A.J. Hamler not at Woodcraft Magazine any more


A couple hours ago, I discovered that A.J. Hamler, the former Woodshop News editor who had started Woodcraft Magazine for WCS, had been ousted.
The rationale is not clear--when I got bounced from the newsletter, the rationale was murky until one considered salaries paid, benefits and such, with no immediate benefit to the corporation. My guess is with just one year of publication behind it, WM was not profitable, and not showing signs of being profitable in the next three months or so. That means, as I was told, that my ROS, or return on investment was low with the newsletter, and my guess is A. J. was told the same. He was also told they were killing the magazine, but Ken Kupsche, catalog director (and, now, Woodcraft Magazine editor--and about the only woodworker in the place) said in a note to another forum (Wood Central) that the magazine would continue...this should be interesting. As I told one questioner there--who really wanted to know if his bucks were a direct donation to Woodcraft's corporate welfare--check in three to six months to see if the magazine is still chicken salad. My bet is no, it is much squishier.
Only the Shadow knows.
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[First, whatever e-mail address is attached to this is not accurate. I'll fix it later.]
Hi Charlie..
I think everything you've said is true, but I do need to correct one thing: They never actually told me they were killing the magazine, but that's my take on it. The reason I was given in my 90-second meeting with the WSC prez was, and this is an exact quote, "A.J., we have made a decision to take the magazine in a new and different direction, and that will require a change in editorial management." I even asked what it was I did wrong, and I was told I did nothing wrong, and that they were pleased with my work, and that my being let go had nothing to do with my work but that they had simply decided they wanted the magazine to go in a "different direction." I was given no other reason for my termination, even though I asked. The other two people who were fired (the other two people so far, that is) were told something similar.
It's true that the magazine was not yet profitable. NO magazine is profitable after its first year. Startups typically take anywhere from two to five years to become profitable. WSC enticed me to come here as part of a three-year plan for the magazine, but they pulled the plug after only one year of publication. I'm sure they'll quote lots of P&L figures to anyone who asks why they've done this, but the fact is that they already knew all of this.
As to the terminations, WSC either decided to lie to three people they were letting go (a potentially damaging lie at that, IMHO), or they're lying now when they say that there is no change or new direction for the publication, as has been stated by WSC in other forums. Both can't be true. And, as I said on another forum, if they're not changing it and there is no "new direction," then why am I not still there?
They fired the publisher, the editor-in-chief, and the ad sales staff, and yet they're maintaining that they're going to continue "publishing" a national magazine that isn't going to change. How do you publish a national magazine without a publisher and an ad sales staff?
Still, if I could go back to May of '04 knowing what I know now, I'd do it all over again because I think the eight issues I produced are top-notch. I don't think I could ask for a better resume.
A.J.
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A.J. Hamler wrote:

What ever color you paint it, it'd bean counter bull shit.
Damn, am I glad to be out of corporate America.
Lew
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Most of us have been on your side of the table in one of those meetings at least once in our lives. . None of it ever makes any sense.

Right, it has a lot to do with the fact they paid you a salary and don't want to any more.

Well good for you. They can't take away your integrity, creativity, management skills, or anything else that makes you what you are. I hope you soon find someone that will appreciate what you have to offer and live happily ever after (and get the last laugh).
Good luck with the future.
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<<They never actually told me they were killing the magazine, but that's my take on it. The reason I was given in my 90-second meeting with the WSC prez was, and this is an exact quote, "A.J., we have made a decision to take the magazine in a new and different direction, and that will require a change in editorial management." I even asked what it was I did wrong, and I was told I did nothing wrong, and that they were pleased with my work, and that my being let go had nothing to do with my work but that they had simply decided they wanted the magazine to go in a "different direction." >>
This reminds me of the awkward situation most of us have been on either side of at one time or another: breaking up with someone. You say to her, "It's not you. It's me." But really, it's her, even if your reason for thinking so is not rational.
Lee
--
To e-mail, replace "bucketofspam" with "dleegordon"

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Lee Gordon wrote:

I was in the same position, with the same company, just under three years ago. Different company persident, and, if I remember correctly, the "publisher" who got fired was the VP of Marketing as well, Sean Draper, who is the guy I believe instigated my firing. My sympathy does NOT go out to him.
Woodcraft has a serious problem with direction when it comes to the face they wish to present to their buying public. Ideally, they'd like it to look seamless, pointed at the good of the industry and show willing to spend some money to get it in position to help both itself and the woodworking world as a whole. In reality, they are penny grubbers who prefer a low cost nonsense "Woodcraft University" to anything real.
Oddly enough, this is not a stockpayer demand issue, AFAICT. One guy owns the company, as a small part of a group of companies that includes a vinyl window producer that brings in most of the "conglomerate's" bucks.
It is, IMO, a serious lack of corporate dedication, direction and talent. I am seriously disappointed in the new president of the company.
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Makes sense to me. In my case, they ran my articles with by-line for a few months, then started stripping the by-lines. I have no idea if they still run the articles or not, but, of course, they are no longer useful to me as clips.are
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"Charles Self" wrote in message

