The Consent Business Model – A tribute to The Great Gonzo

In the Muppet Movie The Great Gonzo explained that he was going to Bombay India to become a big film star. When it was explained that the rest of the Muppets were going to Hollywood to do the same thing Gonzo exclaimed "sure if you want to do it the easy way!" The Consent business model is sort of reminiscent of Gonzo’s path to stardom. We could have done this the easy way. We could have produced Consent the same way everyone else does, we would make lots more money and work less, but we wouldn’t be happy with ourselves and we would have killed a lot more trees. Our model is slower but we think it is better.

Consent Magazine is a unique publication. It was created by people who are active in BDSM because it is who they are, not because right now kink is profitable. Our writers and artists are also active in BDSM and have a desire to share their views, fantasies and experiences. We started Consent because Tasia and I were bored with the norm in Adult media (see The Four Most Dangerous Words). We pride ourselves on well written naughty stories, exceptional art and thought provoking kink.

Consent is not and will never be one of the standard slick formula adult magazines that flood the market. You know the type, the odd so-so story consisting of a handful of paragraphs wedged between a boring photo layout that consists of the same pose with different cropping. The few stories and pictures that are in our competitors publications seem to merely be filler for the endless pages of advertising. Consent is not anything like this. First off Consent is about words. We have endless pages of stories separated by artwork. The artwork we use is an accent to the words. Sure we have some advertising, but advertising in Consent is limited to a few portions of a few pages. Why? Because you don’t buy an adult magazine to look at ads, you buy it to read kinky stories and look at the pictures. Consent is a very different publication for many reasons; some of them are not kinky. One of the ways Consent is different is its production and business model. Consent doesn’t base its revenue on advertising sales. We base our revenue on sales of the actual magazines to actual people. This mostly translates into subscriptions. We decided to do things this way because we wanted to edit dirty stories all day, we also have two problems with the way magazines are sold.

The first problem is that when a store orders any magazine to put on its shelves (be it adult or mundane) they pick a number based on what they hope they can sell. Then they pad that number in case things are really good, all the time knowing full well that they are really ordering far more copies of magazines then they could ever hope to sell. The stores put those magazines on display for some amount of time. Some of the magazines sell, most don’t. Those that don’t sell are thrown away, not recycled, just thrown away, as in sent to a landfill. Most unsold magazines are never even opened. They go from the printer, to display to trash in a few weeks. We have a major problem with printing more magazines then will ever be sold only to throw a significant portion away. Because Consent is based on actual sales to actual people every magazine printed, gets read by someone. We are so serious about not wasting paper that the entire production of an issue of Consent including editing and prepress is electronic. We generally run two proof copies of Consent on recycled paper so we can check images and layout problems. We normally find someone to give the proof copies away to so they are read too. On the occasions we can’t find someone to give the proof copies to, they are recycled. One of our goals when we started Consent was to not waste tons of paper. This holds for all aspects of Consents publication. Minimal waste not only makes good ecological sense but it makes good business sense. When we print an issue of Consent we print as many issues as we need for our subscribers and contributors. We also print a few so we can make sales. If we run out we print a few more. By doing this we don’t have a huge inventory of unsold magazines. Every magazine printed ends up in an actual reader’s hands.

The Second problem we have with the way magazines are sold is actually related to the first. It is that no matter what magazine you are reading most of the pages are covered in advertising. Being a business we do understand that some advertising is important, but if you can’t find the publication through the advertising what’s the point. Did you buy the magazine to look at ads, or did you buy it for the content? Adult publications are worse then most. When we were planning Consent we discovered that in most kink magazines nearly 85% of the page space was devoted to advertising. Most people don’t look at the endless pages of advertising. If people aren’t looking at the pages covered in ads then those pages are a waste of paper. When we started Consent we opted to do things the hard way and build our subscriber base so we didn’t have to rely on the endless pages of advertising for our revenue. It means that each issue of Consent is filled with stuff to read not stuff to skip in search of the stuff to read. Fewer pages of advertising means that we aren’t wasting tons of paper printing pages in Consent that no one will give more then a passing glance. Basing our operating revenue on a good subscriber base also means that we can concentrate on working with writers and artists to bring our readers new ideas and viewpoints and not on selling advertising space.

Our business model also has benefits for companies who consider advertising in Consent. One of the first guidelines we made when designing Consent was that there would never be more then 20% of the space that holds advertising. If we ever have enough advertising to actually hit the 20% limit, we simply add more pages of stories and art and make the ratio drop. This means that every person who gets our magazine will see your ad. You won’t be awash in the background noise with everyone else.

Since we base our revenue mostly on subscriptions we can give the little business a voice here too. Most advertising rates in a publication are based on the number of copies of the publication printed (not copies sold, those copies that end up in the landfill mentioned above are also counted as sold). As a publication prints more copies they also increase the advertising rates. Consent doesn’t work this way, since our operating coasts are mostly from subscriptions we don’t have to worry about selling ad space. In fact most of the ads run in Consent are there because the vendor approached us, they liked our magazine, our philosophy and thought their product was a good match for our readers. In the beginning we didn’t even set ad rates until a few of our early advertisers started bugging us for them. When we did set our ad rates we set them at reasonable levels so small business can get some visibility without breaking the bank. Depending on what you have to offer we will even consider barter.

Another benefit to advertising in Consent is, since our first issue in Winter 1998 we have had a 95% subscription renewal rate. Many of our later subscribers have actually purchased back issues so they have a full set. This means that not only will your advertisement not be lost in the noise it will be seen on a regular basis.