Last week the end of Realms of Fantasy was announced for third time in as many years. From the magazine’s website:
When we purchased Realms of Fantasy last year we truly thought that we could suceed in publishing the magazine for the foreseeable future. We were unable to realize this goal, have been loosing money, and we must regetfully announce the closure of the magazine.
Sadly, this wasn’t a surprise. The publisher had only limited experience working with a print product, and no experience working with a periodical. It’s a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of money to put out a periodical. Unfortunately, they weren’t taking on a product that was flush with advertisers or subscribers. If that was the case, Sovereign Media or Tir Na Nog would still be publishing the magazine.
It would be one thing to take over a small publication like Electric Velocipede which only printed a few hundred copies of each issue. Or, it would be another thing to take over a popular magazine like Entertainment Weekly with almost 1.8 million subscribers and robust advertising (charging $168,000 for a four-color page)
In the first case your risk would be quite small as the audience and overhead are small. You should be able to maintain its audience or even grow it with minimal effort. In the second case, presuming you have the money (yes, it’s an absurd example) you’ll have enough income coming in via subscribers and advertising to keep the magazine going. Yes, your overhead will be infinitely larger, but presumably it’s all a wash.
Something that has 5K – 10K subscribers can’t command enough advertising money to support the publication on its own and there aren’t enough subscribers to keep things going through renewal money. You don’t have something special enough like McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern where you can charge a premium for the publication (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern runs about $18 – $26/issue; you can subscribe at the rate of $55 for four-issues). And McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern likely has twice the subscribers of Realms of Fantasy at more than twice the price.
Add to that all the free or low-cost genre fiction options out there, and it seems likely that Realms of Fantasy won’t come back for a fourth incarnation.