If you look at the Alexa website rankings for backwoodshome.com and compare them to other, much larger, magazines in our area of interest, such as The Mother Earth News, you can see how the magazine playing field is leveling out.
In the print issue world, TMEN dwarfs BHM with about 300,000 plus paid subscribers to our 27,000. Same on the newsstand — we put out about 12,000 copies and they put out a gazillion. But on the internet, we are not that far behind them. For traffic to their website, they rank 15,548 in the United States compared to our rank of 29,207. That’s very good for a small magazine like BHM. Countryside and Small Stock Journal, for example, which is also much bigger than BHM, ranks 211,466 in the United States, while Back Home Magazine is ranked so low it doesn’t even register.
How I interpret this data (the data changes every few days) is that the internet provides a level playing field where quality of content is rewarded by traffic. TMEN’s economic clout has been largely nullified when it comes to competing against BHM on the internet. Part of TMEN’s higher ranking, in fact, is probably due to its name, Mother Earth. A lot of environmentalists and New Agers googling Mother Earth are bound to hit upon TMEN, giving it a higher traffic rank.
Another measure of website value is how many pages the average website visitor views on a given website. For BHM it’s about 3, compared to about 2 for TMEN. That’s significant. Countryside’s page views is about 4, which I think indicates it will begin rising dramatically in traffic rank. It’s an excellent magazine.
I’m not bragging here. I’ll wait until we surpass TMEN to do that. But I am providing powerful evidence to support my Jan. 28 post. The world of publishing is changing dramatically on all fronts.
A lot of amazing things happen to me. Two occurred just yesterday.
First, after more than 15 years of painstaking mental consideration, I had made the decision a week ago to get Lasik surgery on my eyes. I’ve wanted the surgery for all that time, but held off because of the very small risk of something going wrong. After all, one of the small, but possible, outcomes is that you lose your vision.
A week ago I finally made the decision that the risks were now so low that I would go ahead and get Lasik so I could dispense with my bifocals and computer glasses and all the cleaning and care they required. I have been unlucky over the years in the number of times I have sat on or stepped on my glasses. So I got all the eye exam prep work done last week, only to learn yesterday that I am not a good candidate for Lasik because I am so far-sighted. A better option for me would be to have a lens implant, like they do for people who have cataracts. The doctor recommended against it unless I really couldn’t stand wearing glasses. I could always have such surgery in my 70s, when and if I do get cataracts. But why risk any kind of surgery now if it’s not necessary, the doctor said. My doctor, John Rush, won a Bronze Star in Vietnam and I had a lot of respect for his opinion.
I realized immediately that I really didn’t mind wearing glasses that much. It had never before occurred to me that Lasik, which is a relatively simple procedure lasting 5-10 minutes per eye, might not be an option for me. I had not bothered to have the necessary eye exam to see if I was a candidate. I somehow assumed that anyone was a candidate. So I ordered a new pair of glasses since I had had already gone through all the eye exams. It was an amazing release of tension for me to realize that all my mental anguish about having surgery on my eyes was finally at rest.
The best computer keyboard ever
The second amazing discovery of the day occurred just before midnight. I couldn’t sleep, even though I had volunteered to go to bed early so I could get up early and take the kids to school, thus relieving my wife of that task. Lenie has been very tired lately, due primarily to overwork, so I thought I should let her sleep in for a day. So I reluctantly got out of bed, poured a hot toddy, and tried out a new computer contraption Eric Ragsdale, our local Gold Beach computer geek, had sold me earlier in the day. It was a “USB to PS/2” cable that he said would allow me to use my old IBM keyboard with my new Toshiba Tecra laptop. Like all laptops, the keyboard is not so good for a fast heavy-handed typist like me.
My IBM keyboards have been retired in my garage for years, and I have never found a device that would make them work with the USB ports that are standard on most laptops. I pulled out the new cable, then went to the garage and retrieved an IBM keyboard. It worked flawlessly. Wow! You have to type as much as I do, and pound the keys with the big heavy hands I have, to realize what an amazing discovery this is. It will make me far more efficient writing because I won’t make as many typing errors. I am so delighted at this discovery I’m going to buy Eric the Subway sandwich of his choice tomorrow when he comes to the office to work on an ailing database desktop computer.
It has occurred to me that these amazing discoveries for me may not be so amazing for other people. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. I’ve just had two significant long-standing issues in my life resolved.
Now to get back to sleep! It’s 1:17 am. The alarm is set for 6:15 am. I’ll make it, then I’ll take a nap at the office. I’m the boss. I can nap at the office!
My internet satellite link just went down, probably because the snow has slid off a bit, thus temporarily deforming the shape of the dish and sending the signal in an errant direction. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the technology that is about to overwhelm magazine publishers, in particular the technology that will eventually make paper obsolete in the magazine business. I think it will take only the invention of a suitable hand-held device that will make it convenient for people to read their favorite magazines. When that invention becomes convenient enough, readers will say goodbye to paper forever and switch to the as yet uninvented device to read both their magazines and newspapers.
