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Learning to be an editor

If you thought my job was all about inserting typos, commissioning features and playing Unreal Tournament, well, then you thought pretty much the same as me! But today I'm in Marlow attending a conference for all the editors at Future. Now, admittedly not many people go through their local magazine shop counting Future logos, so you may not realise quite how many magazines we make - suffice to say there are well over a hundred people here, all learning the latest theory about brand vs product.

I find this very curious, because I've never really considered the Linux Format brand - as far as I'm concerned, readers buy LXF because they want Linux news, reviews and more rather than looking for, recognising and trusting our brand. Our sky bar (the line of text at the very top of the cover) used to have a little summary of what the magazine offered regularly (something like "The latest news, the hottest reviews, your problems doubled" (or "solved"; one of the two), but now it just lists three or four things from the current magazine.

We have market researchers at Future whose job it is to look at things like Tesco Clubcard data to try to figure out what kind of person reads LXF, how often they buy it, what other magazines they buy, and more. I hear from them very rarely, and then usually only get the top-level headlines along the lines of "did you know most LXF readers are male?" But one of the facts they roll out to us fairly regularly is that most LXF readers don't buy every issue - they buy every other issue, or one in every three, four, five or even six.

Now obviously I spend a lot of my time agonising over cover lines (no, they aren't flippant or off the cuff, and they certainly aren't last-minute jobs), and one of the things I try to strive for is to have each LXF cover convey roughly the same message: "this is the magazine to read to get up to date with Linux news, see what's on the radar for the future, learn how to do more with Linux, and have a varied read at the same time." Clearly there's a disconnect somewhere between what I think I'm doing and how that comes across to you, which makes me very curious. Picture this:

  • You walk to the magazine store
  • You see a new issue of LXF
  • You pick it up and look at the cover

Now, what do you look at first? The main headline? The sky bar? The disc? The interview? Do you think "meh, there's nothing here about XYZ program; I'm not interested", or are you more interested in anything as long as its practical?


Your comments

Well, as a subscriber I get

Well, as a subscriber I get every issue of LXF, but when I'm looking at other magazines I usually look at the cover features (and disc contents in the case of computer magazines) and might decide to buy if there's a feature I will be interested in. I might even delve into the contents pages if I am feeling more than usually inclined to buy, looking for an excuse to purchase. I rather suspect many other people do the same.
I think it might be well nigh impossible to find at least one article that will persuade every occasional buyer to buy every month.
As for the sky bar, I don't really notice it on any magazine, it's wasted on me.

I won't even look at the

I won't even look at the cover of a magazine unless it's about a subject I'm interested in or features a pretty lady. So if I'm looking at a cover, I'm in the target audience already. Then I read the cover from top to bottom - I mean, it only takes a moment anyway. If I decide there's enough content in there that I'll want to read, I'll have a quick flick through. If I like what I see, I buy.

This doesn't apply to LXF of course, me being a subscriber. :)

"But one of the facts they

"But one of the facts they roll out to us fairly regularly is that most LXF readers don’t buy every issue - they buy every other issue, or one in every three, four, five or even six."

This doesn't surprise me at all. At £6.49 a throw, LXF is far too expensive to buy every month. One of the first things I look at on a magazine cover is the price! If I wasn't a subscriber and thus able to benefit from the discount I certainly wouldn't buy each issue either, excellent though the magazine is.

Like Rhakios, I don't really notice the sky bar either. Quite frankly, with most magazines, I don't even notice what is on the cover at all, apart from the title. So for instance if I am looking for a guitar magazine I scan the racks and if I spot, eg, "Guitar Buyer", I pick it up and immediately turn to the contents page to see if there are enough articles to warrant buying it. Guitar Buyer is a much more reasonable £3.20 (no CD, you see!) and if it looks like at least half of the articles will interest me I am quite likely to buy it.

If you want more non-subscribers to buy LXF each and every month, in my opinion you need to reduce the price to £4.99.

I'm with Marrea on the price

I'm with Marrea on the price thing ;-)
As a subscriber I don't need to look at the "sky bar" :roll:

I really must get a

I really must get a subscription, as I buy every month. If I am interested in a subject I will buy a couple of magazines that look OK in the area and then read in depth. If the content is good then I will be back. Don't go much by covers.

