Print is dead. Long live print. The more we hear on this debate, the more quality magazines seem to crop up. From Manzine to Lost in London - there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful. So we were chuffed to hear about The Blizzard, a new football magazine that isn't afraid to publish lengthy articles on obscure games and how Dennis Bergkamp can be compared to New Labour [seriously. It's in issue zero, available here, and is well worth a read.]
We asked Jonathan Wilson, editor of The Blizzard a few questions about the mag, here's what he had to say:

Why did you opt for the 'pay what you want' model for issue zero?

We were very conscious that our audience was likely to be global, and obviously there are vast disparities in wealth between different countries. With pay what you want, people can set a value they feel comfortable with, wherever they happen to be from. And that, of course, even within countries there’s a scale of wealth. Students were always likely to be a big part of our readership; now they’re not priced out, and hopefully as and when they leave university and find jobs they will up their payments. And I guess with the economy squeezed there are a load of people out of work or whose businesses are struggling who can buy low now and hopefully up their payments as their personal circumstances hopefully improve.

It requires faith, obviously, but our writers, who are being paid as a profit share, had faith in us; now we’re placing that same faith in the public to pay responsibly. We’ve said what the RRP is, what we would be charging if we didn’t have the PWYW model; then it’s up to people to respect that and take it as a marker as to what it's realistic for them to pay. It's a gamble, of course, and if it doesn’t work we’ll be forced to change, but the early signs are pretty positive.

What has happened over the last few years in football journalism that has inspired The Blizzard to start?

The internet. On the one hand it’s squeezed papers who are now chasing the middle ground, increasingly focusing on the glamour clubs and players to try to boost sales. Football magazines, similarly, seem to have shortened the length of pieces; and I’m sure they have sound economic reasons for doing so. And on the other hand the internet raised the model of the long tail. Newspapers are big beasts with large fixed costs; by selling through the website, using social networking sites to raise awareness and selling in digital as well as printed formats, The Blizzard can operate with relatively low overheads and so we can explore more esoteric areas and the sort of more leisurely or in-depth pieces that have disappeared over the past decade or so - although we're able to run articles of greater length than has ever been done in the football press.

How is the magazine going to be different [to the likes of When Saturday Comes and The Green for instance]?

The major difference from WSC is length. We’ll have pieces stretching up to 8000 words long, which necessarily means a different style of journalism and different subject matter. As a quarterly, there’s no point us attempting anything newsy. I suppose the base ethos isn’t that different from WSC, but I think we’re very different products. I’d be surprised if readers saw us an somehow an alternative; I think we’re far more likely to be an addition. As for The Green, I haven’t seen a huge amount of it, but they seem to have placed far more emphasis on design and photography, whereas we’re all about the words. I suspect they’ll appeal to a different part of the market.

Do you think that being based in Sunderland will help you to bring a different perspective on the game?

Aside from our innate north-eastern canniness, I’m not sure. The magazine is based there, and I was born there, but I live in London now, and our contributors come from all over the world. We’re certainly not planning a series of interviews with the likes of Jim Montgomery, Gary Rowell and Gary Bennett. Not yet, anyway.

What magazines/publications have served as inspiration during the creation of The Blizzard?

Well, there was Perfect Pitch, which I suppose attempted something similar back in the late nineties, although it didn’t have the freedom the internet has given us. And there are foreign football magazines with a similar feel, such as Josimar in Norway and Hard Gras in the Netherlands, but I don’t think there was a moment in the design process when anybody got out a copy of a magazine and said ‘we want it to look like this’. It looks like it does because of a series of small decisions based on ‘what looks/feels right?’ rather than having any template in mind.

What is your favourite footballing memory?

1992 FA Cup quarter-final replay, Sunderland v Chelsea. Sunderland had edged the first half and were 1-0 up, but Chelsea, who were then a division above us, had battered us in the second. They hit the post, missed sitters and Tony Norman made save after save, and then, with four minutes left, Dennis Wise dinked in an equaliser. I was sure that was it; I was standing next to Peter, the co-founder of The Blizzard, at the time, and I said to him, ‘Please let them finish it now.’ We were knackered, and all I could see was extra-time being horrible and us taking a hiding. Then Paul Bracewell played a long diagonal towards Davie Rush, who was rubbish but was being hyped because he was a local kid and he’d got the winner at West Ham in the previous round. Steve Clarke intercepted, but, perhaps overestimating Rush, put it out for a corner.

Brian Atkinson swung it in, and Gordon Armstrong, with his big shiny forehead, got on the end of it. I was at the opposite end of the ground, and you could see the ball was looping towards the corner, that Dave Beasant wasn’t going to get there, but it seemed to take forever, the ball looping, Beasant diving... what we couldn’t appreciate was that Armstrong was about 18 yards out and that’s why it took so long. And eventually, after what seemed like minutes of anticipatory silence, the Roker End went up, and we knew it was in. And then of course it was absolute mayhem. And there was still time for John Kay, the hardest man in the world, ever, to nail Vinnie Jones. I well up even thinking about it: there’ll never be another night like that.


Drum Beats Man said...

Great post mate :)

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