Strong opinions, weakly held

The death of small magazines

Ed Ward laments the early demise of small magazines like No Depression, brought about in part by a restructuring of the postage rates for second class mail approved last year. Here’s how the new scheme works:

The new rates, though, were bizarre: the more magazines you shipped, the less each unit cost, and smaller-circulation magazines were burdened with unreasonably higher per-unit costs, instead of everyone paying the same rate. But that’s what happens when you allow big business to write the laws.

Economically that may make sense, but if preserving the diversity of the marketplace is important, then the new rate schedule is rotten. Here’s Ed on why small magazines matter:

Now, I think this is a tragedy from a number of aspects, and not just because of the loss of income and ability to write stuff which pleases me. As No Depression co-editor Grant Alden notes on his blog, “it’s important to provide homes for magazines which offer up ideas, for we need an informed democracy if we’re to continue having anything which resembles a democracy.” He’s talking about Wal-Mart’s decision to pare back the number of titles they sell, but the “homes” of which he speaks are also the homes of people who subscribe to magazines which espouse unpopular ideas or champion minority cultures, which both Resonance and No Depression did. It’s simplistic and obvious to say it, but if print media becomes reduced to People and Rolling Stone, then America is doomed to unspeakable mediocrity.

I know that as a guy who’s been blogging for nearly ten years now, I’m supposed to explain how the Internet is going to save us, but I still feel that something important has been lost.


  1. “Other Magazine” most recent issue was a retrospective on indie zines that had folded. Then this month, Charlie Anders, the publisher announced that Other was going on hiatus as well.

  2. FYI – This morning NPR had a story where No Depression cited declining ad revenues as the main source of the problem and specifically stated postal rates were not the primary cause.

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