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New mag aimed at newbie and pro users

Published: 1st Aug 2006, 00:43:49 | Permalink | Printable

In other news, RiscWorld slams Drobe [Updated]

A girl reading a magazineMedia watch | When we first penned this article, the tone was somewhat cynical, to say the least. It all began on Friday morning when an announcement for a new RISC OS magazine dropped into our laps, shortly before the Drobe HQ cleared out early for a weekend of partying. We held off publishing our coverage because the press release left us with more questions than answers. However tonight, we've finally been able to get in touch with the brave new editor and publisher of RISC OS Now.

With Qercus now thoroughly absent-without-leave, and Archive sadly having to close its sister publication Living with technology, the launch of a new magazine dedicated to RISC OS users could be just what's needed to introduce some feeling of uplift this summer. But it's believed another publishing flop could be disastrous for the platform. So many start out with such high aspirations, but ultimately fail by refusing stick to the old adage of 'keep it simple, stupid'. They miss deadlines, are unable to make a mark in the RISC OS news agenda, get eaten alive by rival online news and comment outlets, and gradually fall by the way side.

Louie Smith has braved this trial by fire, and stepped up to present her plans for a new bi-monthly magazine, aimed ambitiously at existing users and RISC OS newbies.

She announced: "I'm looking for anyone able to write articles and reviews aimed at experts and beginners alike. I am interested in articles about existing software and new releases. Also, if anyone is interested in writing a regular column please contact me.

"There will also be advertising space for companies associated with the RISC OS world. I'm also going to include a classified section for people who are wanting to sell second hand computer RISC OS equipment or make general announcements."

The A4-sized magazine will include news and reviews, and competitions - particularly for the best front cover designs. Below is our questions-and-answers session with Louie.

Drobe: What are you going to do to make sure your magazine doesn't go the way of so many other RISC OS media ventures, which collapse or go very quiet?

Louie: "Have 'so many' gone quiet? I don't think so. I think that this is an illusion, there is always hype around new publications when they first appear but this is generally orchestrated to help with the launch. But to answer your question, my magazine will be different because so many of the products available at the moment are aimed at the existing, and older, user group. My magazine will be aimed also at this group, but also at potential new users and those who used RISC OS in the past when Acorns were in schools rather than Microsoft. Therefore, the aim for this magazine is to have a 'younger' feel and appearance without drenching it 'plastic' so as to deter the older users."

Drobe: Why not contribute to an existing outlet, rather than try to start up a completely new one?

Louie: "The answer to this is that it is a personal venture. I want to begin my own magazine. It's harder to walk away from your own ambitions."

Drobe: What's going to be in your first issue, and when is it coming out?

Louie: "You tell me; what do 'you' want to see in the first issue? I'm in the process of receiving the first emails from interested people. From the responses I get I will be able to decide the definitive list.

"However as a general rule I'm aiming to have a series of tutorials based on different existing programs. These will run over several issues. These will be aimed at the end users. There will also be more technical sections, generally in the form of discussions and interviews. There will be a programming article, generally in the form of a 'mission' where by people have to write a one-line program to achieve a given task. There will also be a news section where people will be able to make announcements, and, provided that the legal side of this checks out, I will have a classified section. There will also be advertising space.

"As for the date of release, I won't be able to give any indication until I receive some more material and advert space. The sooner people send me this, the quicker the release will be."

Drobe: How much is it going to cost, what sort of subscription scheme are you going to use?"

Louie: "At the moment, I am aiming the price to be £4.20 per issue or £29.95 for an annual - six issues - subscription for the UK. Europe and world-wide may vary depending on postage."

Drobe: Will you pay contributors?

Louie: "At this stage, the aim is to pay contributors, however details are to be confirmed."

Drobe: Is any of your content going on the web?

Louie: "The intention is to have a website and this is currently under construction. The full contents is yet to be confirmed."

We shall watch this space.

Editorial independence under fire
Meanwhile, Drobe is described as being "short-sighted" by RiscWorld editor Aaron Timbrell in his latest editorial. It appears he is still upset that we moved some of his comments out of the way of a discussion to the off-topic forum. We did this because the comments were, in our opinion, spam for a commercial product, and he's also sore that we weren't interested in writing about his company's latest special offer. It's very true that drobe.co.uk doesn't do special offers, certainly not since 2004 and 2005. People can pay for adverts on our site. We don't consider special offers to be news because, unless there's some kind of entertaining twist to them, it's dull. Only the truly memorable stunts are worth a write-up.

Nonetheless, Aaron's editorial reopened the debate as to whether or not privately run, independent media outlets like Drobe should bend to the will of RISC OS companies, and do whatever they can to promote the remaining RISC OS firms. Acorn User in its final years was infamous for doing whatever its advertisers wanted, and we know of past editors who received the full hair-dryer treatment from furious companies who they dared to criticise. Therefore, we'd rather terminate this website than lose our editorial independence for the sake of republishing a boring special offer announcement.

Aaron's take, however, is this: "Drobe should be doing its best to promote RISC OS. The RISC OS world could do with a frequently updated news site that promotes the platform as a whole and has all the news, not just a carefully selected sample. I'm sorry that currently this simply isn't Drobe."

Oh no. Have a refund.

Update at 08:19 6/8/2006
The magazine's website is now online.


To contact Louie, drop her an email to louie (at) orpheusmail (dot) co (dot) uk
Louie on Paul Vigay's ISP stand at the South East 2005 show Tell us your news and views

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Isn't that what mavhcnews, err, comp.sys.acorn.announce is for?

What's everyone else's policy, do myriscos accept everything sent in?

Good luck to the new magazine, they'll need it.

 is a RISC OS Userbobloblaw on 1/8/06 1:40AM
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I would only be interested in an online web version.

The shipping cost and the time it takes to send to the other side of the globe may be too much to bother paying and waiting for it to arrive, yet alone be printed on time before the news becomes history.



 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 1/8/06 6:42AM
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That last posting was odd.

When I clicked this article, under the Drobe Launchpad it said 'Welcome back Geoffrey', but every other Drobe page says 'Welcome back Stephen'. (I am Stephen).

I clicked this article a few times and each time I was Geoffrey! Has anyone else experienced this problem before?

Steve (alias Geoffrey)


 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 1/8/06 6:49AM
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Nice to see someone else having a crack at this. I wish Louie the best of luck with this venture.

In my opinion for magazines to succeed they need to offer something that the web doesn't. Drobe does a great job of publishing news in a timely fashion, something a magazine will be hard pressed to do. I hope Louie is able to find material that will keep the punters coming back for more.

Perhaps a series on magazine production would be of interest to readers :-)

 is a RISC OS Userknutson on 1/8/06 7:32AM
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Sawadee: Oddly, my name appears to change on every article page.. On this one I'm John, on the Keystroke article I'm Steffan, on others I'm Garry, Bob and David..


 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 1/8/06 9:10AM
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Good luck with the venture. I heard it takes at least six months for a magazine to begin making a profit, at least in this country, so be sure you've got a solid business model sorted out before you begin taking subscriptions.

I agree with knutson, for a magazine to succeed, you need content like tutorials, much easier to have the mag flat out on your desk, beside your computer, rather than in a browser window.

A series on mag production? That would probably cover PDF - that's becoming a more acceptable method of production these days. We actually tried it at Acorn User during 1999, and it worked pretty well. It was certainly *cheaper* than outputting to film.

 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 1/8/06 9:16AM
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I don't think the demise of Living with Technology can indicate anything about RISC OS publications - it was not RISC OS based! But any new magazine needs a new slant, and maybe aiming at newcomers is what's needed, as everything we have at the moment is aimed at 'established' users. As for Drobe's independence, it is vital for any editor to retain absolute authority on what is or is not published. That, as I see it, is the editor's job! The day they feel obliged to run an article against their own judgement, that is the day to give up! Any publication (including Drobe) stands or falls on what it chooses to include or exclude - they should never be pressured into running an article (or, indeed, not publishing one). All IMHO, of course!

 is a RISC OS UserJeremy on 1/8/06 9:36AM
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Yes, I see the problem here, too.

