THE CREATION of a READER NATION
The Creation of a Reader Nation is the initiative to scale The Reader Magazine nationwide. Its purpose is to permanently improve US society by creating a new nationwide information source, which delivers quality information in tangible form to every single American at no cost, a first in U.S. history.
Just last month, we completed a three-year long planning process on how to bring The Reader to every U.S. home, which will create the largest magazine in US history. The plan is a data-driven analysis of the projected social impact and economic return by The Reader harnessing part of the $48 billion spent on direct mail to power public interest journalism into every home in America. The projected social, environmental and economic impact of The Reader reaching every American home can be viewed here or through this summary:
Each year, nearly half of all the direct mail sent is thrown away in the US unopened. This mountain of unopened mail is 37 billion pieces, consumes 44 million trees and costs businesses $21 billion dollars. If you think the digital revolution has made much of a dent in that mountain you’d be wrong.
Today, direct mail amounts to nearly a quarter of all US advertising expenditures. From 2002 to 2014– one of the most disruptive periods in the history of media and technology– while newspaper advertising plunged by $26 billion (50%), annual spending on direct mail was virtually unchanged at $48 billion.
The Reader is an environmentally responsible revolution. It drives advertiser ROI through journalistic content rather than high frequency, saving each advertiser an average of 4 tons of wood and $14,000 per year. The Reader’s model is so environmentally superior that when only 2% of US SMEs choose it over junk mail it reduces total US green house gasses by 6.5 million tons, enough that 1000 transitions with equal impact would reduce total US green house gas to net zero. There are 15 other significant, positive environmental benefits gained from each business that advertises in The Reader rather than conventional direct mail.
The core social impact strategy of The Reader Magazine is to produce and distribute honest information to every person in the US, free. It is to do so while providing an environmentally responsible alternative to “advertising only” junk mail within the $48 billion direct mail market.
The strategy includes using The Reader Magazine to bring investigative news journalism produced by non-profit, public interest news organizations, as well as independent journalists to a critical mass of the population in a medium that can afford to bring unfiltered, independent because it is supported by hundreds of thousands of the smallest economic players in US society, rather than the largest. To keep the publication honest, authority over what content appears nationally will flow from the people the magazine serves, rather than from a centralized, top-down structure, which characterizes the dominant media structure.
In communities across the US, small businesses are increasingly economically vulnerable from no local media channel serving as their political champion. The result has been a steady decline in the small business climate, and an increase in economic inequality which has risen to levels not seen since the Gilded Age. An example of this inequity (and market inefficiency) is that despite small businesses producing 50% of all U.S. GDP, half of all payroll, and the majority of new jobs, they receive less than 1% of the available investment capital in the U.S.
The Reader’s impact on local economies will be significant through its capacity to simultaneously inform and mobilize citizens on a mass scale. For example, scaling The Reader’s current Declaration of Local Independence campaign, which organizes Southern California communities to shop at locally owned businesses is projected to channel $240 billion to be spent at locally-owned businesses nationwide annually. This shift is also projected to induce $390 billion to recirculate in local communities annually, which would otherwise be deposited in banks far from the communities in which the purchases took place. This restored economic power at the community and city level will help induce the nation’s public servants to better represent people, families, small businesses, and communities.
For the last 13 years we have been perfecting an information channel, a printed news magazine which reaches 390,000 Californians by mail, free. These thirteen years on the front lines with locally-owned businesses and hundreds of thousands of people in diverse communities have given us street-level knowledge of an opportunity which if seized upon immediately may result in an historic reform of American society on multiple levels with far-reaching and potentially permanent consequences.
To understand this opportunity, it’s necessary to take a step back and at look at how many problems grow from the root problem of a lack of honest information circulating freely in American society. To understand this opportunity, it’s necessary to understand the unique opening of several simultaneous windows right now: 1) distrust in the mainstream media 2) a surge in interest for environmentally responsible services/goods and the existence of a direct mail advertising alternative that simultaneously addresses both these trends 3) 27 million US small businesses spending $11 billion on direct mail annually, 4) an unprecedented surge in the availability of cutting-edge knowledge, facts, stories from research institutions, investigative news organizations all desiring audience, 5) the potential power of a publication with the only journalistic connection with every American household to create and inspire a smooth transition from an exploitative mindset and economy to a fairer one, thus diffusing the threats and avoiding tribulations arising from increasing social instability.
In short, the pendulum has swung so far in the direction in which media is not serving the interests of the general public that to tell to tell the truth to 308 million Americans is not only a massive social imperative but a massive market opportunity.
From 1981 to 2011, six media companies bought out or put out of business so many of their competitors that today they control 90% of the information that Americans consume, including 13 of the top 20 news websites. This was achieved through massive lobbying by all of these media companies. What did America and the world get in return?
Over the same thirty years, 90% of Americans achieved zero income growth and most of the 90% experienced negative income growth.
For others, the return was much worse. In 2003 the world got the Iraq war largely because there was no US media entity with the independence and influence to properly inform Americans of the scale of the opposition to it, including 36 million people worldwide who took to the streets in protest, which the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the largest protest in human history.
IMAGINE A BETTER FUTURE
People know that without an honest system of news and information, we can’t solve our problems because we won’t know what they are. We can live in a world closer to our ideal of what we deserve. But we have to create an information system that gets the power of truth working again in the United States.
Investigative news organizations and foundations doing important work that can change the world have no chance of reaching a critical mass of the US population because they lack a vehicle that reaches everyone. What if they had one?
The Reader Magazine, which we’ve perfected over 13 years has evolved into a vehicle that can in fact bring the existing reporting being done everyday by investigative news organizations to every home in America. In doing so, not only does The Reader have no conflict of interest between the source of its revenue and bringing fearless, independent journalism to a critical mass. The source of its revenue– hundreds of thousands of locally-owned businesses depending on it for local advertising and independent journalism become more loyal supporters of the publication (as hundreds of businesses have in our community) because its perspective champions economic localization, and in doing so, champions them.
IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
Towards the end of his life when Albert Einstein was asked how problems that threatened the very survival of man might be solved (such as nuclear war) he replied a different way of thinking must be used than the thinking that created the problem. He declared there were really only two choices before humanity: maintain our way of thinking in which we accept that disagreements be resolved through war or renounce war through a new mentality.
If it is true that continued life on planet earth depends on this choice, it follows that we should look very closely to see if our news and information system– which is most responsible for shaping judgement– is promoting violence or peace.
When we do, what is obvious is that our entire media is structured in a way that promotes violence and encourages war. Moreover, the financial interest media companies have in transnational corporations which profit from war and weaponry– is accelerating.
In the nuclear age, if we do not speak up and fix our media system’s unabated propensity to promote weaponry and war over peace– what will inevitably occur to everything we hold of value?
The connection between media and armaments companies shapes the thinking of the majority of people to believe that man is incapable of renouncing violence and that weaponry is man’s only real hope for security— precisely the thinking Einstein warned would lead to no other end than man’s demise.
As such, there is nothing more important than creating a new journalistic channel reaching every one, free of the power structures which control and perpetuate old thinking. In addition to enormous environmental, social and economic promise, this is the enormous humanistic promise of the creation of a Reader Nation.
We have a plan to take this very unique publication from where it is today and transform it into a nation wide information source that can communicate stories at a scale massive enough to create a transformative social movement to greater social justice and equality, a model powered by good old fashioned Main Street American businesses, the kind my grandfather–my Babu–started and worked at his whole life.
– Christopher Theodore, Founder of The Reader Magazine You can reach him at email@example.com