curb your enthusiasm

Thought Bubble Festival 2011

Thought Bubble Festival 2011

I mentioned earlier that pre-program assignments were given earlier this week. SPI is split into two areas of focus: magazine and book publishing.

My group was assigned enthusiast magazine for our imprint.

I’ve spent a good portion of this week trying to figure out what the heck ‘enthusiast magazines’ means, exactly.

Google has failed to give me a set definition or standards for this category, and I fear the answer is not as cut and dry as Food magazines, or Business/Finance. (Not that I want to be working on finance magazines, mind you!)

I work as a bookseller and, after putting up entire carts full of discarded magazines at close of business, I can easily say that I know our newsstand backwards and forwards. Despite this, I can’t say that I have ever seen ‘enthusiast’ as a category used for shelving. We have women’s lifestyle, travel, science, health, food, home and garden–but never enthusiast.

Perhaps, ‘enthusiast’ is…everything else?

A few examples of ‘Enthusiast’ magazines (according to my assignment package):

Cat Fancy, Popular Mechanics, American Photographer, WIRED, etc.

So, hobbies, right?

I can work with hobbies. I mean…I practically live an enthusiast lifestyle, if you know what I mean. So–this is great! And we’re advised to stick to topics we’re passionate about, but I just enjoy so many things that it’s hard to find one thing to focus on.

I love comic books. I love reading them and reading about them and having conversations with other people about them. I love anything that experiments with alternative narratives; I love anything that challenges convention. I love intersectional feminism and video games. I love watching independent films and attending festivals, conventions, and conferences.

Do you see my problem?

So this past week has been dedicated to buying (ouch) and reading enthusiast magazines–both what’s been offered as examples and magazines that I already read on the regular that (I think!) fits with my topic.

For me, that would be:

PC Gamer, Game Informer, Electronic Software Monthly, Comic Heroes, and a few more titles.

Electronic software, comics, sci-fi/fantasy, etc. are all within my interests, but there are plenty of titles that already focus on these and have subscribers in the hundred thousands, and circulation of about a gajillion. (I exaggerate, but you get my point.)

What more can I bring to the table? How can my proposed project compete in this market?

I did a little research into the media kids of my favorite magazines:

PC Gamer:  94% Male, Average Age 32, 4.8 million monthly users online

Playstation: 90% Male, Average Age 29, 1.1 million monthly users online

EDGE: 95% male, Average age 31, 570K monthly users online

Geek Magazine: 72% male, Average age 25-34

Game Informer: 84% male, Average age 27, 8.1 million in circulation

Comic Heroes: 94% male, Average age 38

SFX: 65% male, Average age 33

These numbers, particularly in regards to the gender of these top-selling magazine’s readership, don’t seem to mesh very well with the changing market of the comic book and video game industry.

According to ESA Essential Facts 2014, 48% of video gamer players identify as female. In fact, “Woman age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (36%) than boys age 18 or younger (17%) [...] Adult gamers have been playing for an average of 16 years, with adult men averaging 18 years and adult women averaging 13 years.” (pg 5). Statistically there is no gender gap in game consumers–according to ESA woman make up 50% of the most frequent game purchasers.

Last year the consumers spent a total of 21.53 billion dollars on the gaming industry; 15 billion of which were spent solely on content (13). Numbers proves that females make up half of the industry’s profit on content, so I find it odd that video game magazines would boast about the fact that their readership is predominantly male.

The comic book industry is also changing. According to a recent polling on FB (ew, yes, I know) 46% of the 24 million participating comic book fans are female. This year’s Emerald City Comic Con had a minority of men in attendance. Last year, Comixology reported a massive increase in purchases by female comic book readers, and identified this increasing market as “17-26 years old, college-educated, lives in the suburbs, and is new to comics. She prefers Tumblr to Reddit. She may have never even picked up a print comic” (CBR).

Marvel’s editor-in-chief comments on the rise of female comic book fans while promoting the release of Ms. Marvel, starring Muslim American teen superhero Kamala Kahn as Ms. Marvel:

The comic book world, Alonso asserts, is no longer a boys’ club. “While we don’t have any market research, the eyes don’t lie,” he tells us. “If you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.”

I think it’s safe to say that there’s a place in the market for a comic book or video game magazine that targets the ever growing but consistently ignored female fanbase. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a publication created by women for other women? A safe space where female geeks–new fans and old hats–don’t have to constantly prove their worth as fans? A space where ‘fan’ doesn’t automatically mean male?

The internet has already jumped on the bandwagon with popular sites such as The Mary Sue, why not branch out into print?

I don’t know 100% if I want to use this for my project pitch, but the idea is tempting.

Anyway, off to work. Only a few more days until I say goodbye to my bookstore. :/

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