As you may know. I did work for Mad Magazine for about seven years. and left. People assumed I left because of editorial restraints or something, but that wasn't it at all. I'm a grown up, I know when a book is for kids that you can't have a zombie fetus in it. They actually let me get away with more than I figured they would...
I left because they where driving it into the ground. I tried to explain to them twice that they where driving it into the ground, and then I left.
They asked me to come back and I said no thanks and said they would not last another ten years. What an absurd thing for me to say! An iconic Magazine that has been on the top of the heap since the 1950s...cease to exist??? LOL they all said.
Turns out it didn't last five years
I will explain in more detail what was/is going on Wednesday ( I'd like to pull a few old emails to make my point and I gotta find them ), but for today I am re posting this blog I had up on my own website a year and a half ago when the news was simply "Mad Magazine is moving from New York to California". and I said ( as you will see here) that the head line should have been Mad Magazine is ending soon"
below is that blog ( because I like to say "I told you so" )
------------April 22 2017___
“You can’t say I didn’t warn them”
I am speaking today of Mad Magazine. You remember Mad, right? Among other prestigious lines on my resume is 6 years of freelance work for them. So…I know a little about how the sausage is made over there….which is why I left. And on the way out I said “this…is not a good way to make sausage in the modern era, you keep making sausage like this and you’ll just be a memory pretty soon.” and a few months after that, they asked me to come back…and I asked “do you still make sausage the same way?” and they said “yes” and I said ” NOPE, that is not a good way to make sausage, and your days are numbered unless you figure that out.”
I told them…in no uncertain terms…that it was not worth my time to continue to do work for them because they are running it into the ground.
I did my best to tell them how to stay alive. They were paying me good money, and I left…and I had hoped that might…maybe…be the wake up call they needed. It wasn’t.
…fast forward to just recently. Where one Tom Richmond , illustrator for Mad, blogged about Mad Magazine-
“MAD was apparently following the rest of DC Comics out to Burbank “soon”.”
meaning it’s offices where being “moved” from it’s autonomous home in NY to CA where it’s owner DC comics is located.
A story he first learned of from Bleeding Cool News.
Tom’s Blog here
And Tom wondered out loud what it all meant…
The jist of the story is that Mad is owned by DC comics. DC comics moved from NY to CA a few years ago. Mad is now moving to CA where the rest of DC comics already is.
…so what, right?
Well, I’ll quote Tom here-
“I do not foresee many or any of the current staff pulling up stakes from the city most have lived in their whole lives and moving to the world of bean sprouts, infused water, and suntans… but as far as I know no one on the current staff has made any official decisions.”
” I think we will see some big changes, though. MAD has always had a distinct New York flavor to its voice, from the Yiddish slag it’s always incorporated to just a general NYC sensibility, I do not see that flavor continuing on. A new staff will bring new voices and new directions. My work may or may not have a place there. Lots of unknowns. Time will tell.”
…”time will tell” the guy says…HAHAHAHAA…sigh. Time has already told. They are DONE, Tom. and no one bothered to tell you…what does that tell you?
I’ll explain it to the rest of you, and maybe he’ll catch up. When I started at Mad, it was published 12 times a year, plus several “special editions”, plus 6 issues of Mad Kids ( a kids version of the book…which was pretty much the same thing). As of the last time I bothered to check it was down to 6 issues a year and NO Mad kids or Special editions….and the sales on the messily 6 issues a year that they still published were continuing to drop. I’ll save the obvious reasons why for later..or you can track down interviews I did when I left. The point today is helping ole Tom see what’s right in front of his face. The circulation has continued to drop, the number of times is is published per year has dropped, and the “offices” are being moved across the country…certainly against the wishes of the current editorial department.
The editorial department has apparently told the contributors nothing, or what they did tell them didn’t amount too much.
At this point…any rational person who earns his/her money by working for this magazine would take into account the world of 2017 and the rest of the publishing industry and figure things out for themselves.
Let’s do some simple math and see if we can’t start coming to a conclusion. Write this down, Mad sales dropping = Less money coming in. Mad office being moved (absorbed) =Less relevance and autonomy being afforded it.
…let’s you and I just take a look at their website and see if we can find anything else to add into the equation…
No mention of the move, but they don’t have any “news” section so that’s neither here nor there. hmm…Is it just the web browser I am using or do they not show or mention the current issue of the actual magazine on the HOME PAGE?! …What does that tell you, Tom? See, when you have a webpage…you put the central focus of that page on what you are most concerned with people seeing. There are tabs to click on that will eventually take you to the printed magazine…but IT’S CURRENT ISSUE IS NOT MENTIONED ON THE HOMEPAGE. There is a nice banner for a subscription to Mad, but as far as trying to promote the issue that is currently on the shelves, which needs to be sold to people, if you expect stores to keep buying it….nothing on the homepage, a space that could have been used for that has been allotted for…other things.
