EDITORIAL
Going Mobile

April 2015



We’ve been champing at the bit, anxious to make this announcement. We’ve been poised and ready to run with this thing since the New Year began, but prudence dictated that we take the necessary time and measures to work out the remaining kinks in the system before going live.

Now, at last, it is our great pleasure to announce the launch of the “mobile version” of the NOR.

Readers will recall that in October 2012 we began raising funds in order to make the NOR available in digital form, customized for handheld mobile devices: smartphones, e-readers, and tablets of all kinds, including Kindles, iPads, Nooks, etc. It took us over a year to reach our fundraising goal; from there it took us another year to get the project off the ground. And so, two and a half years later, we again express our gratitude to those whose prayers and donations helped carry us to this point.

And now to the nitty-gritty.

The mobile version of the NOR is an exact digital replica of the print magazine. That is, what you see on every page of an issue you hold in your hands — font types, folio, columniation, pagination, graphics, advertisements — will be in the exact same spots in the mobile version you view on your device. And the mobile version has a few perks you can’t get with the print version: You can zoom in to any part of a page, and it has a handy search function, so if there’s, say, a term or an author’s name you want to return to, simply type it in the search bar and you’ll be directed to the page(s) where the word or name occurs. More good news: Not only is the mobile version customized for handheld devices, it also looks great and can be read with ease on laptop and desktop computers.

As with everything we do here at the NOR, we wanted to retain as much independent control as possible over the mobile version of our magazine. So we sought out a model that would make the mobile version of the NOR available on as many platforms as possible while circumventing the strict controls and crippling fees with which publishers must contend at premium outlets like Amazon and the Apple Store. To that end, the mobile version of the NOR is available exclusively from our own website, www.newoxfordreview.org. This has allowed us to offer subscriptions to the mobile version of the magazine at affordable rates. For the low price of $20, mobile subscribers will get a year’s worth of issues — issues that can be read at any time, wherever there is Internet access. And for those occasions in which Internet access is not readily available — occasions that are becoming rarer as time goes on — each issue of the mobile version can be downloaded to a computer or device for offline reading.

To begin subscribing to the mobile edition, go to the subscription page of the NOR website and select “NOR Mobile Edition.” Once you’ve completed your purchase (mobile subscription rates are $20 for one year, $40 for two, or $60 for three), a link to the current issue will appear in your “My Accounts” page, and new links will appear as subsequent issues become available. (We will send out an e-mail alerting you to the release of each new issue.) The links will be stored in your account page for the duration of your mobile subscription. Like website subscriptions, you can only purchase mobile subscriptions online with a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, or Discover).

Additionally, we have digitized back issues of the NOR from 2008 to the present, and will continue to do so with each new issue. Digital back issues cost $4 each. To get one, go to the “Purchase Issues” page at our website, search through the volume index for the issue you want, tick the “mobile” box next to it, and complete your purchase. We will then send you an e-mail receipt with a link to the issue you selected. You do not need to have a mobile subscription in order to purchase single mobile issues.

Further, you do not need a web subscription or a print subscription in order to purchase a mobile subscription. Each subscription is a unique entity.

We can’t let this moment pass without mentioning that the inauguration of the mobile version of the NOR coincides with the tenth anniversary of the launch of the current incarnation of the NOR website. This was another venture — another risky one — that was funded entirely by you, our readers. At the time, we could see where things were headed in the industry, and we knew that the first-generation NOR website that was built and maintained by a faithful NOR reader — in his spare time on a volunteer basis — didn’t give us a sufficient online “presence.” We knew too that we could no longer shrug our shoulders and dismiss the matter, or try to convince ourselves that a full-service website was irrelevant to what we were doing and want to do. At the same time, we didn’t want the new technology to replace the older technology, the tried-and-true print magazine. And so the website became an adjunct to our primary focus, the hard-copy version of the NOR.

