And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…
In 1989, Lynne McTaggart promised The Times that WDDTY would take no advertising in order to remain “pure”. A quote from the Times piece is still used today as an endorsement on WDDTY’s home page.

Whether or not WDDTY originally set out to be a factual journal describing alternative treatments, the fact is that its current content makes it part of the SCAM industry’s PR machine, the network of blogs, websites and junk journals that makes the claims the industry cannot legally make, allowing SCAMmers to maintain the fiction of advertising on an “availability only” basis.

Wandering Teacake takes a look at advertising income and specifically analyses how that correlates with advocacy for a particular form of woo. The results show that – like any other magazine in the segment – content may be driven by the availability of advertising revenue as much as by the agenda of the editors. The analysis further undermines WDDTY’s specious claims to independence from vested interests.

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…

Reblogged with permission from wanderingteacake.wordpress.com

Lynne McTaggart advises people to "follow the money". Let's see how that works out for her.
Lynne McTaggart advises people to “follow the money”. Let’s see how that works out for her.

Yeah, about the pharma shill gambit. According to the editorial team at What Doctors Don’t Tell You – the alt-med attack rag that spits venom at conventional medicine – anybody who criticises the content or accuracy of their magazine must be a secret employee of the pharmaceutical industry. It’s seemingly impossible – in WDDTY or their supporters’ view – for anybody to disagree with them unless they are being paid to do so.There are a couple of very obvious problems with this accusation. Firstly, of course, it is actually possible to hold a viewpoint you didn’t reach because of a pay cheque. Nobody’s paying me to write this blog, for example (more’s the pity). Secondly, it’s a bit rich to start accusing people of holding views for money, if you yourself are taking money for holding the views you espouse.

So far so obvious, and indeed dull. What I’m looking to do here, though, is go a bit deeper. In this article, I seek to show that not only are the editors of WDDTY(Lynne McTaggart and Bryan Hubbard) receiving significant sums of money from alt-med providers, but that they are now in thrall to those providers, such that their livelihood depends on peddling unproven/disproven treatments and advice.

Where does the money come from?

Alt-med is a bit of a money-spinner for Lynne McTaggart and her spouse Bryan Hubbard. In addition to the magazine WDDTY, there have been a string of “best-selling” books and there are conferences. I’ve got no detailed figures for book sales or conference fees, however, so I’m going to concentrate on the magazine.

Magazine Sales

According to the bumf sent out to advertisers, these are the magazine sales figures.

sales

At £3.95 per print copy, £3.95 per electronic copy, and £3.50 – £4.33 for subscription copies, dependent on payment method, we can add up the sales figures and work out that takings on sales of WDDTY total somewhere in the region of £75,000 a month.

Now that’s not all profit, of course. The magazine has to be printed, staff have to be paid (all those expensive researchers, for example), it has to be distributed and the retailers will take their cut. There will also be copies printed which don’t get sold. Unsurprisingly, I don’t have exact figures for any of this, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that between half and two-thirds of the takings will go to pay these bills, leaving the editors with, say, £25,000 per month to show for their efforts. It may be much less. If anybody with experience in this field could tie these figures down more tightly for me, I will amend this article.

Advertising

Here’s WDDTY’s advertising price list.

rates

So it should be possible to find how much WDDTY receives in advertising revenue, by simply counting up the number of ads of each type, and totalling up their cost. I’ve gone one better, and waded through the last 12 issues of WDDTYpage by page (I know, I do this so you don’t have to) and totalled up the ads in each issue. I’ve excluded any advertising for WDDTY itself, along with the “Healthy Shopping” product guides, which usually comprise half a dozen pages of uncritical puffery about various products, even though there is a risk of financial or other reward for these sorts of pages, and solely concentrated on the obvious advertisements in the conventional sense. Without a price for the 1/8 page ads, I’ve estimated these at £300 a pop, which I think seems a reasonable guess against £550 for a quarter page. What do we find?

adspend

(Ad spend in the past 12 editions of WDDTY – click to zoom)

We can see that there are usually 20-25 pages of advertising, representing up to about a quarter of the magazine content. I didn’t know whether this was a large proportion, so I checked a couple of other magazine titles at random, and found they carry about 25% advertising as well, so the proportion in WDDTY is not unusual. To be fair, though, neither Viz nor Top Gear have a stated editorial policy not to carry any advertising at all, as WDDTY once did:

noadvertising

(The Times, August 10, 1989)

