Popular Woodworking Bankruptcy – Editorial Discussion (6-21-19)

Popular Woodworking has been auctioned off. It’s book devision is now part of Penguin Random House and it’s magazine Cruz Bay Publishing (Active Interest Media). Today we open the discussion of the potential for a future version of the magazine and perhaps it’s live event “Woodworking in America”.
Links to Discussions:
– https://www.youtube.com/redirect?q=https%3A%2F%2Freadwatchdo.com%2F2019%2F06%2Fpopular-woodworking-sold-but-future-not-clear%2F&stzid=UgxWrxlyENBtyLyywKJ4AaABAg&redir_token=dxP7Ug-PAIh-gkpYWcb0hs3YpFJ8MTU2MTc3NTg4MUAxNTYxNjg5NDgx&html_redirect=1&event=comments

Rules of Discussion: You’re allowed to call me an idiot if you can tell me why I’m an idiot. An intelligent “why” is the difference between an insult and debate. Do it without any kind of insult for bonus points. But I’m the only one you’re allowed to do so. Any personal attack will grant me the right to “Wack-a-Troll” you with my ban hammer. Even inadvertent insults will be blocked. Once you’re blocked I you can’t come back because I won’t know you want back. So be smart, be nice and discuss socialably.


Chris Schwarz:
– “An Alternate Ending for F+W Media” – https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/03/11/an-alternate-ending-for-fw-media/
– “Popular Woodworking Acquired by Woodsmith’s Parent Company” – https://blog.lostartpress.com/2019/06/19/popular-woodworking-acquired-by-woodsmiths-parent-company/

Robert Lang:
– “Popular Woodworking Corporate Owner Files for Bankruptcy” – https://readwatchdo.com/2019/03/popular-woodworking-corporate-owner-files-for-bankruptcy/

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20 Replies to “Popular Woodworking Bankruptcy – Editorial Discussion (6-21-19)”

  1. Hi Shawn — Thanks for the shout out on our live event — Woodsmith Workshop. As the editor of Woodsmith, I've long been an admirer of the work being done at PopWood. Even though their approach to woodworking is somewhat different than that of Woodsmith, I always felt they did a standout job and they have done much to reinvigorate the hobby. PopWood was doing a lot of things we had only thought about doing until very recently — video, social media, online courses, blogs, live events, etc.

    I may be biased, but I share your opinion that the acquisition of PopWood by AIM should offer a glimmer of hope. I am very hopeful that AIM will find a way to at least keep all the fine content that has been produced by PopWood over the years alive, if not the magazine itself. No definite plans have yet been made regarding PopWood, and we are still evaluating all the options. I will say that when AIM acquired Woodsmith a few years ago, we were given the green light to try all sorts of new things — social media, YouTube, live events. etc. AIM is a forward-looking company and is working hard to come up with new ways to expand beyond traditional print media. — Vince Ancona

  2. It's sad that some Wood magazines are going this way. I work at a popular wood store and we just stopped carrying monthly wood magazines. The younger generation or "YouTube" generation of customers coming in just don't know how to search for a publication explaining how to make something and are generally surprised at what is needed in skill and tools to make a project they see on YouTube. I have years worth of publications and some customers I have let borrow a issue for a project were surprised to see this was actually done before the age of internet lol. Nice point of view on this discussion and keep up the fine work.

  3. I have subscribed to just about every woodworking-themed magazine over the past 40+ years. Currently, I only have one subscription. The thing I HATE is not the amount of ads, or the skill level of the projects, it's the "read-ability" of the articles. I may be an old-timer, but good writing is good writing! I want to cut out the unnecessary use of the word "and," sending the clippings back to the Editor. I was taught to not start a sentence with the word "and," and I see it all the time in publications. I even see it STARTING A NEW PARAGRAPH!! As another person commented about too many "ummm's" and pauses in YouTube videos, I can't concentrate on a printed article when every fourth word is "and!"

