The new issue of the Creative COW Magazine is at the printer and will soon be arriving in the mail for those in the United States who have opted for the hardcopy edition. For our international members, we will shortly have our PDF editions added to the magazine website for downloading.
You will not want to miss this issue as Tim Wilson has sought out a great body of guest writers for this edition -- doesn't he always? -- and it will give you a window into a world of production that maybe you have never explored before. We are calling it the Games Issue but don't let the title fool you, this is definitely not kid's stuff. This issue is one that is filled with ideas, techniques and inspiration -- drawn from a market that has the music and movie industries drooling at numbers that dwarf those other two major entertainment markets.
Give us a day or so to decompress and you will find the new issue in the Magazine website.
Congratulations, Tim. You did another masterful job on this one. I am proud to work with you and ride shotgun on this journey.
I keep reading publishers bemoaning the state of the publishing world and decrying the fact that print is dying. They quote statistics that back up their suppositions and while these "facts" appear true, I have to scratch my head and wonder why they cannot seem to see the forest for all the dead trees they have proffered over the years.
Why is print dying? Well, I hate to tell them, it's not -- it's their
magazines and view points that are dying. There are other magazines, of which Creative COW Magazine is one example, that are doing very well and are growing and thriving. In many industries you will find these "exceptions" to the general market malaise and decline in publishing. Tim Wilson and I regularly discuss these issues and analyze and examine the magazines that fail and the ones that are thriving in spite of the perceived general market apathy.
So, what makes some magazines fail while others excel?
The reason is simple: there is a lack of real content
in many once successful magazines today. Many onetime industry leading magazines are now made up of paid stories and features that many readers suspect to be the outcome of advertiser purchases. Some magazines in our own industry have been putting paid advertorial pieces on the cover as their lead story. This is crazy to us, and will compromise the integrity of any publication. I remember when I loved some of the magazines in this industry, years ago. Nowadays, there are some that I haven't read a single article of any importance in a long, long time. In a survey of many of our members, we hear the same thing and we get many letters that come in after every issue of Creative COW Magazine thanking us for the content.
Here's one we received the other day:
"I just wanted to tell you that your 'New Visions' Issue is the best issue of any industry magazine I've read since the DGA [Directors Guild of America] stopped printing Action. Thank you for the intelligent, informative, entertaining articles on paper." -- Jim Long, Pegasus Productions
And this one just came in today from a teacher at a high school in Louisiana who left this comment as she signed up for the Creative COW Magazine:
"Your newsletter has helped me greatly in the classroom. Helps me to keep my skills polished. As an educator, sometimes we get a bit set in our ways. Your newsletters, tutorials, and articles keep my students guessing as to what their next project will be and has taught them and myself more tricks and shortcuts. We used to only get 2 projects a quarter completed, now we are able to double the production and at a higher degree of difficulty. Constant source of inspiration - Thanks Cow Team! -- Heather Lampo, Grace King High School, Metairie, Louisiana"
Thank you Jim, Heather and all of the many of you who write us and tell us that you see the work behind what we do for the audience here at Creative COW. Your kind words and votes of confidence are truly appreciated.
When we look at the state of the publishing industry, we are amazed that so few seem to grasp the simple formula that will guarantee that your magazine will have an audience of eager, enthusiastic readers -- serve
that audience. Yet most magazines seem to have opted for the kinds of compromises that serve their accounting department more than their audience. That kind of focus is sure to put smiles on the faces of stockholders (for a short while anyway), but it is guaranteed (almost every time) to remove the smiles from readers who want and expect honest and forthright communication and value in their stories.
Serve the audience, that seems a simple formula for success.
It always strikes me as odd that here we are in 2008, still relying on print to communicate many of the same ideas that are found in-depth on the web.
Is the immediacy of the web -- along its powerful information sources like Google and Wikipedia.org (to name just two) -- simply not enough?
Tim Wilson and I talk about this phenomenon from time-to-time and we think that it's one that shows why Creative COW Magazine has become so popular among its readership; a readership that grows daily and is already equal to that of many magazines that have had decades of lead on us. The same phenomenon is also seen in the book series of Harry Potter. (Are we saying that we are like Harry? We wish!) It's funny that people cite today's young as suffering Attention Deficit Disorder and that they are so saturated with "TV Mindset" that they can't keep their focus long enough to read anything. But Harry Potter has outsold everything else in its generation and is the biggest selling book series of all time.
Give readers something worth reading and they will read it. Make it of value and they will hold onto it.
We get letters over and over again from teachers and readers who tell us that they keep every issue we make. We are honored by their words and are grateful that they recognize the work that goes into an issue of Creative COW Magazine.
We believe that the COW is full of great people and stories and it's our job to sift through the overwhelming "mountain of information" that is CreativeCOW.net and present it to our readers in a logical flow of information that is of value to our readers. We don't just back up a dump-truck and drop a mountain in their yard. We work hard to take a concept and dig down into an idea and explore the idea in ways that our readers will draw benefit from.
The COW is a wealth of information and it can be quite overwhelming to people, at times. By exploring definitive concepts in print in Creative COW Magazine, we give our readers something worth reading that is more than the "here's a box with a knob and what the knob does on the box" journalism. Sure, there are times that we get technical but we try to make the technical within the scope of the concept being explored.
So, for those of you who write us or call and ask: "Why do you make magazines? They are a thing of the past." -- there's your answer.
