Campus publications face cash crunch during recession
The Nass is among several campus publications that have fallen victim to the economic recession. Chaney said in an e-mail that things recently become “hectic” for the publication because it is “scrambling to accrue ad revenue.”
Chaney explained that the publication has been forced to make “an enormous number of cold calls soliciting advertisements.” The financial challenges, she added, have forced the Nass to seek new sources of funding and to make some painful sacrifices.
“The departments on campus have smaller budgets to work with because of the terrible economic climate, so we’ve had to cut our advertisement rates for them,” Chaney explained. “We’ve already started printing fewer copies of the paper, and we’re entertaining the idea of printing smaller issues, too.”
American Foreign Policy (AFP) has also been forced to adapt to the current economic environment.
“I think most magazines have been affected,” former AFP editor-in-chief Rush Doshi ’11 said. “For us, it’s not a mortal wound; it just means that we have to shift our model a bit.”
Even in the midst of economic uncertainty and talks of major changes to the publication, there are some things Doshi is unwilling to sacrifice.
“One thing that sets AFP apart from the other campus publications is that it’s one of the few that is printed in full-color, and that’s not going to change,” said Doshi, who now serves as an adviser to AFP.
Doshi’s optimism may be justified, as not every campus publication has been forced to make adjustments.
“We receive about half of our funding from Campus Progress and the rest from advertising revenue,” said Aaron Abelson ’11, editor-in-chief of the Princeton Progressive Nation. “So far, we have not had to change anything. We have a contract with the company that prints the magazines and have been able to stay within our budget.” Campus Progress is an independent organization that funds publications which advance progressive political ideologies.
Jose Alicea ’10, who is the founder and publisher of Cornerstone Magazine and a former publisher of AFP and the Princeton Tory, said that the publications’ financial problems stem more from the current state of print media, which is in decline as an industry, than from the economic crisis.
Alicea said that he was approached by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students in the beginning of the fall semester to write a pamphlet on how to run student publications. He noted that he has submitted a draft of the pamphlet, which will be released soon.
Many campus publications, Alicea added, have a limited audience and are poorly run, scaring off potential donors from contributing and businesses from placing advertisements. The economic downturn, he explained, has only revealed the bad habits of those who run the publications.
“Usually, it’s poor management on the part of the publication staff,” he said. “By and large, they don’t know how to go about getting the most quality for the least cost and don’t operate with cutting costs in mind.”
He added, however, that inefficient management is not the only problem.
“Sometimes donors and University offices just aren’t willing to put their money where their mouth is,” Alicea noted. “University funding is just not there.”
Not all of the funding from the University for publications is gone, however, and the USG Projects Board controls a fund used for campus publications, former projecets board co-chair Will Wallace ‘09 said in an email. The projects board also provides advice to the student leaders of individual publications on what other funding sources they might have access to, he added.
“Campus publications frequently apply to [the projects board] for these funds in order to help them print their first issue, but after that, they are permitted one more use of the publications fund in an emergency,” Wallace explained.
He added that, ultimately, a separate projects board to focus solely on publication funding is likely to be created. This board would be able to pay more attention to the specific needs of the diverse magazines and journals.
Doshi said that the most problematic aspect of the future of campus publications was the nature of the media itself, explaining that it is an expense that is “very hard to justify in the internet age.”
“Expanding campus publications’ presence on the internet would allow fewer copies to be printed with no loss in potential readership,” he added. “In this economic climate, that’s a rare win-win situation.”
Doshi also said that inter-publication cooperation is the most effective solution, noting that the creation of a “publication council” through which different publications could collaborate is now being discussed with increased urgency.
The creation of such a council, he added, would have short-term benefits, like allowing publications to approach the same printer together to bargain for lower rates, as well as long-term effects.
“A council could create a useful store of knowledge for new publications or new leaders in the future,” Doshi explained. “If they don’t know what they’re doing or need help, this resource is something they’d be able to always go back to.”
So far, Doshi noted, there have only been informal discussions about the collaborative council, but he added that there will be a meeting next week to “prepare to hit the ground running.”