A writer friend of mine pointed out a particularly harsh remark about Writer's Digest on Scott Oden's blog that I'd like to respond to here.
Here's a passage from his post:
I started writing and submitting in 1984. Back then, you had to do some serious legwork to discover not only where to send stories, but what editors were on the lookout for. There was no Internet, at least, not for mass public consumption, so market research involved hoofing it to the library—which had an impressive array of periodicals—and jotting down info from the masthead, or browsing their old and battered copy of Writer’s Market. This was back when Writer’s Digest was actually a useful resource and not a mouthpiece for the vanity press industry, as it is today.
Since these remarks show little knowledge of Writer's Digest or the magazine industry, I'd like to point out a few relevant facts and let you judge for yourself.
• Writer's Digest magazine has been in existence since 1920, and "vanity press" advertising has been included since its inception.
• All of the writing magazines (our competitors) also include "vanity press" advertising.
• A typical magazine has an editorial/advertising ratio of 60/40.
• The editorial/advertising ratio of Writer's Digest is 80/20. (80% editorial content/20% ads).
• All magazines rely on advertising to help cover the enormous costs of production and shipping.
• Without advertising revenue, subscription and newsstand prices would be prohibitively expensive for readers. The price would have to double (at least) in order for the magazine to continue to exist.
• Without advertising, it would be impossible to continue providing such a wealth of free online content.
Finally, as the editor of Writer's Digest, it's difficult for me not to take Oden's remark personally because it calls into question the integrity of our editorial staff, as journalists and editors. I can speak for my entire staff when I say that we are no one's mouthpiece. Everything in the 80% of the magazine that's editorial content is chosen by our editorial staff. And we do not do advertorials.
Nobody tells me what to say, what to think, what to write or what to include in Writer's Digest—not our publisher, not our advertising rep and certainly not our advertisers. The only people I listen to when it comes to our editorial content are my editors and our readers.
I've read just about every piece of Reader Mail that's come to Writer's Digest in the four years I've been on the masthead and I communicate with our readers on a daily basis, on our forum and through this blog.
I spend most of my time thinking about the magazine—how to continually make it better and how to serve our readers better. I would confidently and proudly put Writer's Digest today up against the Writer's Digest of any era, even the one Scott Oden waxes poetic about. I think it's a disservice to other writers that Oden disclaims the very resource that he admits helped bring his success in the first place.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of this, please don't hesitate to leave a comment here, or you can find me on our forum in the WD Editors section.