So the average advertising take for an edition of WDDTY is £45-50,000 at list prices. Most of this is profit, as advertisers are expected to prepare their own copy, and all the distribution costs are much the same whether the magazine is 80 pages or 100. The only additional cost is that of printing additional pages, and then only for print copies. To be fair, though, we also need to allow for the possibility that regular advertisers get discounts for taking out a run of adverts. Again, I don’t have these figures, but as an estimate I think print costs and discounts could reduce the advertising income by perhaps a third, leaving them with £30,000 per month. Once more, if anybody is in a position to clarify costs, I will amend here.

Allowing some wiggle room for the estimates used, we’re probably looking at a situation where at least half, and quite likely a lot more, of WDDTY’s profit comes from the inclusion of advertisements.

Unpure! Unpure!

Lynne McTaggart didn’t want to take the advertising dollar, in order to remain pure. This is a laudable position to take, because there are risks that if you do carry advertising you end up having your editorial policy or content influenced by the people who pay you. But now we have seen that half or more of the magazine’s potential profit margin is from advertising, and this is a problem, because of the nature of those advertisers.

Many bloggers, myself included, have expressed the view that there could be a place for a magazine which genuinely attempts to do what WDDTY claims it does: look into health claims, hold health care providers of all types to account, provide balanced and detailed analysis of the state of medical science. ButWDDTY can’t now do this; they are in thrall to the advertisers they once swore they would never court. If they were to change direction now and say (correctly) how ineffective vitamin pills and other supplements are, for example, they would lose the vitamin pill advertisers, which brought in £141,350 at list price over the past year (yes, I added it up). It would be the same for the homeopaths, the electrosmog blockers, the holistic dentists and live blood analysts, the naturopaths and “hydrogen-rich water” peddlers, the Buteyko teachers and the chiropractors. All would stop advertising in a magazine that set out to dismantle their claims.

And there would be nothing with which to replace them. The Big Pharma companies WDDTY so deride aren’t allowed (in the UK at least) to advertise directly to the public, and with all the alt-med gone, so too would go the income. It would only be the stubborn understains left holding this rag together.

There is a clear risk here that WDDTY are constrained from speaking truthfully and accurately about the treatments they discuss, because by doing so they would alienate advertisers they could not afford to lose.

Oh really? Yes really

I’ve already mentioned how advertisements for vitamin pills were carried in the February 2013 edition of WDDTY, one facing the editorial and one in amongst the notorious article which claimed that vitamin C could cure pretty much anything. It is hard to claim that you are independent when you take money to advertise products, placed alongside your uncritical promotion of those products.

But can we make it even clearer? Can we discern areas in which editorial policy and advertising appear to go hand in hand? I think we can, and it doesn’t take long to find examples. One that leaps out is the fact that the past three issues ofWDDTY have carried articles discussing various aspects of “electro-smog” or the supposed dangers of radiation from mobile phones, wi-fi and the like. Two out of three of these articles displayed ads for devices claimed to deal with these dangers alongside or within the article. If one plots advertising spend over the past six months for electrosmog/radiation earthing devices against the number of pages devoted to articles about the subject, one sees an interesting correlation. Advertising spend increased more than ten-fold when the subject was covered:

electrospend

Advertising spend (£) against pages of coverage in WDDTY on subject of electrosmog/EMF risks

Still with me?

The income for the WDDTY magazine is about £1.5m per year, based on the above figures. This supports all the web of books and conferences, which bring in more money. After printing and distribution costs, the dynamic duo of Lynne and Bryan could easily be clearing a cool £650k between them from the magazine alone.  You might think this is small beans compared to Big Pharma’s billions, but remember this is just two people. There are very few people working for pharmaceutical companies that take home more than £300k in their pay packets.

It’s a profitable business, shilling for the alt-med industry.

2 thoughts on “And Now A Word From Our Sponsors…”

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    UPDATE:
    According to this article in the Press Gazette dated Oct 2013, McTaggart was claiming a print-run of around 30,000 with around 250,000 website visitors per month. I wonder which figure was correct, the one quoted to advertisers or the one produced for the much wider-read Press Gazette?

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