are fighting for survival in a bad economy and we are experiencing the apparent decline in willingness among progressives to pay for information, which means, of course, that media producers (writers, publishers, graphic artists, etc. must work for free or continually fundraise, as many are doing, sometimes with weekly pleas, some of them surprisingly far afield of the alternative media mission.

For instance, a recent fundraiser from the Nation titled “drink wine, help the Nation,” announces news of the Nation Wine Club designed to provide regular funds to sustain the Nation as well as support “wines made with progressive values” (unionized or cooperative wineries). Whatever works, right? In another email, the Nation asks the reader to picture “the world without us” (independent journalism).

In that comment, “without us” they point out the real problem. Just as organizations, grassroots campaigns, and movement efforts of all kinds need to be funded, so too do progressive, independent media projects. Without some significant support, many valuable left media institutions may soon have to cut back, thereby losing visibility and impact, or worse, closing altogether.

Our Dilemma

Barring a miracle, Z may have to make drastic changes in the next months, changes we’d rather not make. We are considering the following:

  • Require fees for all online material. Would that work? Doubtful.
  • Do we continue Z Magazine (print) as a monthly, but save by cutting the number of pages? Would that be enough? Doubtful.
  • Do we cut pages and offer only ten issues a year? Will that save the day? Doubtful.
  • Do we eliminate copies to stores? Helpful, but enough?
  • Do we publish six times a year (as other magazines have done). Helpful, but will we lose writers and/or  substantial income?
  • Do we offer the magazine online only? Where’s the income?
  • Do we offer the magazine monthly or even weekly online, while offering a print version every other month? Where’s the income?
  • Do we turn Z Magazine into a quarterly journal? Is there a need?

We are considering all of the above, but we would like your advice/comments. We will, of course do everything we can to continue delivering Z Magazine to current subscribers, many of whom are signed up for two and three years. You can help us by renewing, buying gift subscriptions, signing up on our re-organized website (the store is now working) to our Sustainer Program (monthly or yearly donations of any amount), which has been invaluable over the years. Along with subscriptions, it has truly sustained Z for the last decade or so.

We’re sorry we can’t offer a wine club or something stronger, but with a staff of three, we couldn’t manage it. But if you can help us financially, as well as with your comments (zmag@zmag.org; 508-548-9063), we would be very grateful.