Recalling our First Five Years in Print
COW Library : Business & Marketing : Ron Lindeboom : Recalling our First Five Years in Print
On December 19, 2005, we announced we would be launching a new trade magazine, Creative COW Magazine -- dedicated to working professionals in film, broadcast, audio and video, and related fields. For some, the announcement seemed a venture doomed to drown in the Sea of Bad Timing.
"You're kidding, right? Haven't you heard that print is in trouble? Why on Earth are you getting into print? It's all moving to the web, don't you know that?" We regularly heard these kinds of comments back in 2005 and 2006 from both potential advertisers and prospective subscribers. Many told us that we were already the leader on the Net, so "why bother with print?"
We knew that many print publications were in trouble, but we had a problem of our own: no matter how much bigger we grew, advertisers would only pay web communities a cursory glance. That has changed over time, but it was a serious problem for a site that had high aspirations of serving its audience. If we were going to be able to sustain our growth levels and underwrite new services to offer, it became obvious to us that we'd have to compete on the magazines' own home field. But at the risk of seeming haughty, we knew one very important reason why magazines were struggling...
From our then decade long vantage of building the web's most-trafficked site for media professionals, we knew that many magazines had lost touch with their audience. Working pros became increasingly aware that they were learning, as well as writing, the rules and principles of the rapidly changing field in which they worked.
They also trusted the voices of fellow working professionals online: voices that knew far more than most magazine editors and professional journalists.
We were watching it all happen in realtime online, and as we sat in the back corner of a trade expo in December of 2005, we saw the void this had created. On the faces of the show's visitors, was none of the hope and excitement we had seen years before. Gone was the enthusiasm you find among individuals that know they are living in one of the greatest times in the history of humanity -- a time when the tools and processes truly are in the hands of storytellers. Hope seemed to have given way to "visionlessness."
The very thing that was hurting many magazines -- their lack of direct connection to the audience they served -- was Creative COW's greatest strength.
Rather than set out to market with a directive and mission statement handed down from a board of directors, we set out with our members' monthly changing "list of demands" that we drew from the posts online at CreativeCOW.net. You told us our direction, and while we haven't always hit a "grand slam" in every issue, we did our very best to meet your requests, every time.
One of the best decisions Kathlyn and I made was to bring aboard Tim Wilson, one of the smartest men we've ever met. During our negotiations, we'd send Tim the letters we received from our readers. While I'd never claim to have done as fine a job at the editor's helm as Tim has done, our earliest issues still resonated with readers. Tim could see what was happening and the possibilities ahead. He caught the vision and has been the "mind of the magazine" ever since. He is a delight to work with, and it is one of the great honors of my life to have him with us. He and I are always on the phone kicking around ideas, strategizing issues and the market in general.
Without our gracious and magnificent sales director, Tim Matteson, (who has been a part of this industry's magazine business for over two decades now -- working for years with the sales teams of Film & Video, as well as Millimeter and Video Systems), we'd have quickly failed.
Recently, Stefani Rice joined our team. She functions in a general "go to" mode, helping us in the editing, as well as some of the layout, coordinating advertising copy, and keeping things moving ahead. She's smart and a great team player.
I interact often with Abraham Chaffin, our highly respected chief technical officer, as we rebuild the site to support iPads, iPhones, Androids and a host of emerging platforms. For the past 15 months, we have been in a major internal database and infrastructure redesign to support the new interface which we'll be introducing shortly. It's so big, we'll roll it out piece by piece.
But if my wife Kathlyn had not been there to support my ideas and to be the Sea of Calm when things grew too stressful and difficult as I built the first couple of issues alone, I am not sure how far this would have gone. I am the most fortunate of men to call her my wife.
In five years, our small team has produced the largest circulation publication for media professionals working in film, broadcast, video, and related fields -- while in the same five years, four long entrenched magazines are gone. First to go was Film & Video. Then Video Systems.
Later, came the January 2009 announcement that Studio Monthly would cease printing and move to the web. The latest October 2009 announcement, found Millimeter bowing out of print.
In fairness to them, it's tough to make a magazine today. Both printing and postage costs have gone up -- postage has risen incredibly high. Add to this, as magazines fail, they begin giving away advertising trying to hang on -- yes, the magazine business is a rough one.
How did we do it? Belief, vision, hope, and trust, married to drive, tenacity, strategy and asking for the deal. But the most powerful secret? Tim Wilson just gave that one away, pointing to the 120 working pros who've told us their stories -- stories you want to read. That's the secret: make something that people actually want to read.
In the end, none of it could be done without our sponsors. Many have been with us for years. If you buy something from any of them, please tell them you appreciate their support of Creative COW. We sure do.