Our Fiscal Cliff

Our big plans for 2013 and how you can help.

Dear readers,

The past year has been great for Jacobin — and we certainly haven’t been shy about boasting about it. It’s more than narcissism. We hope our improbable success is symbolic of a wider intellectual shift and that the Left’s marginality will soon be a thing of a past. With an editorial staff mostly consisting of people in their 20s, we expect to be active participants in that process.

But in the effort to make things that require effort seem effortless, we might have downplayed the challenges that we face. They’re mainly monetary. We’ve grown at a fast rate and our operation needs to catch up. Our online readership is sizeable — increasing five-fold since January — but with so much of our material available for free, we’re not converting these readers into subscribers at a rate that can sustain our continued operation. We average around a 250,000 unique visitors a month, but barely have 2,000 subscribers. Moreover, as a young magazine with no wealthy benefactors or institutional base, we survive financially issue-to-issue.

Your contribution will ensure that Jacobin continues to flourish in 2013, please give now.

Simply, Jacobin’s existence is more precarious than publications with less reach and influence. We need your help. Digital subscriptions are just $19, encourage your friends to buy one. Donations are also appreciated.

But your support will do more than simply keep us afloat. We want to get you as excited as we are for the coming year, so here’s an outline of what to expect in 2013.

  1. We’ll be publishing six Jacobin-branded books in partnership with Verso. The first wave of titles will be announced in the coming weeks.
  2. An original collection from the editors of Jacobin, will be out from Metropolitan Books next fall. Co-edited by myself and wunderkind Sarah Leonard, the book is divided into two sections. The first offers critiques of liberal solutions to social problems. We say forthrightly: we don’t think Teach for America will fix education, that urban gardening will solve the food crisis, that small businesses will jumpstart a sustainable economy. The meritocracy is a myth and we’ve hit a crisis that we cannot shop, consume, or innovate away.
    Of course, socialists have honed critiques like this for some time now. More novel is that in the second half of the book, we present programmatic radical alternatives. To this end, we cover the future of education, the social purpose of technology, even the socialization of production, and the agents that will make these changes possible.
  3. Funding for our writers:  Not to exaggerate its novelty, but Jacobin was founded on little more than a shoestring by an undergraduate in a dorm room littered with John Starks posters. Naturally, I had no money for printing issues, much less paying contributors. But our success has come on the backs of ideologically motivated and intellectually rigorous writers.
    Though our editors will continue to be unpaid, in 2013, we’d like to finally pay authors competitively for their work. I’m using the word “competitively” a bit disingenuously — this plan will come in three phases. In the first, print contributors will be offered $0.25 a word to a maximum of $500 per essay. Even that amount should allow us to diversify our ranks. We hope this will just be a starting point.
  4. Expanded support for our talented art and design team. Anchored by 22-year-old Remeike Forbes, they have no rival. These aren’t apolitical hired guns, either. Remeike and the other talents we rely on are committed lefties with radical underpinnings to their work.
  5. The professionalization of our circulation and distribution mechanisms. We’re pretty efficient getting issues out to subscribers, but readers buying individual copies from our webstore have come to expect delays. No one really gets too irritated. The early days of the Baffler are invoked. Jokes about leftist mismanagement and inefficiency are told. But it’s still unacceptable.
    Truthfully, managing our circulation in-house has become tremendously inefficient and a waste of our time and resources. We’ll be outsourcing the task to an outside company. Starting December 17, expect fulfillment within the same week of your purchase or we’ll buy you a pony. Or you know, send you a refund.
  6. We’re also pleased to announce a new video series directed and produced by Harrison Atkins. We’ll be filming Jacobin contributing editor Chris Maisano interviewing interesting progressive thinkers. The shorts will sport professional production qualities and an aesthetic closer to Louie than the Real News Network.
  7. “This American Strife,” a podcast featuring Mike Elk and myself will be launched in the next few weeks. We’re kind of hoping Ira Glass sues us for copyright infringement — it’d be worth its weight in publicity gold.
  8. Events, reading groups, and other programming will be hosted, mostly in the New York City area, for the purpose of cultivating a culture of debate and open exchange, and ultimately an intellectual cadre fit for the challenges of our new era.
  9. And a special announcement: We’re pleased to announce the additions of Benjamin Kunkel, a founding editor of N+1, and regular Jacobin contributor Melissa Gira Grant to our masthead as contributing editors. They’re both top-notch.
  10. We’ll be also promoting and materially supporting a number of budding young writers. While there’s no close comparison in the publishing world — think Wu-Tang Clan Affiliates.

By year’s end, we only need to raise $7,500 and add around 500 more subscribers to do all these things. We take your support seriously and manage your contributions with respect. Our intellectual and political goals are premeditated and motivate our every endeavor. Even with limited resources Jacobin is simply better than all of our competitors — we’ve emerged as a unique and vital voice on the Left and we’d like to stick around to see our project through.

We haven’t asked so crassly for money before, but we need it now. Either that or we’ll start writing for the New Republic.



Bhaskar Sunkara
Editor & Publisher

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Bhaskar Sunkara is the founding editor and publisher of Jacobin and the author of The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality.

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