Friday, 22 December 2017

Alas, poor AdLib



The Lib Dem party members print magazine AdLib is for the chop. Lib Dem Voice reports this news and reminds us of how AdLib came about as a successor to LDN.

Lib Dem News was a lovely paper. Sure, there was that sense that the council byelections reports were so skewed toward gains rather than losses that a reader who only got their elections news from LDN would conclude that the Liberals now held every single council seat in the country, but there were always a couple of good articles at least, some weirdness on the back page with gossip about people you'd never heard of, and something to warm or incense you in the letters page. For anyone who wasn't on CIX in the 90s it was the fastest way of finding out what was going on in the Lib Dems, albeit best supplemented by a late-arriving Liberator. Most weeks you'd wind up reading something over lunch that was on an area of policy you might otherwise never get round to learning a thing about, and so be a teensy bit wiser about the world.


It came to an end I think in part due to the shift to online communications, but I also blame the move to size-based postal charging. Maybe it's just me, by psychologically the sense of being an LDN subscriber you got from a folded newspaper coming through your door that stood out from the rest of the mail was much more powerful than its shift to being in an anonymous C5 manilla envelope. It went from "ah, LDN is a day late" to "that's probably another bill..."

AdLib was a different pitch of publication, a little more inclusive of the armchair activist than LDN. I think it would have done better if it had not been caught by the arrival of pricing-in-proportion and had been A4 (like long-forgotten Ashdown/Kennedy era magazine Informed) but the post office chose to screw publishers over and the postal costs on A4 had become prohibitive.  In a (reasonable) attempt to keep the word count up the font size shrank, so friends with less than perfect vision told me they didn't even bother trying to read it after the first couple of editions.

Issues would get dropped from the party budget during the left-right coalition years when it they needed to mail 30,000 or so copies at a time and were a bit short on dough, so it's no wonder they have baulked at the price on mailing it to the 100,000 members today.

It does make for a peculiar situation though that if you aren't on email, your party membership now gets you very little by way of communication. It's common to compare it with the likes of the RSPB or RSPCA - send both an animal charity and the Lib Dems fifty quid a year and one of them will say thanks while the other will say thanks and add in a cuddly toy and a poster.

I have a fond vision in the back of my mind of reaching all those offline Liberals with a print magazine to opt in to for a couple of quid a month, in the way we did back in the days of LDN, but I think the niche that would fill for most interested people is already strongly covered by Lib Dem Voice. Maybe there's a collaboration project to be developed there? In the absence of an official LDHQ print title, a quarterly best-of-LDV could make for a good way of keeping in touch for those less web-savvy members, and highlight things many of us with healthy internet addictions might have missed. I wonder what the mods would make of the idea...

(A final aside about the decline of print: as the editor of a small-press magazine for many years, if you'd've told me back when I started that by 2018 it would be shifting more print copies than the Independent and the News of the World combined I would have laughed. And then run away.)

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