The thing that keeps me from

The thing that keeps me from buying each month (I probably buy one in six to ten) is price. As a student in the USA, I simply can't afford to buy a subscription or one in two or three magazines. I check out the magazines and only buy if there's something in there that seems to be exciting and underreported in other spheres of open source news.

If there were a distro that had a full bootable, installable Debian GNU/OpenSolaris distro with a bunch of articles contrasting Debian GNU/Linux to the OpenSolaris environment, I would be intensely interested in buying since I've found it difficult to find information about that. Similarly, if there were something about open source games with interviews from developers, artists, and so on, I would be interested since you generally don't get much news about games apart from releases and occasional screenshots.

If every issue's price was less and I could afford a subscription, I bet each LXF would be worth reading - but the current prices are prohibitive.

As a subscriber in the USA

As a subscriber in the USA the price is very high. One way to lower the price might be to send the overseas edition without the DVD and have it available for download to subscribers, since most if not all of the overseas subscribers have access to high-speed internet.

As a subscriber I just read

As a subscriber I just read the magazine...

If I go into a store to by a magazine I do look at the sky bar, it's hard not to notice and it guides me to the subject, if ts says Linux I'm interested if it says knitting I'm not.

Then a quick sweep over the cover to see if there is any major things of interest in the magazine, I then flip up to the Contents and have a deeper look at whats in it.
If it is interesting I also look at some random pages to have a look at the layout since I know some Linux magazines to be very hard to read. Not that thy are to technical or anything, they just use a very tiresome font and general layout.

As a three year subscriber

As a three year subscriber in the U. S. I look forward to each issue and the DVD. I have been reading Linux Format since August of 2000 and see no reason to stop now. It is quite simply the most enjoyable Linux publication I read, and I read almost everything else available on the subject in English. So keep doing what you're doing, and pay no attention to the chuckle headed ideas being advanced here. If you want quality, you have to pay for it.

May I just say Paul,

May I just say Paul, congratulations on becoming the editor of LXF. It's taken me awhile to notice to be honest, at first I thought your predecessor was on holiday.

I subscribe quarterly and am a bit miffed I don't usually get access to special gifts, all because I wanted to save a penny/year. That's understandable however, just like long mobile phone contracts, you want some contract of commitment.

When I gaze upon a new issue I look at your cover story, is it something that intellectually turns me on, something that I don't know about.

However when I used to get your magazine from the newsagent (Smiths) I'd check your tutorials first, as an avid novice programmer I like compiling a collection of examples especially when you're running a series on a topic I'm interested in. Cross-compilation, developing for all three major platforms on Linux, making applications using GTK+ would all be nice.

Cheers.

Well I honestly can't

Well I honestly can't remember what attracted me to LXF the first time I bought it (LXF53). Obviously I was interested in Linux but I must have selected it from the other Linux publications as being more accessible and more appropriate to my needs at the time.

The key thing is I enjoyed what I found inside and found it useful, so I bought the next one. I must have liked that too because I bought the one after, and the one after that...

Having bought every issue for a few months there must have been a dawning realisation that, for me at least, this was not a passing fad and I might as well save myself some money (and time) and more importantly, avoid the risk of missing an issue, and so I subscribed.

I guess what I am saying is that it might have been something on the cover that attracted me to the first purchase, but it's what's inside that has kept me buying it ever since (it's the only publication, of any kind, I subscribe to).

Keep up the good work (but perhaps proof-read a bit more ;))

All the best

I'll take the liberty of

I'll take the liberty of assuming that this question is directed especially at us "heathens" who don't have a subscription ;)

Well. First and foremost, there's the price-tag. If the UK-audience think the magazine is expensive try being overseas. It's about three quarters of a PC-game ! (One might argue that the longevity of both products are about the same these days...)

Anyway, exactly because of the heavy price I'll flip over to the contents page to see if there's interesting articles. I might even peek at the actual articles to verify that it's going to be of use to me ;)
Being a student, it's ridiculously much to spend which means I'll have to be picky about the contents.
,
And that's it, the magazine is bought. But it's by far the most expensive overseas Linux magazine, and it happens to be about the only one carrying a disc too.
Couldn't we just agree on the disc being completely redundant ? A local PC-magazine uses specific download-codes for each issue.
This is a good idea in my book because:
a) It allows the magazine staff to publish utilities, codes, pdf articles and whatnot
b) It cuts down on the costs of the magazine - which LXF *really* could use.

