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Exclusive: 5 Questions for ReadyMade's Andrew Wagner

Filed Under: Know-How, Experts

Today I met with Andrew Wagner, the now-former Editor in Chief of ReadyMade, to get his thoughts on why Meredith decided to fold ReadyMade. It's a decision that's gotten much buzz around the DIY world, especially when Meredith cited "weakness in the home category."

readymadeReadyMade; DIY Business Association

So, we're all dying to know: What are your thoughts on the ReadyMade closing?

"I've always thought of ReadyMade as the most successful zine of all time. It was a real passion project from the very beginning. But the goals of a niche publication like ReadyMade and that of a major publishing house like Meredith don't always align. Small, developing brands like ReadyMade are in constant need of in-depth attention from all those working on it but large publishing houses aren't necessarily set up to run in that fashion. This is neither good nor bad, just really unfortunate in these circumstances."

Do you think ReadyMade was shuttered in the end because the audience was younger and were less inclined to pick up a print magazine?

"I think there is definitely still a place for print amongst all age groups and ReadyMade's growth (from 125,000 circulation in 2006 to 335,000 in 2011) points to that. But publishing is, very simply put, a tough business particularly today. Magazines are dependent not only on reader support but advertising support. Today magazines are no longer competing just against other titles for readers and advertising dollars but also against all the quickly developing brands online not to mention television, movies etc. Magazines are in a particularly tough position because they are trying to put out a print product while simultaneously producing top notch websites, video channels etc. All of this needs to happen without necessarily more resources. So, essentially, I think there is a place for print even with a younger demographic but the competition is that much more fierce and you either are willing to play that game and dedicate your resources to that or you aren't and unfortunately in this case, resources needed to be directed to other places."

Speaking of the web, was there any reasoning behind shuttering the ReadyMade website in addition to the print title?

"I think at this point in time it was just determined that there was not enough money to be made online to support the type of quality product that we wanted to deliver online. I would love to see the site stay open - I really believe it is a hugely valuable resource. Several sources have approached me with a real interest in buying and I think there could be a real possibility that it will stay alive. I would love to see that."

I saw a comment on your Editor's Letter that blamed the DIY audience, namely that ReadyMade encouraged them to recycle/not to buy things, for the magazine's closing. What is your response to that?

"There's a misconception amongst many that the DIY audience is one that's 100% anti-consumerism, anti-establishment, and so on. Of course there are some people that are completely off the grid but there are far more who are completely involved in mainstream society - and those that are are precisely the consumers advertisers are looking for - smart, trend setting, highly engaged individuals. The DIY audience does, say, go to Target, will go buy a car, etc. But what makes the DIY audience different than a general mass audience is that they want to know more about a product before buying it. They ask questions. They want to know the back-story. How are things put together? Where do they come from? They really want to be a part of whatever it is they are buying. Again, they are an extremely engaged, opinionated consumer. Frankly, I think that's what the world needs much much more of."

What can this mean for other titles? Can we expect more of the closings that happened in 2008-on across the shelter market?

"It depends on the title and the business model behind it. Niche titles who take a niche approach to their business seem to be faring well. I helped start Dwell magazine in 2000 and though they are going through similar issues all publications are they are weathering the storm. I think Dwell succeeds for two reasons: One, that they have a staff of 30+ - each of whose mission is to grow that brand. ReadyMade had a dedicated staff of 10. Second, is that they are a privately-owned company. While it's in their best interest to grow the title and growth is what every brand is looking for, they do not have to constantly worry about the stockholders or board of directors, who are concerned-for good reason--about making a return on their investment. The Dwell backers are true believers in the product that is Dwell. ReadyMade obviously had its supporters at Meredith but in the end, it's a game of dollars and cents at a publicly traded publishing company."

Editor's note
Did you subscribe to ReadyMade? A rep for Meredith says that subscribers will be given the option of a few other magazines to replace their ReadyMade subscription, or the opportunity to get a full refund.

While I dig Family Circle's and Better Homes and Garden's decorating content, I'll be taking a stand and asking for my full refund. Who's with me?

For more on ReadyMade, check out...
Breaking: ReadyMade is Folding - DIY Life
ReadyMade to Fold? Unfortunately, Yes - Shelterpop
Our Favorite DIY Projects from the ReadyMade 100 - DIY Life


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