with the ad thing
By Ellen Mediati
Contrast the resurrection of bOING
bOING with the success of Green, and you have a tale of two
zine ad philosophies. While bOING bOING epitomizes the anti-ad
sentiments of some of the more radical zines, Green embraces
the traditional ad-driven model. But both illustrate an interesting
development: As the underground press becomes more and more co-opted
into popular cultureeven Rolling Stone has its own so-called
Zine Scenethere is a line being drawn between those zinesters
who go into publishing for pleasure and those who make it a business.
California-based bOING bOING, devoted to offbeat artists and
hobbies, had been around for seven years when editors Carla Sinclair
and Mark Frauenfelder suspended publication in 1995. At the time,
the once-obscure title was booming with a hefty (by zine standards)
paid circulation of 17,500. But Sinclair and Frauenfelder complained
that ad solicitation, distribution and fulfillment chores robbed
them of the pleasure of printing. This month, they relaunch bOING
bOING as an ad-free title with a print run of just 1000.
The way Sinclair
sees it, advertising "ruins the whole spirit of zines."
She and Frauenfelder originally introduced bOING bOING to "express
ourselves." But the two instead found themselves catering
increasingly to their music advertisers, feeling obliged to expand
editorial coverage of the topic.
"We were compromising
our magazine," says Sinclair. "I understand that regular
magazines have to have advertising to pay the bills. But we want
to keep it a zine, a hobby-not our business." Sinclair has
turned down former advertisers and no longer takes new subscriptions
because she doesn't want to abide by a production schedule.
Then there's John
Packel, publisher of New York City-based Green, a year-old personal-finance
guidebook for the young, mobile set. Packel wants lots of ads.
"We're different from most zines," he admits. "We're
not a one-man show or a hobby. We ultimately want someone to
buy the magazine."
Packel works full-time
for Greena rarity in zinedom, where most publishers, like
Betty Boob of Bust, sneak in
ad-sales calls "when the bosses are on their lunch breaks."
With a paid circulation of 10,000, Green recently switched to
a four-color, glossy format in an effort to attract major media
buyers. The upgrade has prevented Green from turning a profit
at the moment, but both Motorola and MetLife placed color ads
in the winter issue.
Most zines fall
somewhere between Green and bOING bOING on the ad front. Higher-circulation
titles, like New York City's POPSmear with 10,000 circulation
($3, 105 Thompson St., #3, New York, NY 10012) and Bust with
12,000, tend to see advertising as a viable source of support
and are more likely to solicit media buyers, especially in the
music and street-wear industries. Lower-circ zines, such as New
York City-based But A Paper Dress with 300 circulation ($2, P.O.
Box 503, Scarsdale, NY 10583) and Second Guess with 1000 to 2000
circulation ($3, Box 9382, Reno, NV 89507), are more likely to
view ads as a complement to editorial. They spend less time selling
space and are more selective about the ads they run.
Bob Conrad, editor/publisher
of the punk-inspired Second Guess, screens all prospective music
labels before he accepts any advertising. If he doesn't like
one label's product or ideology, he refuses to run its ad. "Advertising
ultimately cheapens quality standards," says Conrad. Second
Guess relies on subscriptions and the support of Conrad's own
mail-order company, selectively taking some advertising because
"there are businesses out there that are worth supporting."
not everybody wants the support, as one title recently discovered.
But A Paper Dress, a Loyalty Press fanzine dedicated to the band
They Might Be Giants, tried to sell an ad to Elektra Records
to promote the band's new release. "They didn't want it,"
says editor/publisher Julie Ana Klausner, "so I offered
to give them the space for free. I really wanted to promote the
new CD." But the label still said no. "They told me
my zine wasn't worthy of their ad," says Klausner, who proceeded
to write about the snub in the space she'd reserved for the ad.
Another New York
City zine, Fishwrap (2130 Broadway, #915, New York, NY 10023),
actually got into trouble for giving away space. The 5000-circulation
title, which pokes fun at the magazine industry, reproduced an
ad for Moonlight Tobacco in the Winter 1995 issue without the
company's knowledge. "I like [Moonlight] and thought the
ad would look good," says editor/publisher Marty Wombacher,
adding that he regularly "comps" ads to music labels,
restaurants and products he likes. But when Moonlight found out
about the unauthorized ad last September, the Chicago-based cigarette
company was less than grateful. Representatives called Wombacher
and insisted that Fishwrap never print the ad again.
hasn't commented on the situation, Wombacher suggests that his
magazine's parodies of tobacco advertisers may have something
to do with it. "It's sick the way that advertisers dictate
everything," says Wombacher. "They should have nothing
to say about the editorial. I only owe them an audience."
This piece originally appeared in the February
1, 1997, issue of Folio:.
Copyright 1997 Cowles Business Media. Posted with permission.
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