Re: Cohousing Association Magazine
From: Raines Cohen (
Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2003 00:34:15 -0700 (MST)
On 11/28/03 8:38 PM, Tom Hammer <thammer302 [at]> wrote:

>I have read that specialty magazines serving
>particular niches are doing really well lately. 
>Wouldn't it be possible to keep ours going? I would
>love to see our magazine on sale at large news stands
>along with all the other specialty publications.

Tom, I hear you. I'd love to see that too. But here's a bit of a "reality 

It would be great to continue to publish regularly in print, but we 
haven't had the resources to distribute it to the small # of 
members/subscribers, let alone newsstands. It requires lots of $, and 
staff expertise at distribution (I know, I used to edit a 
computer-industry trade magazine, and spent a lot of time working with 
the circulation professionals and seeing how much work/$ it took and how 
little circulation resulted... if anything, the market has grown tighter 
since then), not just printing/publishing/layout/editing, and oh yeah, 
Cohousing. And given how few professionals are making $ in cohousing 
development, and how little $ they are making, we (the Coho/US board) 
felt like it was not the most effective use of the movement's limited 
collective resources to dedicate so much of what's available to 
maintaining the infrastructure related to this ... vs. opening it up and 
making it easier for people to contribute from all over and advance the 
movement in other ways.

>Physical magazines can be put on display tables,
>picked up and re-read, and there is a reality to paper
>publications that cannot be matched electronically. 
>Both venues would be better than one or the other.

Our intent is to continue to create online publications in forms such as 
PDF that lend themselves to printing out by members and looking good on 
paper, although our primary emphasis will be on expanding the website and 
providing more links into it via the e-zine. If somebody else has a 
viable business plan for a venture that we believe will serve the 
movement, we'll lend what support we can.

>It would seem to me that it would also be helpful to
>completed communities to have something that people
>can hold in their hands and could be left around the
>common house, for example.  Lots of folks don't like
>spending time in front of a computer screen but would
>pick up something in print.  And certainly values of
>cohousing units would be supported by the continued
>publicity a print magazine generates.  

We ARE planning to continue to publish an annual report and directory of 
communities in print. And brochures explaining cohousing. And, last I 
heard, a "best of" Cohousing magazine/journal, in book form. And 
"print-on-demand" articles. All things which we couldn't do with all 
available $/effort going to produce the current print publication and 
stay on top of advertising/invoicing/circulation.

>If we are to keep presenting the concept of cohousing
>to more people, I would advocate for both venues. The
>cohousing developers and architects and some
>communities were advertisers in the old magazine. 

Even upping our rates and reducing ad sizes, as we did recently, resulted 
in ads paying for only a fraction of the magazine's costs (although it 
did help professionalize our appearance). While we think that, over time, 
this would increase, continuing to publish it while losing just a little 
less money with each issue didn't seem like a viable option. Ironically, 
I, the web guy, was the one arguing against moving to a solely-online 
format -- just because we'll be giving it away doesn't necessarily make 
it easier.

> Did
>anyone ever approach suppliers of "green" products as
>potential advertisers? 

Stella Tarnay, a previous Cohousing magazine editor, had a lot of 
connections in this area based on her "day job" and did this to some 
extent, I believe, without fiscally signficant success.

While our movement has a lot of overlap with green building and interest 
in products of that sort, it's a hard sell to get someone to give even 
enough attention when your circulation is in the hundreds and reaches 
primarily a niche audience that represents 0.0000001% of the housing 
market. Especially when that audience, with our focus on "affordability", 
all too often translates that into "let's do this cheaper" and doesn't 
spend on professionals or higher-end higher-margin products ... or even 
to support the movement.

Since then, the efforts have been mainly to contact existing movement 
professionals and communities -- even doing that and managing the ads and 
preparing ads for publication and maintaining standards ("trafficking") 
is a challenge, and while the quality for this most recent issue (Autumn 
2003) shows the result, it took significantly more staff time to do the 
work than was allocated... and there's nowhere else for the $ to come 

> What about people who are also
>interested in other types of communities?  Perhaps
>there could be one combined magazine with a national
>circulation, with one section specifically set aside
>for cohousing.  What about an international cohousing
>magazine?  Perhaps we are being too parochial to
>insist on a North American publication at this point
>in our history.  

