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Thread: Wherefort Art Thou, Experimenter?

  1. #1

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    Wherefort Art Thou, Experimenter?

    With today's "renew your membership before rates go up" e-mail*, I went down the wormhole of the EAA's website and started reading back issues of various publications.

    I read through several Experimenters, which I remembered fondly. I also remembered the comittment was made when The Experimenter went away for the content to be retained in (or added to) Sport Aviation.

    Short version: Didn't happen.

    Longer version: Seven years later and that content has essentially disappeared. What started as a print magazine, then transitioned to a 30ish page digital magazine with about 20 pages of unique content is gone. In the latest edition of SA, Charlie Becker's tig welding article (spanning an entire page) was the only content that would have been an obvious fit for The Experimenter. You might also argue for Bud Davisson's landing gear article, but um.. well anyway.

    There's nothing in the current version of SA to make a 20, 30, 40, or 75 year old say "You know what, building an airplane seems like a really neat thing. I think I'll give it a shot, and here's a good place to start."

    Are we forever saddled with million dollar Turbine Geese, safety columns, plus some recycled content**? Is that it? It is baffling to me. None of that does a good job of promoting what EAA is about even with today's "larger tent".


    *I signed up for 5 more years.

    **PM me for my gripe about recycled content. ;-)
    Last edited by Kyle Boatright; 02-25-2022 at 05:30 AM.

  2. #2
    DaleB's Avatar
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    Kitplanes.

    Sigh.
    Measure twice, cut once...
    scratch head, shrug, shim to fit.

    Flying an RV-12. Building a Fisher Celebrity.

  3. #3
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    Experimenter before it got folded in was pretty much the ultralight magazine and that pretty much has been dying with LSA.

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    Airmutt's Avatar
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    We pretty much forget that it wasn’t that long ago print was king. I grew up on John Cox as editor of SA. Not only did we read the magazine we saved them! There isn’t much that can’t be found thru the internet these days. Guess that really challenges the definition of meaningful content. Unfortunately my copies SA don’t hang around the house for very long.
    Dave Shaw
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    Learn to Build, Build to Fly, Fly for Fun

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyingRon View Post
    Experimenter before it got folded in was pretty much the ultralight magazine...
    Here's a link to the last year of the Experimenter as a stand alone e-publication:

    https://www.eaa.org/eaa/news-and-pub...enter-archives

    Among the cover stories were a Tailwind, a Glastar, a Lancair, a Hatz, a Supercub, and a couple of two seat Zeniths.

    The prior two years looked about the same. The magazine had evolved to be a mainstream homebuilder's magazine with good technical content. It looked a lot like the core content from SA two or three decades ago.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Boatright View Post

    I read through several Experimenters, which I remembered fondly. I also remembered the comittment was made when The Experimenter went away for the content to be retained in (or added to) Sport Aviation.
    Kyle:

    If you can find any of the original Experimenter magazines (quarterly, IIRC), before it morphed into Sport Aviation, you will find lots of articles about homebuilders as well as some “how to” articles.


    BJC

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by BJC View Post
    Kyle:

    If you can find any of the original Experimenter magazines (quarterly, IIRC), before it morphed into Sport Aviation, you will find lots of articles about homebuilders as well as some “how to” articles.


    BJC
    Yeah, I received (and may still have) years of The Experimenter in hard copy. I just miss the content. Between the seeming shift in focus of SA and the <effective> drop of The Experimenter, EAA is simply not providing that content any longer.

  8. #8
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    I think the costs associated with print magazines have gone up so much, it's tough to make a hard-copy Experimenter break even (though as Kyle mentioned, we were promised the same content in SA).

    The only way to make something like that work nowadays is with all-electronic production. Unfortunately, I think most of the management level doesn't know how to make such an effort at least break even, cost-wise. Hard for the advertisers, too. With print advertising, you at least have an idea of how many people see the ad (size of print run and USPS filings) but that's tougher for an all-electronic publication. Yes, it's done, but I can see EAA as being reluctant to get into it....

    Ron Wanttaja

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    Quote Originally Posted by rwanttaja View Post
    I think the costs associated with print magazines have gone up so much, it's tough to make a hard-copy Experimenter break even (though as Kyle mentioned, we were promised the same content in SA).

    The only way to make something like that work nowadays is with all-electronic production. Unfortunately, I think most of the management level doesn't know how to make such an effort at least break even, cost-wise. Hard for the advertisers, too. With print advertising, you at least have an idea of how many people see the ad (size of print run and USPS filings) but that's tougher for an all-electronic publication. Yes, it's done, but I can see EAA as being reluctant to get into it....

