There’s a certain trade magazine “serving” the F&SF fiction field that’s facing considerable financial difficulties caused by limited subscribers, increasing print costs, and declining advertising. Now I’ve subscribed to this magazine for years and years, and over at least the past five years, I’ve donated modest sums to the foundation that publishes the magazine. But one of the biggest revenue problems the publication faces is the significant decline in advertising revenue. And frankly, from what I see, that decline is largely one of the publication’s own creation.

Years ago, the head of one of the larger F&SF publishers pointed out to me that the magazine had never really done any significant interviews, reviews, or stories on a mega-selling series or on its author. In fact, virtually none of that publisher’s best-selling authors received any significant coverage. The magazine tended (and still does) to focus more on “avant” authors or those perceived to be new and/or cutting edge, many if not most of whom do not sell even mid-list quantities of books. While that’s a laudable goal, essentially minimizing coverage of more “mainstream” F&SF authors means that larger publishing houses, in a time of tighter budgets, decided that they didn’t need to advertise as much, or at all, in the magazine. This was compounded by the attrition of older publishing executives who regarded advertising in the magazine as a form of public service.

As far as advertising funds go, small presses don’t have much money to spare, and successful indie authors are going to put spare funds into activities and venues that show a direct result. The authors and presses who benefit the most from the magazine don’t have the funds to support it, and the publishers who do have the funds no longer see much point in doing so.

If, over the years, the magazine had included more articles and interviews that benefitted more mainstream authors, the advertising drop-off might not have occurred or been so drastic, but from what I’ve seen, the magazine’s editorial choices and slant have become more and more focused on works appealing to a smaller and smaller segment of the reading and writing marketplace.

1 thought on “Short-Sighted?”

  1. Tim says:

    Sounds like the dilemma between cash cow and strategic initiative which I encountered a few times working for large corporates.

    Starving the development of the formerin order to invest in new exciting initiatives can damage the company cash flow.

    That company you mention could do with a change of CEO.

Leave a Reply to Tim Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *