Issue №24 — Off
The cover of Issue №24 — the last one for Vantage Point.
In June 2014 I launched Vantage Point, a compact digital magazine available on iOS’s Newsstand, as a way to offer a sort of Membership feature to this site. As I wrote in the original post about the launch of the magazine, “I wanted to create a sort of Supplement for this website. A publication that could offer new materials related to the subjects I usually talk about here on Morrick.me, and also be an extension of Morrick.me by providing articles about other topics I’m interested in but rarely mention here. I want this website to stay focussed on a few selected categories and subjects, and things like book reviews, music reviews, non-tech opinion pieces, articles about movies or television series, etc., would be a bit out of place on Morrick.me. But not on a dedicated, compact digital Supplement like Vantage Point.”
I tried to do everything right with this project. A monthly subscription to Vantage Point was an affordable $2.99. Each issue was made up of an average of 3-4 articles, plus an episode of my serialised science fiction novel Low Fidelity. I tried to find interesting subjects to write about (each issue had its own ‘theme’). I did my best to offer a good-quality product, in a digestible package (a fast reader could probably finish an issue in about 45 minutes). When I realised I couldn’t keep up with the initial self-imposed periodicity of two issues per month, I created the Vantage Point Single Special, a sort of stripped-down issue featuring a short story, that would be published along with a regular issue when I couldn’t come up with two full issues. I’m a one-man operation, so I advertised the magazine the best I could.
It was not enough.
I poured a significant amount of energies into Vantage Point, and since the technical side of the operation (content hosting, app creation and issue delivery) was handled by another company (Type Engine), maintaining the magazine has had its costs. After two years, 23 regular issues, 4 Single Specials, it’s time to call it and cease publications. When projects simply do not work, when it’s clear that they’re going nowhere, perseverance is unwise.
Overall I had fun publishing Vantage Point for these past two years, and part of me is sad to have to shelve it.
When I started Vantage Point, I took into account that I might have ended up operating at a loss for an initial period. But the magazine has unfortunately remained a niche product, and never reached a stage where I earned more than what I invested. If I didn’t close the project before was because I still believed in its potential; it was because I kept wanting to give it a second chance. With things like these, and with online writing, the advice you keep hearing from successful people is to persevere, to keep at it, to keep working hard, etc. It’s what I did, but hey, sometimes a cake doesn’t turn out that well even if you follow the recipe.
I’ve made a few mistakes with Vantage Point, no doubt:
- I could have been more aggressive in promoting it. I always err on the side of tact and politeness in promoting what I do. I don’t like to annoy people and push them away.
- I could have looked for collaborators or asked other people to contribute to the magazine with an article or two. This way, these contributors themselves could have helped to spread the word among their circles, and consequently bring more subscribers. I could have done this, but it always felt a bit like cheating to me. I wanted to offer something that had my voice and style. I have a strict No guest posts policy on my site, and I wanted my magazine to reflect that. While that policy will likely never change for this site, I realise it’s been a somewhat myopic decision for my magazine.
- I probably should have kept a stricter publication schedule. In its second year especially, Vantage Point magazine issues have been following a more erratic periodicity. Sometimes the reason for a delay was illness, sometimes it was work or other personal stuff. I should have perhaps lowered the subscription fee in light of this. In truth, I was afraid to break something in the process (again, I wasn’t in direct control of the technical aspects of the magazine’s distribution — I should have asked Type Engine support for help).
I’m immensely thankful to all the (few) subscribers who decided to give me and my magazine a change, and to offer their support. I really, really appreciate that.
At the same time, I wish the people who subscribed and appreciated the magazine and my fiction would have been a bit more, er, vocal about their appreciation. Save for a couple of exceptions, in the two years I published Vantage Point, there has been very little endorsement, and an absolute lack of feedback, either positive or negative.
Just to make myself clear right away: I’m not saying my readers should have taken care of advertising the magazine and do the marketing legwork for me; but you know, spreading the word with a tweet or writing a few lines in a Facebook update if that’s more your thing, or even leaving a brief review on the App Store… it wouldn’t have taken much of your time, and wouldn’t have hurt. I see many other tech and creative types get this kind of support on social media for everything they do. I’m just wishing I got the same treatment.
What about Low Fidelity?
The worst part of ceasing publications of a magazine that features a serialised novel is when such discontinuation leaves the narrative unfinished. The first book in the Low Fidelity series is made of 32 episodes, and so far I’ve published only 23 on Vantage Point magazine. I intend to publish the entire book in the first quarter of 2017 and make it available for both iOS and the Kindle platform. Watch this space and the Crosslines/Low Fidelity website for more updates on the matter.
Closing remarks about ‘memberships’ and ‘exclusive content’
Vantage Point magazine was my idea of providing a membership model for this site, but via a stand-alone paid product with original, previously-unpublished content (for the most part), instead of paywalls, newsletters and other solutions I saw on other tech blogs — solutions I didn’t like much.
In the two years I published Vantage Point, however, I often found myself preparing an article for the magazine and thinking that somehow it felt wrong to make it available for just a subset of my audience. And the more I thought about it, the less I liked this model based on exclusivity. I want to reach as many people as possible with what I write — whether it’s tech-oriented commentary or a fiction piece — and establishing a membership-based paid option that provides ‘exclusive content’ divides readers in tiers, the standard audience and the premium audience. For other blogs and authors, this option for monetising their spaces works well. I, on the other hand, feel a bit uncomfortable publishing an article or commentary not everybody can enjoy. Of course with fiction it’s a whole other matter: my books of short stories are finished products that are one-time purchases and can be enjoyed separately. I’m not ‘hiding’ potentially interesting content from the visitors and readers of my blog.
Between my translation work, writing fiction, preparing materials for Vantage Point magazine, I’ve ended up writing less on this blog — something I truly regret. It’s hard to find a balance between producing/curating ‘exclusive content’ for a selected premium audience and writing stuff for the standard audience at large. That’s why, until I find a better solution (i.e. a solution that makes me feel better), I’m done with the membership model. The ideal would be that writers receive support/patronage so that they can continue to write for everyone. While I know that most people won’t care, I’ll place a PayPal link on this blog’s sidebar in case someone wants to show their support every now and then.
Any comment or feedback, you know where to find me.
All current subscribers will get an email from iTunes stating that their subscriptions will not renew. Any content a user already has downloaded will remain on their device (unless they delete it).