Free!!! (Fine Print Follows)

You've undoubtedly noticed that the cool-looking smart Roadster on the cover of this issue was obscured with a form that the people in the Automotive Manufacturing & Production Circulation Department are quite interested in your filling out.

You've undoubtedly noticed that the cool-looking smart Roadster on the cover of this issue was obscured with a form that the people in the Automotive Manufacturing & Production Circulation Department are quite interested in your filling out. They are so interested that they put that thing right there, front and center, despite the fact that the Roadster is more visually appealing than the form.

Here's the thing. AM&P is a trade magazine. As you've probably calculated, in terms of money, neither you nor your company pays a nickel to get the publication each and every month. A rule of copyrighting has it that if you write "FREE" on a solicitation, you'll get a whole lot of attention. Generally speaking, that "FREE" offer ends up costing you something once you slog through the fine print. But in this case, "FREE" is pretty much, well, "FREE."

The drill goes like this. Not everyone can get a copy of AM&P. We don't sell them on the news stand. Unlike some other trade magazines, we don't pretend that we sell them on the news stand by putting a cover price on each issue.

The magazine's Publisher essentially decides who he'd like to have receive the magazine. Then the folks in the Circulation Department work at getting those people to accept the magazine.

So why do you have this magazine? Why does the Publisher think that you're the kind of person that he wants to get AM&P? Because you are working at an OEM or supplier company and your title is managerial and/or engineering-related.

All we ask of you—directly, I'll get to another plea a few lines below—is your filling out that form, signing it, and returning it to us.

Without getting too deeply into all of the machinations of the thing, what happens is this: The Circulation Department puts you on a list that undergoes an annual audit by an organization that keeps publishers honest. If we say that we have x signatures on file, then the auditors come in and make sure that there are x legitimate signatures on file. Assuming everything is copacetic—and that's vital, so the Circulation Department works very hard at keeping things on the up-and-up (and even obscure our covers on an annual basis as part of what they do)—then the people who sell advertising space in the magazine are able to tell the prospective advertisers that there arex number of people who receive the magazine who are managers and/or engineers.

The advertisers are the ones who are fundamentally paying for this magazine to be published. Which is why we are able to offer it to you for "FREE."

There's an old saying in publishing that goes, "Editorial is what goes in the spaces between the ads." My editorial colleagues and I are not thrilled with that notion. But fundamentally, the only way that we are able to travel to places like Frankfurt and Smyrna is through the ability of the Publisher to underwrite our adventures. The only place that the Publisher gets the funds is through advertisers. And the only way that the sales people can convince the advertisers that AM&P is worth their advertising dollars is through having a circulation statement that says there are x people who are willing to fill out a form and sign it on an annual basis.

Which is a round-about way of saying that if you like the stuff in the spaces between the ads, then do the Editorial Staff a favor and fill out the form. (Please—we like what we do, and aren't above begging.)

Which brings me to the less-direct request. You'll notice on the ads a cryptic notation that says "Enter —" with "—" being a number. After some of the write-ups in "Up Front" and after all of the pieces in "In Gear" it is suggested that you "write in — on the Reader Service Card."

Both the "Enter" and the "write in" suggestions are about the same thing. And we make an assumption that all of you know what that's all about. If you do, skip the next paragraph and jump to the second shameless plea.

The "Reader Service Card" is that postage-paid card that's bound into each issue of the magazine. The purpose is to allow you to obtain additional information from companies about the products they've advertised or we've written about.

The plea part is this: Please use those cards or, if you simply pick up the phone and call a company (or fax or email), please make it clear that AM&P was the place where you saw the item of interest. This lets the companies know that there are actually people who are picking up the magazine and are interested in what they see in here.

I've never written a piece like this in this space. I'll probably be dragged over the coals by some people who think I'm being too commercial. But I firmly believe that we are putting out a useful publication each and every month, and I want to do what I can to help assure that we can continue to do so. To do that, I need your help. Your signature on that form. And next month, you'll be able to immediately see the picture on the cover.