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From Issue #27 October 10, 2013

Editor’s Note

Happy birthday to us and many thanks to you.

By Glenn Fleishman Twitter icon 

Issue 27 Cover

The Magazine’s first issue appeared on October 11, 2012. From that issue to this one, our 27th, we have published 140 articles (excluding these notes and letters) on an every-other-week schedule.

As you probably know, Marco Arment founded this periodical as an experiment in two areas:

  • Could he create an app that would make reading a pleasure and not have the same overhead of size and complexity of print magazines that had added iPad and other electronic editions?

  • Could he attract enough subscribers to pay the costs associated with commissioning original articles (and, later, artwork and photography) without needing to include advertising?

I hope you’ll agree on the first count, later extended to the Web. (We have more work to do there, too, never fear.) On the second, Marco was able to get an immediate response in the form of a flood of subscribers. And as for the staying power — the proof is in the pudding: here we are, a year later, planning for our next year of publication.

The experiment isn’t over. Every two weeks we need to prove to paying readers that we are a worthwhile part of their (your!) life. We added the yearly $19.99 subscription fee as a discount over the monthly rate to reward those who have already decided they’re in for twelve months, and we appreciate the trust each yearly subscription places in us. (Remember that a single subscription either via the App Store or our Web site provides access to both the app and the site. See our FAQ for instructions.)

I was brought on around Issue 2 as editor, and I purchased The Magazine from Marco in June. Running this publication has been one of the most enjoyable experiences in my life, and I thank all of you readers, subscribers, and contributors for making that possible. (And more thank-yous at the end of this note.)

Let me run down this anniversary issue’s articles before getting into the future. (Spoilers for those who want to skip ahead: we’re working with Boing Boing, and we have a printed collection coming soon.)

Please note, too, the new logo and cover design, brought to you by Louie Mantia of Pacific Helm, the brain behind all of our covers.

In this issue

Jason Snell, the editorial director for Macworld, TechHive, and PCWorld, appeared in our first issue, with “Baseball Misfits.” He’s back with “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Michigan,” a story about falling in love with someone you’ve never met. It’s bittersweet, as are all of Jason’s lovely essays.

On the baseball front, however, we have Philip Michaels (husband to Lisa Schmeiser, who wrote “Look Within,” about her pregnancy with their daughter), a co-worker of Mr. Snell’s. Phil tells us in “Three Strikes, You Shout” how the book Moneyball should have changed everything — and sort of did. But it points out how hard it is to fight go-with-the-gut naysayers by using cold, hard reality.

Lex Friedman, one of our most frequent contributors, and who first appeared in issue 2, explains why he walks while he works in “He Likes to Move It.” He may whistle as well. (Lex is a former co-worker of Mr. Snell and Mr. Michaels, and now sells podcast advertising at the Midroll.)

We know that historical simulation at places like Colonial Williamsburg can be an effective way for students and adults to get a sense of how people lived — and especially how different races and classes lived cheek-to-jowl. Cara Parks visited the Plimoth Plantation (that’s the historical spelling), an operation in Massachusetts affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution. She found that it’s not a simple matter to represent the past accurately with all the complexity of the time in “Pilgrims’ Progress.” We interpret the past always by the light of our current attitudes.

Slow and steady wins the cooking race, says Joe Ray in “Nature Adores a Vacuum,” about sous vide (vacuum-sealed) cooking, and how affordable and useful it has become to the home chef. Joe and his wife Elisabeth Eaves are regular contributors and frequent travelers.

Finally, we finish with a fictional treat as a bonus sixth story (above our usual five). Ben Greenman was a long-time editor at the New Yorker, and is now a contributing writer. He’s written endless music reviews, articles for Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and the novel The Slippage, and he co-wrote Questlove’s Mo Meta Blues. We ask him to tell the story of two technology giants who appear destined to clash. He does in “The Dork Knights.”

Now for a variety of good news about the future.

Boing Boing editors and The Magazine's editors at XOXO festival. Photo by Jenni Leder.

Boing Boing editors Xeni, Cory, David, and Mark, with your editor. Photo by Jenni Leder.

Hello hello, Boing Boing

First, we’re announcing today a content partnership with Boing Boing, the most widely read independent blog. I have been friends with the editors and have contributed articles and items to Boing Boing for over a decade.

There’s a strong consonance between what they like to present to their readers and what I believe you all enjoy reading. We tell stories of people involved in creative, amazing things, as well as tales of technology, old and new, that are delightful, inspiring, or just plain strange.

Boing Boing has been best known for its summaries of short items — its sub-title is A Directory of Wonderful Things. But it has increasingly commissioned and published in-depth features, with staff-written and freelance articles on art, culture, science, medicine, and politics. We’re going to be part of that direction.

With each issue of The Magazine, Boing Boing will also feature one of our stories in full to get wider circulation for the tale and to better acquaint their readership with what The Magazine offers under the hood to paying subscribers. The remainder of our commissioned reporting will still require a subscription fee and be available through our app and Web site.

We’re also bringing the New Disruptors under the Boing Boing podcasts umbrella. The show, which I started separately from The Magazine, is a weekly interview with one or more creators or producers about how they’ve made direct connections with their audiences. In August, I brought the podcast under the same publishing umbrella as The Magazine, and I’m glad to nestle it under Boing Boing’s wing as well. (We’re still planning a podcast based on stories in this publication, too. Everything takes longer than one expects to pull together.)

