New Upcoming Changes - No More Publisher Record Cards & Reporting Hours

by thedepressedsoul 108 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Doubting Bro
    Doubting Bro

    I 100% agree with SBF. The general public hasn't been the customer of the WTS publishing machine for decades. The customer probably since at least the 40s if not earlier has ALWAYS been rank & file JWs. Think about the magazines for example.

    Family of 4 need a subscription or copy of the old WT rag which included articles "for the public" as well as study articles. Plus the pressure to also at least get a personal copy of Awake. So that's 16 mags per month (back when they did each semimonthly). That same family maybe placed say 8 each so 32. But, if you add in all the books bibles and other items that were rarely sold to the public (at least I rarely placed them but maybe I was just bad), the placements to the public were a small piece of the puzzle. And the least expensive item to produce as well as the item with the lowest cost tag.

    Dropping the sale of the literature all of the sudden made their income variable and dependent on voluntary donations from JWs. Not many people I've seen have actually tried to get a donation from the public and those that ask often don't receive. And we know JWs are not that generous nor do many have a ton of disposable income (across the globe).

    You go from knowing you're going to get a set amount based on past consumption to just hoping someone donates and you end up exactly where they are.

    If they kept the sales portion and paid taxes, I really don't think the average JW would have reduced their standing orders. Maybe some would have, but I don't believe it would have been significant. Also, they would have still bought the higher margin (assuming) items such as books, bibles, videos, whatever. Likely at the same rate since you would only be adding a few percentage points to the overall cost.

    The reason they had releases every year at the conventions was to sell books. It took them too long to realize they couldn't get the same returns so they cut down on the quality first (paperback books) then moved to online at the same time reducing the quantity. No sense in publishing items that you can't make money on.

    I think it's pretty evident that JWs are not donating at the same rate that they previously purchased. So while some double dipping takes place, it's difficult to believe that it's significant. Certainly not what they expected but because they have no real business sense, their expectations were not grounded in reality.

    I guess they could drop the requirement without the foresight of what it will do to morale. It's just odd to me that they would do that. I could see them doing other things to save money before stopping to micromanage people at the local level. I believe others have mentioned that the individual reports never go to the WTS, what is reported is the aggregate activity of each congregation (former secretary here).

  • redvip2000
    redvip there was an internal letter within a year of dropping charges in 1990 that stated income from literature was down. Every downscale in literature since then indicates the trend continued.

    Perhaps. The thing is that you can't trust the Org on these types of communications when the objective is to encourage more donations. They do the same with conventions balances where they make sure they communicate that they have a negative fabricated balance in order to encourage more donations.

    Is income really down even if you factor the percentage that would go to the government? I have some doubts about that. Even if income was down 15% pre tax, it was still the better option.

  • Doubting Bro
    Doubting Bro

    I believe the tax was sales tax in California which then applied nationally since it was a Supreme Court case. But, all they would need to do is add the tax onto the cost just like any other commercial product.

  • slimboyfat

    The effect of dropping the charge for the literature is very obvious from what followed in the organisation. I find it slightly odd the point even needs to be argued.

    The fact that income from literature dropped considerably when the charges stopped is shown by the progressive downscaling from hardbacks to paperbacks, to fewer pages and less often, to discontinuing yearbooks, calendars and practically everything else.

    The organisation scaled down its literature because the “donation arrangement” ruined their previously profitable enterprise. They didn’t scale down because contributions form the literaute was increasing under the new regime. That’s nonsensical. If contributions for the literature increased, then the incentive would have been to produce more literature, not less!

    The fact that we have an internal letter that mentions this decrease in income in the early 1990s merely confirms what is already obvious by their actions: that dropping the literature charge was a financial disaster for Watchtower.

    Incidentally, and almost redundant given all the other evidence, it’s also worth mentioning that in previous discussions of this topic, a number of contributors to the forum who were elders during the period have confirmed that donations following 1990 were far lower than the previous income through charges for the literature.

  • Rattigan350

    "Publisher record cards and reporting hours will be going away."

    If the card goes away, it will be because of privacy laws such as some countries they can't keep territory records.

    If reporting hours goes away, it will be because Jesus said to give your gift in private and not to make a showy display for honors.

  • careful

    In all this banter about the old GB opting to no longer charge for the lit and not foreseeing that this change would eventually bring on serious financial consequences, has anyone brought up a possible motive behind their changed policy here? They have been criticized for not just paying the taxes and upping the price of the lit a few cents. That may look simple from the outside, but for them there was probably another important factor at work. Aren't taxpaying institutions liable to audits from the government?

    That is, in the old GB's minds once the org lost its tax-exempt status, wouldn't they have been afraid that they would next have to open their books to government auditors? Don't governments check up on tax-paying institutions to see they are being honest? If so, some of the org's secrets which the GB so cherish protecting would have been available for these "worldly" chaps to see, right? In the old, and likely current, GB's minds this would be the first step to uncovering their many secrets.

    It seems then that they were not quite so daft as some think them to be (and I certainly would never contend that they are bright or insightful!). Likely they opted for the course they did out of fear of the consequences of another course.

