My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Battlegames and the Future of Paper Magazines

First off, before I start my rant, I want to say hello to the new readers, something I've not done before. So hello Brent, Big Lee, Danjou's Hands, and Ben Boersma, all whom have joined in the last week. Of course, welcome back to all the other readers. I wished I had thought of acknowledging you back when I started this blog.

It was with heavy heart that I read my email from Henry Hyde of Battlegames magazine. (If you are wondering what I am referring to, follow the link above and read the news on the front page. In brief, his print edition of the magazine is running at a financial loss and there are not enough subscribers to continue with a digital version.) My favorite wargaming magazine, bar none, was possibly going down the tubes.

To start, I took the survey he asked all subscribers to take and I was direct: raise the price if necessary, go digital, and pass the cost of printing on to the user. For me, I am willing to accept that in order to continue receiving great content.
The magazine's content catered to the old school wargamer, and although I like a lot of the principles that they follow (fun game, easy to remember rules), I don't consider myself one because of some of their other gaming principles (I like 'tournament tight' rules, not frameworks to build upon).
Second, I emailed Henry and told him that I just needed a process to change my subscription to digital, as he seems to have taken down all subscription options from his web site. For me, I was a paper subscriber because that is all he offered when I started, he didn't have an obvious process for me to convert, and there wasn't enough of an incentive to convert from paper to digital. Had he sent me an email six months ago and said "Dale, I have to raise prices on the paper subscriptions 100%, but I can convert you to digital at no cost, just tell me what you want", I would have converted then and there. As it was, I bought two issues digitally because the UK postal system was late in delivering the paper copy and "I want it now"! (Of course, duplicate digital copies were only $1, so there was incentive to get it early in those cases. I never printed them out.)

One of the reasons this is so distressing is because I was interested in the Classic Wargamer's Journal and it too is no longer publishing. I received the pilot issue as a PDF and wanted to keep getting digital issues, but he only did subscriptions, and I was still not sure if I liked the format (it had a lot of battle reports, which I am not too keen on, unless it gives me enough information to replay it myself). What is it that is causing this meltdown? I see Wargames Illustrated and it appears to be doing well (but so did Battlegames, to be honest); Miniature Wargaming has been around for a long time, and although it was not my cup of tea, it was definitely a survivor. As for Wargames, Soldiers, and Strategy magazine, I had collected back issues whenever I came across them, but never subscribed. Great eye candy, but I cannot say I ever used the information in their articles; not even for scenarios. That said, they went bust (but were resurrected by another magazine publishing house), which shows the weakness of this market.

I personally do not think it is the market, per se, that is saturated. Henry spoke of the advertisers leaving when WSS started back up. Companies knew BG was niche and so probably decided to spend their advertising dollars in the bigger magazines that got broader distribution. Spencer-Smith Miniatures, for example, admitted that they really did not know if advertising with BG brought in more sales, but they knew that it was "their kind" of magazine and that a general wargaming magazine is probably not the way to go.

So, are niche magazines and journals doomed to forego the paper route and be digital, or not at all? I for one, hope so. I hope they can show that digital publishing is the way to stay alive. If they succeed in getting people to pay for niche wargaming content in a digital format, we may get more people to try that, getting richer products. For me, whenever I see a new digital magazine, I want to buy (or get for free) a recent issue so that I can see whether it is for me or not. If it is, I will go ahead and subscribe.

What I don't like are unprintable digital issues. If you use Flash animation and such, to me that is a turn-off. I would want the copy that would normally be sent to the printer, and preferably an option to have a "printer-friendly" version without heavy artwork and backgrounds.

My hope is to see Battlegames continue on in a digital-only format. Quarterly journals are an interesting idea, but I don't really need the paper, and if I do, I can deal with printing it out myself, as I do with back issues of Slingshot magazine, that I have on CD.

4 comments:

  1. The latest Adobe Indesign CS5.5 add supports to ePub which is widely used ebook format in ipad/iphone or other tablet. The conversion from paper magazine into e-Magazine would be much easier now.

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  2. Dale - not a rant at all, but a well reasoned statement - bears out my thoughts pretty much.. any version of BG is better than none...

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  3. Good points Dale.
    And interesting. But please note Classic Wargamer's Journal did not "go bust". Far from it. It got too successful, and I would have had to devote more time than I was willing to it. For now, I have far too much going on to run a part-time hobby journal.
    Best regards
    Phil

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  4. @Phil Olley: I sent you an email on the status of CWJ after I published this blog entry, in which you said the same thing. I am glad you posted a comment, as it reminded me to update the entry, which I have now done.

    Respectfully,
    Dale

    ReplyDelete

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").