A Changing Value Proposition

From 1977 to 1981 I did quite a bit of freelance writing for boating pubs, Cruising World, Sea, Seaworthy, to name a few. One of the articles I wrote was a value analysis of the US Coast Pilot (Region 5, as I recall). I did so after a letter to an editor decrying the horrendous price increase of 50 cents. When complete, the analysis showed the content had more than doubled since 1949 while the inflation adjusted price had increased only 50 percent.

Lately, we have been doing such an analysis on each pub we subscribe to as renewal dates arrive. We’d like to keep the mail forwarding service workload (and storage) requirements within reasonable bounds. What follows is such an analysis on a pub we’ve decided not to renew

The Data

1979 2011 2011/1979
Total Pages 174 130 74.71%
Non Ad Pages 78 45 58.52%
Percent “Content” 45% 35% 78.32%
Percent Ads/Other 55% 65% 117.42%
Lines per col in 7 6 85.71%
Char. per line 38 36 96.46%
Col in per Page 9.5 9.25 97.37%
Char per Page* 2505 2017 80.50%
Total Characters 194,200 91,487 47.11%
Total Words** 32,367 15,248 47.11%
Then Year Price $1.50 $4.99 332.67%
Words per $ 21578 3056 14.16%
Inflation Adj. Price $4.62 $4.99 108.01%
Words Per $ (adj) 7006 3056 43.62%
New Boat Range 2 Sigma
24.8 29.7 119.41%
43.3 51.2 118.39%
*Photos and drawings given area equivalent word count
** Word Count based on standard 6 English characters per word including space

The Bottom Line

For about 10 percent more in adjusted price we are getting about 56 percent less content since we renewed for the first time in 1979.

What fuzzes all this up is web content. While the magazine offers some rich web content and a forum, we aren’t going to pay for a WIFI connection just to access this content. So does it have value, does it replace declining print media value? Not for us.


In 1979, the average new boat advertised was 34 feet with the size range shown above. We had a bought new 29 footer and could imagine having the upper end 43 some day. Today the average is 40.4. We have a bought new 40 footer and would have to liquidate to be able to afford a new 51 of equivalent quality. 

So not only has the magazine declined in value in purely empirical terms, it has done so as the new boat market has begun leaving us behind.

We’ve decided not to renew.

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