After much searching of soul and of bank account, we have reached an earth-shattering decision. The Stereophile is going to start taking ads.
Before you throw your hands up in horror and scream "Sellout", though, bear with us for another couple of paragraphs while we explain why this decision on our part need not prompt you to cancel your subscription immediately.
First of all, we are not considering, and neither will we consider, taking ads from manufacturers. There is just too intimate a relationship between a product and an advertisement for that product. Stereophile tests products, whose manufacturers feel pride in creation as well proprietary interest, and no matter how much we tried to be fearlessly forthright in reporting on a manufacturer's product, we are not sure we could really ignore the fact that a devastating report might cost us three mortgage payments. And when a magazine sells space to a manufacturer, it gets to know the manufacturer, and if he happens to be a nice guy, it is hard to be as hard on his mistakes (and we all make them) as we should be in order to warn our readers of them.
What we have considered, and are going to try for a while, is taking ads from dealers.
Unlike a manufacturer, a dealer carries a selection of brands as well as models. He would, of course, like to see us do rave reports on everything he carries, because a rave report in Stereophile occurs so rarely that it is worth five raves in magazines that see everything as ranging from "well worth consideration" to "among the very best." But whereas a manufacturer must meet production costs on a new model by selling at least most of its initial production run, a dealer who expects to be in business for a while must sell customer satisfaction as well as equipment.
A satisfied customer will not only continue to patronize the dealer, he will usually urge his friends to go then and do likewise. And while local advertising is important for a dealer, he is not likely to stay in business for long without the word-of-mouth promotion of his satisfied customers. So, while a bad Stereophile report on a product he carries may make it harder for him to unload the one or two samples of it that he has in stock, he is not likely to want to sell too many more of them anyway. They could lead to customer dissatisfaction. Besides, he still has other models of that brand to push, as well as all the other models of the other brands he carries.
To a conscientious (as opposed to schlock) dealer, it is not as important that we approve (editorially) of everything he carries, as it is that Stereophile readers within driving range of his store know that it is there, and that it is stocked with the kind of goodies we generally report favorably on. Thus, while he may occasionally be piqued at a report on something he stocks, he knows (or should know) that the potential loss of sales of that one product is far outweighed by the benefits to him of having Stereophile readers in his area know what his store sells and where it is located.
In other words, his ads in Stereophile will serve their primary purpose regardless of what we write about some of the stuff he sells. And we, for our part, can feel free to be as forthright in our equipment reports as we were when we were taking no ads at all.
Dealer ads in Stereophile will serve another purpose, too. And if you have ever let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages, trying to find someone who stocks Audio Research or Infinity or Decca products, you'll know what it is: Dealer ads can tell you where to find the kind of equipment they don't stock in your local hi-fi mart.
There will be times when the ads section will seem to be cutting into the space normally occupied by editorial content, but this happened on several occasions with our "AudioMart" listings until the levying of a small charge for the ads there cut it back to its present, more-workable size. We will make our readers a promise, though: If the paid ads in a given issue look as if they're starting to hog our editorial space too much, we'll add some more pages to that issue.
Needless to say, we will also decide, apparently arbitrarily in some cases, whose ads we will accept and whose we won't, and your comments will influence our decisions. If we get enough complaints about a dealer, he's out. We could use his money, but we know which side our bread is buttered on; reader confidence is more valuable to us in the long run than advertising revenues in the here-and-now.
So, before cancelling your subscription, bear with us for a couple of issues and decide for yourself whether our earthshaking decision has impaired our ability to give you the kind of audio reporting you've come to expect from us in the past.
And incidentally, any dealers who are interested in making their presence known to audiophiles in their area are invited to write (to "Advertising," at the usual address) for our ridiculously low rates.
Not So Far: A large number of readers have written us to express their horror at not having received a single issue of the Stereophile "for well over a year."
Well, yes, we're late, but we're not so far behind schedule as all that. The last issue, regardless of its printed date, was mailed last January, which makes this one six months late. Things could be worse!—J. Gordon Holt
The first dealer ads to appear in Stereophile, all in Vol.3 No.3, were from Jonas Miller of Beverly Hills, CA, Music & Sound of Willow Grove, PA, Paoli High Fidelity Consultants of Paoli, PA, and Paul Heath Audio of Rochester, NY.—Ed.
As We See It...Late Again!
J. Gordon Holt returned to the twin subjects of advertising and lateness five years later, in issue 35, cover-dated "Winter (4) 1975/76, Vol.3 No.11