It's happening again. Back in 1997, we were nearly driven out of business by a distributor who embezzled money and didn't pay for the magazines they were selling. We almost went out of business. Many other titles did as a result.
This time, the distributor (Source Interlink) decided to close its doors to magazine distribution after losing Time Inc.'s business. This caused us to scramble to find alternative methods of getting our magazine into stores around the world, a feat we accomplished without too much difficulty. But getting what was left of Source Interlink, now rebranded as "TEN: The Enthusiast Network," to pay us for the two issues retailers paid them for, is proving much more difficult.
The difference between now and 1997 is that this company is not really out of business. In fact, they're making a point of launching new endeavors. They publish their own magazines and presumably pay for those. All fine and good. We just ask that we also get paid for what we're owed. This is only fair. Instead, we're hearing reports that only the part of the company that owes us money will be filing for bankruptcy, leaving the other part free to keep operating. This is corporate logic we refuse to accept - the two entities shared the same name until things went sour - they are most definitely related and we hold them fully accountable.
Attempts to reach the company for the past few weeks to discuss this have met with no success. Meanwhile, Scott Dickey, the chief executive officer, says of the rebranded company, "We are the world's premier network of enthusiast brands - we create and deliver content every day that informs, entertains, inspires and connects with enthusiasts." Sounds wonderful. But what we'd really like them to deliver is a check for what they owe us. Spread that enthusiasm a bit.
TEN: The Enthusiast Network (yes, we're going to keep using their new awkward name at every opportunity so they can't claim they're somehow not responsible for their debts under the old name) is described as having "one of the largest male enthusiast databases on the market today. Their publications cover almost all major male interests groups such as Automotive, High-Tech, and Action Sports. They have over sixty individual titles including well known magazines such as Motor Trend, Automobile Magazine, Hot Rod, Stereophile and Surfing." If you do a little searching, you'll see that they're hiring all kinds of people and looking to expand their operations. We're happy for them. Really.
But we also have a message for TEN: The Enthusiast Network: You don't get to just make mistakes in one area, change your name, and set up shop in another without fulfilling your outstanding obligations. Sure, your half of Source Interlink may not have been the one that fell apart. But it was still part of the same company. You had the same name! (until you realized that you no longer wanted to be seen as connected to your failed endeavors) How this is not seen as an obvious fact is precisely why such travesties of justice continue to occur. If anyone needs more proof of the close relations between these two "separate" companies, consider that the very day the distribution half closed its doors, their publishing half announced it was closing 12 titles. "Separate" is clearly not an accurate description. And while we realize that through their corporate lawyers and doublespeak, they can probably get away with this sort of subterfuge fairly easily, we believe they have a moral obligation to do the right thing - and that is a position we can never yield on.
We are far from the only publication facing extinction because of the actions of TEN: The Enthusiast Network. But we intend to be the loudest. We hope our readers and supporters join us and help to put the pressure on. There is nearly $100,000 in outstanding invoices that we're not getting any answers on and we have lots of bills that have to be paid with the money we've earned but not received. Ironically, checks are still going to this company for magazines that our readers have bought. This is the environment that magazine publishers are forced to accept, as if the publishing industry wasn't difficult enough to survive in.
What does this mean for 2600? It means we have some serious battles to wage. We're going to keep fighting to get some justice and we may also have to fight simply to survive. In the worst case scenario, being ripped off at this level would make it almost impossible for us to continue publishing. We would have to make a lot of painful choices and cut back on things for no reason other than some outside company's mismanagement. Our readers have supported both our print and digital publications and we've been doing quite well overall. That's what makes this so frustrating. The hacker community has been tremendously supportive and constructive in keeping 2600 strong. None of us deserve this.
To make matters worse, this comes at a time when we're organizing our biggest conference yet, HOPE X. This is when funds are most needed, as there are so many things that need to be paid for when a conference is in the works. To have this level of uncertainty over our heads is more than a little torturous.
How can you help? We are not a charity so we are not asking for donations. What we're asking for is involvement. Help us to spread the word and get this resolved. If there's something we do that you like, support it or tell friends. Buy our new issue when it hits the stands in July - we'll actually get paid for this one. Make us Number One on Kindle. Let people know about HOPE X and get as many of them as possible to come to the conference. (Our growing list of talks is pretty damn impressive.) If 500 people buy tickets who wouldn't have otherwise bought tickets to the event, that would be enough for us to get through this without getting paid. Not that we wouldn't still be angry as hell, but at least we wouldn't be facing oblivion.
We do intend to survive, even if the actions of TEN: The Enthusiast Network put us massively into debt. We're hackers - we always find a way. As we vowed back in 1997, we will never do this kind of thing to those we're indebted to. If we owe bills, we will pay them. If people order things from us, they will always get them. If we make bad business decisions, we'll correct them and pay for our mistakes. These are basic values we've always subscribed to. We are more than willing to help teach these values to those companies that don't understand them.