    Also, since SBF brought it up: are you buying everything this source (of the OP) says hook, line, and sinker, or are you exercising critical thinking on this report of the doing away of both the paper copy of the old publisher's record card and the reporting of time? Could it be that only part of the story is somewhat on track? Could it be that one idea is correct and the other dubious? You appear to be taking it all as true. It seems difficult to believe that the reporting of time is to be completely banished. It might be, but the notion that something which has been so fundamental to the concept of a person's worthiness in the Witness world would be suddenly removed is pretty drastic. What would replace it? How would a historically key factor in men's appointments be replaced? What about pioneers? Isn't pioneering entirely based on their hours? Would they do away with a statistic that has been increasing in recent years, and which they have therefore been emphasizing (more hours and pioneers), while the most important statistics (real publishers, converts, and cong numbers), which they have been downplaying, have been going downhill? There are multiple reasons to not take both points of the OP's source as equally likely.

    We're not talking about doing away with the book study or the DO here. This is far more central to the Witness way of life. Think about it, SBF...

  • sir82

    This seems to have been missed from a page back:

    "Publisher record cards...going away" could simply mean hours are recorded electronically, not on paper. Not a big deal at all.

    "Reporting hours....going away"......"reporting" from whom and to whom?

    Does it mean (A) reporting of hours from the publisher.... to his/her congregation?

    Or does it mean (B) reporting of hours from the congregation.... to the branch?

    It seems that 99% of the comments on this thread assume "A".

    But if it is "B", then not much changes, other than no longer publishing the annual publisher numbers....which most of us have been expecting for a number of years.

  • Vidiot

    If there's actually something to this, it - IMO - dovetails rather nicely with the sort-of prediction Barb Anderson mad a few years back...

    ...that the WTS is morphing into a "e-religion".

    An "e-religion" wouldn't really need all that door-to-door related paperwork.

    I could be wrong.

  • blondie

    Some jws witness online and count their time. Some Bible Students make the online audience their territory partly because there are not many of them and it gives them greater access to more people. (BTW, they don't count their time). In one case, one brother contacted a family in Washington state and conducted a bible study online and the family moved to be near a congregation and became Bible Students. Perhaps the WTS will move more into that area. (Also, just a note there are various Bible Student groups with varying beliefs)

  • slimboyfat

    careful that sounds like a very plausible explanation why Watchtower dropped charges - in order to avoid tax, because collecting tax would open them up to external scrutiny. I suppose that means they felt they had things they’d rather avoid having to justify or explain. That seems likely because an organisation so accustomed to secrecy may become complacent and become embroiled in dubious practices of various sorts. For instance external scrutiny may reveal that certain individuals or companies benefit financially from their relationship with Watchtower in ways that may appear unfair or borderline corrupt. Or other aspects of their operations they’d rather keep hidden I can’t even imagine, may be involved.

    Even so, if their primary motive was to avoid the scrutiny that paying taxes would invite, I still think it is fair to say that Watchtower probably didn’t expect, and were unpleasantly surprised by the extent to which income from literature fell after they stopped charging. This is demonstrated by the tone of disappointment in the letter of 1990/1 about the fall in donations, and by the progressive cuts from the mid 1990s. Because for the first five years or so Watchtower continued publishing and expanding as before. It was as if they didn’t expect the change to result in a drop in income and they expected to carry on as before. It was around 1996 when cuts began, with one of the first signals being the switch from hardcover to paperback books. So presumably they coasted for five years or so on the basis of their accumulated funds. Then they sllowly began to tighten their belts in the late 1990s, until cutbacks reached a frenzy in the late 2010s.

    I totally agree that stopping recording and collecting hours would be a hugely significant change, striking at the heart of JW culture, and it would be a much bigger than dropping the book study or the district overseer was.

    And I agree there is a good possibility that the OP may have half a story correct, or the rumour has been slightly distorted at some stage, such that hours may be collected differently rather than abandoned altogether. In fact we can probably agree this is the most likely explanation, if there is substance to the rumour to begin with.

    And yet, and yet. It may not be likely, but it does seem just about possible that the OP may be correct, and this accurately foretells the end for JWs recording hours altogether. It would be such a tremendous and course changing event in the history of JWs that it is just too tempting to avoid contemplating what the implications would be.

    Plus as I mentioned earlier, there does seem to be good internal logic that might prompt a change to stop collecting hours. If the roots and justification for collecting hours traditionally invoked the need for the organisation to appraise and plan their print publishing operations worldwide, then the question arrises why is it necessary to keep collecting this information when print publications are increasingly marginal to their activity? We know that the data on preaching is used to regulate the boundary of the community and to establish status within it, but rarely if ever is this stated so bluntly as a goal in Watchtower literature. So it is just about possible, if admittedly unlikely, that Watchtower will recognise that dwindling print activity logically indicates that collecting preaching data is no longer necessary or justified.

    Another occasional justification that has been offered by Watchtower for collecting the data is that it encourages the brothers to be able to see the growth figures in their own country and others. This would not be possible, Watchtower has argued, unless everyone plays their part and reports their preaching activity. However as numbers start to decline this is unlikely to be a source of encouragement much longer.

    So I agree that stopping collecting hours is unlikely, yet if would be such a significant change, not to mention opportunity for all sorts of reforms in how JWs operate and JW culture generally.

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