Tag Archives: magazines

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

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.

Niche magazine survival strategies and the author-publisher synergy

magazines at the news-standThe Death-Of-Magazines debate seems to have gone off the boil in the genre fiction scene (albeit temporarily), but there’s still plenty of discussion – and innovation – going on elsewhere. Former Wired columnist and Japanophile Momus takes a look at the migration of magazines onto portable devices like the iPhone over in the Land of the Rising Sun:

Already, musician friends are thinking in terms of iPod apps the way they once might have thought of releasing albums on labels. Who needs a label when an app could be a worldwide delivery system for people interested in your music? Or how about keeping up with Japanese magazines? I’ve already mentioned Nakatree Viewer, a free app that lets you look at the paper ads for magazines that hang in Japanese subway cars.

Nakatree Viewer began as the ad sheets themselves (typically showing a modified version of the mag’s latest cover), then added pop-up QR codes allowing you to access some of the content of the magazines. Now there’s talk of the Viewer actually taking you to online versions of the magazines, either reduced versions (like Courrier Lite, a standalone application for one mag) or full ones.

At a time when magazines are dropping like flies, giving them a new distribution platform is giving them the chance of new life. Whether the iPhone is the ideal reading environment for magazines is another matter. I have a digital subscription to The Wire, but prefer to read it on my big computer, or on paper. But when Apple releases its iPhone-OS tablet computer — rumoured either for next month or early next year, depending on who you believe — who knows?

Meanwhile, Lifehacker flags up a web2.0 site called MagMe that puts full-resolution scans of magazines right into your web browser. While none of these examples are omega points for magazine survival, it’s plain to see that people are working to find solutions. The genre short fiction scene sadly lacks the money to invest in playing around with potentially viable solutions, but we can at least hope that one will come along soon enough for them not to die off entirely. [image by Diane S Murphy]

But talking of publishing models, and looping back to Momus’ comment about his musician friends thinking beyond the traditional record publication process, here’s an interesting reversal from the world of music: a record label that have signed a deal with a band [via TechDirt]. Yes, you read that right.

The release outlined a unique setup Blue Scholars have put together between Seattle’s Caffe Vita Coffee Co. and the excellent hip hop label Duck Down. Simply put, Caffe Vita is providing the cash flow, and they’re hiring Duck Down to run point on marketing.

Just another sign of what we’ve been saying for two years: the business is changing, artists have choice, and artists will find partners to help them get done what they need to — the mantra is no longer: “I’ve gotta get signed I’ve gotta get signed…”

Could this reversal of power work in book publishing? Consider a hypothetical author like Cory Doctorow, whose public profile gives him (or her) a lot of traction beyond the traditional book marketing channels; if they were offered a weak or creatively restrictive deal from their standing publisher (or, indeed, no deal at all) and decided to look around for alternatives, what small press wouldn’t jump at the opportunity offered by the chance to let that author publish the book they really want to write?

The author’s stature would reflect onto the small press and garner more media attention, enhancing its ability to shift units by lesser known authors; meanwhile, the author benefits from the experience and connections of the small press in the more traditional book marketing network, reducing the amount of leg-work required by comparison to a self-published (but already well-known) author trying to get the word out. It’s a potential synergy – and while there are plenty of details missing from that off-the-cuff idea, it doesn’t strike me as the most crazy scheme I’ve heard this week.

What do you think – can fiction publishing save itself by slimming down and becoming more flexible, or will consolidation, cost-cutting and rigid control be its saving grace?

Magazines2.0 – does print-on-demand spell doom for the news-stand?

magazines at the news-standIt’s no secret that a big part of the problem for science fiction magazines – and many other sorts of periodical publication – are the cost and logistical issues attached to printing and distributing the final product. You can buy the best fiction on the planet, hire the best columnists and artists… but if you can’t get that final product into the customer’s hands (or at least in front of their eyeballs), you’re going to struggle to sell copies. [image by Diane S Murphy]

Enter Hewlett Packard, who describe their new MagCloud service as “YouTube for magazines”. MagCloud has similarities to LuLu.com as well; basically, you upload your finished magazine as a PDF file, which MagCloud then lists in its catalogue for no charge. When a customer wants a copy, they log in, pay the cost… and get a printed version made especially for them.

Arch-fan (and Clarkesworld non-fiction editor) Cheryl Morgan can see a route ahead:

Where I do think that there is a potential business case is with small press magazines. The sales pitch would go something like this: yes, you can read it for free on the web; yes, you can download a PDF and print it yourself, but if you really want something glossy and physical then order it from MagCloud.

I’ll go one step further – there are server-side software engines that can be used to stitch together PDFs from HTML files, so you could allow your reader to custom-build a magazine to their own specifications from your stock of stories and articles, and then buy a unique printed version. If nothing else, it would mean you could avoid paying for a magazine which contained a story by an author whose work you just don’t enjoy.

Of course, as TechDirt points out MagCloud’s potential success is predicated on the assumption that interest in magazines among people tech-savvy enough to be aware of the service will continue for long enough for the business to grow (and, more importantly, for the currently prohibitive unit costs to fall)… and while I’m convinced that dead-tree books will last for a good few decades yet, I’m not so sure that the magazine format will have the same longevity.

What do you think? Would you be interested in a print version of sites like Futurismic – a story or two a month, a couple of essays and a sprinkling of blog posts selected from your favourite tags and search terms – or is the webzine at its best in its native non-physical environment?

Clay Shirky on the very near future of magazines

The pertinence of this to the genre fiction scene is inescapable… from an interview with Clay Shirky at The Guardian:

If you pick a magazine at random, it will not interest you. For people who care about quality, it’s easier to find it online. If it’s a highly qualified niche magazine, something aimed at surgeons or firefighters, it’s going online. There’s no reason those things should exist.

My bold. Your comments?