I will continue to subscribe to Lenswork because I enjoy the writing and the photography. Rarely do I even look at how the images are created, if they speak to me I don't really care how they are made. I have found both the writings and photography to be inspirational in my my own work. I don't always agree with everything but that's ok.
I think that I will seriously consider dropping my subscription to Lens Work. Lately Bill Jay’s End Notes has been by far the highlight of the issue.
I see this as a ploy to get the subscription numbers up. By increasing the news stand price, yet leaving the subscription price the same, he is driving people away from purchasing single copies. This marketing TRICK may work. May not?
I propose that Mr. Jensen try applying his print pricing philosophy to his magazine. He seems to be of the opinion that selling his prints for dirt cheap makes them more attractive to more buyers. He says he would rather sell his prints for $20.00 which makes them more affordable for more people! Then why not apply this Wal-Mart mindset to his magazine? Why not $1.00 for the magazine? Make the subscription $5.00 and throw in his Extended CD?
Mr. Jensen, I know you are reading this, why not put YOUR money where your mouth is. Just think of all the people that would buy your magazine for $1.00. You might double or even triple your readership. Just think of all of those happy readers. Just like your prints, think of all of the people that could, or would, spend a dollar! Why not apply your high volume, low margin approach to the magazine??? No guts, No glory!
Just a little food for thought.
You make a good point -- in fact, my point. If I could sell it for $1, I would in a heartbeat. I can't because the cost of production and distribution prevents me from doing so and I don't want to go broke. But, let's extend the discussion just a bit for the education it might afford.
Because the costs have escalated, we must raise our price. Just for the mental exercise, let's say we raised it to $50 per issue. What the hell, let's say $100 per issue. How long do you think it would be before some enterprising person would realize that there is too wide of a gap between the costs and the selling price and begin a competing magazine for less? What if they began publishing one for, say, $50. Enter a third individual who figures out that there is room for an even lower priced publication at, say, $15. What would happen to my publication at $100 or even the second publication at $50? This is precisely how the free market works. People produce products (in my case a magazine) and sell it for as much as they can, but the market imposes restraints on what they can charge via the built-in pressure of competition and market forces. Of course I'd sell LensWork for $100 per issue, but the market won't let me. Of course I'd sell LensWork for $1 per issue if I were independently wealthy and could afford to subsidize it -- which I can't, because I'm not. (In fact, this is essentially what other magazines do with all their advertising; the advertising revenue subsidizes your subscription because the amount you pay for the subscription doesn't cover the costs of production and distribution.) The balance between consumer demand and cost of production is what ultimately sets the price.
What if the price is too high? Of course, try as a producer might, sometimes costs rise and there is not a thing anyone can do about it. So, they raise the price. What will the market reaction be? It's anyone's guess. If costs rise too much and the marketplace balks and folks stop buying, the message to the producer is clear. Production ceases and the product dies. Simply said, the product is not worth the price. Conversely, if costs are reduced and the seller doesn't reduce their price, an opening appears and a competitor can slip in and succeed. This is how the free market works and always has.
Of critical importance here is that you -- the consumers -- determine whether or not the product is worth it based on the price you must pay. If it is, the product thrives. If it is not, the product does not. Simple as that. And how does the producer know what the consumer is thinking? That, too, is as simple as can be -- we watch and see if people buy. If they do not, we are being told by the marketplace that consumers are making judgments that the product is not worth the price.
So, the question I've asked for years now is - - How is this any different for artwork than it is for everything else in the market place?
I simply propose that if you find you are not selling your artwork as you'd like, it is the marketplace telling you something that may be useful for you to hear.
Does this make sense?
I just browse it at B&N...EC
I check out the latest issue at the local book or photography retailer and if it's a keeper I buy it. I do this for most of my magazine reading because I find that many magazine repeat themselves(Outdoor Photographer) and it offers support to my neighborhood retailer and some magazines fades away if not seen in the general public.
I understand Brooks point of view regarding the price increase. He's producing a quaility magazine but he can't always control the outside costs. I would suggest digital output but he's doing that and I personaly like having a "Real" book or magazine in hand verses a CD. I look at a computer monitor all day and I like to see a printed page instead on my off computer time.
Is this a ploy to increase subscription for Lens Work? From what I've read on this thread, its backfiring on Brooks and I dought he would do such a silly manuver. I honestly think he is just trying to keep his magazine affordable but can't eat outside costs so he has to increase the price.
Do as I do thumb through the next copy or future issues and if you like it buy it. Support your local retailer!
That's my two cents.
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit"
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I forgot to address the "trick" comment.