The same goes for the newer technology in play today. We won’t let the mobile version of the NOR displace the attention we normally devote to either the print magazine or our website. Quite the contrary. While we’ve worked feverishly on the mobile version, we’ve also been adding to the existing features of our website, faithfully importing the contents of each new print issue, updating the news feed every Monday through Friday, and bringing out articles from our vast online archives for “front page” display. In addition, we have been updating and filling out our Topical Dossiers, and have introduced a few new ones — notably, Islam, G.K. Chesterton, Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, Pope Pius XII, Pope Francis, William Shakespeare, At the Movies, and Possession, Exorcism & the Problem of Evil. Each Topical Dossier (there are nearly sixty) brings together NOR articles on a given topic under one heading for easy search and perusal.

We have also been expanding our online archives of past issues of the NOR. Most recently, we added another year’s worth of issues from 1990. While it’s tempting to spend the rest of this editorial glorying in the wonders of that year, for brevity’s sake we’ll simply mention a few highlights: editor emeritus Dale Vree asks, “The Crumbling of Communism: Good for the Catholic Church?” (Jan.-Feb.); Patrick Murray and Jeanne A. Schuler look at “Conspicuous Consumption & the Falling Rate of Enjoyment” (Jan.-Feb.); Norman Lear (yes, that Norman Lear) stirs up controversy with his article “Nurturing Spirituality & Religion in an Age of Science & Technology” (April; letters in reply in June); Fr. Ken Russell riffs on “Our Fascination with Royalty” (April); Jonathan Foster takes on “The Menace of Individualism in the American Experience of Religious Life” (Jul.-Aug.); John C. Cort asks, “If Not Communism or Capitalism, What?” (Sept.); the incomparable Christopher Lasch uncovers “The Degradation of Work, Yesterday & Today” (Oct.); and there’s even a triple helping of the one-and-only “Berkeley carpenter,” Will Hoyt (Jan.-Feb., Nov., and Dec.).

Subscriptions to the NOR website retain their value, even in light of the launch of the mobile version of the NOR. As mentioned above, the mobile issues go back as far as 2008, the earliest date for which we have files capable of being digitized. Unless you’ve retained hard copies of back issues, or are willing to incur the cost of obtaining hard copies (which we offer at $6 apiece), the only place you can get NOR material from 2007 and earlier is at our website with a web subscription. A web subscription really is a tremendous deal. Just imagine: You can get access to all of our archived material (currently 1990-2015), as well as each new issue, for only $29 a year (or $52 for two years or $64 for three). Presently, we will be adding more years to our online archives — all the way back to 1983, when the NOR and its editors broke with the American Church Union (a rogue Anglo-Catholic body) and converted to Catholicism.

Having a web subscription, however, does not entitle one to free access to the mobile version (or to the print version), nor does a print subscription entitle one to a gratis mobile or web subscription. Each “version” of the NOR requires a separate subscription: print, web, and mobile.

We realize that some longtime readers and supporters might think this unfair. But it’s a must for our survival. As we’ve explained in the past, it was a fatal mistake for newspaper publishers to offer their content for free online in the early days of the Internet — and, in many cases, into the present day. They are essentially giving away in one form what they are selling in another. As the old cliché goes, why pay for the cow when the milk is free? A few years ago, several major newspapers, including The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, realized their initial blunder and converted to pay sites. This last-ditch measure has proven less than successful: Many newspapers, including the two mentioned above, are going back to free sites — while reserving some “premium” content behind a pay wall. By now people have long been accustomed to getting free news online; few want to start paying for it at this late date.

It’s a time of existential crisis in the newspaper industry. Shall we look back in sadness? Recently, the world’s oldest extant newspaper, London’s Lloyd’s List, deep-sixed its print edition after nearly three hundred years of continuous publication. Shall we gaze boldly at the new world aborning? The Associated Press recently announced that it will begin using robots (or “automation technology,” as it’s called in the industry) to write the majority of U.S. corporate earnings stories.

For magazines, the situation isn’t much better. According to a year-end report from MediaFinder.com, ninety-nine print magazines folded in 2014, forty-three more than in 2013. The magazine death spiral is picking up pace. We wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere, someone has started a dead pool for print publications.

And we wouldn’t be surprised if the NOR were on the list.

It’s not a good feeling knowing your comrades are keeling over all around you. We’re tempted to wonder: Will we be next? We’ve taken our vital signs, and the readings aren’t encouraging.

