I got this email last week, from someone in the industry whose opinion I usually respect:

Dear Editor,

I no sooner finish complaining to the editor of Lighting Dimensions about the incredible shrinking magazine than the December issue of Entertainment Design lands on my desk.

After a brief interlude of running after the postman, to find out why he had seen fit to steal half my magazine, I settled down to read. It was, of course, safe in the knowledge that I could read the whole magazine within the remaining 20 minutes before lunch.

Thirty pages a meaningful industry journal does not make!

Entertainment Design has some fascinating articles, I've been particularly enjoying Bob & Colleen Bonniol's projection column, and I loved your defending of September's cover. If, however, Primedia are determined to act as if ED is printed using the blood of virgins (good luck in our industry) then I guess they'll get their wish of just having one publication, a combined ED & LD, instead of the two very distinctive titles that we have now.

For some reason all this reminds me of a scene from the Hitch Hikers guide to the Galaxy: “How can you have money when none of you produce anything? It doesn't grow on trees you know!”

“Well since we have adopted the leaf as legal tender we have of course all become extremely rich. However, we have run into a slight inflation problem and therefore we've decided to burn down all the forests.”

Signed,
The disgruntled reader

Dear Disgruntled,

I've been hearing this argument about LD for a long time now; you're the first to say anything about ED. Personally, I think it's all a crock. Let me explain.

When a rental house suffers through tough economic times, what to they do? Trim costs, cut staff, and endeavor to maintain the same level of service as before. The company may be smaller, but if you still offer quality products and quality service, hopefully no one will notice the difference. Once the economy improves, you ramp back up, re-hire the staff, invest in the company, and build your business.

It's the same with magazines, the difference being we have no choice but to wear our tough economic times on our sleeve. If a magazine has to trim costs, it can show up in varying forms — smaller size, less frequency, or in my opinion the worst culprit, a drop in quality — but its customers see a change right away once they pick up an issue. We are very transparent that way.

Now think for a minute. Why is the magazine smaller? Because there are fewer ads. Why are there fewer ads? Because companies have fewer ad dollars to spend. Why do they have fewer ad dollars? Because the industry's been in the toilet for the last three years. Magazines — or at least those run with any fiscal responsibility — are a reflection of the industry they cover, especially small and relatively young industries like ours. Every single publication is smaller than they were three years ago (if they were even around three years ago); if they say otherwise they're either lying or losing money.

You can say what you want about the size of my magazine. You can make jokes about the struggles we've been having with our parent company (believe me, we make the same ones) and throw your money away on any number of magazines that have begun popping up this industry over the last few years. If that's whom you choose to align your business with, good luck to you.

But I defy you to tell me there has been a drop in the quality of the coverage in ED. You may have spent 20 minutes before lunch reading the December issue (does your boss know your reading industry rags on his clock, by the way?), but something tells me you got more out of it than the five minutes you spent reading the verbatim press releases, vanity profiles, and sloppy writing in some of our competitors.

When the economy turns around — and it will, if it isn't there already — then the magazine will get bigger. We think we're seeing a turnaround already in 2004. I'm disappointed you feel this way, but I think you're wrong. And when you come crawling back, tail between your legs, will I let you back into our fold?

Well, yeah, sure.

Signed,
The fully gruntled editor