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 wood. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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