It seems like only yesterday but on December 19th it will be five years since we first officially and publicly announced our plans to launch Creative COW Magazine. Five years already? Time flies. At the time, it was an insane gamble but the last five years have proven it to be a risk worth taking.
When I first came up with the idea for Creative COW Magazine, Creative COW was struggling and barely making it month to month. I was handling much of the site design and maintenance, was our only salesman, and added to these duties were a myriad of other jobs that needed to be done every day. Kathlyn cautioned me that if it failed, we would have to pull the plug on the site and walk away. But I knew that if the COW was ever going to truly compete against the likes of Videography, TV Technology, Studio Monthly, Broadcast Engineering, DV, Post, Millimeter, Film & Video, Video Systems and many other magazines -- whom many industry advertisers took far more seriously than they did, Creative COW -- we'd have to meet the magazines on their own playing field.
Yes, I was aware that the magazine business was in real trouble and that many magazines were struggling. But I also knew that there was a reason that they were struggling and it had nothing to do with the cost of paper or the fact that the world was indeed changing -- something I am all too painfully aware of, I assure you. The reason that I felt they were losing audience was that they had lost their focus as to whom they really
At a time when many publishers are failing, Creative COW Magazine along with USA Today and the Wall Street Journal -- as well as others too numerous to name here -- are growing and prospering. Why? Because they make something that readers WANT to read.
At a time when the audience is looking for answers and ideas to help them in volatile markets and a rapidly changing world, the only answers that many publishers can come up with, is to take short-cuts. Some of our competitors have fallen to the point of running a single "feature" story and filling the rest with press releases and calling it a magazine.
We work very hard on Creative COW Magazine and Tim Wilson and I are always on the phone discussing ideas, looking at what people are talking about, what we think the members of Creative COW are interested in -- and from there, we begin the process of designing and crafting each issue. I don't use the word "craft" loosely. We don't slap down whatever we get and call it an issue. There is an enormous amount of work that goes into every phase of each issue of Creative COW Magazine: planning, development, and finishing.
Sure, some issues are clearly better than others, but I can honestly say that I cannot point to a single issue of which I am ashamed or embarrassed by. We have been fortunate to have many of the best and brightest working industry pros take our calls, work with us to craft stories about their projects, their tools and their workflows.
We have watched the audience and advertisers vote with their interest and their support. We are grateful for it and know that in order to keep it, we can't take short cuts and make the kinds of compromises that have relegated many of our competing titles to the ash heap of history because they became irrelevant to those they once served.
I once had the Editor-in-Chief of one of the top-ranked magazines in cinematography come up to me at a trade show and tell me that, "You guys have set the standard for the industry and are the team to beat." Her words, not mine. She asked how we got away with not making the kinds of compromises that she was forced to make, compromises and concessions she was forced to make to curry the favor of advertisers. I looked at her and asked: "Would you like to know the truth? I'll tell you but you may think it harsh." She said she'd like to know, so this is what I told her...
"When advertisers have told us that in order to get their business we have to do a write-up on them in our magazine, we simply ask them point-blank: 'Let me see if I have this right. You want us to make the same kinds of compromises and do the same kinds of stories that have largely crippled those magazines that survive and have killed many others -- compromises that have made them largely irrelevant to their audience and have destroyed their credibility -- and you want us to do that. Did I hear you right?'"
She told me in response: "You don't really do that, do you?" I told her that not only do we do it but that she better start doing it too, if she wanted to save both her job and her publication.
Our audience would expect nothing less from us than to get it right. Tell the truth. Tell the story. Serve the audience. Don't sell us out.
So that's what we did and what we do.
It's been a tough five years. The beginning was really tough, as we started this with no investors, no money in the bank other than just enough to cover the bills. It was all a gamble. A major gamble. One sizable misstep and we'd have been just another magazine in the ash heap of history -- and the COW itself would have been there, as well.
So, thank you more than you know for being our guide, we watch you and we listen to you and we make the magazine in answer to the kinds of things we see you asking about and discussing. You truly are our rudder and set the course that we will follow.
We jokingly and lovingly refer to you as The Body Bovine
and you are our navigators in the perilous waters of today's rapidly changing marketplace. Without you, we'd have ended up on the rocks, long ago, and these five years would have never happened.
The best always,
CEO, Creative COW LLC
Publisher, Creative COW Magazine