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of the QST Magazine.
Oct 21, 2013 18:58
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A Rock for the Ages
Time owned: more than 12 months
“Is QST better or worse today than in years past?” This question plays into many other reviews on this page. Rather than depending on hazy memories, in a non-scientific survey I compared two different issues of QST separated in time by exactly 52 years: July 2011 and July 1959. The period of the 1950s and 1960s has sometimes been labeled “the Golden Age of Amateur Radio.” Since many new hams are not yet 52 years of age, the results should be of interest.
The comparison’s bottom line: the magazine has remained remarkably constant through the decades.
Physical and Appearance: Compared to the 2011 issue, the 1959 magazine had a smaller page size but contained more printed pages (188 vs 152). The 1959 issue had no full-color illustrations and looked, in some respects, somewhat like a technical journal. Today’s QST has a “glossy, color magazine” appearance, and seems less technical. Printing and paper quality remained good through the period.
Advertising: The 1959 issue devoted 50% of its pages to advertising, the 2011 had 47% of its space so allocated. The 1959 ads, however, were oriented more toward promoting electronic parts and assemblies intended for use in project construction, while 2011 ads heavily featured finished commercial products.
Technical: The 1959 issue devoted 13% of its space to electronic engineering/technology articles and snippets, while in 2011 the figure was 11%. However, the 2011 articles and snippets are generally set at a lower technical level than the 1959 articles were. This may be a consequence of the additional ARRL outlets for higher-level engineering articles available today. In 1959 QST was the League’s only monthly/quarterly publication.
News and Operating: This broad classification includes regulatory news, features, schedules, nets, contest results, social news, etc. In 1959, this category had 23% of the pages (this figure is probably a slight underestimate), in 2011, 19%.
The discrepancy is probably due, in major part, to QST’s no longer printing a monthly “Station Activities” column, which was regularly published in 1959. This department was a dreary feature in which the magazine tried valiantly to print as many names and call signs as it possibly could under the guise of “local news events.” Most subscribers read only the paragraph of news concerning their local section and ignored the remaining 20 or so pages of fine print that comprised the feature.
Other areas: The number of magazine pages devoted to reviews of commercial products doubled during this time period, and laboratory measurement results from product testing were introduced.
By 2011 there was a perceptible refocusing of the contents toward “beginners,” who presumably are the League’s future membership base. Basic concepts and terms in QST articles, whose fundamental explanations were not included in 1959 articles, might have sent the reader of that time scrambling to the “Handbook.” Today they are extensively described within the magazine’s pages.
The magazine, perhaps reflecting the interest of today’s subscribers, now devotes more time and attention overall to “operating” than to “engineering,” and operating features tend to illustrate stations composed almost entirely of commercially manufactured gear. The range of subject matter coverage, especially in the ARRL’s “public relations/organizational image” area, has expanded considerably today.
Summary: “Is QST ‘better or worse’ today than in years past?” Objectively, the magazine has been fairly invariant throughout the last half-century. Thus an attempt to answer to this question inevitably raises another, more general question: “Is the Amateur Radio Service itself ‘better or worse’ today than in years past?”
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