News
Damn shame, and I'll tell you why. Last Saturday night the magazine was on the shelf of Barnes & Nobles and it was the first time I recall seeing it there.
I could certainly have missed it previously, but it puzzles me that I did because, if I don't have a gig, SWMBO and I have a standing Saturday night date to raid the magazine shelves and drink some Starbucks decaf at B&N ... and I distinctly remember thinking "... where did this come from, this is really good stuff!".
In retrospect, it makes sense in that it may have been too good ... quality is arguably becoming such a foreign concept in corporate America these days that it probably scares the shit out of a management whose only encounter with the concept was Pampers, and not all that long ago.
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www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 11/06/05
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Most, but certainly not all - Oneway lathes and products are certainly a Canadian exception. Otherwise, I agree with your messages.
--
Owen Lowe
The Fly-by-Night Copper Company
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When it first came out I figured it was going to be a subscriber sponsored magazine of ads for WoodCraft so I skipped it. This thread got me to have another look. I bought a copy and was impressed. The articles were good and more thorough and better illustrated than in most of the other mags which have "Build this Bombay Chest of Drawers - Step By Step" and then try doing it in two and a half pages. The range of projects, from a Doug Stowe curved top box to a grandfather clock, as well as a veneered table top with Fleur De Li (sp?) inlay, were pretty thorough. The Shop Vac Fiasco was icing on the cake.
As a single guy, I go grocery shopping when I've just about run out of toilet paper. On the way to the grocery store I stop at the book store to pick up woodworking magazines (for The Reading Room). WoodCraft magazine would've become part of that ritual - until I learned of the Bean Counters and their "new direction". Look for Pamela Anderson (and her cleavage) on the next cover - with a fold out "suitable for framing" (making a custom picture frame will be THE project of the issue - with cherry stained poplar AND lots of high gloss poly - corners bradded of course).
Pity
charlie b
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Charles Self wrote:

It wasn't purposeful, I had no idea this would happen because of what I did.
I received some toys from WC awhile back and, as part of the deal, I was offered a free one-year subscription that I turned down.
Why did I turn it down?
Because, I think, I harbor the suspicion magazines are conveyences for the advertisements found in them and everything else in them is just window dressing. I think you agree that the executives feel the same way, based on your assessment of what happened.
I get much, much more browsing the links you all have been posting here, and reading your discussions. I get to read the first hand account of someone's project, often extremely well written, and I see many ideas being used, and I see lots of discussion of various tools.
Sure, there may be an amount of guerilla marketing going on here, but I have the frequency of those broadcasts and can enjoy watching a *dialogue* happen when someone else responds.
er
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It's probably a good idea to remember that no company is in business to lose money, nor do many that I know of exist to provide a product at no cost. That is the reason for advertising in magazines. Your subscription fees, with some major exceptions in the market--ShopNotes, for one--do not pay the costs of the magazine and staff. The advertising does, and the sub fees then become gravy, profits for the people owning the company.
I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I like to read well done ads on items or subjects of interest to me.
I do not like magazines, or anything else including on-line newsletters, that pretend to be purveyors of information and advertising while shortchanging the information end. The editorial end is as important, possibly more important since it drives the entire enterprise, than the advertising. The problem comes with corporate types who believe that advertising is the be-all, end-all and covers the middle, too, and that customers will just gobble it up without discrimination.
Not so, in my experience. Of course, since I provide editorial for magazines, newsletters, books and other things as a living, I'm biased in that direction, as A.J. was...is.
I know A.J. cared if his magazine made money, and the more, the better, because that leaves him to do his job in peace and security. But his primary method of making sure that he reaches that money-making goal is to make sure he is turning out a high quality magazine, with coherently written and edited, and informative, copy that his readers enjoy and find useful. Evidently, the company's primary goal lies in another direction, or so they told him when firing him.
With my on-line newsletter experience there--with a boss who raised hell with me for running a bio piece on Lonnie Bird that actually covered his new school ("Who's he? I never heard of him!")--I feel I have a pretty good understanding of where they're going next with the magazine. It will get its info feed from the catalog and promote only those products and people that the company wishes promoted.
Bias is always present, of course. Human nature is that way. But commercial bias can get ridiculous in today's world (and in any world: check some 1890s newspaper ads), and the blare of horns soon gets tiresome. Expect this magazine to follow the Woodcraft auction site into oblivion, in about the same period of time. At some point, it will become less profitable for vendors selling to WCS to buy ads in the magazine, and they'll shrink their buys and then eliminate them, regardless of pressure, and then the corporate fiscal support will fade.
Two years, max. Probably more like one.
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