Frank editor Michael Bate, to Vit Wagner of the Star (2008.10.29): “The idea of working 12‑ to 15-hour days on a glorified blog didn’t appeal to me.”

Frank is back as a glorified blog. I tried to talk Bate out of it. We chatted, for not very long, on the phone this summer, and eventually I gave up on trying to do that again (he was at the cottage and suchlike) and simply sent him a mail explaining how the environment had changed.

If you publish in print, the same content can’t be online

It’s perfectly possible to publish a print magazine and make a go of it. Monocle does. Boring as shit, but it works, for two reasons. First, subscriptions cost much more than even the sum of single-copy prices, which is well more than the opposite of conventional pricing. Second, essentially no content from the magazine is online for free use. If you’re a subscriber, fine, you can read it, though I’m not persuaded that many people do. Monocle has quite a few radio streams (its own station, in fact), and video and audio podcasts, which live only online by definition.

Another model, one that’s so applicable you could almost copy it wholesale, is Private Eye’s. The Internet essentially never happened to Private Eye, which actually is still pasted up.

If you went this way, you would need to circumvent one of the phenomena that killed off ancien Frank – browsing in bookstores. This is why God gave us “polybags.” It’s actually a great opportunity for branding. What if you had your own colour, like urinous yellow?

You positively can make money online-only…
just not on the Web

What I am talking about here are iPad-only periodicals. (Uncommonly, iPad-and-iPhone-only.) The model you must not contemplate emulating is the Daily’s – $30 million down the hole and exactly the wrong production and staff structure. […] You want to follow the small-iPad-magazine model of the Magazine (sic) and NSFW.

The Magazine was iOS developer Marco Arment’s homebrew magazine. (Arment also wrote Instapaper, which, as a new iPhone user, I can tell you right now you cannot live without.) It wasn’t just a technology magazine. It was general-interest in the 1970s-Esquire model. It had a real editor (whom I didn’t like), did real editing, licensed real photography. Within the last year, though, Arment sold Instapaper and the Magazine (separately).

There are quite a few small magazines in, say, the iTunes Store. Why did the Magazine work? First of all, because Arment is a big name in iOS development and tens of thousands of people use Instapaper. That’s effectively an installed base. While not the same thing, Frank also has an installed base.

Next, the unpleasant Paul Carr and his NSFW Corp. It’s a gonzo-investigative-journalism publication out of the city whose vulgarity matches Carr’s, Las Vegas. There are print and digital editions in configurations I do not really understand. At one point he had 3,000 paying subscribers. I suppose I could write and ask how many now. But I applied to edit the damned thing and was ignored, so maybe I’m not in a rush to follow up.

There are other wrinkles available in these models, like optional subscriptions that are simply voluntary donations of money.

So then: Yes, Frank nouveau is possibly viable

It has to be either print-only or iPad-only. You don’t need a large “team,” but you need actually qualified developers in the latter case, though perhaps you’d just license the Magazine’s CMS and platform.

I have a chequered history in satirical news reporting, but a lifetime’s experience reading it. If you can put some money together, I can work on it with you.

(Nothing significant elided.)

Paul Carr sold out and the Magazine has almost gone broke. So let’s say two of these models did not work out for the exemplars I used. But they’d never been tried in Canada. Why, then, just start a Web site with a paywall? Isn’t the only difference here that Bate isn’t using Flash to publish pictures of text anymore? Nobody seems to remember that phase of Frank’s history. (Just as they’ve forgotten Fabrice Taylor.)

I am not paying for Frank.

“Chequered history in satirical news reporting”

  • Does anyone seriously disagree now with John Cook about the structural timidity of the Canadian print media, which means the Toronto print media?

  • CBC’s loss of hockey rights would have been the second-biggest day ever for the Tea Makers.

    Also, and not at all incidentally, no hard feelings, Dave. We were younger then.

  • Ten Years Ago in Spy.

  • I ask again: Who’s up for an oral history of Frank?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2013.11.30 15:20. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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