The economy is in the dumper. Last year Games for Windows ceased to be a print publication. Rumors are swirling that EGM is next to go, and that 1up may be bought out. Clearly, says the internet, because Ziff-Davis properties are having trouble, all print magazines are doomed.
Well, I’d say it all depends on who makes them and how. Here’s what my publisher is doing right.
I know people on the interwebs find it stunning and unbelievable that print magazines about games are still in business, because a) they only read one and b) when that one goes away, they illogically assume that everybody is similarly screwed. So when someone can articulate why all print magazines are not alike and what makes some of them more successful than others, I think it’s worth bringing up.
Future has made some tough and unpleasant calls in the last three years, taking preventative measures — not the least of which include cancelling magazines that employed my wife. I’ve seen the dark side, but I also see the reasons for those unpopular decisions. I don’t know how the other publishers work, but I know mine is proactive and cautious. This is not a company that nods and smiles and says everything is fine; this is a company that says “Yeah, that’s a problem, it needs to be solved, now.” These are the things that internet wags cannot comprehend. What they see is “Magazine A is dead, so Magazines B through Z must also be dead.” But that’s just ignorance; they don’t know how the publishing business can or should work, but they will often pretend that they do, based on such incontrovertible evidence as disagreeing with a recent review. Truth is, they simply don’t know better. Stevie Spring knows better.
I’m not trying to dance on anybody’s grave, or hasten the fall of quality publications that are trying to recover from bad luck or bad decisions. But just because they’re fucked doesn’t mean we’re fucked.
Update, four hours later: Believe it or not, I had not read this rumor or this confirmation when I wrote this entry. I mean, I had heard those rumors a few weeks ago, but I didn’t know that the story was flaring up again. My post was not intended as a direct response to those developments, but it sure reads like one now.
I will only add that the one thing that IDG and Future had in common when I was at both companies was a cautious nature when it came to business. Ziff’s plan with EGM looked more like “pump it to dump it” — they were looking to sell the magazine, so they invested in different areas that maximized attractiveness rather than stability. That’s my outsider take, anyway.
I would also remind people that a business deal does not reflect on the editorial quality. EGM was and is held in high regard — I can’t count the number of times I was envious of what they were doing and tried to push harder to counter it. That’s the hallmark of healthy competition. I’m remembering the good bits and find myself more than a little surprised that the mag’s run is apparently over.
But quality magazines do go out of business, just like nice people die. You don’t pick when your time is up, no matter how good you are.
Update 2: And sadly, Kotaku’s report was exactly what I predicted. “RIP, games magazines.” Joystiq chimes in with “the dying breed of print media.” Sigh. Did I call it or what?