HamRadioNow: CQ ‘Comes Clean’ (a click-bait title)

There’s something that just didn’t sink in as I interviewed CQ editor Rich Moseson W2VU at the Orlando HamCation for this episode. CQ is in trouble, and advertising is the problem. Or rather, lack of it. Rich said that while subscriber numbers are important, the real revenue comes from ads, and the ham radio manufacturers and retailers that had been buying the ads in the magazine can’t afford to buy them, or as many of them, today.

Subscriber numbers bring in advertisers, of course, but if the companies can’t afford the ads, it doesn’t matter. And I got that, for a minute or two, but then I sort of lost the concept. But the bigger connection I didn’t make until maybe the 10th time I watched the interview (yes, I do that, because I like to hear myself talk) was that ads in the digital version of the magazine are an even tougher sell. So if CQ were to go all-digital to save printing and postage, it wouldn’t help enough. They’d make even less money because they wouldn’t get many of the ads that they do get now. At least that’s my takeaway.

It’s not just CQ and ham radio – digital media, including print, audio and video, isn’t valued as much as “traditional” media, even if the audience is the same. I’m no expert in this, but that’s the conventional wisdom I read in the trades.

One other thing to consider before you watch the episode is that sub-$50 Chinese HT you marvel at. They don’t advertise or support ham radio in any way other then selling you a radio for peanuts. Some of their distributors are beginning to advertise for them, but the companies themselves are still mostly a cypher here in the US. I’m just sayin’….

There’s more from Orlando at HamRadioNow.tv.

73, Gary KN4AQ


Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, is the host of HamRadioNow.tv. If you enjoy this and other HamRadioNow programs, help keep them 'on the air' with a contribution. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “HamRadioNow: CQ ‘Comes Clean’ (a click-bait title)”

  • Roger G3XBM:

    I suspect this is just the start. As most amateurs get old and die so numbers drop and so will the number of magazines serving the amateur population. 20 years hence, unless thing radically change, there will be fewer magazines, smaller magazines, fewer adverts…..

    We are watching the slow death of our hobby unless we get more young blood enthused. No doubt what attracts young people today is quite different from the pure magic radio was to us.

  • Jason VE3MAL:

    I wouldn’t worry too much. Young people get interested in hobbies less and less through commercial magazines, and more through products like the cheap HTs, Raspberry Pis, and Arduino’s, as well as through articles on general tech sites and blogs that get shared around social networking (something that can’t happen with paywall or paper magazines).

  • Jason VE3MAL:

    I don’t know how I missed listing the RTLSDR. That alone has got an incredible amount of people started monitoring all sorts of radio.

  • Peter kg5wy:

    CQ still has my support.(and money)


  • Don N4KC:

    Gary, you are correct that this trend is not confined to amateur radio publications. I made my living in media and advertising for the past 40 years and have watched what has been happening with great interest.

    Today an advertiser can invest in pay-per-lead or pay-per-click advertising in which he only pays for people who either go to his website or makes an inquiry in some other way or who at least clicks on his ad. That is a far cry from when an advertiser had to pay for an ad in a magazine based on total circulation rather than just for those who might be potential customers. Next time you use Google, note the three or four links that pop up at the top and the long list down the side of the page. Those are paid ads. Search for “Icom IC7600.” Depending on the deal the advertiser has with Google or a third-party “aggregator,” Google gets paid either the instant you click on the link or when you complete some kind of form on an aggregator’s page.

    Wonder why so many daily newspapers are going out of business? Why there is no Life, Look or Saturday Evening Post? Why the network TV nightly news is on its last legs? This is the sea change that is taking place, and we see it with CQ and other specialty magazines, too.

    I blog about this stuff at n4kc.blogspot.com if you are interested.

    Don N4KC

  • John, W9JGO:

    Many fellows around my age (75) do not/will not read digital publications. I read library books on my smart phone, so a digital magazine is right up my alley. No more old magazines at the doctor’s office or while waiting for a haircut. I carry what I want to read in my pocket! It’s probably the wave of the future for limited interest/niche publications. Printed matter costs a fortune to produce and transport. Much cheaper to do a mouse click. I hope CQ can stay afloat. I’ve enjoyed it since I was a teenager. I am NOT a fan of the Zinio Reader. I hope someone writes a more friendly program to read CQ with. I buy at least 95 percent of my ham radio gear and supplies online. No local or area stores exist. Nice to click an ad in CQ and be instantly transported to the advertiser’s website. Remember the decades of writing the manufacturer or making an expensive long distance call to get more information? I’m glad those days are behind us. As for hams being a dying breed, This month’s VE session netted 4 new hams and two upgrades.
    John, W9JGO

  • If advertising revenue is the problem, why isn’t QST struggling with this?

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