Digital-only Title Launched for Programmers, Despite 'No Illusions About the Magazine Market'
The Pragmatic Bookshelf, the publisher of award-winning books by programmers for programmers, has launched its first magazine, PragPub. Former editor-in-chief and editor-at-large of Dr. Dobb’s Journal Michael Swaine will serve as PragPub's editor. The magazine, which is being published digitally only, will complement the Pragmatic Bookshelf's books, Web site, blogs and Twitter account, and will be free to readers. The idea behind it is not to drive direct revenue via the publication, but to strengthen the company's overall connection with its community and to expand that audience.
Swaine spoke to Publishing Executive Inbox about the decision to launch a magazine in a difficult economic time, his group's unique business model, and how they believe PragPub will further engage their community of readers.
INBOX: It's a difficult time for magazines. Why launch now?
MICHAEL SWAINE: The reasons are very particular to the situation of the publisher and my own situation. The publisher, The Pragmatic Programmers is a 5-year-old book publisher specializing in software development books with a decidedly pragmatic slant. They are doing remarkably well, sort of swimming against the stream, and they wanted to do something to leverage the loyal reader base into a larger and more loyal reader base. I have been creating and editing magazines for nearly 30 years, the last 25 most closely associated with Dr. Dobb's Journal, the leading software developers' magazine. When Dr. Dobb's went the way of many other print magazines, The Pragmatic Programmers and I saw a mutual opportunity. We had no illusions about the magazine market, but the business model we had in mind was immune to market stresses, and we were interested in exploring what elements of a magazine were still viable.
INBOX: How do you plan to integrate your use of blogs, wikis, and other digital products with the print magazine?
SWAINE: The publisher already does a pretty good job of adhering readers to their site, as they sell many of their books direct through the site, do beta versions of books and updates to PDF books that keep the readers coming back to the site, they have a large subscriber base for their electronic newsletter, and have active forums where readers and authors meet. There are also several active editor blogs, and editors and authors have wikis to collaborate on. The magazine benefits from all these media and also feeds into them.
INBOX: What's the size and makeup of your audience?
SWAINE: On the order of 30K readers. It's free and electronic, so the size of the readership is a little amorphous. … We address software development issues and also career and hobby subjects of interest to software developers.
INBOX: Is advertising being sold, and have any customers bought pages yet?
INBOX: How is the magazine being distributed?
SWAINE: It's strictly electronic. You visit the site or click in our electronic newsletter, and you have the option of downloading a PDF, a mobi file for your Kindle, or an .epub version for your iPhone … .
INBOX: Do you anticipate every publishing a print version of the magazine?
SWAINE: We don't, but we are explicitly inviting our readers to collaborate on the future of this publication. We may make articles individually accessible via RSS feed, produce an HTML version for reading online, or even produce a paper version. But paper is an unlikely option.