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AIDS Treatment News: Changes Next Year

By John S. James

November 28, 2003

At AIDS Treatment News we are considering two long-term changes, and want to share our thinking with our readers. You can send comments to us at:

First, we must change because our traditional business model has gone away. For almost 15 years AIDS Treatment News was supported mainly by individual subscriptions. But today many of our subscribers are on disability or otherwise unable to pay, so we provide the newsletter without cost to old and new subscribers (including over 200 prisoners). AIDS Treatment News is not currently set up as a non-profit, so we pay for the free subscriptions out of pocket without funding. We do not accept grants or contributions from pharmaceutical companies or others whose products we might cover, although they can subscribe.

Business subscriptions now account for most of our income, which concerns us. Today the pharmaceutical industry funds almost all AIDS treatment publications. So far this system has worked better than we would have expected, but that could change any time. If the community loses its independent publications it will be in trouble. AIDS Treatment News must change its business model, or slide into increasing dependence on industry.

Second, during the next year we will begin reporting primarily online -- while still making print copies available, because many people want or need them. Online reporting will allow us to cover breaking news and other stories we now miss because they are history by the time our print newsletter reaches subscribers. Online publication will also allow us to update articles when necessary (we plan to publish a record of the changes).

We are considering three business models to replace the one that no longer exists. Starting with the best, they are:

  1. AIDS Treatment News would be housed within a nonprofit, and all online distribution would be free. The print edition would then be self-supporting, especially if funding could be found to pay for prisoners and others who need free copies. We might outsource the printing and distribution to a separate organization, so that we could focus on the reporting. We are seeking funding for the online edition, and for those who need free print subscriptions.

  2. The second choice is to continue the current business model, but find support for the free print subscriptions.

  3. The third choice is to charge a small fee for subscriptions online. Selling information online has been notoriously difficult for many who have tried it. While exploring the possibility, we devised a radically new method (called Subscriptions to Share) that we think could work for selling subscriptions, and also for online fundraising. But we want to focus on AIDS, not on developing business or fundraising methods -- and our online newsletter should be free instead of low cost. Subscriptions to Share remains a possibility, however. We summarized it here in the hope that it will be useful to others.

ISSN # 1052-4207

Copyright 2003 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.

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