Picks and Pans Main: Etc.
Newsletters have been part of the publishing industry since Huntington Whaley's Whaley-Eaton American Letter on business began in 1918. Today the U.S. is inundated with 6,000 newsletters, from AAAM Quarterly, the journal of the American Association for Automotive Medicine, to Zins Weekly News Bulletin, issued by the Zionist Organization of America. Most of these are promotional throw-aways. But there are also more than 1,500 subscription newsletters. The reason: They contain specialized material rarely found in a daily newspaper or magazine, and consumers pay as much as $2,691 a year for it (the rate for the D.C.-based Daily Report for Executives). Here's a sample of what you might be missing.
The APBA Journal serves those who play a series of table games that reflect real-life performances in pro sports. (What APBA stands for is never explained; it is the secret of APBA Game Company founder J. Richard Seitz.) The monthly ($7.50 per year) mostly features analysis of the games' rules and readers' reports on their results. Stan Seidel of Topeka wrote recently that in his replay of the 1974 American League baseball season, Rod Carew hit .373 instead of the .364 he hit in real life. But there are also news stories. During the crisis at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, near the game company's offices in Lancaster, Pa., the Journal ran a straight-faced article on APBA's plans for evacuating in case of disaster and proudly detailed Seitz's plans to stay till the last milliroentgen to protect his mailing lists.
The Contest News-Letter informs contest-crazed Americans what's to be won each month, with rules, regulations and tips (e.g, it's good form to write thank-you notes to contest sponsors after you win). In the Johnnie Walker Black sweepstakes of 1977 all three prizes went to CN-L readers, and first prize was $40,000. The newsletter also exposes swindlers who tell contestants they have won valuable prizes but must send money to claim them. Subscriptions run $12.
The Joyer Travel Report, started in 1969, reviews packaged tours, gives the latest on health hazards (typhoid, drinkability of the water, men-of-war on the beach) and clarifies all those complicated discounts on plane fares and rent-a-cars. Joyer also has a section for those who want to swap homes. $29 for 12 monthly issues.
The Kiplinger Washington Letter, first published in 1923, is the most popular U.S. newsletter, with weekly circulation of 300,000 (at $42 a year). Its concise underlined and dotted paragraphs—which sometimes seem to ask, "Is this simplistic enough for you dummies?"—offer updates on current events, trends and business.
The Kovels on Antiques and Collectables is written by Ralph and Terry Kovel, the Will and Ariel Durant of old stuff. Their $20-a-year monthly tells what's on the market, how much it's worth and what the latest auction results are. If you have any around, a Tiffany spider-web lamp just sold for $150,000 and a 1936 set of Mickey Mouse dishes, made in Japan, would fetch $200.
Orben's Current Comedy, published bimonthly by Bob Orben (he ghosted gags for Red Skelton, Jack Paar, Dick Gregory and Richard Nixon), is filled with one-liners—trite and otherwise—for speakers. "I don't care what the chemistry books say; the principal by-product of petroleum is poverty." Or, "I'm for nostalgia but registering for the draft is ridiculous." If you send in $48, Orben will say, "Take this newsletter—please."
Refundle Bundle teaches its 31,000 subscribers to cash in on coupons, box tops and labels companies use to entice consumers. "I'm able to save 50 percent of my shopping bill each year," contends Susan Samtur, publisher of the monthly. Even if you have to eat a couple of pounds of macaroni a day to profit from the coupons, Samtur's subscription rate is only $9.
The Tab Report, a new monthly published by self-styled sociologist Dennis Sobin, is devoted to commercial sex. For $48 a year, it offers legal information, reports on trends in prostitution, massage parlors and adult book stores, and, in the April issue, a story about a hall of fame for exotic dancers. It is to pornographers what the New England Journal of Medicine is to doctors.
Undercurrent is a monthly ($19) for, whom else, skin divers and reports on the latest products, survival techniques and tax-deductible dive vacations one can take in the name of science.