    I will still purchase an occasional magazine from the newsstand, and enjoy my one subscription that I do have, so the printed versions are appreciated, but only if I can read them without making me gnash my teeth over poor grammar!!!

    End of rant, thanks for what you're doing… always enjoy watching your videos!

  4. Hi Shawn,

    I know I'm a bit late to the party but I did want to comment.

    I have to agree that this is indeed an exciting time, we may see a new magazine rise from an old one. Here's a few thoughts and maybe the peanut gallery can tell me I'm nuts.
    1. After subscribing to ShopNotes and purchasing every issue of Woodworking Magazine that was published, I'm a big fan of NO ads. Looking at some currently available issues, I'd estimate that somewhere between 30-50% of the pages in any given magazine are simply advertisements. I understand that they need to make money but at some point it becomes off-putting.
    2. Ok this one may be lame but I always liked that heavier card-stock type paper Woodworking Magazine and ShopeNotes and Woodsmith were printed on. I also liked that SN and Woodsmith put 3 holes in each issue. Just me.
    3. For me, I think what might work would be for each issue to have a main cover project and each article is in some way related to it. Maybe an article on how to use (and especially sharpen!) a certain tool, how to cut a certain joint, a small project that incorporates these things and can be used as practice for the main project, and then the main project itself. Several of the Woodworking Magazine issues were arranged sort of like this and were my absolute favorite.
    4. Leave out tips and tricks and Q&A. Theres so much info available online nowadays (including videos made by the tool manufacturers themselves) that this is superfluous.
    5. I agree. Find a niche. Mortise and Tenon Magazine seems to be a niche within a niche and while I haven't read it I do listen to their podcast and it seems they are doing well. Another magazine that seems to be flying under the radar here is Woodworkers Journal. They seem to spend more time talking about turning than any other magazine (that isnt wholly devoted to turning) and seem to do well.

    Just my opinions. Feel free to poke holes in them. Please keep up the good work!

  5. The mother company filing for bankruptcy does not necessarily spell doom for Popular Woodworking. Different outcomes can happen in this scenario. For example, the owning entity may kill off all of its non-profitable companies and keep the profitable ones like Pop Wood (assuming the magazine is profitable). It may consolidate its magazines and create 2 instead of 3-4 for example. This is not necessarily a complete doom and gloom situation without knowing every single fact involved with the over all company finances, records, etc.

    Understand this is also a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That means it is a reorganization of a company and not necessarily a complete shut down and quit the business. The company does not have to liquidate its assets in this type of bankruptcy because it is not shutting down or closing at this time. This is a reorganization, a effort to push the proverbial "reset" button to prevent the complete collapse and demise of the company. The higher owning company needs to restructure their finances and systems in order to pay the bills, Chapter 11 allows this. It really is not terribly uncommon in the business world. How it ends is often up the court hearing the Chapter 11 case.

    Most companies that file Chapter 11 are struggling to pay bills because there is too much debt versus profit. For some insane reason many large companies feel holding debt is necessary or required for growth even though they could save pennies and wait a little longer to expand without the debt. This is why large amounts of debt are a bad thing. Bottom line, it looks to me like this is an example of a company stuck in the old ways of doing things and refusing to evolve with the changing times. This always ends in some form of disaster in varying scales of "pain". Lets hope great publications like Pop Wood can stay in print going forward by learning from mistakes and making appropriate changes.

  6. Interesting editorial, Shawn. As a former PopWood subscriber I would like to see less ads (yes, I know some are necessary to cover the costs of such a venture, but Woodsmith seems to do well enough without so many). The ever increasing quantity and format change a few years back is why I canceled my subscription of 20+ years. I still subscribe to several such magazines (and will as long as I can) and have been a long time subscriber to Woodsmith. With Woodsmith being a Cruz Bay product, this gives me hope that PopWood can once again be an informative woodworking magazine without the in your face ads on what seemed to be every other page.

