On Beginning Reason's 5th Year

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This issue. Volume 5, Number 1, inaugurates REASON's fifth publishing year. It seems appropriate at this point to share with our readers some thoughts on what REASON has accomplished thus far, and what lies ahead.

First of all, Reason Enterprises has now largely achieved its initial goal of several years ago—namely, that of building REASON into the country's major libertarian publication. We have come a long way since REASON's first mimeographed 8-page issue in the Spring of 1968. With the absorption of nearly 1000 subscribers from SIL and INDIVIDUALIST (as announced last month), REASON has now achieved a paid circulation of over 6000. It was only last December that Murray Rothbard pessimistically concluded that "no libertarian periodical, regardless of promotion, advertising, layout, or whatever…has been able to get its circulation above two or three thousand." On that basis, Rothbard sadly noted that "there seems no real warrant for gauging the [libertarian] movement at more than 3000."

We are delighted to be able to prove Dr. Rothbard's pessimism premature. In addition to building a circulation base of 6000, REASON has developed as a major marketplace for reaching people concerned about freedom. As Dave Nolan of the Libertarian Party recently stated, "When you place an insertion order for an ad in REASON, you know it will get published when it's supposed to." In short, REASON has established a reputation for regular on-time publishing not previously seen in the libertarian movement.

What does all this imply for libertarianism? Looking first at the movement itself, it means that there is finally a "real" magazine that reaches virtually all active libertarians on a regular basis, to provide intellectual ammunition, to advance the state-of-the-art of libertarian ideas, to provide a forum for open discussion of both major issues and of strategy and tactics for freeing our culture, and to provide a marketplace for products and services of interest to people in the forefront of the battle for liberty. Looking outward, it means that there is now a reliable, professionally-written and produced publication available for introducing libertarian ideas into our culture: via homes, offices, libraries, etc. The editors consciously select a mix of material for REASON, so that as much of it as possible will be relevant to the reader just encountering the libertarian philosophy, while not boring the more experienced reader. And, as exemplified by this month's contents, we also strive to include articles representing different facets of the diverse libertarian movement, rather than pushing any single viewpoint. The result is a magazine that is read by an average of two nonsubscribers for every paid subscriber.

All of which is well and good. REASON's success has not, however, been costless. Despite our best efforts, REASON remains a long way from being profitable, at the 6000-circulation level. This circulation is still a very small base over which to spread the large costs of magazine production. And REASON is only now beginning to approach the point where regular (i.e. nonmovement) advertisers will start to take it seriously. (Most magazines make a large portion of their income from advertising; only 6% of REASON's 1972 income resulted from ads.) Each increment of circulation brings with it new elements of workload, and continually-rising fulfillment costs. Inflation and rising postal rates also take their toll.

We are not, of course, just sitting back and complaining. An extensive effort to attract advertisers, based on our new circulation base, has just begun, under the direction of Advertising Manager Donna Rasnake. A major increase in ad revenue will enable us to avoid raising subscription prices again, something we would much prefer to avoid. Readers can help in this effort by patronizing our advertisers and letting them know you saw their ad in REASON. We are continuing to carry out expensive, time consuming direct-mail promotional test-mailings in order to find lists of potential subscribers to mail to. We are also hoping to increase our circulation with the help of the Society for Individual Liberty and the Libertarian Party. Finally, we have established Reason Associates as a means by which subscribers and friends can assist us in amassing capital for promotion of REASON well beyond the confines of the libertarian movement. The first phase of this promotion is now under way (see Publisher's Notes), with the placement of classified ads for REASON in several major periodicals. As more funds become available, we plan to run larger display ads as well.

There is one final resource left untapped, possibly the most valuable of all sources of new subscribers: our current loyal readership. It is exciting for us to ponder that if every subscriber gave a gift subscription to just one of the people who now read his/her issue, REASON would jump to 12,000 circulation. REASON would then be assured substantial advertising, the magazine could further expand in size and features (since unit costs per subscriber would decline), and it would very likely move into the black.

What does REASON's growth mean to you? The more subscribers REASON has, the bigger and better REASON can become, and the more influence it can have in spreading libertarian ideas.

We'd like very much to see this happen during REASON's fifth year. We also think our readers would also like to see it happen, and we'd like to make it worth your while to help us make it happen. Therefore, every subscriber who gives a gift subscription during 1973 will get a free three-month extension of their own subscription. Give two gifts and get a six-month extension, four gifts for a 12-month extension, etc. Help us make 1973 the year of REASON.