Niche mag publishing model #271: World of Warcraft, The Magazine

Paul Raven @ 21-08-2009

Still looking for new niche magazine publishing strategies? I sure am – and here’s one that doesn’t revolve around free web content. Indeed, someone’s starting a high quality print magazine on a subscription model. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you World Of Warcraft: The Magazine. Take it away, Ars Technica:

Clearly, there is much to be skeptical about, but the team behind the magazine makes a strong case for a publication of this type. Here’s the scoop on how they plan to sidestep the issues of traditional magazine publishing and still make a profit.

“This won’t be driven by advertising; it’s based on a print-on-demand format. We will launch the subscription website on Friday, monitoring who is subscribing in what language, and print that many copies exactly,” John Gower, International Director of FuturePlus, told Ars. “This will be environmentally friendly—no waste.” This print on demand format allows them to keep publishing costs as low as possible, and releasing magazines to subscribers only—no newsstand—will make sure no copies get thrown away.

“I’m not sure gamers were walking into Waldenbooks to find the newest information anyway,” Dan Amrich, the magazine’s editor in chief, said. So how will the quarterly magazine be advertised? The magazine will launch at Blizzcon, with people being able to subscribe for $39.95, £29.95, or €34.95. That may seem high for four issues a year, but the team is promising a high-quality, large format magazine with heavy paper stock, a glossy cover, and 148 pages an issue… and no ads. “We want this to be a nice surprise when people get it in the post, like unwrapping a Christmas present every quarter.”

Now, the advantage WoW:TM has here over a more general magazine is a ready-made niche interest base of considerable size to pitch to, plus direct access to the information and content that that niche is going to want. But they’re also treating the readers with respect by removing the crappy ads that seem to fill more than half of most game or tech mags, and aiming for a quality physical product that you’re going to want to keep; I’m assuming the content will lean towards stuff that isn’t too time-sensitive. Furthermore, they save on the dreaded pulping margin by going with print-on-demand, keeping their overheads low.

So, I see two takeaways here for the genre fiction scene in particular. First of all, is this a potential model for the genre fiction print magazine surviving? We’ve talked POD in genre before, but I don’t remember it being combined with the no-ads idea. A magazine that makes the effort to be an artefact, a thing of beauty – I’m thinking more Interzone than Asimov’s on the aesthetic front, here – while also delivering 100% great content for a reasonable price… well, in some respects this isn’t that different a model to the existing one, at least in some cases. If WoW:TM succeeds, what will that say about the viability of genre magazines? Is the death of print simply a question of costs not scaling?

Secondly, and maybe more pertinently: World Of Warcraft: The Magazine strikes me as a damn good market for fantasy writers to pitch stories to.

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One Response to “Niche mag publishing model #271: World of Warcraft, The Magazine”

  1. Ian Sales says:

    I believe Escape Velocity does something similar, and has done for a while.