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Reading QST Magazine for Fifty Years

reading qst magazine

I have been reading QST magazine for more than fifty years, since I was first licensed in 1967. How has it changed over time, and why?

QST is the premiere ham radio magazine in much of the world since 1915, with 150,000 circulation at present. Over the past fifty years, its format has remained much the same, other than more color and larger footprint. Every month, QST presents hobby technical information, a membership newsletter and, of course, targeted advertising.

Some say most people reading QST magazine do so for the ads and product reviews. And, you will find lots of advertising. Not surprising, since most hobby magazines are a great medium for reaching a target market. Comparing QST April 1972 with April 2022, advertising came in at just under 40% of the content. Interestingly, ARRL requires advertisers seeking prime “cover” locations to contract for 12 consecutive months.

My main interest is the hobby technical information. You will find these divided between feature articles and shorter bits, with a heavy emphasis on “how to”. Over fifty years, I found this segment has dropped from around 35% to 25% of content, and there are fewer articles. Now, to be fair, many technical articles have shifted to sister publication QEX. Emphasis on home brew remains, especially for antennas.

The balance of content in QST is membership newsletter, including regulatory information and member activities. I find this segment the least interesting and largely a waste of space that could be better handled on a web site. But, I guess since ARRL forces you to join the organization rather than just subscribe to QST, that’s understandable.

So, I guess QST hasn’t changed format much in fifty years and draws its success from being the only game in town. But why has technical content declined, especially deeper articles on learning theory?

Reading QST Magazine – Where are the Writers?

Far fewer technical authors and topics appear in QST these days. Is that a demand or supply side issue? Since ARRL holds reader survey data quite secretly, I don’t know the answer. Perhaps readers and writers are just choosing other channels, i.e. websites, groups and blogs for this type of content.

On the demand side, are members really less interested in technical topics, or less able to consume them? On the supply side, are fewer people capable of or interested in writing such material? Or is this just a market making problem?

ARRL pays $65 per page for feature content, which is not a lot, but also not that far below other hobby magazines. Obviously, hobbyists don’t write articles to get rich.

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