    More to your point, I would like to see PopWood return to showing more simple weekend projects for the "weekend" woodworker. Especially those that don't require the shop full of tools that some of us have. Over the last 40 years I've made a number furniture pieces using only a minimal number of handheld tools. I didn't have a shop then. But many of my ideas came from PopWood. I may not have always followed the plans to the letter, but it gave me a starting place I could build from. With the numbers of DIYers climbing (apparently), it would be nice to see PopWood focus on them. And I agree with you on the handtool issue even though I don't use mine as often as you. Articles on using them are invaluable and such knowledge translates to other areas.

  7. Words, reading….I used to know dozens of jokes, and loved to read them and have them sent to me during the early internet days. Gradually, I grew tired and antsy reading these jokes and my joke appetite demanded picture and/or video jokes. Same appetite goes for ‘learning and how-to’ vids. It’s laziness to a great degree, but there is some adage to ‘a picture-video is worth a thousand words’.

  8. I don't usually comment but here goes.
    As a brand new hobby woodworker coming from a software development background, Popular Woodworking and magazines, in general, are a dying breed. The business model they use either via a paywall online or a paper magazine is dying,
    If I had to suggest anything it would be all there content should be made public free online and they should be sponsoring and supporting influencers in the market (youtube/blogs etc), and their money should be made purely from the advertisement.
    But still after all of that its people like yourself, Paul sellers, Stumpy Wood by Wright etc that are the future of media and content related to Woodworking and people of my generation and the one behind me will NOT pay for content ( why should we when we can get it for free)
    Kind regards

  9. Upon reading the comments & many of your replies, I think I might not have done a great job making my point previously. So please indulge me a chance to redeem myself.

    I like the idea of having events more-easily accessible for the novice/beginning woodworker & those who may not be able to afford the big-ticket affairs. For example, I live in the Atlanta, GA area & there is a "maker's" convention apparently every year. To get access, it appeared you have to be an active maker, with a channel, or blog, or vlog, or some other publication & then spend (from what I could discern) no less than $300 for a minimal access ticket; kind of making it seem like the newbies & uninitiated were also unwelcome. I understand the purpose on the event being for the active maker's out there & it being a place for them to congregate, but how nice it would have an event to be able to meet some of them, talk to them, see what they're like in person, & perhaps get some ideas in a 1-on-1 situation…something like that would be great for a novice.

    As to a direction for a publication, It would be nice to see somewhere (a single publication as opposed to multiple YouTube channels/blogs) that has some of the smaller projects that can be done in a matter of hours up to a couple of days–think birdhouses, making pens without a lathe, basic picture frames, drink coasters, etc. for the more novice type woodworker. Multi-issue projects, like building the beds, cabinets, TV stands, entertainment centers, installing floors, etc. are not bad ideas for the more advanced or adventurous.

    I am a bit like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde here, but I like to have a magazine I can put in my hand & pick up at a local grocery store, book store, or other store that sells magazines, while at the same time, hate the idea of cluttering my house with more magazines I have to search through to find an article regarding a project I might want to give a try. So I think it would be nice to have a publication that provides access to both. i.e. Pay for a magazine subscrtiption & get the digital content as well & vice-versa.

    I thank you for opening this discussion & I hope I have done a better job on "take 2" at keeping to what you are trying to accomplish here.

  10. I don't read magazines, so my only suggestion would be to tie it in with videos. Chris Schwarz has a couple amazing videos on YouTube. I was unable to figure out a couple problems I was having with hand planes until I saw his troubleshooting video which covered some obscure issues. Would love to see more content like that.
    Edit: For example, the magazine could reference videos that illustrate projects and the videos could reference magazines which contain plans.

