2005 - The year the Society began its decline (without anyone noticing)!

by cedars 112 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • cedars

    Hi everyone

    I've just finished an article for Randy over on freeminds.org, which I've submitted to him for review. Hopefully it should be online soon, so please keep checking!

    The article discusses the fact that the Watch Tower Society is ALREADY in decline, and suggests the year 2005 as the turning point. I'll briefly explain why...

    Each year when the worldwide reports come out, we are anxious to see whether there is any significant dip in publisher growth. As we all know, growth continues albeit at an extremely low rate. The growth percentage has hovered between 2 and 3% over the past six years, and has been on an overall downwards trend since the 80s. Most of the growth is driven by expansion in developing countries, which in turn is funded by publishers in wealthier lands where the growth is slower. This model is unsustainable in the longterm, and the effects are already being felt.

    It occurs to me that, in looking for a sign of the decline of the Society, we are looking in the wrong place. After all, the Watchtower Society is first-and-foremost a religiously-oriented publishing corporation, and always has been. Logically then, a good guage of how well it is doing can be seen in its printed output - which given the gradual increase in publishers and the supposed nearness of Armageddon should be increasing accordingly, right? Well, that's not what we see.

    Think about the actual number of printed pages per set of magazines, per month.

    At the start of 2005 we had 128 pages each per set of magazines, comprising...

    • Watchtower, dated 1st (32 pages)
    • Watchtower, dated 15th (32 pages)
    • Awake, dated 8th (32 pages)
    • Awake, dated 22nd (32 pages)

    By late 2005, this had fallen (for all magazines dated 2006) to 96 pages, comprising...

    • Public Edition Watchtower, dated 1st (32 pages)
    • Study Edition Watchtower, dated 15th (32 pages)
    • Awake (32 pages)

    Later this year, the number will have plummeted to 64 pages, comprising...

    • Public Edition Watchtower, dated 1st (16 pages)
    • Study Edition Watchtower, dated 15th (32 pages)
    • Awake (16 pages)

    Ignoring the marginal increase in printing demand through publisher growth, that's essentially a halving of monthly magazine printing commitments in only 7 years!

    ...and at a time when we should be needing MORE spiritual food, not less.

    I explain everything in more detail in the article, but I firmly believe the reduction in magazine printing commitments is telling. Added to the branch closures (Ireland, New Zealand..), the sale of Assembly Halls, the parceling off of Brooklyn real estate, the introduction of credit card facilities at assembly halls, and the attempts to leverage ownership of local kingdom halls - I believe all the evidence is there that the Society is already in decline, and is desperately slashing operational commitments and overheads wherever it can.

    The clever part is, nobody saw it - including me!


  • ziddina


    I'm looking forward to reading your article. You'll notify us when Randy posts it, right??

    I'm rather curious as to what expenditures are draining the Watchtower Corporation to the extent that they are ridding themselves of branch headquarters and Brooklyn properties at a time when property values are depressed and sales are quite "soft"...

    I hope they lost their shirts on those "hedge funds" gambles!!!

  • clarity

    Cedars nice going!!

    Geez never saw that. I guess the secret is slooowwwly, slowwwwwwwly, pause, (look around to see if anyone catches on.....no? OK sloooowwwwly, slowwwwly



  • Vanderhoven7

    Hopefuly that will result in, or at least contribute to, a decline in influence as well as enrollment.

  • Gayle

    awesome,,thx,, cedars for all your proactive work.

    also,,when did the meeting times start to lessen, book study merge,,shorter public talks, shorter wt study,,shorter DCs, shorter CAs?? lesser 'big' book releases?? lesser branches? what else? Have these also been within the last 6 or 7 yrs?

    Just seems lesser literature indoctrination and lesser meeting time would break down their mind-control tactics for many.

    May the WTS continue to lessen!

  • willyloman
    The clever part is, nobody saw it - including me!

    Good analysis. However, it's just tip of iceberg. As Gayle, above, points out, the slide is evident organization-wide, and for much longer than 5-6 years.

    In my opinion, the real changes started in late 80's with "simplification" at conventions and assemblies along with WTS instructions against "large social gatherings." This put an end to much of the social comaraderie that had become so pervasive among dubs. Once social ties were denounced (one CO told our congo, "This is a preaching organization, not a social organization"), things started going downhill.

    We left in '03, and one of the reasons was the sense we'd had for several years that things were going in the wrong direction, which made it very clear that "Jehovah's spirit" was really not on this endeavor, that it was a man-made organization that was starting its inevitable collapse because, well, man-made things are imperfect... and cyclical.

    Since then, all their actions have borne out our convictions. That, and the fact our material and spiritual lives have improved immensely, is all the proof I need that we made the right decision.

  • Phizzy

    If they carry on like this, with any luck it won't be too long before they disappear up their own ars***e !

  • usualusername


    Top notch article.........

  • cedars

    Thanks everyone. I was excited when I stumbled on that detail about the magazines, because I think it caught everyone off guard, and the "softly, softly" approach combined with the usual positive spin will have left the rank and file oblivious to the downwards trend.

    willyloman makes a good point about elements of the decline becoming evident in the late 80s regarding the simplifications to assembly arrangements, and funnily enough I actually mention this in my article - so it's nice to see we're on the same page. However, although the art of spinning bad news as good was in evidence back then, I don't believe actual operational decline is traceable until there is a significant drop in printing commitments, which we saw begin to kick in during 2005 - so that's my magic number as far as dates go, even though the causes of the decline may well have been felt much earlier. Regardless of when it began, it's nice to know the Society has "peaked", and we will most likely only hear of further retreats from now on.

