Letter from the Editor

Survey Calls for More of the Same

In order to bring our readers more timely news and columns and to operate more efficiently, The Progressive Populist will expand to twice-monthly publication this fall.

Respondents to our recent survey by a two-to-one margin supported a move to twice-monthly publication. Slightly more than half of the 170 respondents said they prefer the current monthly publication, but a supermajority of 100 said they would continue to subscribe to a twice-monthly Progressive Populist if it cost less than $30 a year and 47 said "maybe." Only 11 said they would not continue with the twice-monthly -- but we're not giving up on them!

Many of you recognized what was afoot and noted that you like The Progressive Populist just fine the way it is. A few of you advised, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," but the fact is that after three and a half years The Progressive Populist is only starting to break even on production costs. It needs fixing.

A quick course on periodical finance: There are two ways to pay publishing costs -- through subscriptions and advertising. You can flip through our pages and see we don't sell many ads and we don't expect to in the near future (which is fine with us -- we'd rather be beholden to our subscribers than advertisers). Also, our readers are nearly as likely to resent advertising as they are to support our advertisers. That leaves subscriptions to pay the freight, but it costs us about $20 to generate an $18 subscription to The Progressive Populist by direct mail solicitation -- and that doesn't even count the cost of fulfilling that subscription. So we don't make any money off new subscribers unless we can get them to renew a year down the road.

If we raise the rate to $29.95 for 22 issues (we will combine issues in July and December) and if we get the same response rate of about 2% on sample copies, we will make a few dollars on each direct mail subscription, which will enable us to invest more in that method of generating circulation. We hope an accelerated direct mail campaign will get us to the level of 4,000 to 5,000 subscribers at which we can pay ourselves a salary by next year.

Also, many of our featured columnists already do weekly columns and we have access to more features than we can cram into our current monthly edition. We can easily fill two issues a month and we hope a twice-monthly schedule, starting in October, will establish more of a rhythm with our readers.

However, we don't want to price any of our readers out of a subscription. If you cannot afford $29.95, send us what you can and we'll keep The Progressive Populist coming. If you can afford to contribute more than the regular rate of $29.95, that will help us subsidize the lower-income readers. Of course we will honor current subscriptions. If you subscribed last month at $18 for a year, we will fulfill the year's subscription, as well as gifts and second years. We appreciate your continued support.

AS FOR THE REST OF the survey, our typical respondent is a retired professional with a college education, a progressive Democrat who has become more liberal in the past 20 years, and a fan of Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins, but if the survey demonstrated anything, it is that Progressive Populist readers are a diverse bunch. You are government workers, blue-collar laborers, union members, farmers, journalists, business managers, librarians, technicians, teachers and students. Your schooling ranges from a couple years short of a high school diploma to postgraduate degrees. Your incomes range from seven earning less than $10,000 -- bless your hearts -- to 18 making more than $75,000 -- good for you!

Most of the respondents (86) call yourselves progressive, although some of you weren't sure what "progressive" means. Fair enough; neither do we. Another 51 call yourselves "very liberal" while six are "radical left," five are "moderate" and five are "conservative. Eighty-five have become more liberal in the past 20 years, while 61 have stayed about the same, eight have become more conservative and only one has become more cynical.

As for political identification, 63 are self-professed Democrats, although many of you are looking at other movements, 44 are independents, 33 Greens, 26 New Partiers, 24 Labors, 13 Socialists (including Democratic Socialists) and 13 others, including U.S. Taxpayer, Libertarian, Republican, Reform, Populist, Shamanist, Anarchist and Communist.

Many of our respondents are older. Seventy of you are 65 or older, while 41 are 50-65, 40 are 35-50 and six are 21-35. No teenagers responded. You are as likely to own a personal computer (83) as not to have one (80). You are as likely to patronize our advertisers as to care less who advertises with us, although 29 said you were unlikely to patronize our advertisers and 54 said you would be unlikely to support the publication if it carried more advertising.

Most popular columnist is Jim Hightower, listed by 130 among their top five. Molly Ivins was named by 117. Next favorite was Ralph Nader with 77, then Jesse Jackson with 36, Hal Crowther with 34, Editorial with 33, Norman Solomon with 24 and Al Krebs with 23. But tastes were spread among 33 other writers or features.

You asked especially for more coverage of alternative parties, the environment, labor, consumer, economics, politics, farm and rural news. Also more cartoons, minority news, satire and humor. Of course, many of you want less of these same subjects.

You generally agreed that we are not too liberal, you are not looking for balanced reporting, we are not too mainstream and we should criticize progressives and Democrats when they deserve it.

You don't care much about a culture section; 65 indicated thumbs down while 28 liked the idea. If we must, non-fiction book reviews are preferred, although sizeable minorities supported music and cinema reviews.

One of the complaints we hear is that many of our articles are depressing. Granted, being a progressive populist is tough work, and the odds oftentimes are against us, but we try to report on the victories as well, and the people who are working toward solutions.

Some of you were suspicious about why we were doing the survey. We aren't planning to run The Progressive Populist by focus group, we don't expect to sell major advertising in the foreseeable future, and we aren't looking to make major changes, other than increasing the frequency of publication. But we are interested in knowing more about our readers and what you like and dislike about our publication. We are gratified to know that for many of you The Progressive Populist is a highlight of your month. We hope to make it more so.

Best regards,

You can contact Jim Cullen by calling 512-447-0455, mailing P.O. Box 150517, Austin, TX 78715 or by emailing populist@usa.net.

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