Some of you may not be aware how the magazine distribution business works. I have no secrets, so I'll tell you. All the magazines (technically periodicals, identified by their ISSN #) that appear on the shelves at Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc. are purchased from the publisher without any guarantee of payment. If we send 10 copies to a given store, they pay us (6 months later, I might add) only for those that sell. The rest are destroyed and we are not paid for them. Of course, we must pay the costs of producing all of them, but only are paid by the distributor for the ones that sell. We don't even get them back so we can try to sell them ourselves. They are shredded and recycled.
Worse yet, we are paid less (considerably less) than half of the cover price for those that do sell.
Worse yet, if they are stolen off the store shelves, we are charged for the store's shoplifting loss. (Figure that one out. How is this fair to us?)
Worse yet, we pay the shipping from the printer to the distributor.
Worse yet, we pay for the shipping from the distributor to the individual stores.
Worse yet, we pay for the advertising the distributor sends to their customers (the stores) so they know about our magazine.
And we pay an annual fee for the privilege of selling them.
When all is said and done, magazine publishers NEVER make a dime on any of the copies that are distributed through retail outlets. So why do it? It's a stupid game, and here is how it works.
Most magazines survive on their advertising revenue. Their advertising revenue is determined based on how many copies they distribute. So, if they place 50 copies of their publication into a retail store, they can report 50 copies have been distributed -- even if they don't sell. The more copies they send to the store, the more copies they can report are distributed, and therefore the more they can charge their advertisers. The dirty little secret is that most of the copies in the store remain unsold and are eventually destroyed -- a fact that no one in the industry really wants to talk much about. For all those destroyed copies, there is no benefit to the advertiser, no benefit to the retailer, it's a terribly inefficient use of resources from the environment -- but is a game that is so inculcated in the industry that it continues. Magazines typically do everything they can to pump up their numbers simply so they can charge more from their advertisers, regardless of the impact on the quality of the magazine, waste of resources, or insanity of the system. We simply refuse to play this silly game.
And, by the way, this also is precisely why most magazines are printed so poorly compared to the available technology. In order to place as many copies as they can into distribution -- in spite of the knowledge that most of them won't be sold -- they must choose the least expensive printing they can in order to keep costs-per-copy as low as possible. That's why magazines are typically printed on web presses rather than single sheet book presses like we use for LensWork. If so many of the copies of a typical magazine are never going to be actually read by a consumer, why pay for the extra quality in printing -- especially when numbers count more than quality?
We think this entire scenario is just silly. We've always operated on a different principle. Since day one, we've said that LensWork will survive (or not) based on the quality of the publication. Period. No games, no advertising hokum, no phony distribution numbers, no compromise in printing quality. We stopped taking any outside advertising in 2002. We place our faith in the quality of our publication, the care we put in selecting the content, the efforts we expend in reproducing the images with state-of-the-art printing, and the assumption that there are enough people out there who share our passion in photography to care that a publication like LensWork exists. If we produce a magazine that you think is worth it and adds to your photographic life, then we hope you'll buy it. We really hope you'll subscribe to it -- where there is no waste, no destroyed copies, no silly distribution games. We've continued to place LensWork into retail distribution simply so people can find it and then, hopefully, subscribe to it. It's exposure to new customers, nothing more.
I've never been afraid of going against the grain if I think the principle is right. This is just an example of that philosophy in action in the business world.
So, that's the primer on the magazine business for any of you who might be tempted to start your own publication.
This January newsstand price increase is not a "trick," but rather the necessary response to the cost increases we've absorbed over the last 5 years since our last price increase. By holding our subscription rates the same, we obviously do hope more of you will subscribe. That's why we produce it. No tricks. We honestly hope you think it is of value to your photographic life and worth the subscription price. If it is, welcome aboard. If not, I guess we'll just try harder to make it so.
I have always admired the way you lay it on the line. I knew many magazines get destroyed, but I never had the true insight into the "game". I see now there are good stewardship reasons to subscribe beyond cost savings.
I just go to Borders and read (all of) them in the cafe. Did you read the article in Focus about how b&w is starting to make a minor come back in the fine art world! Is this guy an idiot?
As the costs of photography goes up I have to cut costs somewhere, and that is magazines. I can buy great photography books used for pennies on the dollar if I am patient, but magazines are sort of a perishable commodity.
I still buy issues on ocassion, (usually View Camera and B&W and maybe one or two issues of Lenswork a year) but usually they get viewed over a cup of coffee at Borders. At one time I spent $60 a month on mag subscriptions or off the shelf purchases. That's a good chunk of money for film, paper and chemistry.
Lenswork is a great magazine and if the price increase is needed to keep it going with its usual high standards, then we have to accept that fact. I wish them well.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
I have no problem with the cost of the magazine. If I pick up a copy at the local bookstore, and I like it, I'll purchase it. I don't browse magazines over coffee or read them cover to cover at the bookstore, I buy them. Having said that, the primary reason I don't purchase every issue (or subscribe) is the digital content. Good composition + technical flaws = crappy pictures. I know what digital is capable of, and it isn't fine art.