Since 2012, when we began raising funds for our mobile project, our total paid print distribution has declined by nearly twelve percent (the figures can be seen in our annual Statements of Ownership printed in every December issue). We knew we had to address this problem while working on the mobile project, and so we made it known in our December 2013 editorial that we would allocate some of the funds we raised to advertising, in print and through direct mail. (Maybe you saw some of the trademark NOR ads in other Catholic publications in the past year, or received a direct-mail appeal for a new NOR subscription.) But those were just stopgap measures; we simply didn’t have the financial resources to dedicate to a full-blown advertising campaign to counteract our hemorrhaging print readers — not when we’d raised money for a specific, altogether different, purpose. We wouldn’t misuse the generosity of our supporters that way.

A few ads here and there, and a couple small mailings, can’t be expected to bring in much, and predictably, they didn’t. The hard truth is, since we’ve exhausted the funds we raised for the mobile project, we have even fewer financial resources to draw on now. As reported at the annual meeting of the NOR board of directors last fall, from the close of our 2013 fiscal year to the close of our 2014 fiscal year, our income was down by $82,000, our assets were down by $15,000, and our expenses were up by $14,000. In 2014 we operated at a deficit of $50,000.

What this means is that we’re in a precarious financial position, and we don’t have the means to get out of it by bringing in new subscribers to replace the ones who’ve left. (Readers are, after all, the lifeblood of any publication.) Our mobile launch won’t help matters; indeed, it might hurt as some print readers invariably decide to migrate over to the mobile side.

We assured our readers when we raised funds for the mobile version that it would not distract us from our primary goal, which is to keep the print edition of the NOR viable and ongoing. We’ve balked at the notion that the future is “all-digital,” that print publications must “go digital or die.” We still feel the same way, but statistics tell a different tale: As print publications fold at an ever-more rapid rate, the number of tablet users worldwide doubled in the past three years, according to a January report from eMarketer.com; the number of tablet users is expected to top one billion this year. Nevertheless, we don’t envision the NOR ever going out of print and becoming a digital-only publication. We still believe that the NOR is strongest when it rests on three pillars: print, web, and mobile. But just as soon as we put the finishing touches on the third pillar, we discovered, to our dismay, that the primary one is buckling.

It is humbling to have to do this, but here goes: While we ask you to rejoice with us over the launch of the mobile version of the NOR, we must ask you once again to come to our aid in order to help us make the print edition the strongest and most stable of the three pillars of our apostolate. We want to resume advertising in print publications, and we want to be able to send out a robust direct-mail appeal (and more than one!), rather than the pair of anemic ones we sent out in the past year. In order to be successful, an advertising campaign requires a strong financial commitment. Here the truism holds that you get what you pay for: Half measures bring in paltry returns, as we’ve experienced. But half measures and paltry returns — and inevitable decline — is all we’re capable of without your help.

Magazines lose money (especially Catholic ones); this is expected. But there has to be an ebb and flow over time; we can’t operate at a deficit on a yearly basis and expect to keep our doors open. In order to restore balance to our financial ledger, and to launch a fully realized advertising campaign, we need to raise $213,000.

The mobile version of the NOR won’t last long if there’s no print publication to digitize. Won’t you help us see to it that the print version of the NOR not only survives but, pray God, thrives? We have nowhere and no one else to turn to for help. The NOR receives no institutional support — take a look at our annual list of NOR Associates, printed every March, to verify this. We have no endowment, and we’ve never received even a red cent from the Catholic Church (or any other ecclesial body). This is the price of the “independent control” we’ve sought to retain. Our freedom isn’t free, by any measure; the bill comes due at the close of every fiscal year. As noted in our December 2013 editorial, independent voices make a number of people, groups, and institutions uncomfortable. Certainly there are forces of opposition out there who would love to see the NOR silenced. Can we count on you to keep our independent Catholic voice clear and resonant?

Please let us know by sending your donation today to:
New Oxford Review
1069 Kains Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94706
Checks and money orders may be made payable to: New Oxford Review. We also accept VISA, MasterCard, and Discover credit-card donations at our website (click here) as well as by U.S. mail (at the above address) and by telephone (510-526-5374, ext. 0). The NOR is a nonprofit religious organization and has 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service. Donations are, therefore, tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Please remember the NOR in your prayers.

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