The future of the Freethinker
An important announcement
THE Board of GW Foote and Co, publishers of the Freethinker, are proud and excited to announce plans to secure the future of the magazine by re-launching as an Internet-only publication.
The Freethinker has been published – either weekly or monthly – without a break since our first issue in 1881. But the Freethinker has never been a profitable publication, and we have relied for our survival on donations, legacies and subsidies for most, if not all, of our 133-year history.
Our amazing record of publication, despite crises such as the prosecution of G W Foote for blasphemy, and war, has been maintained thanks to the energy, generosity and dedication of its editors, writers, publishers and readers: we pay tribute to them all.
But times change. Younger freethinkers who might have taken out a subscription in the past can now get the news and comment they need from the Internet, for free.
The National Secular Society has moved away from the advocacy of atheism, and no longer promotes our magazine to its members. Financially, our losses are no longer sustainable, and there is no realistic prospect of increasing readership to break-even level.
The Board has therefore had to make the sad and difficult decision to cease the publication of the paper edition of the magazine after the May edition. However, we believe the Freethinker’s distinctive radical voice is needed as much as ever, and we will continue publishing at a re-developed and re-launched www.freethinker.co.uk.
The new site will not only feature daily updates of news of interest to freethinkers, but will carry many more features and op-ed pieces from writers across the globe. We also plan on developing a comprehensive archive of the most important and entertaining articles that have appeared in the Freethinker over almost a century-and-a-half.
We hope that this decision will enable us to promote atheism and progressive secular values for at least another 130 years.
Over the last several years we have seen many magazines close or convert to Internet-only publication in order to cut costs and reach a wider audience. The Freethinker faces many of the same challenges. It costs over £40,000 a year to publish on paper, but over the last decade our annual losses have increased remorselessly – they are currently running at £30,000 a year.
Our current blog reaches many thousands more readers than receive the paper magazine; we get more visitors to the website every month than ever saw the paper even at the height of our blasphemous notoriety.
If we did not take action, we would be facing the closure of the Freethinker within a few years. By taking these difficult decisions now, we can fund improvements to our web presence and do what we can to ensure that the unique and historic Freethinker name will be around for generations to come.
We hope we will continue to enjoy the support and generosity of our current readers in pursuit of what George Meredith called “the best of causes”. The Board will be writing to all our subscribers over the next few weeks to formally notify you of the changes, thank you for your support for the print Freethinker over the years, and invite you to continue to support us online.
– Dan Bye, Chair, G W Foote and Co Ltd