From the Publisher :: Can Print Survive in the Digital Age?

Many are asking “Can print publications survive in the digital age?” Our answer for YES! Magazine? Yes we can! As many of you have told us, if there was ever a time for the YES! message, this is it.

“So how is YES! doing?” a long-term subscriber asks me. The anxious edge in her voice tells me this is not a casual question. With daily reports of newspapers and magazines folding or going online only, she’s afraid she may lose her favorite magazine.

And of course she’s not alone. Many are asking “Can print publications survive in the digital age?”

Our answer for YES! Magazine? Yes we can! As many of you have told us, if there was ever a time for the YES! message, this is it. Despite the economic downturn, subscriptions to YES!, visits to YES! online, and newsstand sales are hitting all-time highs. And, thanks to several generous donors, we’re expanding our staff to mount our online “YES! Takes on the News” program.

But let me be honest. This is not easy. Our expenses keep growing—especially health insurance, postage, and our 100 percent post-consumer-waste recycled paper. To meet the challenge, we’ve got five key strategies we’re betting will keep us serving you, both in print and online, for the long haul.

We are a nonprofit. Some experts are suggesting newspapers and magazines can survive by becoming nonprofits. Fortunately, we’ve been a nonprofit from the beginning, which means we’ve had no owners demanding ever-growing returns on their investment. We just have to break even. And being a nonprofit means supporters can make donations that are tax-deductible.

We count on our readers’ generosity. When YES! was founded, we knew that broad communication of our message of the positive possibilities for deep social change would require a great many people’s support. You have come through with tremendous generosity and heart. In 2008 more than a thousand of you provided financial support beyond the subscription price. By the end of April 2009, a whopping 540 had become Dedicated Friends—providing monthly or quarterly donations that help stabilize our income. Thousands of you give gift subscriptions, acquainting friends and relatives with YES! Major donors and foundations provide critical support for outreach programs and new initiatives that enable us to innovate and grow.

We make print and Web work together. The Web can spread ideas quickly. But it’s a fleeting medium. Print works best for in-depth examination of a topic. So we’re using each medium to its best advantage. YES! Magazine provides the multifaceted exploration of where our society needs to move on topics as diverse as the economy, education, and peace and security. YES! online spreads our stories to a larger audience. We’ve particularly seen our timely “YES! Takes on the News” commentaries travel to many high-traffic sites, giving wide visibility to our solution-oriented journalism and acquainting a broad audience with YES! That exposure in turn brings in more subscriptions to the print magazine.

We partner with like-minded organizations. We love to feature the good work of other organizations advancing democracy, peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability. Some of those organizations want to introduce their members to YES! You can read about two of our partners here.

We keep expenses low. We go to great lengths to keep our costs down. We clean our offices ourselves, make use of donated equipment, and bring sleeping bags to our annual staff retreat. Our superbly talented staff works for salaries that are modest, even by nonprofit standards. And many important members of our team are volunteers and interns, working for free.

Will these five strategies be enough to survive and thrive in the digital age? I think they will. But I’m acutely aware that our success rests, as it always has, on the passion and generosity of you, our readers, and your commitment to supporting a voice that celebrates what we can all do to build a just and sustainable world.

Fran Korten wrote this article as part of The New Economy, the Summer 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Fran is Executive Director of the Positive Futures Network, Publishers of YES! Magazine. Photo of Fran Korten
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