    Ron Wanttaja
    Ron, you're in and around the publishing business, at least from a writer's perspective. Any sense of the real costs of electronic publishing? Based on what you've said in the past, article writers aren't getting wealthy. I assume that editing 20 pages of content on a monthly basis isn't a monumental task (The old assumption - I've never done that, but it must be easy, right?). So what is the financial risk of paying $250/article for 5 articles a month, and having someone edit the content?

  10. #10
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyle Boatright View Post
    Ron, you're in and around the publishing business, at least from a writer's perspective. Any sense of the real costs of electronic publishing? Based on what you've said in the past, article writers aren't getting wealthy. I assume that editing 20 pages of content on a monthly basis isn't a monumental task (The old assumption - I've never done that, but it must be easy, right?). So what is the financial risk of paying $250/article for 5 articles a month, and having someone edit the content?
    I've just been involved as a writer; can't really speak to the business side. AVweb has been in operation for quite a while, they've apparently got it figured out.

    When most people think of, for instance, the offices for a magazine like Kitplanes, they imagine something out of "The Front Page": A room full of clattering keyboards, writers shouting "copy", secretaries and receptionists, coffee pots bubbling on hot plates, bourbon flasks slipped under stacks of yesterday's editions, glass-fronted offices lining one wall with the editor in chief, the associate editor, the society page editor, etc.

    The reality is a bit more prosaic: Two people, sitting in a small strip-mall office. And I believe the current Kitplanes editor has been operating remotely from home since Day 1. Usually, these magazines are part of a publishing company that has a number of imprints, and there's a single person handling advertising, working with the printer, handling the payments, etc. for the whole string of magazines.

    Kitplanes is part of the Belvoir Media Group. This page summarize the magazines handled by the company:

    https://www.belvoir.com/titles/

    So the financial burden on Kitplanes for the routine costs of business are spread out nicely.

    Now, of course, if one starts up an independent electronic magazine, you don't see those advantages. At a minimum, you're going to need a boss...and, in all probability, he's going to end up doing all of the work. Editing, layout, advertising sales, promotion, etc. You'll need to pay him or her a living wage. Yes, you might find some idiot of a retiree with a homebuilding background and the capability to write (hey.....). But what happens when he or she decides they want to go back to gardening or whatever they were doing before they got bamboozled into publishing an ezine? Who takes over? Let me gently point out "Contact" magazine as an example.

    So, you gotta pay a living wage. How much? Well, minimum wage workers pull in about $30,000 a year, so I'd assume the head honcho of this venture should expect twice that. In addition, there are overhead costs of employment. Let's assume the business has to bring in $75,000 a year. If you pay writers $250 an article and run four per issue, that's another $12,000 a year (assuming it's a monthly periodical).

    That's over $6,000 a month that you need to rake in from advertisers or talk subscribers into shelling out.

    Now, a while back, the former advertising manager for an aviation ezine sued, claiming he didn't get the percentage of sales he was promised. I cannot speak to the validity of his claims (case was settled out of court) but as part of his suit, he did provide a summary of the ezine's advertising income in 2007:
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    You'll notice the advertising income varied...but it averaged a bit over $3,000 a month. Now, this was ~15 years ago, and the rates have gone up...also the lawsuit was in small claims court, where the plaintiff was limited in the amount he could ask for.

    And this doesn't even include the cost of hosting the site. Probably minor, in comparison.

    Obviously, the finances are going to be tight. They will be even MORE tight for an "Experimenter"-class publication, vs. an aviation general interest one. 500,000 pilots in the US, vs...what, 150,000 homebuilders? AND many of those homebuilders are building RVs or Lancairs and aren't going to be interested in a ezine that covers basic building issues.

    If you do a subscription-type service, there's more money coming in. But homebuilders are cheap. You are going to have a hard time talking them into shelling out good money for information they think should be available free online.

    Mind you, I think one could generate a pretty interesting "Experimenter"-type magazine...if one were freed from the financial albatross of the need to balance the books.

    A thought? Make "Experimenter" a *moderated* forum on the EAA forums (under the Support and Feeback subgroup). Moderated to minimize the straying off-topic (guilty!) or posting of rambling screeds on small-arms vulnerability (NOT guilty!).

    Shoot, populate it right NOW with Frank Giger's Nieuport series, both the a'building and the repairing stories. Encourage submissions, and when you see good articles in the main forum area, get the author's permission to port them over to the Experimenter.

    I had problems with some wood joints giving way on my Fly Baby last month. Just got back in the air. My wife asked if I was going to write it up for Kitplanes. I told her, "No...it's really too limited of interest."

    But heck, I wrote up the work and my repair process in stupefying detail (~20 separate articles, with pictures and diagrams on the Fly Baby Facebook page and Fly Baby email list.

    https://groups.io/g/FlyBaby/message/256

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    I'd be happy to re-post them to an EAA Experimenter forum....

    Ron Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 02-26-2022 at 09:24 PM.

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