A little bit more about the WoW job

I’m at BlizzCon (for the first time — was never able to get tickets before but WHO IS LAUGHING NOW) and we’ve just gotten through the first day. At first I thought “How can two days be enough?” Now I’m thinking “Thank god it’s just two days.” It’s crazy, in that nerd-love way — but it’s still exhausting. If you are here, try to find me at the mag booth in pavilion B. Also I’m trying to Twitter from @WoWTheMagazine when the convention center’s AT&T coverage allows it.

The reaction to the magazine has been much larger and louder than I expected. For one, we got picked up by something like 70 legit news outlets, and then lots of fan blogs and forums beyond that. For two, I thought there would be a lot more haters than we got — I expected an overwhelming amount of “print is dead, why would I want a print version of what’s already online, blah blah blah,” and there was some of that, particularly by blog commenters out there. I think it’s pretty clear, if you read that press release, that this product is not intended for everyone — it’s for the dedicated WoW player — so I expect some of the people we’re not making this magazine for are going to loudly conclude the obvious: This is not for them. (They then take that to its illogical extreme: “This is worthless and should not exist because it is not made for me.”) But about half the people said “Hey, that sounds like something that could be interesting” and many people noted the business model being a good thing. So that gives me hope. I only want to make this magazine for the people who want it anyway, so I’m quite open to their feedback and I want to hear their expectations. But if you’re not going to buy it anyway, save yer breath.

But the magazine is unlike anything I’ve worked on in the past, and I kind of want to brain dump about that.

The magazine is quarterly (four issues a year) and sounds expensive at $40 for a year’s subscription ($70 for two). But that’s for 148 pages (OXM, by contrast, is 100) with absolutely no ads. I have been assured that this is not a bait and switch; this is solid WoW content through and through, per Blizzard’s edict. Not even so much as a “one of your content pages will be a one-page ad for the official t-shirts” or anything like that. It’s pure content. So that’s not like any magazine I’ve ever worked on.(It is, however, something a lot of readers have asked me for in the past, and something I always wanted to create just to call their bluff — “you want a mag with no ads? okay, here you go — $20 please.” But I was wrong; if you subscribe, it’s only $10.)

A lot of people have also said “I wish US magazines were more like UK magazines, with their thicker paper and classier presentation — like, say, Edge.” Guess what? Our magazine is the exact size as Edge — something big like 9 x 10. We will have the fancy paper. We will have the varnished/embossed cover. We will be making what we are calling a “coffee table magazine” — something worth keeping. That’s also not like any magazine I’ve ever worked on.

We’re going to take advantage of that space by really doing something that looks awesome. WoW has all this great art, both in-game and out — concept art, commissioned works, you name it. I want to practically bathe in that. We have this lovely canvas to fill and I want to use it to let you see the game in a way you haven’t before. After years of having to cram as many words and screens onto the page as possible, I am finally on a project that can breathe and take advantage of the medium’s strengths.

And of course, this is not a newsstand product. In standard magazines, you only sell 35% (on a good month) of your print run. So if OXM sells about 350,000 issues a month, that means they’re printing a million…and throwing the rest away. Sounds crazy but that’s the traditional method of publishing, and that’s one of the reasons it’s becoming harder to make a profit with it. Ads used to support that model but times have obviously changed. A new model has to emerge for magazines to survive. How about one where it’s a partnership and subscriptions pay for the magazine instead of ads? What’s more, if you don’t put them on newsstands, they only go directly into the hands of the people who want them. You order it, you get it. You don’t want it, you miss out. No waste; no overage; no killing more trees than is necessary to make the thing. That’s definitely not like any magazine I’ve worked on…or even heard of.

So that’s why I’m excited for this. It’s going to be tough, there’s going to be some things that need to be worked out along the way — next month is going to be a bear, since the mag needs to be in people’s mailboxes in November for the 5th anniversary of the game. But man…after years of trying to convince people that print is still valuable when done right, I think this magazine is a chance to SHOW how they can change for the better. Print isn’t dead; it just needs an evolutionary push. Maybe this will be one such shove.

PS: If you are a freelancer, yes, I am interested. Call me.

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