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Happy Anniversary: We’re two. Photo by Michelle K. Martin.
Quite a bit of news this time around: our second hardcover anthology’s crowdfunding campaign has launched, and we have set a date to cease publication of our regular fortnightly issues.
Year Two and our next book
We celebrate our second anniversary today with Issue #53, 104 weeks from our founding. It’s been a delightful run, and we’d like to thank those who have stuck with us all this time, those that came along for part of the ride, and those who joined us later and are with us still. We literally could not have done this without you: we’re funded entirely by subscribers, and we rose and fell on your interest. (See next item for more about that.)
As we did last year, we’re celebrating our anniversary by producing a full-color hardcover anthology, pulling from the best stories — determined by several measures — published during our second year. The Magazine: The Book (Year Two) will be a perfect match to the Year One collection: it will sport 216 pages, a dust jacket, and an embossed cloth cover. We plan to include 29 reported stories and essays from October 2013 to October 2014.
Once again, we’re also turning to crowdfunding to make sure demand meets supply — it’s expensive to create a high-quality hardcover book, and we want to make sure people want it before we print. The campaign lists the full table of contents and explains the rewards in greater detail.
We were able to rejigger our budget substantially downward from last year while still, of course, paying authors and photographers reprint fees for their work. Last year, we raised nearly $57,000 and had almost 1,500 backers. This time around, we’ve set a goal of $38,000 and roughly 1,200 backers and have eliminated the T-shirt, art prints, and digital add-ons.
To broaden interest in the project, we have decided to offer the Year One collection in digital form free of charge, and, if the Year Two collection funds, likewise distribute those digital editions free as well. You can download our Year One book in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI/KF8 formats, and feel free to distribute them intact. (These editions contain information about our new book campaign.)
The Kickstarter campaign focuses entirely on producing a hardcover edition. The basic backer pledge is $30 for a single hardcover edition, and includes shipping within the US or $60 to the rest of the world.
People who would like to get an edition that is signed by your editor and all contributors, and provide more support in the campaign toward our goal, can come in as a patron and pledge $100 for one copy or $200 for five copies. We’re also looking for angels at $1,000; they will receive a framed print of their favorite cover and 10 signed copies of the book, which can be shipped to one address or be shipped as gifts to multiple addresses.
We love turning our ephemeral digital bits into something permanent, and we know so many people were pleased with last year’s book. We were overjoyed with how it came out. This is a direct way to support the journalists and writers who write for us, and to share the amazing stories of themselves and others that they tell.
(For our international supporters: shipping costs are so high for our small quantities that we have to add a whopping $30 to make sure we can come out ahead. Last year, we wound up charging far too little.)
Burying the lede
In the newspaper and periodical world, we spell some things differently for reasons of space and to make sure the meaning isn’t lost. The first, or lead, paragraph (graf) of an article is called the “lede”: it’s where we tell you what the story is going to be about before we tell you the story. “Burying the lede” is when you hide the most important fact farther down, as I’ve done here.
The Magazine will cease publishing its regular every-other-week issues with the December 17, 2014, edition. We don’t see this as a failure, but as the right time. The Magazine was frankly gloriously profitable in its first year as readers came onboard to try out the app and the format, but they then very slowly trickled away. This was abetted in part by Apple’s decision to hide Newsstand apps, a constant complaint by readers who simply forgot when we had new issues appear. We also have problems getting notifications to work reliably, which led to more people forgetting, and thus canceling subscriptions. As revenue dropped, it was difficult to fund app development, so we couldn’t make the app more compelling even as Apple took updated covers off the Newsstand folder. Thanks very much to TypeEngine for helping us navigate our transition to remain working in iOS 8. (Apple would require we drop all subscribers if we moved from Newsstand to the main screen of iOS, and then ask people to subscribe again.)
