Developments over the JACL National Board’s vote to end the printed edition of the Pacific Citizen have raised new questions surrounding the impact this change will have on existing JACL members and P.C. nonmember subscribers. Since the announcement, multiple changes and adjustments have been made to the P.C. Digital Plan. Below are some of them, along with pending questions and concerns.
CHANGE ON CHANGE
JACL National President David Lin released a letter to the P.C. Editorial Board on Oct. 16 stating that the P.C. Digital Plan will now be extended by two months.
Lin expressed that the National Board will begin PDF distribution of the P.C. in late February or early March, as planned in his previous letter. However, the print edition will continue until late April or early May, just two months shy of the National Convention in July.
“By doing this, what we are essentially creating is a parallel environment where the electronic and printed editions will be distributed simultaneously for two months,” Lin wrote. This is to ensure that no disruptions will occur throughout the transition period.
The P.C. is unsure what the two-month buffer period will do as costs for printing and mailing will remain the same for the first quarter of 2016.
Chapters are growing increasingly concerned about an incomplete delivery plan with more questions arising daily. In the Oct. 16 issue of the P.C., Lin’s letter outlined that individual chapters would take on the expenses and resources to print and deliver PDF copies to their members.
In a recent discussion between Lin and the P.C., the plan still doesn’t exist. There was mention that JACL National may cover the expense to print and mail issues to members who “need” a printed edition.
However, it is still unclear how JACL will determine which members “need” a printed edition should JACL National take on the expenses to print and mail paper copies. Will it be sent to only those who request a printed issue or will JACL members with no computer access or email receive a printed issue?
These questions remain unanswered, and no formal announcement from Lin has been made regarding JACL National’s responsibility. Local chapters are worried and confused as to what the plan is, moving forward. Likewise, the P.C. is also unclear what instructions will be given come May 2016.
JACL MEMBERSHIP CAUSALITIES
Letters and calls continue to reach the P.C. office from JACL members, asking to end their JACL membership once the paper goes to a digital PDF format.
Richard Nakamura from the Berkeley Chapter wrote in a response to the paperless P.C. survey that he “will cancel Berkeley Chapter Membership on March 2016” and that he “will not renew after being a member since 1966.”
Nakamura is one of many members that are sending in personal comments about the transition.
Should roughly between 10%-20% of JACL’s members cancel their membership in reaction to the digital transition, the organization will experience a greater financial deficit than cutting the printed paper entirely. This figure is an estimate based off current membership numbers.
“It’s difficult to explain to JACL members who have been with the organization for decades that we will no longer be providing this membership service to them,” says P.C. Executive Editor Allison Haramoto. “This paper has survived WWII, the years of incarceration and redress alongside JACL. To tell them that the printed run has expired is painful but also historical.”
At the latest JACL National Board Meeting on Oct. 3, Lin assured the board and the P.C. that “there will be no impact on membership revenue if everything is done correctly, if we collect the names and addresses of those who need printed versions.”
The condition of collecting the names and email addresses of all its members is an ongoing process for JACL chapters and the JACL membership department.
JACL Membership Coordinator Mariko Fujimoto reported at the same National Board meeting that membership is in decline.
From January-August 2015, membership is down 4 percent. This figure has been falling between 4 percent-5 percent since 2009.
The largest fall in membership occurred between 2012-13, when JACL experienced an 8 percent drop, during which the P.C. lost members of its previous staff and former Executive Editor Caroline Aoyagi-Stom. As a membership-driven organization, the trending decline requires great attention and should be of utmost importance, but will the digital PDF of the P.C. threaten this figure?
NON-JACL MEMBER SUBSCRIBERS
Nonmember subscribers are not JACL members, paying $40 annually to receive their paper.
To print and mail copies of the P.C. for this category of subscribers costs roughly $11,000. Total revenue from nonmember comes in at $19,000, giving the P.C. a net income of $8,000. Should the print edition cease as planned and readers choose to cancel their subscriptions, revenue from nonmembers would evaporate.
To address this concern, Lin assured the P.C. staff during a weekly meeting that the paper will not lose this valued group of subscribers because nonmember subscribers will also receive an email link to access a PDF file. However, outlined terms for purchasing a printed subscription include a hard copy.
“Subscriptions are a service that nonmembers purchase because they’re buying a newspaper,” Haramoto explained. “They aren’t buying news. The newspaper is a physical product with a delivery service, which is a premium benefit.”
Many nonmember subscribers have already called requesting refunds for their subscription to the paper. It is again unclear how subscribers will receive their prorated refunds or what steps will be taken to provide hard copies for those nonmember subscribers that do not have access to a computer.
The P.C. staff hopes that nonmembers will continue their loyalty and are grateful for their patience and support.
Information regarding print subscriptions can be found on the P.C. website.
HOLIDAY ISSUE 2015
Business Manager for the P.C. Susan Yokoyama is concerned for the Holiday Issue as the plan directly impacts efforts for that edition. Allocating resources for the largest production of the year is proving difficult while trying to assure regular advertisers to continue business during the phasing out of the printed paper.
“The funds raised from the members, chapters, districts and advertisers are critical contributions that allow us to survive through the first and second quarter of the following year,” Yokoyama said. Historically, the Holiday Issue has raised between $60,000-$80,000 in revenue on average, keeping the lights on for the P.C.
With an aggressive media plan, providing a thorough Holiday Issue with a robust revenue is looking bleak this Holiday season as it bookends the last full printed year.
Letters to the Editor are encouraged. Please voice your opinion.