41 years and this is what I have to say
Forty-one years this month since we published our first issue of S&S Off Road Magazine, originally called San Diego Off Roader.
For many of those years we were a newprint tabloid distributed for free in off road and motorcycle shops, as well as travel centers and some convenience stores throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties in Southern California. The magazines could also be picked up at various races in those counties.
All that changed when the world shut down for covid and we were introduced to the opportunity of digital publishing. The immediate benefits were that we now had worldwide distribution and instead of keeping the monthly publication at 40 pages, predominantly black and white, we now were able to expand to 100 pages or more and all full color.
At the request of a reader who wondered if it was possible to get a printed version of the digital edition we discovered that we could in fact do that through the Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, program that Amazon offered. Now, not only was the digital available worldwide, but a print version as well.
The downside? Admittedly the magazine now cost as much for one issue as a subscription used to cost for the entire year. But in exchange the reader gets a high quality printed magazine bound like a paperback book. And for prime members, no delivery fees keeps the cost down.
It's been three and a half years since we entered this new world of digital publishing and I've learned some things.
One is some people don't want to progress into the digital age and so they just quit reading the magazine. Others are reading it, but rather than read on a computer with a nice size screen where you can enjoy all the benefits of the double page spreads with huge beautiful color photos provided by our photographers, they look at it on their phones. And, what's more, they don't turn the phone sideways to enjoy the double page spread. They view one page at a time vertically. I had no clue that all this time hundreds and maybe thousands of people were only seeing one half of my beautiful double page layouts at a time. Crying shame.
As I was pondering how to teach people the proper way to read the digital for best enjoyment, it occurred to me, that maybe instead of teaching thousands, I only need to teach one. Me.
And so, starting with this issue, there are no more double page spreads. So when you view the magazine vertically on your phone, you're not missing anything and the next page is waiting for you to flip to and enjoy all it has to offer, able to see entire photos.
Now the next thing I learned does not apply to a handful of readers. They are the readers who drop a few dollars each month to read the magazine in print. Without complaining, I might add.
The other issue I've been dealing with for the past three and a half years is the complaint, "I miss when you were a print magazine."
For all this time, I've sympathized with the people and let them know I understand the challenge. But, now, I've determined I'm done doing that.
Because it occurred to me that as long as we were willing to pay the printing bill and we were willing to pay the distribution service to deliver to all the stores, or in the case of our Imperial County distribution, we were doing it ourselves. Including restocking stores in the desert areas multiple times every month. As long as we did all of that and the magazine was free and was convenient to pick up, then readers were willing to read it. But if they have to pay a few dollars and they have to go online to order it then many are content to whine about it not being in print anymore.
I no longer have sympathy for them. Where was the sympathy for me when we were struggling to pay the gigantic printing bill each month or driving to all the desert stops two and three times a month to stock the racks for people we have come to discover aren't willing to put out any effort to read it?
So the next time someone tells me, "I miss the magazine being in print," I'm going to remember to say. "It is in print." Because it is. It's just different now, and in a way much better.
To those of you who are reading this article in the print edition that you got either from Amazon or from subscribing, I thank you most sincerely, appreciate you and are blessed for readers like you! We also appreciate the readers who are content to read on digital. And for the phone readers, we've made it easier. Now we just have to wait for everyone else to jump on board.
Here's to another 41 years!