Publishers who are unprepared for this inevitability will perish. Backwoods Home Magazine will not. In fact, I suspect we will thrive because we’ve been watching technological developments closely and planning for the future. For now there is a readership who wants both the paper issue and online access, but that will change, very possibly in my lifetime. When it does the magazine will be ready, as readers can already see by our large website and interactive blogs. Plus we are doing things behind the scenes concerning internet infrastructure.
But the future is a guessing game. Technology moves quickly, often in unanticipated directions. My best guess is that a very thin computer display will be developed, one that can be folded and put into your shirt pocket or one that can be rolled and stuffed into a back pocket, much like people putting a newspaper in their back pocket on a city subway car. Readers will simply unroll or unfold this computer display and read their favorite magazines and anything else that is in printed form.
People will still want to live remotely and simply, but they will readily accept this new way of getting information because it will be convenient and inexpensive, both for the reader and the publisher.
From the reader’s perspective: Technology is always getting cheaper. I write this on an enormously powerful laptop that cost $1400. When I started BHM in 1989, I had to pay $2700 for a Compaq Deskpro, the cadillac of desktop computers at the time which sported a floppy drive for storage and a slow 8088 chip. Every year since computer prices have dropped as their capability has risen in giant leaps.
From the publisher’s perspective: About half of the money we take in goes right out the door to pay for paper and postage to deliver the magazine to readers, with postage as the bigger of the bills. A future magazine delivered via cyberspace eliminates those two bills, allowing us to cut the price of a subscription to readers by at least half. In fact, we could probably eliminate most of our office since most of the space there is used to store magazines and anthologies. We have already eliminated the need for all editors to be in one building during our crucial “deadline week” when we produce the masters for each new issue.
The future for magazine production is going to be fascinating. We will do what readers want us to do. For now it’s a print issue coupled with a strong online website. But I don’t think it’s going to remain that way once that simple, convenient, inexpensive technological device is invented.
In the end, however, it will be CONTENT that matters most. Traditional marketplace muscle, such as the larger magazines still possess with their large paper magazine delivery systems, and their large sums of money to flood your mailboxes with solicitations to subscribe, will fade away. In its place will be online publications that deliver value, rather than ads, to readers. Readers will be able to tune out unwanted ads completely and read articles they value.
We had driven three and a half hours to Ashland, Oregon, so our three boys could have a weekend playing in the snow on Mount Ashland. It doesn’t snow very much on the southern coast of Oregon. They had a good time, and it was a productive weekend for the magazine. While the boys and Mom played in the snow, I scoped out the next issue.
But we got caught in a big snowstorm coming home, one that stretched all the way home. John Silveira had stayed at our house while we were gone and got some beautiful photos of the snow-covered forest leading to the Pacific Ocean.
But I’m pooped. Driving for several hours in snow is exhausting.
My predictions can’t get much better. I nailed the Green Bay-Giants game, right down to 3 points and 2 picks by Brett Favre. I was a little off on the point spread in the New England-Chargers game, but at least I didn’t lose $20 by giving that poker player 10 points.
At the poker game Thursday night I had a chance to bet $20 on the Patriots if I gave away 10 points. I only offered 7 points so the bet didn’t take place. I probably should have taken the bet, but I tend to be conservative and 10 points seemed like a lot. Nevertheless, I think the Patriots will win by three touchdowns. It’s easy to make predictions when you have no money on them.
Here are my picks for Sunday’s games:
Patriots by 21 over San Diego; New York by 3 over Green Bay.
What! You bet against Brett Favre? I like Favre too, but Eli is coming into his own. Brett will probably throw a couple of interceptions, and Eli will be as “on” as he’s been in the last several games. I may be going out on a bit of a limb with Eli, but I think he’ll lead the Giants to victory.
It had been a long time — years — since I played a serious game of poker, but I still have the skill level even though we played "no limit" Hold ‘Em, a game I have almost no experience with. I won $97 on a $50 initial buy-in game. Great fun! MacDougal was the big winner. We plan to play every Thursday night. If you’re in town, give a call to the office and we’ll see if there’s a space at the table. I had an old sign at the office that read, “Gambling Hall, No personal decks or dice, Check your guns at the door.” I put that up on the wall near the poker table, which is actually the table on which we lay out each issue. Nobody checked their guns, and I know at least two of the seven men at that table were armed.
Once again we made deadline. We were about five minutes late to the FedEX box with our package containing the next issue, but the FedEX driver was a bit late. It’s a great March/April issue that will now make its way through the printing process at Ripon Printers’ Wisconsin plant.
To celebrate we’re having a poker game tonight at the office. Silveira and I and half a dozen local guys. Hold ‘Em is the game. I’ll probably be the fish at the table since I haven’t played much poker in recent years, and I have almost no experience with Hold ‘Em. I have been studying the game, however. Wish me luck. It’s no limit with a $50 buy-in.
Today we also sent out a “needs a label” mailing. That’s a mailing in 8.5 X 11 white envelopes to deliver the first issue to new subscribers whose names were not entered into our database in time to make our main postal mailing which goes out directly from our printer as soon as the issue comes off the presses.