[SOUNDSTAGE!] Doug Schneider is the Publisher of SoundStage!
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Monthly Editorial by Doug Schneider
May 1998

Commitment to Quality

From the beginning, SoundStage! has always been about commitment—to high-end audio, to music, and especially to our readers who keep visiting us month after month. Within this framework of commitment is an underlying adherence to quality, which is not always easy to maintain. Back when SoundStage! was a fledgling publication that existed solely on the dedication and commitment of its small group of writers, no money was involved (except what we were spending out of our own pockets) and there was hardly enough review equipment for the few writers we had on staff.

But all that changed quickly. SoundStage! quickly amassed a worldwide audience, and the need to expand became a necessity. Soon we had approximately 20 writers and more promises for review gear than even our large crew of reviewers could handle. We knew that in order to grow properly and maintain the level of quality, we had to support our publication accordingly—and it would take more than our writers’ commitment to do this. One of the instrumental moves that we made was to take on advertising, and once again, SoundStage! was a pioneer. This move was not without its opponents, mind you. As expected, there was (and is) a small group of readers who believe that the inclusion of advertising means an editorial bias. Put simply, these readers associate advertising revenue as a way to buy favor with a publication. Unfortunately, this is short-sighted and deserves a head-on rebuttal.

I'll start by saying that if someone really wants to buy favor with a magazine, advertising is certainly NOT the most effective way to accomplish this. I don't know what would be the best way to buy positive coverage, but it doesn't take much imagination to think of a few that would likely work. Regardless, if a publication wants to operate in a corrupt manner, buying favor can be done easily. I have no interest in operating this way. It's misleading to think that if a publication refrains from accepting advertising that it is somehow above others in its convictions. Advertising programs on SoundStage! are simply cost-effective methods for manufacturers and dealers to gain high visibility to a worldwide audience, especially in countries that print magazines can’t reach effectively. We have advertisers who have never submitted products for review and never intend to.

Whether a publication accepts advertising or not has no correlation with the quality of its content. The quality of its writing staff is far more important, and that's where we maintain our focus. Furthermore, we ensure that we are operating optimally in a business sense. If a magazine is woefully underfunded, the lack of revenue will likely have more effect on its content than other issues. I'm more skeptical of those professing to be experts without the resources or the depth of product knowledge to really seek out and find the stories that are out there.

This brings us to the flip side of advertisers that is all too important and something that the anti-advertising regime rarely considers—or perhaps doesn’t want you to think about. Advertising revenues are a key reason that publications like ours flourish and our able to offer content that’s of a higher quality than that of competitors. It is also the reason that many web-based publications are following suit and are now considering taking on advertising to support their own endeavors. Put simply, a poorly funded publication will have difficulty producing quality information for its readership, while a properly managed publication can offer content far beyond expectations.

By accepting advertising, SoundStage! has been able to produce more reviews, better articles, and the finest trade-show coverage. Furthermore, we're able to do so in a timely, professional manner—and we're not finished. Through 1998 and 1999 we have plans for further expansion that we know our readers will love. We're only a small fraction of the way to where we want to be.

So this begs the final question. Could we provide all this quality information without advertising? Perhaps, but we would either have to incur large out-of-pocket expenses or have to ask our readers to support us through some sort of subscription fee—and a fairly hefty one at that. If you know of other ways, please tell us. To us, there is no choice because our mission is simple. In the tradition of the Internet, we want to keep our content free for all readers and still provide the most relevant and timely information anywhere. Let us know how we’re doing.

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