Just two weeks ago in Portland, in a wonderful bit of timing, Boing Boing’s four main editors — Mark Frauenfelder, David Pescovitz, Cory Doctorow, and Xeni Jardin — were part of the XOXO festival, appearing onstage for the first time together. (They meet at least yearly in person privately.) I had been asked by festival organizers Andy Baio and Andy McMillan if I’d interview the gang; Andy and Andy had no idea that we had already been talking about this partnership. It was great to see all those folks in person. Behind the scenes, I work constantly with Boing Boing’s managing editor, Rob Beschizza, whose illustration work you see at their site, and soon here too.

You may ask quite reasonably, “Say, it seems like Boing Boing sends a lot of visitors to you, but what do they get out of it?” More features of the length and quality they would like to run, without the overhead of management, editing, and cost to make them happen, and a closer relationship — which we benefit from as well — with another source of independent reporting and writing.

We are all floating down the river of content in barrels: established sites like Boing Boing with lots of regular visitors, and a new publication like ours behind a subscription paywall with an app and the approach of putting out issues rather than continuously publishing. Banding together is a great strategy for both sides to try new things, all of which benefits readers — more and richer content — and the writers, photographers, and illustrators we work with.

Print cover concept

A mock-up of an analog collection.

A reading device you can hold in your hand

The second bit of good news is that we’re nearly ready to announce the Kickstarter campaign for a collection of articles, art, and photography from our first year of publication. We’re producing an honest-to-goodness print book, with an electronic option, and we’re nearly ready to start the campaign. We’ll announce everywhere when it’s ready to go, sometime in the next two to four weeks.

We’ll offer the most popular and interesting features and essays from the last year in a literary-magazine sized format. It will run about 200 pages on lovely paper stock and with a heavy cover. An electronic version — delivered in PDF, EPUB, and MOBI formats without any digital rights management (DRM) protection — will require a $10 pledge, and a print version will cost $25 including shipping within the United States. There will be a combined print/digital option ($35) and a chance to order multiple copies at once, too, and some special premiums at higher levels.

The campaign will feature a downloadable prototype of the collection, and a list of all the committed articles and other work that will be featured. We will be paying all the authors and artists additional fees, although our contracts don’t require it, because we always want a rising tide to float all boats.

Using crowdfunding as a way to gauge demand before going to press is a great help from two directions. We are still a very tiny publication, and fronting the money is challenging. Crowdfunding obviates that. But coupled with that is the opportunity to “stretch”: with enough pledges on Kickstarter, we can increase the page count without increasing the book’s printing cost — and only increasing overhead somewhat — and pay contributors an even higher rate for reusing their work.

Thanks for letting me preview what’s to come. I couldn’t be more excited to get this underway.

Dimmed light

One gray note in this flurry of brightness. Brent Blake, the man behind the idea of a 60-foot-tall lava lamp to bring visitors to his town of Soap Lake, Washington, died several days ago, from cancer. John Patrick Pullen interviewed Brent in 2011 in person and again by phone in 2013 for his article “A Beacon of Hope,” which ran July 18, 2013 (issue 21).

Brent was no huckster. He had a vision, almost literally, and pulled the town right along with him. Like many small towns that once had an attraction — the waters of Soap Lake were a destination for convalescence — something needed to happen or it would disappear. The city built an enormous sundial at the lake, taking many years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Surely a giant lava lamp wouldn’t be impossible, either? Brent didn’t think so.

Given a diagnosis over a year ago of acute myeloid leukemia and told he had a few days or weeks to live, Brent approached his impending demise (says our author) with apparent equanimity and energy — and “antibiotics, dieting, and juicing.” He outlasted the most optimistic prediction. It’s a sad thing that his lamp, if and when it is built, will come into existence past his lifetime. But it’s his light that will shine out from it.

Charming connection

We commissioned artist Amy Crehore to illustrate Rosie Spinks’s “Hacked Off,” a feature about whether hacking and hacking-activist groups excluded or harassed women.

Unbeknownst to us, Rosie’s mother, Johanna Spinks, a full-time artist, liked the work so much she arranged to purchase the original from Amy. Johanna told the story in a blog’s “Artist as Collector” series. We’re very touched all around.

Acknowledgments

Some additional public thanks about The Magazine are due: To Brittany Shoot, part-time managing editor, who came aboard in June and copes with my long and digressive Skype calls. To Pacific Helm, the design firm that created the app with Marco and continues to work on covers (Louie), interface (Brad), and wrangling (Jessie). To Scout Festa, our proofreader for most of the run so far, who cathces my evrey tpyo. [Sorry, Scout.-gf] [Typos? Yeah, right.-sf] To Chris Parrish and Guy English, patient iOS developers at Aged & Distilled, working on new features and guiding me through the vagaries of App Store submissions.

To advisers and friends, some of whom I can mention (notably Lex Friedman and Dean Putney) and others who must remain unnoted (thank you). To Simmons Ardell Design (Jessica Simmons and Rand Ardell) also patiently working through a design for a printed collection for many months (see above for more on that). To stalwarts Alison Hallett and Christa Mrgan, who have helped with endless generosity on many projects, including our recent live event in Portland.

And thanks to Marco. He put his heart and soul and many hundreds of hours of time into the app and into developing the content approach for The Magazine, and it shows. I feel more like a shepherd and inheritor than an owner, and I thank him for his expertise, his friendship, and his ongoing support.

Letters

You can tap the Share button in iOS at the top of any article and then tap Write Letter to Editor. Or email us with your thoughts, noting any article to which they apply. We also read comments and questions on Facebook, Twitter, and App.net. (Although we see iTunes reviews, we cannot respond there; please contact us directly with any issues that need a response.)

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.

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