And there’s simply more good long-form non-fiction to read out on the broader Internet, outside paywalls and subscription-only publications. In the time since Marco Arment founded The Magazine, in October 2012 (your current fearless editor bought it in May 2013), many sites have added sections in which they publish stories of thousands and tens of thousands of words, and pay rates that are not at all terrible and sometimes good. These articles are almost always available for free, which makes our value proposition increasingly problematic. We’re too small to attract enough advertising to go free, and we would have to raise capital to become bigger, at which point we’d be serving the investors instead of our readers.
Perhaps most importantly, we didn’t want to cut the rates we pay writers, photographers, and illustrators. We’ve reduced the scope of some stories and we dropped from five features an issue to four several months ago to trim expenses, but as freelance writers ourselves we don’t feel right in paying pittances and working people hard just to keep this ship afloat.
Brittany Shoot, my managing editor, and I consider The Magazine a very successful experiment. As noted in our Kickstarter campaign, we’ve paid out over half a million dollars to contributors of all sorts over two years, and we have tens of thousands left to pay out this year. We’ve been profitable from the start, but ever less so. I’m a working stiff, and I can’t ride this all the way down. We’re going out happy with our work, delighted with our audience, and so ecstatic to have worked with so many terrific writers, artists, photographers, editors, designers, and others.
So, friends, this is the end. We will publish the next five issues, through Issue #58, and then say goodbye for now.
It’s been a wonderful ride, and thanks for coming along with us. And now, this issue’s contents!
(About refunds: We remain profitable and keep an accounting and reserve against prorated refunds. After our final issue, the second issue in December, we will issue refunds for people whose subscriptions extend into January and beyond. Apple’s App Store should handle some of that; direct credit-card subscribers via our Web site will receive an automatic refund (via our processor, Stripe). Those who purchased subscriptions via Kickstarter will get email from us offering a few options, since we can’t refund via credit card and may not even have your email address.)
In this issue
What would motivate someone to build a house to put someone else in misery? Apparently spite and revenge are sweet earth to dig into. Georgia Perry regales us with the Shell Game played by a rich layabout in Detroit in the late 1800s who couldn’t get what he wanted. A modern developer, moved to improve his city, plans a major renovation as part of a decades-long rehabilitation of his neighborhood.
Huy Fong Foods is an American success story. Its founder, David Tran, arrived in the US in 1978 and named his company after the freighter that brought him to these shores. He built his hot-sauce company, which makes sriracha, into one of the most popular condiment companies of all time, and made his rooster-logo bottles a standard part of American culture. (By the way, join us in congratulating regular contributor Cara Parks on becoming executive editor of Modern Farmer, which just ran this short feature on how Huy Fong got its rooster!) But when he moved his factory from its longtime home, neighbors in the new surrounds (in Irwindale, California) complained of the burning odor. Nate Berg brought his olfactory senses to tour the facilities, because The Spice Must Flow. (Our cover photo, by Michelle K. Martin, celebrates Nate’s story, sriracha, and our second anniversary.)
Craig Giffen is always Making Faces or soliciting them from others. In a nifty long-running project, Giffen makes and has submitted pictures of times of day in Arabic numerals, and his site, the Human Clock, ticks over from one to the next. Reporter Chris Higgins finds a sweet charm in putting faces to times.
Finally, the military uses of pilotless autonomous aircraft (drones) are both increasing and the subject of ever more controversy, but purposes for social good and research are also on the rise. Josh reports on A Lorax That Flies: the use of drones to monitor trees in Peru that are vulnerable to “poaching.” If a pilot project is successful with a 5,000-hectare forest, it may open the way to more use of eyes on high to allow immediate response to illegal logging, and help prevent the destruction of habitat and release massive amounts of carbon.
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Glenn Fleishman is the editor and publisher of The Magazine, and contributes reguarly to the Economist, Boing Boing, TidBITS, and Macworld. The father of two, Glenn won two episodes of Jeopardy! in 2012, and he won't let you forget it.