A s we enter this new year, we want to begin by saying “Thank You” to our loyal readers. Without you, we literally could not do this work, which we consider a true calling and a blessing.
Many of you enjoy the content we produce each month by picking up a copy of TEXAS FISH & GAME at a newsstand or from one of the many racks we have placed in convenience stores and in Academy Sports + Outdoors locations across the state (along with copies of our books).
But the vast majority of you are monthly subscribers, receiving print copies of FISH & GAME in your mail box, or downloading our new digital editions, or—increasingly—using both delivery vessels to enjoy our content.
In the regional outdoor magazine business, there are two basic strategies: one that develops readership by focusing on retail distribution, and one that focuses on building subscriber distribution. We started with a focus on subscription over retail distribution, and have stayed with that strategy. Even with a more recent aggressive push into retail locations such as Academy (that will expand into the D/FW area very soon), we still reach 90 percent of our readers through subscriptions.
Our reasons for this have been simple: we wanted relationships with our readers, not just casual acquaintances. As a result, many of our readers have been with us for decades. We also wanted to cultivate a more stable readership, one that would remain with us, from month to month and from year to year.
Given that even the top-selling magazines on newsstands actually sell only 1/3 of the copies they ship or deliver to retail locations, and that the other two-thirds end up in a shredder, retail distribution is a wasteful, inefficient business. It is still necessary, from a competitive standpoint, and it does have the benefit of introducing new readers to a publication. But it is not a sound strategy for building an entire reader base.
But, of course, building a subscriber base is not easy, either.
While retail distribution has its own logistical challenges and inefficiencies, developing a strong subscriber base has required years of patient and expensive marketing efforts, backed by a continuing investment in the quality of the content out of which our main product is built.
It is no secret that the economics of publishing are upside down (or maybe the true shape is more contorted than that). Income from the proceeds of subscriptions and single copy sales—what we call “Circulation”—amounts to only a tiny fraction of what it takes to operate a magazine or newspaper. Advertising is what keeps most publishers in business—a topic that we will explore in a future installment of this column—and advertisers are only interested if a publication has enough eyeballs glued to its pages and digital screens.
This is where you come in, Dear Readers. Without your continued interest in what we assemble and serve each month, we would have no reason to exist.
Your steady and enthusiastic support is rocket fuel to us. We love interacting with you out in public, over the phone, and in your emails and letters. We use your feedback to continually improve. And the amazingly high percentage of you who keep renewing your subscriptions allows us to move forward without the need to go back to the well—and to the bank—to mount expensive new recruitment drives.
We will never take your support for granted, and we pledge to always do the very best work possible. After all, it is work we love—and we owe you a big thanks for allowing us to keep doing it. Thank You, and Happy New Year!