Outrageous Price?

Editor's Note: Approaching its ninth year of publication in 1970, the advertisement-free Stereophile was failing as a business. There was just one issue published between December 1968 and June 1970, the date when J. Gordon Holt published this plea in response to the reaction to the increased subscription price: first to $4 for four issues, equivalent to $25 in 2016, then to $5 ($31). The response from subscribers to his plea was not positive enough to enable the magazine to continue publishing—Gordon could publish just two more issues in the next two years before Stereophile had to accept advertising, first from dealers in October 1972 and from manufacturers in December 1977.Ed.

Our recent price increase at the end of 1969 elicited numerous letters telling us the magazine was exorbitant at $4 a subscription and is outrageous at $5, and supporting their contention with comparisons between the price per page of the Stereophile and one or another of the commercial hi-fi magazines. We will answer this once, here and now, and then let the matter drop.

First, we should like to point out that the Stereophile is not really comparable to the commercial hi-fi publications, because it isn't competitive with them. It is, rather. an adjunct to them.

The commercial hi-fi magazines are a showcase for components. They publish the ads that list each component's salient features, and the equipment reports that show how they measure up in objective tests. We carry no ads, publish few objective measurements, but report on how components sound in actual use. The commercial magazines report on many more products than we do, but they do not attempt to compare competing products, which we do. They run numerous record reviews, with the emphasis on performance; we run very few, with the emphasis on sound. In other words, the commercial magazines show you what's available, and the Stereophile provides the data the perfectionist needs to select those components that will measure up to his standards of sonic quality.

Generally, used audio components have little resale value. If you buy a $40 phono cartridge and then find it isn't as good as you had hoped, you'll be lucky to get $20 for it on trade-in, and the more you paid for something, the more you'll pay for a mistake. The Stereophile can't guarantee that it will save you from such mistakes, but it does tell you more than that something measures "very well" and sounds "fine," and it does compare the sound of competing products. And if that can save you from just one misguided purchase, you've already saved more than the price of admission. Isn't that worth $5 for 4 issues?—J. Gordon Holt

COMMENTS
Axiom05's picture

... about all the ad copy in current Stereophile issues?

dalethorn's picture

Duplicate deleted.

dalethorn's picture

I imagine he would find it peculiar if someone paid a bunch of money to advertise a product that he made clear he didn't like. I'd like to think that wouldn't likely happen, but hey - if the advertiser feels his ad can override the editorial opinion, more power to him, yes?

John Atkinson's picture
dalethorn wrote:
hey - if the advertiser feels his ad can override the editorial opinion, more power to him, yes?

This 1992 article is on a related subject, how to write a "Manufacturer's Comment": www.stereophile.com/features/22/index.html. "Do pick up on and emphasize the positive aspects of an otherwise fairly negative review."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture
Writing in 1969 as "Lucius Wordburger": www.stereophile.com/historical/108/index.html.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dalethorn's picture

Oh yeah. Or writing selling points for a political candidate. Once you get it well-polished you sit back and collect the rewards. In late 1984 to early 1985, I and my favorite supplier were sitting on a large number of laptop computers that were about to go obsolete, with a new model coming out. I looked around and found an example of a really heart-warming letter, which I rewrote into an appeal to our customer base to buy these soon-to-be-obsolete computers, for special friends, spouses etc. I then did a mass mailing of my newly-written appeal. We did very well on that mailing, and even better on the trade-ins a few months later when the new computers arrived.

One of the many things I find irritating in products and advertising is the good, better, best choices like Radio Shack had in their catalogs a couple of decades ago. Some hi-fi accessory manufacturers are doing that today, and it doesn't look any better to me now than it did then. I yearn for the type of ad copy like Henry Kloss produced for the Advent speakers circa 1969-1970. "Hoffman's Iron Law" was one of my favorites, but I suppose that most hi-fi customers today wouldn't appreciate the promotion of a new product written from an engineer's perspective, like the Advent brochures. I think a lot of manufacturers could give potential customers reasons to believe in their products, if they communicated the passion that went into their designs in a more visceral way, with details analogous to some of Kloss' famous prose. But the fear of getting too 'technical' is palpable among advertising and promo people, to the detriment of a lot of fine engineers who design the products.