Popular Woodworking Magazine by the Numbers

I dislike writing about the magazine business because it’s not useful for our readers, who expect us to write about woodworking instead of engaging in navel-gazing.

But because we have received a lot of questions and mail about the merger of Popular Woodworking and Woodworking Magazine, I’m going to make an exception, lift up my shirt and take a quick peek.

First: Thanks for your letters , both positive and negative , about the new magazine. We read them all and respond to every one that we can. In my e-mail inbox, the sentiment about the new magazine is about 2-to-1 in favor of the changes. The criticisms have mostly been about the addition of advertising and the amount of woodworking information we are now delivering. So let’s take a look there.

The April 2010 Popular Woodworking Magazine is a 68-page issue with 19 pages that are advertisements. That’s 49 pages of “meat,” for lack of a better word. Let’s check the “meat index” of an issue of Woodworking Magazine. There are 36 pages in each issue with only one page of advertising (the “Extras” page on page 35). That’s 35 pages of meat.

What about Popular Woodworking before the merger? The February 2010 issue was 76 pages with 17 pages of advertisements. That’s 59 pages of stories. (Note that we have averaged about 60 pages of meat in each issue during the last couple years.)

It looks like Popular Woodworking Magazine is smaller than Popular Woodworking but larger than Woodworking Magazine. Right?

It’s not that simple.

The design of the new magazine is quite different. The paper is larger than what we used with Popular Woodworking, and we have less white space. We also have constrained the size of the photographs at the beginning of each article , no more full-page spreads. And we have tightened up the columnists. “Arts & Mysteries,” “Flexner on Finishing” and “Design Matters” are all two pages each instead of three. We tightened things up with old-fashioned editing, by the way. Instead of removing information, we removed unnecessary words that weren’t doing their jobs.

So counting pages isn’t a good indicator. Why don’t we count the words instead?

Personally, I think counting words is silly. No one will argue that Golden Corral is better than The French Laundry because the Golden Corral gives you more calories. But it is one indicator. Here are the numbers:

1. During the last year, Popular Woodworking has averaged 33,642 words of editorial coverage in each issue.

2. Woodworking Magazine has averaged 24,850 words of editorial per issue.

3. The April 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine has 34,254 words of editorial coverage , about the same as you would get in an issue of Popular Woodworking during the last couple years.

Second Complaint: Those tinyurls
At the end of each article in the magazine is a box that points you to online stories and web sites that are related to the article so you can dive deeper into a topic that interests you. In this issue we used “tinyurls,” a long-standing Internet redirect service, so you don’t have as many characters to type.

A fair number of readers don’t like tinyurls. We don’t particularly like them, either. But they are a stopgap until we get a new web site in place this summer. We won’t use tinyurls going forward, and if you want to find any of the links listed in the print issue you can go to this page: popularwoodworking.com/apr10 (we’re building out this page right now. Links are being added as I type).

Third Complaint: When Does My Subscription Run Out?
Some customers have been confused by the merger, especially if they had subscriptions to both publications. If you want to confirm the number of issues remaining in your subscription, check the line on the mailing label above your name; the last issue in your subscription is printed there. If you’d like to clear up a problem, send a message with your name and mailing address where you receive your subscription to Debbie Paolello, our subscription specialist: debbie.paolello@fwmedia.com.

But Why Did You Do It?
The other big question from readers is “Why?” While I tried to address this in my column in the April 2010 issue, I’ll add some more details for you.

Many of my colleagues in the magazine business think we’re all swirling around the toilet bowl to our watery grave. I’m not that grim, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that a lot of my friends in media are out of work.

We know that big changes are coming. And instead of waiting to have it roll over us, we decided to sprint in front of this boulder. While both our magazines were profitable and stable, they consumed all our staff’s time and energy to produce 11 yearly issues (those of you who get e-mails from us during nights and weekends can attest to this).

We decided that we had to put more energy into growing our quickly growing online business. And we knew there was no hope of expanding our staff in this time of dwindling corporate resources.

So that’s what drove the decision to merge the two magazines. And it’s the honest truth. Any speculation you might read on the message boards is simply not grounded in our world, which is based on raw number-crunching, decades of media experience and a desire to stay employed in the best job in the world , getting to write and edit a woodworking magazine.

It is indeed a dream job. But it’s a dream that has to live in the real world.

– Christopher Schwarz

10 thoughts on “Popular Woodworking Magazine by the Numbers

  1. Bruce Jackson

    Add me to the list of readers impressed with your merging the two pubs together. On a limited ("capital") budget, I appreciate your moving the drooling-with-envy tool reviews onto the website, where I don’t have to bump into them as I leisurely peruse the printed copy in bed with my sleeping sweetie snuggled up to my side (soon to smell of cedar as I build a frame for a raised herb garden). (Romantic, right? Does this help Chris with the Wives Against Schwarz?)

