Monday, February 25, 2013

Continue Magazine

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Paul Presley who is here to talk about Continue Magazine and their Kickstarter.  Thank you for joining us today Paul!

Hi James. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.

Your campaign page describes Continue Magazine as “A features-led magazine celebrating ALL forms of gaming and gaming culture.”  Could you go into a bit more detail about the Magazine?  

Sure. Continue is a features-led look at any and everything to do with gaming. What makes it different from the traditional crop of gaming magazines is that we’re not a reviews-focused title (we’re not interested in telling you what and what not to buy - the internet does a far better and quicker job of that). We’re a features-led publication that looks to tell all manner of stories about any type of gaming - videogames, board games, social games - anything that can be categorised as gaming.

In practical terms, that equates to a quarterly magazine, published digitally (PDF and eBook formats currently although we’re hoping to produce a dedicated tablet version if we hit our stretch goals), containing a look back on the last three months of gaming-related news, a smattering of opinions from experts in the respective gaming industries, and a bulk of excellently written features by leading journalists that give you a perspective on our favourite pastime that you simply don’t get anywhere else.

I took a peek over at your website to see some examples from the previous three issues and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised to see games other than just video games listed.  What kind of “non-video” game articles can we look forward to reading?  

Glad you liked the approach. In the first three issues we covered everything from WWII POWs using Monopoly to not only survive the war but to learn life lessons, to how piracy affects the board game industry just as much as videogames. We explored the history of board games based on popular videogame licences, looked at LARPers (Live-Action Role-Players) in Norway and LA stand-up comedians playing D&D while drunk, examined board games that can take months to complete a single session, ran from real-life zombies at a UK shopping mall, discussed the pitfalls of running RPG sessions with a bunch of strangers at public events, and even took part in a real-world ‘heist’. Future issues will show the same breadth of coverage and unique takes on what makes this hobby so engaging at all levels.

Why gaming culture?  Personally I am a shining example of the overlap in gaming but I always thought I was the exception and not the rule.   Is there really a desire and market for of those who like multiple formats of gaming?

Hardly an exception. I’d suggest that the majority of us are the same. Our thinking is that gaming has become so widespread a pastime now that to simply label someone as just a console gamer, a board gamer, a role-player is far too limiting. Most of us enjoy all manner of games and game types. One night I’ll be playing Assassin’s Creed on my Xbox, the next I’m enjoying rolling dice in Ticket To Ride with my family, then at weekends I run a semi-regular D&D session. It’s all gaming, why should I be categorised as anything other than that?

Board gaming in particular has enjoyed an incredible rise in popularity these last couple of years - witness web shows such as Tabletop or Shut Up & Sit Down or the fact that the guys at Penny Arcade constantly talk about their D&D campaigns or tabletop wargaming. You’re starting to see the more mainstream ‘videogame’ websites wake up to this - Eurogamer and Kotaku have started running board game reviews and sites such as Rock, Paper, Shotgun have been carrying board game opinion pieces for a while. But no one is yet treating them as anything other than occasional curios. Continue thinks it’s time Catan was shown the same level of media respect as Call Of Duty, for instance.

Your ARG (Alternate Reality Games) article I think really highlights a key point of a magazine like this.  It exposes folks to parts of the gaming culture they might not otherwise see.  Was that the plan from the start?  

It was certainly part of it. One of the things that I feel has always held ‘gaming’ back from gathering more widespread acceptance in the mass media is that we haven’t quite begun to treat ourselves with enough respect. Unless we respect ourselves first, how can we ask the so-called outside world to take us seriously? I believe a genre’s media is a good reflection of how seriously it takes itself and, currently, the few ‘prestige’ magazine titles out there (I’m looking at Edge, for example) are still pretty much ‘videogames and nothing else’, however modern their page designs are.

