With a heavy heart, I must tell you that, after 23 years, we are ceasing publication of the print version of The Bark. Issue #100, the upcoming Spring 2020 edition is the last of its long line.(We will continue to publish online here at thebark.com.)
There are oh-so-many reasons for this decision. In the last decade, many corporate-owned magazines have folded or migrated to digital-only following precipitous declines in both readership and advertising. As an indie magazine, we have found this larger trend to be insurmountable. We simply don’t have the resources to continue.
The hard reality is that magazines are chiefly financed by advertising, which has become increasingly difficult to obtain. We’ve been able to hang on this long thanks to wonderful advertisers—many of whom are small businesses themselves—who have stuck with us for years (be sure to give them your support). But the likes of Google, Facebook and others have so radically altered the advertising landscape that there is simply no longer a place for small, indie voices (no matter how often and loudly we bark out!).
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There are other reasons as well, some of which I have detailed in previous Editor’s Notes. Every aspect of magazine production has changed, from the number of printers (fewer) to the consolidation of distributors. All have had an impact on expenses (and yes, politically motivated trade wars are partly to blame as well). Printing, postage, the price of paper, even the price of ink have increased by double digits.
Adding insult to injury, newsstand sales have tanked nationwide. It started when Amazon put a stranglehold on many bookstores (the traditional marketplace for magazines), and has spread to other outlets, including grocery stores. Heck, even the ways people buy groceries have had a negative effect on us; delivery services such as Prime, FreshDirect and Instacart don’t deliver magazines. Traditionally, The Bark sold well from register racks, but fewer people are physically going into stores, and many of those who do are peering at their phones instead of looking at the magazines on display—a double whammy for sales.
We have also had to contend with a declining subscriber base. We do thank and appreciate our subscribers, who still prefer reading printed publications. In the bigger picture, however, people are spending more time online, where they find a deluge of free content that satisfies their informational and entertainment needs. Plus, it truly is the greener option; all of us need to be concerned with the ways our personal preferences, including how we read about dogs, affect the sustainability of our planet.
Then, on a personal note, I have been working on The Bark in what seems like 24/7 mode since I co-founded it 23 years ago, with nary a break. Almost a third of my life has been devoted to my print “baby,” and while it has been an exceedingly fulfilling endeavor, I’ve been told by my doctors that it has contributed to a decline in my health. I don’t know if, like this issue, I’ll reach the century mark, but I do know it’s time for me to bow out. Trust me, this was an exceedingly difficult and poignant decision to make.
We’re at “what happens next?” For those whose subscription ends with issue 100, that it will be it. Those whose subscriptions go into the future will be hearing from Belvoir Media Group, who will be sending the magazine, Dogster to complete your subscriptions. No, it’s not the same, but we’re happy that the Belvoir folks are helping us fulfill our obligation to you. Your first issue from them will arrive in the near future. While their magazine takes a different approach, they are also rich with useful and timely information for dog lovers.
To all of you who are reading this now, we want to extend our most sincere thanks. It is because of you that we were able to keep publishing for more than two decades—a lot longer than industry experts thought possible. We loved hearing from you, and your enthusiasm for our mission; it touched us deeply. We hope you don’t forget us, and that you check us out online often.
Thebark.com is doing well, but with your regular digital “drop-ins,” it will do better. We maintain a very robust archive of articles and are always adding new content. Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletters as well. We are, as always, open to your comments and questions. Visit us on Facebook, too.
So, that’s it, my friends. I do hope you cherish and enjoy our final issue #100 as much as we enjoyed being able to deliver it, and the previous 99, to you.