Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: Fearng a Rival Paper Might Steal Away His Subscribers: "I might end up with none."

He lived in a paranoid fear of somebody putting out a competitive alternative to his Circus Report.   He dreaded every new attempt that came along. 

It wasn't easy just hanging on to his subscribers.  There was a troubling turnover as, when renewal time came around, many subscribers did not renew.  In order to sustain subscriptions, Don would each week send out free samples to prospective new subscribers, drawing from the rosters of the various circus clubs.  This arduous effort never ended. 

This he shared with me in his letter dated June 21, 1987:

"That guy from San Bernadino who is gong to put out a circus paper sent me some ads, requesting subscribers, etc. He calls it Circus Week and it will come out each week, costs $30 a year, or two years for $55.  I sent the stuff back to him and told him I wasn't going to help push his paper at the expense of my own.

"It's about time that I got off the idea of always being a good guy helping the other guy. He can advertise I guess in White Tops and such, but no point in sending my subscribers off to him.  I might end up with none - who knows."

A month later, on July 25, he wrote:

"His ad rates are all $5.00 less than what I am charging.  Also, he wrote to everyone who has an ad in CR and offered them a free ad in his paper to help him get started.... He had a total of 8 [8-1/2 x11"] pages, with only one story ... I could pay someone the money to subscribe for me I guess, but on the other hand I am not sure if I want to pay him $30.  By this time, he should have two or three issues out, depending on how he schedules them, unless he has folded already?"

As I recall, Circus Week did not last very long.  There were others, too, that came and went. 

In Don's corner, his work ethic was A+.  He reveled in getting Circus Report out each and every week, and on time. He stuck to it and eventually  amassed a total of, I am guessing, around 2,500 paid subscribers, but the peak years did not last long, from what I recall.  His average was likely closer to around 1,700.  He used the pricier first class mail, one big reason being  that he did not want to have to annually list his subscription totals.  That would be kept a secret.  Imagery, you know.

Circus Report became his first love, his obsession.  In the end, when he was plagued with poor health and we were no longer in contact, I'd heard he resented the paper but could not let go.  

Remembering our telephone conversations leading up to the launch of Circus Report, when he would call me to discuss his ideas and seek feedback, those were exciting and happy times, indeed.

No comments: