I have always been obsessed with magazines. Sure, I read a fair share of blogs, but that never stops me from walking into any given bookstore and stocking up on my favorites. I was the 12-year-old with a subscription to Sassy, YM and Seventeen, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, in recent years not only have I watched some of my favorite magazines bite the dust (Jane, Punk Planet) but I’ve watched some come close — and make it out alive.
One of the survivors is Bitch, which combines feminism, activism and pop culture into one snarky and smart publication. About a year ago, the rumors started circulating: Bitch was on its last leg. Advertising money slowed, like it did with most print publications, and they were asking their readers for help.
Readers responded, and the magazine raised even more cash than expected with plenty of time to publish their next issue. One year has gone by, and Bitch readers continue donating what they can to save one of the (very) few print magazines we feminists have left.
One thing that Bitch has going for it in terms of reader support is its non-profit status. Like NPR, any money the magazine takes in from the public is reinvested into their product. There isn’t a big, scary parent company sucking up funds and the magazine’s fate is not in the hands of stockholders desperate to ditch their print media stakes all together.
Bitch didn’t have to sell its soul and do the walk-of-shame into subscribers’ mailboxes complete with ads for diet pills and Ann Coulter books. With its integrity intact, Bitch stuck around, and readers continued getting the same great content.
The whole ordeal makes me wonder: Are consumers still willing to pay for content? Are you?
Niche publications such as Bitch thrive because it is so difficult to find the types of stories they publish elsewhere, but what about newspapers? Or general interest magazines? Is it time for the public to step up and start pitching in for content they read online, or is it time for these newspapers and magazines to start giving us something we can’t read for free a dozen other places?
What Bitch has right is not backing down. They stand by their values and continue to provide a feminist response to the sometimes homophobic, sexist and horrifying world of pop culture.
But what about everyone else? The magazines and newspapers that don’t have non-profit status, and have to depend on readers paying for online content?
The answer should be simple: Give them something they can’t read everywhere else. Give them quality reporting, interpretive stories, fresh perspectives. Unfortunately, the morale in many newsrooms and magazine offices is pretty low right now. There isn’t enough money and staff to do the basics, let alone go above and beyond. Is the end near? Or can Bitch’s perseverance be a lesson to the rest of the print world?
Why do you think Bitch survived? And what do you think is next for print media?