WizardWorld (not-so) Digital: Print Fumbling into Internet Publication

A few weeks ago, Wizard Magazine (along with its sister publication Toy Fair) were discontinued, as Wizard founder/CEO Gareb Shamus decided to focus more on his convention business (if they’re all as lackluster as Wizard World Atlanta, he’s got a lot of work to do) and transitioning the geeky content publication to the unexplored frontier of le Web.

Finally, after missing its target release month by about a week, WizardWorld Digital released on Saturday, March 5. The new online initiative designed to bring the once titan of comic news and fandom into the 21st century is… a PDF file?

That’s right. The new evolution of Wizard is basically the PDF before it gets sent to the printers. A Bleeding Cool article announced the first “free” issue of WizardWorld Digital over the weekend.

Sure, this does cut down on print costs, and it allows editorial to maintain its basic work structure. Plus, it is a smart PDF with linked text and images (although not as many as there probably should be with ads, contact info, anchors or image links).

But this is not transitioning from print to web. This is delusional. If the Internet is truly killing the print media, here’s why:

  • Speedy publishing
  • Reading convenience
  • Reader-author connectivity
  • Reader-reader connectivity
  • Greater potential for readership and spread of content

That is, unless the content comes in a format that is not optimized for web usage. Like, for instance, a PDF.

A PDF (Portable Document Format) is not a web format document. It is a semi-permanent format for preserving document appearance across systems and to be viewed through a PDF viewer like Adobe Reader, something not all browsers have built in. Basically, for a lot of readers, you will have to actually download and have the proper software to read this file, as opposed to simply pointing your browser to a URL and reading away.

Instead of waiting weekly or monthly, news sources can publish articles online right when they happen, and they can be updated in real time. Updating PDF files isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and even if Wizard did, it would require readers to redownload the file and search for the changes.

Luckily for the magazine, it’s not covering breaking news material. The magazine is publishing less timely features, which is smart for its format.

However, this format also slows down reading specific articles, having to search page by page. You can also go to the table of contents page and enter the listed page number… oh wait, the page number is wrong. The magazine is numbered like a magazine, in that it doesn’t include the covers as page numbers. Any PDF reader will do so anyway and screw up the numbering.

A possible fix would have been anchor linking the pages so you can click in the table of contents on a preferred article and it goes to that page. Too bad Wizard missed the ship on that idea too.

As for connectivity, readers aren’t bound to the confines of the letters page to get their voices out. Many articles allow for reader comments, giving the readers a faster route to respond to an author, and giving the author the ability to read a multitude of comments and critiques and even carry on conversations after the article is published.

And if there aren’t public comments allowed (a reasonable move in the face of overwhelming spam and trolls), readers can contact authors through email. Readers can communicate with each other on forums and social networks. Have an article you like? Tweet it. Like it. Blog about it. Email it to your friends and family. Spreading content, getting more eyes on the prize, is far more effective than loaning a magazine.

With this PDF format though, much of the same thinking applies from magazines. This e-zine is inactive, instead of interactive. Readers can’t comment or pass forward specific articles. It’s a single copy that you have to forward to others in whole, instead of piece by piece and letting the Internet find the creme of the crop. Most articles don’t even list authors. You can’t comment on the stories in a PDF. You can’t “Like” or “Retweet” specific stories in a PDF.

So to sum up, transitioning to the Internet brings the advantages of:

  • Speedy publishing
  • Reading convenience
  • Reader-author connectivity
  • Reader-reader connectivity
  • Greater potential for readership and spread of content

Again, except if its in a PDF file.

Really, the only point for a content publishing source to stick with PDFs is if it plans on printing out those PDFs and distributing the content on paper form (which is what Wizard was getting away from). Sure, a PDF may work fine on tablets, which still don’t have quite that large penetration (not until there is real competition on tech and price for the iPad our for at least several months). Besides, as pointed out earlier, the magazine is still not interactive enough, no matter what the device it’s being read on is except paper.

Sticking with a periodical model is fine. They’re called email newsletters. All the major comic and geek sites – Bleeding Cool, Geeks of Doom, Newsarama and Comic Book Resources just to name a few – do weekly or even daily newsletters of their recent articles, all while still publishing said articles separately in easy-to-read-and-access web formats.

The funny thing is that the content itself isn’t bad. The book has the comical speech bubbles in random images that were pretty much the defining characteristic of the magazines. The greatest irony though is the magazine publishing an article on improving digital comics. Right now, CEO Gareb Shamus


3 thoughts on “WizardWorld (not-so) Digital: Print Fumbling into Internet Publication

  1. Hey, WWComic-Con ATlanta wasn’t all that bad… for what it was.. especially compared to Creation events 😉
    But MTAC and GMX are way more fun!

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