Martin (alias Jeremy)

 is a RISC OS Userwuerthne on 1/8/06 10:02AM
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I really don't think theres any scope for a high cost glossy mag left now that JC's incomptetance and dishonesty has crucified the last remaining heritage of the Acorn User. Once the habit of a regular subscription is broken it doesn't come back.

The aim of making it a programmers magazine, is particularly puzzeling, I really don't think there’s any opportunity for high cost glossy magazines left now, especially after JC's incompetence and dishonesty has crucified the last remaining heritage of the Acorn User. What sales it had in the last few years, even before it became Qercus, were most based on old habits dying hard rather than any really compelling content.

The aim of making it a programmers magazine, is particularly puzzling as programming articles are never particularly popular, even amongst the very small number of readers interesting in such things. Its not the type of article that lends itself being read away from the computer, and either being too trivial or to complicated for the particular level of expertise of the reader. The days of the small graphical ditty in the yellow pages are long gone, and any modern Wimp based application is just too big to sensibly cover without splitting across endless issues.

A paper magazine is also probably the least suitable form of delivery for programming documentation, source code and related resources, a CD based magazine like can handle this much better. But there are now initiatives such as www.riscos.info where developers can contribute programming knowledge which is bound to reduce the scope of paid for magazine coverage of the subject.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 1/8/06 1:52PM
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Apologies for the first 6 lines being repeated above. I'll let you guess the type of inferior machine which can't even cut and paste from Word correctly.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 1/8/06 3:22PM
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Good luck to Louie with his enterprise. I will certainly subscribe to it using the money I've saved by not having to renew Qercus, but if it is still going in a years time I'll eat my hat. (really?)

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 1/8/06 10:08PM
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Just so there's no confusion - Louie is a she. See the URL in the Links section for proof.

 is a RISC OS Userdiomus on 1/8/06 10:45PM
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I wish her the best of luck, and hope the mag does very well.

Look forward to the programming section of it.

 is a RISC OS UserRevin Kevin on 2/8/06 12:49AM
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(On programming related articles) "Its not the type of article that lends itself being read away from the computer"

I may be odd, but to this day I *still* prefer to read such things away from the computer first. I find that I'm more likely to absorb some things, particularly technical, if I'm just reading the explanation in a relaxed environment.

"The days of the small graphical ditty in the yellow pages are long gone, and any modern Wimp based application is just too big to sensibly cover without splitting across endless issues. "

The first half of that sentence suggests the second half refers to a listing of a WIMP based app - in which case, I agree. However, a series on WIMP programming wouldn't be a bad thing, and IMO *would* work split across however many issues, if the amount of information conveyed each issue is correctly balanced.

"A paper magazine is also probably the least suitable form of delivery for programming documentation, source code and related resources, a CD based magazine like can handle this much better."

However, a paper based magazine could provide resources for its readers on its website - so the articles describe how a particular API works, and perhaps includes enough code snippets to illustrate things without including a complete program - and refers the reader to a particular page on the website for a complete program including sources.

None of the problems and pitfalls you describe actually have to *be* problems and pitfalls - and if any genuinely are, it becomes an exercise in thinking a way around them instead of giving up because of them. Just like in any other area.

Sure, starting a new paper based magazine will be a tough job - but then, that's often the case no matter what the business venture. If Louie believes she has the ability, resources and, above all, courage, to proceed with this, then good luck to her. If she produces something worth reading, I for one will read it.

One thing I will add, though, is that she needs to get her maths right before approaching the bank. 6 x £4.20 is a touch less than £29.95. ;) It may be that the £29.95 is with postage added on, but without clarifying that, the pricing statement looks a bit odd.

 is a RISC OS UserVinceH on 2/8/06 9:30AM
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I have contacted Louie and have managed to get a regular games column that will contain all the latest games news, reviews and previews.

It does sound like Louie wants RISC OS Now to be published this month which would be great.

 is a RISC OS UserCheatWarrior on 2/8/06 5:31PM
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Drobe have been publishing the occasional article which was originally intended for Qercus. I wonder if that stock of articles might provide some start-up material for RISC OS Now?

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 6/8/06 9:19AM
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