  11. I do think skill-based content would be better than focusing mostly on jigs. But introducing a set of basic jigs and showing how to use each one in multiple ways. For example, a crosscut sled is a basic jig but well worth having. What are all the things you can do with a cc sled? Crosscut safely and at 90 degrees, accurate repetitive cuts, cut small parts, etc. Sure, there are plenty of videos on this, but it can be confusing for a beginner. So many different sleds, each claiming to be the best. What is a simple, inexpensive, easy to make design that will give good results. How do you use it properly? Can you use it on a portable tablesaw like the DW745 that a hobbyist is likely to have? When should you not use it?

    I liked the magazine and like Chris Swartz's books, too. And while building a Roubo bench is .a good move for a hobbyist, it is beyond the level that you are talking about. You need more readers to succeed.

  12. I have no idea what to tell the new owners. I get Fine woodworking as a gift from a relative…but networking with other wood workers and YouTube are my go to sources.

  13. Hey Shawn!!
    Thanx for the update of a situation that I wasn't aware of currently. I have subscribed to woodsmith and other woodworking magazines in the past; and hopefully in the future. I don't necessarily subscribe to learn but to inspire as well. About 2 1/2yrs ago I started watching woodturning videos and got a microlathe for Christmas. Since then I've saved up and got a Laguna revo 1836. I've learned by making mistakes. Lots of them. I, like some people, learn not only by reading but by watching AND doing(as in classes). The wood working that I've subscribed to and read were not only informative but inspirational. Seeing a project in woodsmith would get me intrigued. Seeing the project made, step by step, would show me that not only was it possible but achievable.
    The way I see it. Yes, print media is changing. But what will it's role be from here? Let me postulate this. Let Popwood, woodsmith et all take a page from Bob Ross. Let the print media inspire from subscriptions. Let the PBS shows and YouTube inform and educate and have some regional/local presence in places that could benefit from a limited affiliation with these magazines(Rockler, Woodcraft etc.). In an approach as such they would figuratively have their finger on the pulses of what their subscribe want to see and in a roundabout way grow their base and visibilty in the community(i.e. like the Bob Ross painting instructors). Each aspect doesn't have to be a homerun separately but one facet of a larger gem. And the more facets you have the more brilliant the whole appears. They will need to listen to those who have subscribed for years and make this new experience more enriching and encompassing. I appreciate your videos Sir and that's my approximate 2 cents worth. Have a good day!

  14. After watching the video and taking the time to read all the comments. I was not aware that PW was in trouble. I am 47 I consume most of my woodworking through youtube. Though I have stacks of magazines I have bought over the years. I just subscribed to my first one a month ago. That being Woodsmith, funny in light of the discussion. I know the digital format is the future but I still like paper in the hand to read from. I have found the one digital format that I have subscribed to before (Bee Culture magazine) to be very clunky and hated it. I think as a publisher going forward youtube would have to be part of that format. My problem with the magazine format youtube channels is, I don't know any of the hosts, they always feel stiff, But I really value the guys that I have followed and continue to follow on youtube. I am invested with them. So maybe pulling in youtube talent as part of the magazine creating/sponsor events/maker fairs where I can meet these people. I go to buy a magazine because I was shopping at Walmart and a certain project caught my eye. But now Walmart has slashed is magazine rack by 2/3 so now Barnes and Noble which is an hour away and I rarely go will be my magazine fix. One of the things that drew me to subscribe to Woodsmith is the ideas that are sent in from the readers. Maybe with popular woodworking one could feature a popular youtube/Instagram or social media artist. River table trends. How to get started in woodworking. How to create a small woodworking business. There are so many facets that one could go. How to create a woodworking social media platform maybe another way. How to take pictures of your product series. Technology is part of woodworking now. I think this company has the potential to pull it off. I hope I stayed on the topic. With Aim now having two brands there could be a one, two type punch with there product content. I wish them the best and I hope I offered something worth your time to read.

  15. It is sad to hear, I liked popular woodworking , but when Chad Stanton left and the ( I can do that) series took a different direction. Well I knew it wasn’t good. So what about the subscribers who are paid up for a couple of years, how are they going to get their money back. I guess it may be considered a loss. I wish everyone the best and hope things work out.

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