There have been several comments recently about how Lapidary Journal
has “slimmed down,” and I thought it might be of interest to know how
magazines determine how big the issue will be, how much editorial
The harsh reality is that advertising pays for magazines.
Subscription revenue is an important part of the puzzle, but
generally is about enough to pay for the paper the magazine is
printed on. It doesn’t cover the printing itself, staff salaries,
freelance fees, photography, and all the other expenses that go into
filling up the pages so subscribers get something other than a blank
tablet of paper each month.
Advertising is the main revenue stream at most publications, from
your local newspaper to TIME magazine. That means the amount of
advertising determines the number of pages in a particular issue. The
normal advertising/editorial ratio is between 60 percetn advertising,
40 percent editorial to a 50-50 split. If there’s more editorial than
advertising, someone else is footing the bill, either through very
high annual subscription costs (professional journals in other fields
can cost several hundred dollars per year for a subscription),
through membership dues in an association, or through a corporate
sponsor of some type. It might also be losing money, which may be
acceptable to the publisher in the short term, if he believes the
publication has strong potential. But like any other business, a
magazine or newspaper that continually loses money eventually goes
out of business. You can probably think of several that have
disappeared off newstands in the last couple of years – a lack of
advertising dollars is probably the reason why. Post September 11,
advertisers cut WAY back – the bottom just fell out. It’s only just
starting to come back now, but it’s been a very tentative, one step
forward, two steps back kind of thing.
Why do advertisers pay big bucks to advertise? This is where the
subscriber base comes in. The advertisers have products they want to
sell. They are hoping that the folks who subscribe to a magazine want
to buy them. Just as you carefully choose what trade shows to exhibit
your jewelry based on what type of attendance is anticipated,
advertisers choose the magazine they think the people who want their
products will read.
Because advertising pays the bills, editors do find themselves under
pressure to write articles that will sell the advertisers’ products.
But editors are an independent lot, whose first loyalty is to their
readers. And they understand that if the articles aren’t interesting
to the readers, or if the readers can’t trust the in the
articles, the readers will go away. And then the advertisers will go
away. And then the magazine goes away.
But sometimes there just aren’t enough readers in a particular
audience to keep the advertisers interested. Or they don’t respond to
the ads they see in the magazine, so advertisers feel that they’re
wasting their ad dollars. When that happens, no matter how beautiful,
how great, how award-winning the editorial content, the magazine goes
bankrupt. So sometimes, a magazine will change its focus to appeal to
a wider audience, or to a different audience with different spending
habits. It’s an economic decision, simple as that. Someone has to pay
the bills. We all love what we do, but very few of us are in a
position to do it for free.
You can help support the magazines that you enjoy by telling
suppliers you saw their ad in XYZ magazine. That tells the supplier
their advertising is working, and encourages him to continue
advertising. This is particularly true if you found a new supplier
through an ad.
I’d also like to say just a word or two in defense of editors.
Preparing articles that are interesting to ALL a magazine’s readers
is a little like preparing a cake that everybody will enjoy. Some
people like vanilla, others can’t stand it. Some like chocolate,
others are allergic to it. Some people are allergic to eggs, others
to wheat. Some hate cake, and would rather have pie. You get the
idea. So you try to appeal to as many readers as possible with a
variety of articles. Not everyone will enjoy every article, but
hopefully each reader will find enough of interest to keep reading
Some days the editor blows it. Editors are only human, after all,
and they make mistakes like the rest of us. The main difference
between their job and yours is that you can melt down your mistakes
before anyone sees them.
There was also some criticism that LJ would hire an editor who isn’t
an expert in all facets of jewelry making. From my experience in
publishing, I think this is a bit unfair. How many people do you know
that are expert in all facets of jewelry making AND can take 2,000
words of barely comprehensible English and turn it into a clear,
concise, entertaining article? Without insulting the writer or
turning the article into something unrecognizable to said writer? And
do this a dozen times per issue, handling each ego with just the
right degree of deference and authority? AND be a fabulous copy
editor, who can pick up every typo and error in measurement, even if
the originator of the error was the writer? AND have the diplomatic
skills of an ambassador, so he/she can soothe all the ruffled
feathers that inevitably arise when a mistake does get through?
You know someone? Good. Ask them to move to the suburbs of
Philadelphia for a salary that’s probably less than what your plumber
I find my editors at LJ to be talented wordsmiths, who make my
writing even better. They catch my errors and keep me from looking
like a fool. They don’t know everything, but they’re honest about
their limitations, and willing to learn what they don’t know. Quite
often they teach me a thing or two. Some days we learn together.
Someone once said that a journalist’s job is to be educated in
public. That about sums it up, as far as I can tell.
I don’t know why the design that has inspired so much commentary
here was chosen. I agree, it’s ugly. But then, I’ve thought the same
thing of certain award winning designs. What do I know? Even after 10
years in the field, I wouldn’t claim to be an expert.
I encourage all of you who feel strongly about this issue to write
Merle White, Lapidary Journal’s editor, and Tammy Honaman, the
Step-by-Step editor. Fair criticism is what helps us to learn, and to
improve the publication in the future. But remember: they’re human
and they’re doing the best job they can, so try and keep it polite.
No one at Lapidary Journal – or any other jewelry industry
publication for that matter – is intentionally trying to undermine
the foundations of jewelry making in America. And it wouldn’t hurt to
acknowledge the things you like about the magazine. There must be
something, or this particular choice of project wouldn’t have
inspired so much passion!
Wishing you all a prosperous, joyful New Year.
Phone: (508) 339-7366
Fax: (928) 563-8255