Harry Pearson Expounds on the Effect of Long Term Loans on Reviewers

February 26, 2010

The Absolute Sound was begun in the Spring of 1973. As a part of its 200th issue retrospective,TAS published on its website an introductory history, an editorial by HP which appeared in Issue 1 and a classic review from Issue 13. The full text can be found here.  I want to quote a small portion of HP’s editorial relating to the effect of advertising on the review process, as I think it remains pertinent today.

The subject of accepting advertising has caused some soul-searching here. And not for the reasons you might think. Our staff is composed of professionals from many walks of life. We are well-paid. We are not publishing The Absolute Sound for profit, but for love. Its expenses are being met by the sale of subscriptions. Now this is not true of High Fidelity, Audio, Stereo Review, or, for that matter, any newspaper you can name. In most cases, subscriptions barely pay the cost of circulating the average magazine or newspaper. The advertising actually subsidizes the cost (your cost) of getting the magazine written, published and mailed (plus, of course, a small profit). Since the advertisers then become investors in the magazine, they are essential to its continued publication. Audiophiles, like most others in this country, have an instant distrust of advertising. It somehow corrupts and so the magazine without advertising is, by definition, somehow purer and more honest than the one without. It is a lovely selling point.

It isn’t true, though, that advertising itself corrupts. It is the need, or the greed, for advertising that does the corrupting. [emphasis added] We don’t need it, and we really can’t imagine why any advertiser in his right mind would want to buy space in The Absolute Sound, since such an offer would probably make our iconoclasts doubly critical of his products (just to make sure we were not, in fact, being soft where we should be hard). We see no special purity in rejecting advertisements. Either you will sell out or you won’t. The ads are not the determining factor anymore than, say, the absence of legal liquor is a barrier to alcoholism. We noted, with more than a little amusement recently, that J. Gordon Holt’s magazine, The Stereophile, which does not accept advertising, would henceforth be accepting dealer advertising—something it had been doing in its want-ad columns for some time. But, for the record and for the time being, we intend to let the subject rest in peace and play whatever there is to play by ear. What this means, in plain English, is that we will not accept manufacturer’s advertisements. Pax.

I agree with HP, which is why, unlike other reviewers, including some notable ones at The Absolute Sound, I do not  keep any equipment on long term loan after I have finished reviewing it.  I also do not accept advertising.