So I wanted to create a magazine that said, “Hey, we’re all gamers together, we respect what we do - be it shooting space zombies with a gamepad, rolling d20s around a kitchen table, clicking on virtual farms in Facebook, or putting on costumes and re-enacting scenes from Lord of the Rings. We’re not going to point fingers or tell you that my gaming experience is more worthwhile than yours. Gaming enriches us all and this is a magazine that reflects that in all its manifold glory.” And if that means it opens some eyes for people along the way as to what can be classified as gaming, then all the better.

So why a quarterly magazine?  Why not bi-monthly or monthly?  Why a magazine at all and not just a website?  

Well, being a magazine is a personal indulgence, if I’m honest. I love magazines, always have. I first started in magazine production over twenty-five years ago and I’ve always adored the structure and flow a magazine provides, the way page design can inform and enhance a story just as much as the words can, and the sense of each issue being a permanent chronicle of the time period it covers.

At the same time, I’m not blind to the changing state of technology, so we opted for a digital magazine that would retain those same strengths of a printed publication but in a modern and forward-looking manner. Plus, we’re not a huge publishing outfit and so print, paper and distribution costs would have crippled us.

Being quarterly allows us to do the other thing that traditional print gaming magazines and websites currently don’t always have the time to do, and that’s to really be able to give each journalist enough time to really be able to do their article justice. Decent editing and rewriting is a much overlooked tenet of modern magazine publishing, simply due to overly restrictive print deadlines (or, with the web, the incessant and pointless need to be ‘first’ with everything).

“Slow Journalism?”

There’s a magazine called Delayed Gratification that I absolutely love. It’s a quarterly current affairs title with the tagline ‘Last to breaking news’. Instead of rushing to be the first on the scene with everything, the idea is that you give yourself time to be able to reflect on a story, allow the ramifications to sink in, the effects to be felt. This way you get to write about the subject with a much deeper perspective, tell the full story including the aftermath.

We do this with our news section. Being quarterly there’s simply no way we’re going to break a story. We’ll leave that to the 24/7 gaming news sites. Instead, each issue of Continue rounds up the preceding three months, looks at what happened and what the results were. We also have a running timeline throughout the news pages that lets you see what happened on any given day throughout each month.

As a writer focused on Kickstarter I am a bit biased about how much Kickstarter has affected the gaming community.  How much of an effect do you see Kickstarter having on the gaming community?  Have you done any articles on Kickstarter and Gaming or have one planned?  

We did actually. In Issue #02 we ran a piece on how the phenomenal success of Double Fine Adventure appeared to ‘change things forever’ for game funding, but then explored how in truth there’s as much to be wary of there and how traditional publishers aren’t exactly running scared as a result and what they still offer game developers that public funding doesn’t. The publisher’s perspective on Kickstarter funding was one that hadn’t really been looked at by anyone in the rush to cover the Double Fine success, and is another example of how taking time to cover a story lets you find angles that don’t get seen elsewhere.

There’s no doubt that Kickstarter has changed the way games are funded and marketed, especially board and card games. But it hasn’t altered videogames in the massive way people might think. If anything, it’s opened a door for many smaller independent projects to have a chance, but the Triple-A holiday blockbuster titles are still going to come from the big name publishers.

As a Kickstarter UK project do you think having the funding be in Pounds reduces your chance of non-UK backers?  On the other hand does having mostly digital only rewards offset that?  

I really hope being UK doesn’t hurt us, but I guess we’ll have to see. You’re right that being digital helps to allay that ‘internationalism’ somewhat, and we’ve always set Continue out as a ‘global’ magazine as a result of that.

So why go for “a whole year or nothing?”  £50,000 is quite a lot of money is that how much it takes to make 4 magazines in a year?  

Magazines and marketing, yeah. Having funded the first three issues ourselves, we were able to see just how much each issue would cost in terms of editorial, design and production. We were coming in at an average issue budget of £7,000 for the editorial and £3,000 for the design. Add the kind of marketing budget we’ll need in order to really make an impact in the marketplace and we’re looking at an extra £8,000 for all four issues. Add the various Kickstarter fees to that and you get to £50,000. (I put up a recent project Update that outlines this in more detail.)