  2. Karl

    Chris,

    I am stunned to find that not only does the new magazine not have more pages, but it doesn’t have more words. I’ve been reading my way through it, and thinking that the articles seemed much meatier than in either of the former publications.

    So add me to the list of satisfied customers. I’ll miss the other issues, but if the new magazine is all like this one I’ll enjoy it more than a single issue of either of the other magazines.

    One note: since I follow both blogs, I’m not a big fan of double posting the same content on both Popularwoodworking and woodworkingmagazine, but I understand why you did it with this article.

    Thanks!

    Karl

  3. Chris C

    I noticed a few years back that PopularWoodworking had gotten
    smaller. I don’t know the exact page count, buy going back
    a few years, I want to say the page count was 100+ pages
    in some cases. To be fair I don’t recall how many were ads.

    About 2 years ago, the layout and fonts all changed. I liked the
    old one better, but the new one is fine.

    About a year or so ago I noticed the product reviews no longer
    had a rating between 1-5(with nothing below a three ever making
    it because "Popularwoodworking does not advertise inferior tools".)
    I liked the old ratings, but oh well.

    What hasn’t changed: the content is more varied, but there is still
    a lot of great material in the magazine. And the projects and hand
    tool articles are first class(although, as I always rant, I would
    love to see less Shaker and Arts and Crafts). The staff is very
    accessible, and the magazine is not very expensive in the big
    scheme of things. So I am still subscribing and looking forward
    to every issue.

    Chris C.

  4. Tom

    I love all three magazines, so I’ll take whichever one you see fit to print.

    Is it same to assume you’ll be merging or re-naming the blogs soon?

  5. Norb Schmidt

    Chris, I, as a long time subscriber and reader of woodworking prose, appreciate the honest and realistic approach the magazine is taking. Online content is becoming much more important, while significantly less profitable. We all receive valuable information from you and the fine group of editors at the magazine. We appreciate that, and many of us want that to continue.

    Thank you for your efforts and boldness to get out infront of the issue. Hopefully we can all be supportive as you navigate the uncharted waters of change.

  6. Chet Kloss

    Chris,

    Since my issue of PopWood hasn’t arrived yet, and since I keep hearing so much about it, I decided to go over to Barnes and Nobles and check it out.
    The best I can say is that the jury is still out. Like many of the respondents I subscribed to both magazines – I also have purchased all the digital versions of the back issues and I’ve attended all the WIA’s. I like this hobby and I prefer to get my info on it from woodworking magazines (as opposed to woodworking books – though I own a lot of those too..). I find that magazine articles tend to deliver more value in a lot shorter time frame and that works for me.
    Anyway, as I spent some time with the magazine I thought it was good but less than the sum of the two. That’s what it really comes down to. I used to get two good magazines and now I get one. I’m going to get it for a longer period of time now – which is what I would of chosen had I been asked – but I wasn’t. It would have been nice to be asked.
    I am disappointed that Woodworking Magazine no longer exists – it was a fine magazine. Though I know you don’t characterize it that way – from my perspective – thats what happened. Ah well, I enjoyed it while it lasted and I have all my back issues.

    Best of luck with PopWood. I continue to look forward to every issue.
    ,,,,,,,,,Chet

  7. Dave Griessmann

    Chris,

    I think alot of the issues came from the fact no one likes change. I’m sure after a couple of issues and everyone is comfortable to the new format (and has their subscription questions flushed out) you’ll see a huge change in attitudes.

    When I first skimmed the new format I have to admit I wasn’t sold. But after reading the content I found myself looking forward to the next issue!

    Dave

  8. David Gendron

    Hi Chris,

    +1 on chris F. But I have to say that so far, I’m happy… Even If I liked WoodWorking mag better than PW. That said I think you did a good job of mixing the two together! I hoppe this new version is far from dying, I realy like to have the real thing in my hands. I love real books and magazines.

    Cheers
    David
    p.s. I just finished "The Jointer And Cabinetmaker", and this has to be one of the best wood working book I read so far!!

  9. Chris Friesen

    I’m up in Canada and I’m used to getting Woodworking before the folks in the USA. Now they’re getting it first. Boo!

    It’s a bit confusing that the website still has working subscription links to Woodworking Magazine, and the "customer service" link there gives an error message rather than linking to the new customer service site. Also, what’s happening to the Woodworking Magazine blog? Will it stay around as a separate entity or merge somehow?

    It’s a bit odd that those of us with a year’s subscription to Woodworking remaining will only get 4 issues of the new magazine. It’s less than $10 difference so it’s not a big deal, but still it’s vaguely dissatisfying.

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