The Exit Interview

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When I started at Popular Woodworking, we were located in the syrup room of the old Coca-Cola bottling plant in Evanston, Ohio.

My blog at Popular Woodworking Magazine will end on Dec. 31, 2018 (backstory here), and I am posting some things there during these last two months that might be of interest.

The 2018 Anarchist’s Gift Guide will begin on Nov. 1. I have 11 items picked out (so far) that I’ve been working with this year. As always, the gift guide is focused on small items that are quite useful. And they aren’t hard to find or expensive. Starting in 2019, the Anarchist Gift Guide will be posted here on the Lost Art Press blog.

I’m also posting a series of essays that are not directly woodworking related. They are, instead, my thoughts on woodworking magazines, tool reviews and the woodworking internet. They are a bit rant-y. But I figure that after 22 years of working there, I have the right to spout off a few times. Note that some of the comments seem to have disappeared due to a technical problem there. Also, one of my posts was sent to another part of the site and I cannot get it posted back on the blog for some reason. I suspect something went wrong when they altered the template on the site. Anyway, it’s not malfeasance, it’s stupidity. Here are the posts I’ve put up so far:

The Beginning of the End (of this Weblog)

Tool Reviews: You Are Not Your Toolbox

On Woodworking Magazines

I have a fourth entry in this series on social media advertising that will go up this week.

Please note that I am not ceasing my blogging efforts. Far from it. I’m just not blogging at PWM anymore. I’m not moving to another magazine. And I haven’t gotten a corporate sugar daddy. Instead, all my efforts will be here. Blog entries that I would have written for PWM will be posted here instead.

Finally, I don’t know what PWM will do with my 13 years of blog entries (there are several thousand). Those entries belong entirely to them – it was work for hire. So you’ll have to ask them.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Yellow Pine Journalism. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Exit Interview

  1. Roger Benton says:

    Really, just thanks for everything from then till now, cheers, and here’s to more good stuff.

  2. Bob Easton says:

    RE: “I suspect something went wrong when they altered the template on the site.”
    A WHOLE LOT has gone wrong on that web site. Many magazine articles that were once useful are now missing images, and what’s a good how-to article without the images?. One can no longer buy back issues of the magazine there. etc. etc. etc. Looks like incompetence is the order of the day. I wouldn’t be surprised to see you blog “disappeared.” Right now, the widget in the right sidebar says this about your blog at PWM: “An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.”

    However, that basket of complaints is not yours to deal with, just an indication of why I dumped the magazine a while after you left. Even though Megan did a heroic job of trying to keep the magazine valuable, it slid down the big hill to the trash heap in the ravine.

    OTOH, many of us owe you immense gratitude for all we have learned from you, and look forward to more.

    • C33 says:

      I feel like Chris’s archived posts are probably too important to be “disappeared,” or at least I hope so. They must draw decent search traffic for people hungering for additional Schwarz.

    • EastMountainKustom says:

      I can’t say it any better than Bob’s last line. I’m not only grateful for the education but also for the wit and the alternative point’s of view. I’m only a new blogger (but old woodworker) and your advice has been taken to heart and is very much appreciated. Write on!

  3. johncashman73 says:

    I’ve read every one of your blog entries, both there and here. I see no reason to believe that will change in the future. Though I’m still waiting for that book on Queen Anne.

    Its been a fun mix of woodworking, research, entertainment, and unicorn ephemera.

  4. Eric R says:

    You deserve to vent a little after that many years there.
    I have also been a long time fan of your work.
    I was a subscriber for a very long time to that magazine, but left when Megan went 90%-10% in favor of everything hand tool woodworking.
    Thank you
    Eric R

  5. J.C. aka BLZeebub says:

    Thanks for the blogs, bubba. I have been watching your career for many if not all of those years. Perhaps you’ll be invited to lend some of your style to FWW. That would be a welcome bit of snarkiness lent to a somewhat staid if venerable publication for which I have been a continuous subscriber for almost thirty years. Also, I am thrilled that you found a place for Fitz too. Along with Mr. Lang, you two were the editorial cornerstones of PWM. You’ve proved that there is still room for the well thought out and well done. Bravo, bubba. Hope I get to down a few pints with you someday. Till then, keep it up. I’ll be watching AND reading.

  6. DT says:

    I’m not sure I’m savvy enough to handle this but the internet archive machine thing (proper name ‘wayback machine’s, can, I think, be triggered manually by folks like us to crawl a site and archive things in snapshot format (including pictures I think). Doing that on Chris’s posts would be a huge public service.

  7. Pete McKinlay says:

    Thankyou for your contributions to PWM over the years Chris. They took the magazine to a place few would dare to take a “popular” magazine.

