Friday, December 01, 2006

My thoughts on Wizard firing Pat McCallum...

I've never met Pat personally or professionally and have no inside track as to his performance, dedication, personality, etc. All I have to judge him on is the quality of his book. Wizard.

Based on that, it's a good thing he was let go. To really be successful, they need to shake things up. A lot. And as the head editorial honcho, it's only been more of the same. More than a lot.

This leads to my major problem with the way Wizard does their business, which can only be controlled from the top down. Their fratty, LCD, super fanboy attitude they take with their stories doesn't lend itself to longterm readership retention. It appeals to the perpetual group of 13-year-olds who are just discovering comics. And in most cases I hear about, people stop buying the magazine a couple of years after that. They realize it's not all it's cracked up to be or whatever reason, but the readers tend to outgrow the magazine. I just can't imagine that's a good business model.

This year Wizard switched from a comic-sized book to a bigger page size and expanded their entertainent coverage. At the time it seemed like it was more of an advertising move to broaden their client base, and it still seems that way now. Why? Because the entertainment coverage they were putting out was the type of stuff you could get anywhere. If the top dogs want to spin Wizard more as an enterainment mag, it certainly seems McCallum was not the right guy to do it, based off the current coverage. Perhaps the switch to more non-comics entertainmetn coverage tries to address their readership retention problem, but it's just not working out. Maybe McCallum was great at getting Wizard from A to B, but with this switch in direction he clearly wasn't the right person to take the mag from B to C.

I considered applying there — I didn't think *that* hard about it, but I gave it a passing thought. It was a bit of the "What if..." and the "put your money where your mouth is" — but then I remembered that 1) It's in Congers (eeks!) and 2) some people there probably dont see me in a too favorable light and 3) I already have my own path in design.

Hopefully, Wizard sees McCallum's departure as an opportunity. An opportunity for real change, an opportunity to re-examine the big picture and an opportunity to simply make a better magazine.

Random thought: Why didn't they wait until Friday to fire him? They could've swept a lot of this under the weekend rug.


Blogger Kevin said...

I don't know. McCallum was there when the magazine performed a lot better, too. I understand if he was let go just for the sake of shaking up the magazine, but it wouldn't seem like he is responsible for shepherding the magazine into these tougher times, in as much as I don't think he chose the path that he led the flock down.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Tim Leong said...

That's an interesting thought. If he wasn't responsible for leading the magazine down its current path, it begs the question: Who is?

1:28 PM  
Blogger del gorky said...

I think everyone knows where the direction came from Gareb Shamus. Gareb has always been more interested in movies than in actual comics. Comics were just a money thing.

Also Wizard about 7 years ago hired some magazine consultants that told them to shorten articles, put in more art and write with smaller words. This plus Gareb's Hollywood obsession have pretty much destroyed Wizard's appeal. It just took a good handful of years and the rise of sites like newsarama to do it.

Wizard offers no special content. It probably should go back to what worked for it in the past. Being ahead of the curve on finding the next big thing instead of getting it fed to them by the big two. Readers craved more info on Image and Valiant.

Wizard has also gotten away from stunning cover art by hot creators and has failed to maintain a sense of community in its magazine.

Wizard also offered a solid monthly price guide on what was moving and at a much cheaper price than Overstreet. The price guide now is a pale shade of its former self. There is still a market for reliable pricing information on a monthly basis. It just requires more work than putting out a shallow "entertainment" adverti-zine.

Wizard needs deeper content. Real interviews with popular creators with some depth. Solid reviews of comics and trades would also help. People reading comic magazines are often looking to learn more about comics; well researched articles on comic history and older series would provide this it would also spur back issue activity and work hand in hand with the comic price guide in the back of the magazine.

Wizard doesn't work because frankly no one works very hard on putting it together and no one thinks about genuiunely improving the actual magazine. Wizard only wants to boost sales while doing as little as humanly possible.

I doubt management at Wizard is willing to do what it takes to become successful again. The recent firings are cost cutting and the classic "mistakes were made" and others were blamed tactic. I wouldn't be surprised if the magazine wasn't sold off after being propped up by cost cutting and some cosmetic improvements to the bottom line.

The real question is whether there will be a successor to Wizard as a popular print magazine about comics comics. I still miss Amazing Heroes.

2:39 AM  
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10:23 AM  
Blogger mewmewmew said...

I don't know. McCallum was there when the magazine performed a lot better, too. I understand if he was let go just for the sake of shaking up the magazine, but it wouldn't seem like he is responsible for shepherding the magazine into these tougher times, in as much as I don't think he chose the path that he led the flock down.

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