What, Me Digital?

Alfred 'Electronic' Newman? It's stark, raving, totally 'Mad'

Paid archival content, however, has yet to be a moneymaking enterprise, says Seamus McAteer, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, a technology research firm. The National Geographic series, however, has consistently ranked in the top five among PC reference titles, according to a company spokeswoman. As a result, most publications have opted to put their back issues online for no charge as an added value to readers. Ironically, it's this very growth of free content online that Meglin says is cutting most deeply into MAD's bottom line by wooing the young audience. In its heyday 30 years ago, MAD's circulation hit the 2 million mark; these days, it's lucky to reach 500,000 (not a shabby number, but, since the magazine still has no ad revenue, not necessarily a healthy one). And the work ritual of MAD's small group of artists is made for a monthly, not a dynamic Web site, according to Meglin.

MAD magazine cover
© The Learning Company, Inc
MAD magazine cover

Still, sagging sales and even dubious e-publishing machinations will never affect MAD's generations of fans. Case in point: my first publication came with a letter I wrote to MAD in September 1981. I was a 12-year-old MAD fanatic— books, Mylar-sealed magazines, Alfred E. Neuman birthday cakes. When I opened the mailbox one morning and saw my letter in issue No. 225, it was like getting inscribed in the book of life. Now I'm on the CD-ROM, which feels like cryogenics. And the truth is, even if I deserved to get paid (which I don't), I probably wouldn't care. Because it's MAD.

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