We went for a whole year or nothing approach because  we need to provide Continue with enough stability to give it a base to build upon. The ultimate goal is for each issue to produce enough in sales and advertising income to adequately fund the next. But we need the time to build up the audience to do that. If we’d gone for a single issue funding approach we’d most likely just be back on Kickstarter within three months looking for funds to create the next one. We need to start the publicity ball rolling on the magazine and then be able to continually support its progress throughout the year with continual marketing and constant production of new issues.

I really feel that with a year of solid promotion and production we’ll have been able to grow the brand enough that we’ll be self sustaining, at which point Continue will be on for year three and beyond. This Kickstarter campaign is precisely that, a kick-start towards a much bigger end goal.

How hard is it creating a magazine like this from scratch?  How do you build up the articles, the art, and the connections to run a professional level magazine out of nowhere?  I know how hard it is to find readers for a free medium like my blog, how hard is it to do the same for a paid magazine?  Let alone one with no physical footprint!

Well the thing is, it isn’t out of nowhere. I’ve spent the past twenty-five years involved in games journalism in one form or another (the majority of time for a legendary but now deceased UK games magazine called PC Zone). So the experience, magazine knowhow and professional contacts were all there from the start. Then we spent almost a year working on the idea during 2011, honing the concept, the content plan, the visual approach, the technological direction and scraping together the funding to produce the first three issues for launch in 2012.

The plan was always to use the 2012 run to try it out for real, to create the prototype if you like. To see what works and what doesn’t. Content wise we hit it pretty square on the head. From a tech point of view we had an awkward first few months being hosted on a couple of different ‘online page-turners’ which didn’t really have the desired effect. But switching to a straight PDF and selling direct through our website seemed to solve a lot of problems.

But you’re right in pointing at the difficulties in building a readership. Exposure has been our biggest hurdle. Which is why we’ve been pretty upfront about our need to include the marketing budget costs in our fundraising target.

Do you plan to release your magazine on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, and Apple stores for all the tablets and readers out there?  Is that part of the marketing plan?  

It is, but that would require a further level of investment to take the existing magazine and redesign it specifically for tablets. Which is why one of our first stretch goals will be taking that into account.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

Gosh! Uh, not sure to be honest. Hasn’t it always been there? No, probably Double Fine first brought it properly into my consciousness but I’m sure I’d read news stories about smaller projects here and there along the way.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

I am trying to be as open and forthright about the campaign as possible, making sure to answer every query and comment that comes along. One thing we are doing that I think is pretty cool is a series of audio interviews with writers and journalists that have written for the first three issues, talking about their features in more depth and seeing how things have progressed since the articles were published. The idea is to give people a feel for the sort of subjects we cover and the approaches we take. And then to round each chat off with a blatant plug for the campaign, of course.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

We’re all over the various social networks, for sure, and have been pretty humbled by just how nice almost everyone’s being about us. We’ve also been hitting Google Ads pretty hard as well as targeting some of the more specialist gaming sites like the Gamerati network.

Kicktraq is interesting although it can be somewhat disheartening this early on when it suggests you’ll only reach about 20% of your target by the deadline. Still, we use it to spur us ever onwards!

Continue Magazine -- Kicktraq Mini 

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Get over the fear factor of putting yourself on public show, I guess. That was one of the things that I was continually uhmming and ahhing about before launching. It’s quite unnerving to expose the inner workings of a personal project like this, but luckily the support everyone’s shown has been a huge relief. Of course, if you’re not plagued by crippling insecurities like I am, then you’ll probably do just fine.

On a more practical level, make sure you have a very clear promotional plan ready before launching, plot out how to keep the momentum rolling from week to week.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Just that all Kickstarter projects generally live or die due to the amount of exposure they receive, so even if you have pledged already, that’s only half the battle. Make sure to keep telling everyone you know about it, through the social networks or emails or word of mouth.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

No problem, thanks for having me!

No comments:

Post a Comment