    I wait with bated breath for the next outputs of LAP and Crucible.

  8. wjsmith224 says:

    Can’t say I am surprised. I was a reluctant subscriber to PW; I was an avid subscriber to The Woodworking Magazine and when it ended in 2009 my subscription was folded into PW; the latter changed at that point to attempt to blend the two publications and the result was OK as long as Chris was at the helm. Since he left the ride has been definitely downhill and I will not be renewing my subscription. Thanks to Chris for his many years of service to the woodworking community in this medium, a service that I know will continue through LAP and any other outlet he chooses.

  9. Brian Quiroz says:

    Bravo! I still enjoy my orient watch that I learned about from your blog amongst the dozens of other informative posts. Best Regards to you and yours.

  10. mike says:

    Chris – when writing about internet woodworking and social media advertising, do not use the phrase “perfect storm of stupidity” or the word “vetted”. It does not end well. Ask Asa.

  11. Quercus Robur says:

    “It’s not malfeasance, it’s stupidity” – heck, yeah. This has nothing to do with woodworking or magazines, and there is no malice involved. The web is simply in a constant broken state, and us poor developers always chase down bugs and architecture flaws created by the next-best-cool-thing that has promised to end all of our miseries. Not even a single article format has survived more than a few years before being deprecated due to changes in taste or failed conversions. The hard copies are here to stay, but from the wrong reasons…

    • mike says:

      FWWs website is also a disaster, but that has more to do with their insatiable appetite for pop up ads. IMHO they should disable all ads for online members. But their .pdf archive is outstanding. You can easily download any article of theirs ever published.

  12. James Hamilton says:

    Hey Chris- I expected to be mildly offended by some of the blogs you have written recently, especially those that call out “woodworking celebrities” who “shill” for products. But I find your perspective to be honest and heartfelt, and I found myself nodding in agreement with much of what you wrote. While I don’t count myself among the scofflaws (we always clearly disclose who sponsors each video), I do see ways we could improve. And I was inspired by your comments on what it takes to produce great content. When we churn out video after video with an eye on the YouTube analytics, we too often find ourselves producing shallow entertainment instead of truly furthering the craft we love. I have been as guilty of that as anyone, and I appreciate your reminders.

    I was also struck by your comments regarding woodworking magazines. I have worked with a few of them, and most of those experiences were great. But one in particular really screwed me over. I try not to use my soapbox to cause harm, so I am not going into detail here. But it was a completely mishandled situation that really made me feel like they saw me as little more than a piece of garbage. And my case is one of many at that same magazine.

    When a corporation leaves a trail of angry and abused employees and contributors in their wake, they do more harm to their industry than they realize. Ours is a small world, woodworkers who can also write compelling content aren’t easy to find and we talk to each other. If you want to remain relevant, you can’t scare off future talent by abusing the folks you already have. I may not be anything to them, but I can list several other unceremonious departures which were felt much more deeply by the readers. After hearing these stories, why would the next generation of magazine contributors risk becoming the next group of cast-offs?

    These magazines used to have a monopoly on content. If you wanted to reach your fellow woodworkers, you had to beg them to publish your work. But this isn’t the 90’s anymore. A talented woodworker/writer can start a blog and reach more people on his own than he ever could through the pages of a magazine (and make a heck of a lot more money doing it). With little investment or overhead, he/she can legitimately compete with those big magazines for subscribers and even advertisers. Every time a magazine burns a bridge with one of these editors or contributors, they plant the seeds of their next competitor either in that person, or in those with whom they share their stories.

    Eventually the advertisers that keep those magazines afloat will follow. They are already investing millions in bloggers. That’s not an exaggeration, some YouTube woodworkers are making well north of six-figures, some a lot more than that. And the advertisers are just beginning to shovel money into digital media. Wait until Grizzly, Jet, Rikon and the other big magazine advertisers start shifting more of their dollars away from paper media!

    My point is, the world is changing, and corporations that value dollars above people are at risk of losing both.

    Anyway, Chris, your recent blogs have really made me think. And for that I thank you 🙂

    • Thanks Stumpy!

      Your above comment was so long that WordPress flagged it as spam. I just rescued it.

      I think it’s great that individuals can compete with big (sometimes lazy) corporations. I am one of those individuals myself.

      What troubles me (and I don’t think I was pointed enough about it) is that great content usually requires lots of resources – time, money and people. It’s difficult for individuals to compete on this front, and so they do what they can, which is usually pretty shallow, low-hanging fruit content.

      What’s funny (to me) is that individuals succeed so well at this shallow stuff that big corporations are now imitating the YouTubers.

      It’s a race to the bottom.

      I find your stuff to be an exception to this. You are obsessed, and it shows.

      Chris

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