Tuesday, February 19, 2008

yes, depression

cross-posted from my Punk Planet blog

Today's announcement that No Depression magazine is folding up shop after the publication of their next issue is dredging up a lot of painful old memories for me. Last year felt like a bloodbath for independent publishers and the few that were able to hang on through it, I hoped would be able to persevere forever, defiant against what seemed like an inevitability.

But now No Depression, a magazine that I've always felt a kinship towards, has bent against the crosswinds that blew Punk Planet down as well. While No Depression didn't have a distributor bankruptcy to speed the downturn like we did, they still came up across the difficulties of being a publication supported in large part by the ads of record labels during a time when record labels are struggling on their own. As a result, the magazine saw its advertiser base dwindle:

The simple answer is that advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.

The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industrywide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM's print advertising budget; our size meant they weren't going to buy space in our pages, regardless.

On the other hand, because we're a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.

That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.

Thirteen years and 75 issues is a hell of a run for any publication; it's even more admirable when that publication did it without ceding their editorial beliefs and morals even one inch. Grant, Peter, and Kyla should know that their heads can be held high (that is, once they lift them off the pillows that they most likely collapsed on after penning their painful letter).

I know the exhaustion that comes with the end of a publication that's consumed your life for over a decade (and the many headaches that come with that end as well), but I hope that the publishers, editors, designers, and writers of No Depression know that they made an impact and helped to keep their little corner of the world exciting and new for readers like me.

The hardest part of doing this type of work is that, by and large, it is thankless. So Grant, Peter, and Kyla--along with everyone else that worked on the project for over a decade--thank you.