If anything, our U.S. (not even North American anymore) focus is still 
too broad for most potential advertisers... most banks and builders and 
mortgage companies and insurers have a REGIONAL focus, so they perceive 
our effective print circulation of interest to them in the dozens for 
other than Northern California. Online, we can target much more 
effectively, delivering messages by region and interest and cut out all 
the costs of postage and production. Note that we have NOT laid off our 
publications coordinator, Evangeline Welch - we'll just be using her 
hours in ways that more directly affect the web and reach many more 
people far more cost-effectively.

The Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC) does publish Communities 
magazine... and it does cover Cohousing, as you'd expect, given that it's 
the fastest-growing and most-lucrative form of IC. We are exploring 
increasing our partnerships there. However, note that Communities mag is 
not even included with FIC membership, and its focus is broad enough that 
much of its readership/advertiser base/content is NOT relevant to people 
creating or living in cohousing communities.... if anything, the stories 
there could scare away prospective investors/residents from us, the 
"conservative" end of the spectrum, what with private ownership, market 
pricing, individual mortgages, no income-sharing, etc.

>In our home we pay $100 a year or so for various
>magazines, and I'd gladly subscribe to a cohousing or
>communities/cohousing magazine for $20 a year.

I'm sure you would, and I would (and do subscribe to Communities) but it 
would take 1,000 just like us to make it effective at all.

>Perhaps we need a venture capitalist to start us off,

venture capitalists invest where they perceive a potential high return. 
Publishing in general is a low-return business, with very low 
earnings-to-income ratios even among the few publications that make it. I 
can't imagine a VC pursuing the low and negative yields we would 
realistically project.

>or a private donor or foundation which could provide
>the needed capital.

This is still something we are going after, even spending $ to puruse 
grants and foundation $, but if we spend all our $ on operations then we 
don't have a balance sheet and track record that any rational foundation 
would support. Foundation funding is WAY down, and we haven't invested 
the amounts in organizational and relationship development that would be 
necessary to attract any of it. If you were a foundation with a choice of 
supporting an inner-city affordable-housing group or a national cohousing 
organization that mostly helps mostly-middle-class mostly-white people, 
which would you go for? Yes, I know a case can be made for the latter... 
but until we make it, money won't be dropping in our laps.

>  Do we have a retiree or two or
>some folks who are underemployed, with a passion for
>publishing in the cohousing community?

We do, and even if we heavily relied on the backbreadking efforts of our 
volunteers (which we did even when we had paid office staff), it still 
wouldn't make sense to spend the $ on printing, paper, and postage. We 
just don't have the economies of scale to make it. As we moved to boost 
the circulation of the magazine by mailing to every unit in built 
communities, I thought we would get there, but financial realities led us 
to change direction sooner rather than "wait and see" if it worked.

I think this is a great opportunity for us to use the technology to help 
the movement... and not just by putting more stuff in front of us on 
computer screens. Remember, our database has thousands of people, and we 
know of thousands more... and at most 5% are on CoHo-L. The effort put 
into directly supporting communities and groups getting together 
regionally and making calls and writing letters based on our lists and 
professionals and communities combining lists through our database (with 
proper privacy protections) has enormous potential to make it far easier 
for anyone wanting to find or create communities to get through the 
process faster and more efficiently.

The Association is going to need your support to accomplish this... 
financially (your donation-request letters are in the mail) and in other 
forms. So what have YOU done for the Cohousing movement this week?


Raines Cohen <my initials,2,dash,coho,dash,L at my first name .com>

  Member, Swan's Market Coho [Oakland, CA] <>
Where we had a great community Thanksgiving last Sunday.

  Secretary, Berkeley [CA] Cohousing
Grabbing the baton on the contact lists.

  Supporter, East Bay Cohousing <>
Next meeting: December 14 at Berkeley Cohousing

  Boardmember, Coho/US <>
Announcing a "Getting-It-Built" workshop in San Diego in January.

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