Oh, and thanks again to all of you who take the time to write us and give us your feedback. We really do appreciate your time and reply.
Well, the new issue of Creative COW Magazine is at the printer and should be run shortly. Hopefully, all the work that Tim Wilson and I put into it will open up some interesting discussions and get people to open their minds to the incredible opportunity that lies in front of them. It is not often that a market shift opens up as many opportunities as that which the rapidly accelerating world of mini-media is doing. We have tried to explore this new media opportunity from many differing vantage points. This, so that readers can examine how the principles may play into their respective worlds -- or not.
One of the things that Kathlyn and I hoped to achieve when we began building media professionals sites online back in 1995, was to give professionals a way to get out of the myopic worlds we often find ourselves in as we stare at the screen in our edit and compositing suites all day. It's easy to think that the world is shaped in the form of that which we find ourselves in. It looks that way and so, there it is. Well, not always. Getting out of the rut is often hard. It takes both vision and education and that requires a time investment -- something that many of us do not have the luxury of.
So, that brings us to our hope for the Creative COW Magazine. It's an oddball. After all, we have elected to not follow any of the traditions that trade magazines have accepted as gospel in this marketplace. Instead, we have eschewed many of the core traditions that have (in our opinions) made the magazines in this marketplace largely irrelevant and bereft of the reputations that they once had. Page counts and reputations are dropping and, in our opinions at least, these factors can be laid at the feet of a lack of real relevance.
The internet at its best is a place where users now get much of the information from friends and peers online that they once got only from reading magazines and going to trade shows like NAB and SIGGRAPH. In our opinion (and it's one that is shared by many of the retailers and manufacturers that we have spoken to), few things are truly introduced at trade shows and fewer buying decisions are fomented by what is seen at them. Today, most of these decisions are already largely made, and the choices culled down to the few remaining contenders, long before they ever set foot on the show floor. Added to this, few readers trust the opinion of a single reviewer against the collective input of their peers who voraciously rip into a product and give their objective feedback online -- feedback that is often won from the crucible of a true production food-chain.
So, what then is the real purpose of a magazine in this day and in this industry, if these things are true?
The greatest strength but also the weakness of forums-based communities is that most questions and answers deal with immediacy and issues of peer-to-peer support. In among these day-to-day postings happens the great "big picture" speculations but they are hard to find. They also tend, like forums, to be quite nonlinear in their construction and so fewer people can put the pieces together in a coherent manner.
Magazines done well are the quintessential "linear learning tools." Smaller than books and because of this, bite-size but effective. They can quickly lay out a picture that the editors want to promulgate for their audience and thereby begin the process of advancing an educational process that will benefit them in the future.
Disjointed product reviews, a few tutorials and the occasional editorial won't do it.
So, we jokingly refer to Creative COW Magazine as a paean to our love of the great "concept albums" of rock music history. Give me Sargeant Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and other great albums of their ilk. Like them, we have tried to string the story together through a series of articles that will tell the tale of the rapidly exploding world of "media anywhere."
How well have we done our jobs? We hope that it accomplishes the goal that we have but it will be, as always, that the audience will be the judge.
As we get to the finish line on the new pre-NAB issue of Creative COW Magazine, the thought hit me this morning that this is really quite an amazing ride. When we started building web-based community sites back in June of 1995, we would not have dared dream that this would be happening in 2007. Or that we'd be doing as odd a thing as building a magazine and competing against the major publishing ventures in this industry. If someone had told us the future many years ago, we would have likely laughed.
It's quite a strange thing to remember the days when we paid $39 a month for a web hosting site that could hold all of us back then. There were about a hundred of us then, as the tools cost around $50,000 as the cost of entry into this market. While the cost of systems dropped, our web hosting bill jumped to a hundred a month and that seemed like a big thing. System costs kept dropping. Our web hosting bill then went into the hundreds, then thousands a month. Then the site picked up employees and the thing just grew and grew until -- well, here we are. Today, in most months, we get around 400,000 unique visitors -- some months, a lot more. We've had some months, that while rare, have hit around 600,000 visitors and up.
It's really been an amazing adventure and we have made many wonderful friendships along the way. Kathlyn and I joke that we spend more time with our virtual online family than we do with many of our blood families. We have seen you face trials, overcome and succeed, we have seen some fall and leave the playing field, we have watched others begin families of their own, and have been saddened a number of times over the years when family members have written us and asked that their loved one's picture be removed from our site's team as they passed away.
It has been incredible and I must say that I love the Internet. It truly is the place where you find the best hopes and, sadly, the worst nightmares of humanity. But I do believe that there is far more of the good than the bad. It is where you find a wonderful group like the COW Team who host and help people that they often only know from a few words on a screen. It is also where you find people trying to destroy your business using the most under-handed tricks and taking the intelligence they possess to try to ruin you. Oh well, our friends have always ridden in to our rescue and the fact that we even exist today is a testament to the friendships and relationships we have built over the last dozen years of doing this. Like most of you reading this, we have chosen to side with those who would like to leave the world a better place than it might have been, if left alone to those with darker agendas.
In the end, it's all been a remarkable experience and me and Kathlyn, along with all of us who work on the COW as employees or volunteers, thank all of you for being a part of this experience. As I told Mel Charters years and years ago when he first introduced me to the Net: "Man, I love the internet -- this is right up with the printing press and the wheel."
The best to you always,