Seriously. you're twice the price of Linux Journal and on par with Linux-Magazine - both of which can be gotten quite a lot cheaper through digital subscription.

Jesper: The subject of the

Jesper: The subject of the cost of the magazine being influenced by the cover disc has been gone over many times, it is only a small fraction. If you want LXF to be anywhere near the price of Linux Journal, then you will have to accept a lot more advertising and, so as not to increase the page count, correspondingly less content.
Of course the relative value of the £ and the $ aren't helping things for you, but there isn't a lot LXF can do about that.
As for the digital-only subscription, someone has to convince the top people at Future Publishing that it would yield them a larger profit than the current model - that's the only thing they are interested in.

I'd be interested to see it

I'd be interested to see it in more context. How does this compare to other magazines that appeal to a similar audience - e.g. PC Plus. Does it take into account the fact that most men don't use their clubcard half the time, or that they are just as likely to buy a copy from elsewhere (it's no cheaper in Tesco). Or the fact that if they were likely to buy ever issue, they would probably have a subscription.

Having said all that, I probably fit the profile. I bought every issue for the first 6 years or so (since Linux Answers) and was a subscriber for a couple of years. I don't buy every issue any more because I don't seem to get time to read them, even the 3 -5 issues I currently purchase I don't get chance to read.

One of the features I like about the magazine is the tutorials, however I have never followed one all the way through - by the time the next issue comes out I have lost the inclination to follow it. Also, often you would want to be able to refer back to a previous article but don't want to wade through a pile of magazines.

One thing that would most likely make me subscribe to the printed magazine was if I could get access to the full back catalogue of tutorials and articles online, right upto date to the most recent issue. I might even be willing to stump up for an 18 month contract. Also I would be more likely to subscribe if it was paid for by monthly direct debit. Whilst I understand that this defeats on purpose of the subscription (i.e. having the cash up front) it does guarantee the sale for Future (if it were tied to a contract).

>> As for the digital-only subscription, someone has to convince the top people at Future Publishing that it
>> would yield them a larger profit than the current model - that’s the only thing they are interested in.

That is a fair point at Rhakios makes. Trouble is, whilst I think that it could be a good model of for LXF it is less likely to be a good model for many of their other publications. The thing is even if Hudzilla were to come up with great model for LXF that would make all us potential customers happy, I doubt that it is within his remit to convince the top people at Future. I doubt the top people at Future have even heard of Linux Journal let alone investigated their publishing model. Perhaps what we need is Future to sell Linux Format to O'Reilly that could be interesting...

steogede, We've recently

steogede,

We've recently introduced a subscribers' area on the website, in which you can download whole issues (or individual articles) in PDF format, from LXF60 onwards.

M

As I think it's been said

As I think it's been said before, the price is the issue. I do try to buy every month, but as I'm a student with a poorly-paid part-time job, and am also trying to fork out for Personal Computer World as well (at £5 a pop, but at least there's a 2 week gap between that and LXF's £7.50 - taking my monthly total to £12.50 - I'm too young to take out subscriptions and I've been reading PCW since 2004, so I'm not giving that up any time soon!). :)

LXF's price is a little on the shady side - feel free to remove the cover disc if you feel it will reduce the cover price, but can I make the point that you can get PCW with a DVD (mostly of the 8GB variety) with a few Linux distros, loads of Windows freeware (most of which I run under wine or a VM if I feel I need them), free commercial software and offer a good 150-200 pages (depending on the length of features/no. of adverts). LXF charges £2.50 more, and offers at least 50 pages less! Once we've subtracted the adverts PCW plies through, I can't help feeling that the former is the better buy - though I do concede that PCW is much more established - it's the longest running monthly computer magazine in existence!

Ok, it's a bit of an unfair comparison - I should really compare LXF to the competition. Linux Magazine charges £1.50 less, and their page count is approximately 10 less than yours (on average) while still offering a cover disk! Though the quality of their magazine is not as good as yours, it does suggest that you're charging us 15p for each additional page more you offer than Linux Magazine! :(

Ok, that's the end of my rant - I've been collecting LXF since Issue 100, and it's cost an arm and a leg! I feel that LXF offers much better quality in print than Linux Magazine, but the price is hard to justify. All I can say is that you guys must be eating caviar for breakfast or something!!! :D



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