JCL Blog

Which Publisher to Support? Consider Wikipedia

There are many things we have to be thankful for today.  If I were running a print magazine, I would be particularly thankful for my loyal subscribers.  People who actually pay for printed magazines are a rare breed, have to be extremely expensive to acquire, and taking good care of them must be a high priority for publishers.

However, there is some evidence that the industry has adopted some "best practices" that drive away subscribers.

I subscribe to three magazines.  All three of them regularly send me notices that my subscriptions are about to expire.  National Geographic is the only one that indicates when my subscription actually expires.  This is a good idea and as a result, I have had uninterrupted delivery of National Geographic for over 10 years.

Sailing World and the Harvard Business Review make no mention of the expiration date of my subscription.  So I don't renew until I notice that I have not been getting the magazine.  If I never notice then I am a customer lost forever.

Jimmy Wales has been making an appeal to all of us to make donations to his foundation that runs Wikipedia.  This annual fund drive, presumably copied from public radio, must work for him.  I give to public radio but before now I have never given to Wikipedia.  I use Wikipedia at least as much as public radio.  

So this Thanksgiving I am going to send my money to Jimmy Wales.  I may not notice if my mailbox has fewer magazines in it, but I would certainly notice if I could not go to Wikipedia any more.  If you agree, here is the link to the Wikimedia giving page.


Finding the Time

Since starting this blog I have stopped using time constraints as an excuse.  Reinforcing the fact that I have control over my time is one of the benefits of writing regularly for fun.  Clearly this activity is not essential -- so if I have time to write on my blog every day, I must have time for a lot of other things.

This weekend I started reading Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus.  Right in the beginning he sets up a very interesting contrast:  Volunteers editing Wikipedia vs watching TV.  Shirky estimates that the cumulative time spent on Wikipedia writing/editing is something like 100 million hours of human effort.  Say what you will about Wikipedia, but I find it quite useful.  I would trade 100 million hours of everyone's TV watching time to get a Wikipedia.  

It turns out that Americans watch about 100 million hours of TV commercials -- every weekend.  Can you believe that?  We could create something as valuable as Wikipedia -- every weekend -- just by not watching the commercials on TV!