    I emailed the article to Randy a couple of hours ago, so hopefully he'll post it some time soon (after checking it, of course), and post the link on this thread once it's ready.


  • cantleave

    Are we seeing the end game? A period of wealth building and consolidation in order to line the pockets of the organisation and a few key players in operations the legal department? Here's what I think.....

    In the USA and Western Europe growth in membership is almost entirely due to the baptism of born-ins. In financial terms these contribute less than their parents could, since since they are not as cash rich and do not share the zeal of their parents. The Watch Tower's cash flow is being affected detrimentally. At present this is compensated for by legacy income. I personally have seen a number of estates left entirely left to Watch Tower in preference to being left to inactive / disfellowshipped members. The more ambivalent attitude and less zealous nature of younger members in these wealthy countries, will be reflected in less legacy income in the future. The Watch Tower strategists know this, and it has necessitated cost cutting excercises, such as branch closures and less literature production, as well as liquidation of assets.

    Growth of membership in Africa, is never going to bridge the gap in income. In fact there is the potential that positive growth in membership there will result in a net loss rather than profit since the costs involved servicing these countries is higher and the income is lower. This is why we have seen a withdrawal of the missionary work from these lands.

    We saw a rapid growth in Japan in the 80's and 90's, the internet has been a game changer here and will, I believe, prevent rapid growth in Eastern Europe and the rest of Asia. At some point, the organisation will have to call it a day. The organisation will never experience financial growth in the way it did in the mid to late 20th Century. It is an organisation in long term financial decline, which will be exacerbated by growth in numbers.

    I believe there is an exit strategy accompanied by a complete change in the business model. The top echelon will find a way to distribute the assets between themselves and change the nature and purpose of the organisation forever. I believe we will see this within one (overlapping) generation.

  • Ding

    JWs know they are in the truth because any evidence -- favorable or unfavorable -- proves their organization's claims.

    JWs see increasing statistics as proof that the WTS is God's organization because Jehovah is blessing them.

    JWs see decreasing statistics as proof that the WTS is God's organization because the world will persecute the truth, apostasy will rise, and men's heart will grow cold in the last days before Armageddon.

  • cedars

    cantleave, that's pretty much what I argue in my article. In it, I include a brief summary of the figures given in the worldwide report according to developed countries versus developing or newly emerging countries. Unsurprisingly, the growth in developed countries is almost completely stagnant and the overall growth figure is propped up by the expansion in developing lands which, as you say, can't be serviced forever.

    It wouldn't surprise me if an exit strategy is already being implemented as you suggest, but whatever the case the Society IS in decline, and whoever says it isn't is being very selective with their information.


  • AnnOMaly

    Look forward to reading the full article, cedars.

    On the 'New Zealand branch closing' thread, it suddenly hit me about the reduced magazines and how it would ease the load on the printeries which have been reduced to ... how many now (big changes began late '90s/early 00s)? One random thought led to another ...

    Like Gayle said, more pieces need to be added to see a wider picture.

  • cedars

    AnnOMaly, you spiked my interest, so I decided to check the trend for branch numbers over the past few years.

    Here are the figures...

    • 1999 - 109
    • 2000 - 110
    • 2001 - 111
    • 2002 - 109
    • 2003 - 109
    • 2004 - 111
    • 2005 - 112
    • 2006 - 114
    • 2007 - 113
    • 2008 - 115
    • 2009 - 118
    • 2010 - 116
    • 2011 - 98

    As you can see, the branch numbers edged erratically upwards reaching a peak of 118 in 2009, and are now apparently in freefall. It will be interesting to see the figure on the next worldwide report. (Now I've said that, the Society will probably cook the numbers on the next report - lol!)


  • Finkelstein

    Could the decline in producing printed products be a result of the actual costs involved in the printing process itself ?

    Of course this could be relative to where the printing is done and how much money would be coming in supporting those individual branches.

    Where those branch are located and how much money ( donations ) comes toward those printing operations may have some bearing.

  • cedars

    Finkelstein, the price of paper and ink would need to have sky-rocketed pretty dramatically to justify slashing monthly magazine printing commitments by 50% in only 7 years! Everything else, such as labor, is virtually free. The cost of the machinery is a one-off investment, and parts are manufactured in-house wherever possible.


  • Finkelstein

    The WTS has its bean counters to be sure, perhaps those branches have been sold off because they were too much a financial burden to keep up

    in maintaining staff and printing costs as well, measured against what those branches received in financial support.

    If thats so, the WTS knows very well of the value of those properties where those branches were located, making for more

    of an argument to sell them off and move the printing production to one of their other locations.

    The WTS is well aware of moving themselves around if and when its necessary to improve the bottom line $$$ of their operations.

  • cedars

    Thanks Finkelstein. Whichever way you look at it, re-allocating resources and consolidating operations is essentially just re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The rot has already started, and we're in the end-game now. It's only a matter of how long it takes to reach a climax - which for me would be the last printed version of the Watchtower rolling off the press. The Society's influence will never diminish entirely, but it will shrink to almost inconsequential proportions as an organization. I believe that's inevitable. I think they know it.


  • Finkelstein

    Finkelstein, the price of paper and ink would need to have sky-rocketed pretty dramatically to justify slashing monthly magazine printing commitments by 50% in only 7 years!

    Pretty hard to make a accurate comment unless your in the printing business, I'm not.

    Based upon the amount of printing those select branches usually did make on a continuing basis I would say there were

    substantial costs involved.

    Certainly in the more richer countries such as the States and Canada with their greater populations, there would be more money being donated

    toward those branches in comparison to poorer less populated countries.

  • designs

    The Society was really just Going Green, fewer trees cut down for magazines, how humble of them not to draw attention to their noble efforts.

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