Publishing an independent niche magazine has always been a risky business. Many excellent-but-small periodicals in the faith and justice genre have fallen off the cliff of financial precariousness – Christianity & Crisis and The Other Side are two late-and-lamented notables that come to mind.
One factor that can make or break small publications is the cost of mailing each issue to subscribers. A few-cents-per-ounce increase in the cost of postage costs a magazine tens of thousands of dollars, which can easily be the difference between breaking even and going bottoms-up.
As Bill Moyers points out on his blog, the U.S. Postal Service is about to implement a significant rate increase that threatens to cripple small journals. Moyers says:
An impending rate hike, worked out by postal regulators, with almost no public input but plenty of corporate lobbying, would reward big publishers like Time Warner, while forcing these smaller periodicals into higher subscription fees, big cutbacks and even bankruptcy.
It’s not too late. The postal service is a monopoly, but if its governors, and especially members of Congress, hear from enough citizens, they could have a change of heart.
Moyers argues that small publications make “a unique contribution to the conversation of democracy.” Postal increases like these – that in effect punish small nonprofits to the benefit of huge multinational conglomerates – carry the very real risk of making that conversation much narrower in the years to come.
Jim Rice is Editor of Sojourners magazine.