Get out that paper we were writing on…Tell me what we have so far…
“Mad sales dropping + Mad office being moved (absorbed) …now add little to no attention being paid to print version of Mad in comparison to online version.
Okay, so the Magazine isn’t bringing in as much money as it used to…to the point that DC is just absorbing the office whether the current staff likes it or not and publishing online is less overhead…
“HOLD ON, Douglas…you said they stopped publishing as many books, right?”
Well…yes. They were publishing 12 Issues of Mad a year and 6 issues of Mad kids, and now they just publish 6 issues of Mad…so?
“SO…they weren’t just not bringing in as much money…they were LOSING MONEY”
“Of course…if the book is making any profit at all, then publishing it LESS often is SILLY. Because, every time you publish it, it would get a profit. You would only publish it LESS, if it is loosing money”
Huh….that does make sense…doesn’t it Tom?
…that sounds to me like Mad is pretty far in the red, and the parent company is finally done coddling this magazine simply because it is a sacred cow. And I think we can stop wondering things like “will the editorial staff move to CA?”. and start accepting the idea that much like the company in the movie Office Space, DC Comics has “fixed the glitch…so the problem will just take care of itself”.
“yeah, we didn’t renew the lease..so when they go to work they won’t be able to get in because the locks will have been changed so….the problem will just take care of itself”
You think they are going to make any effort to have the staff that has been losing money for the better part of ten years to keep their jobs? Or is this move maybe a big fat hint? Personally if it were me…I’d take it as a big fat hint.
If the current staff isn’t going to move (possibly hasn’t even been invited) then …who is going to run the “magazine”? Tom is just an Illustrator so bare with him while he gets his head around that. The rest of you probably knew right off, that if the office is “moving” and the staff is unlikely to move with it… then that leaves a rather large staffing issue. Do you see DC hiring and training a new editorial department? For a Magazine that has been losing money for over 7 years? Tom seems to be living in a world where this issue will be resolved with a new staff…all ready to go kick some ass! Why I’ll bet DC has a crack team just waiting in the lurch!
….that’s a joke Tom.
Let’s look at that as second. To a company as big as DC, is the difference is office rental cost between an office in NY or and office in CA that relevant? Aside from the staff the content of that magazine is sent in electronically from contributors all over the country. For all intents and purposes the mag could have it’s office in Nebraska. There wouldn’t be much sense in moving the office, if all you were doing was moving the office…if all you were doing was moving the office. But if you were trimming that “office” to say one or two guys in a cubicle updating a website…then the move makes more sense.
okay, jot this down….Mad in printed form is losing money and it’s staff. Mad in digital form needs less staffing and costs less to produce.
Those of you who live in the real world and not in the comic book industry…explain to Tom what all this means.
“That means Mad, as you know it, is getting folded up and going by by, and will almost defiantly end up being digital only right around the time of the move.”
Well, I guess….I would go one step further, since going digital only will go over like a lead balloon (for reasons I’ll explain later…although you can probably figure that out for yourself) that eventually it’ll just be a website…and then just be a memory.
That’s how we all see it Tom…it seems pretty obvious to us. Those of us who have been paying attention to the world we live in and the pattern in which things go by by.
It’s done. Stick a fork in it, and that decision was probably made when the rest of DC moved to CA. It is my guess that whatever reason they had for letting Mad stay in NY had more to do with timing than out of deference for the “feel” of Mad. Maybe some tax issue, or lease agreement or who knows what…but I sincerely doubt it was because of what the staff of a magazine that’s been losing money for almost a decade wants. This is grown up stuff, Tom. A company with a lot of products that make money is not going to keep a product around that loses them money. To be far to DC they sure gave Mad a long time to try to get it’s act together. You noticed them getting cut to 6 issues a year, yes? Did you notice any massive change from Mad in content, effort, or the way it promotes itself? no.
That cutback was …6 years ago? I remember it well, because one of the crack editorial higher ups emailed to me “well, if people aren’t buying it, then people aren’t buying it”. That wasn’t a low level editor…that was one of two men who where in charge of that magazine. Shall I name this person? Shall I post the entire disgrace of an email? It was a professional email after all, with others cc’d on it, not a personal email one could expect privacy in. Meh, for the sake of this blog it doesn’t matter which of the two is was. Just understand that was the attitude after DC gave them the first warning shot across the bow. DC gave them YEARS to get their heads out of their ass…and they choose not to. How long do you think you’d still have a job if every time you showed up you lost the company money, and you refused to change your money losing behavior? two weeks? a month? Certainly not 7 years.
That attitude didn’t change the entire time I was there. A don’t blame me, I had a hour and a half meeting with the editorial staff trying to explain to them what was happening, and told them again when I quit, and told them AGAIN when they asked me to come back…that they needed to make changes. They didn’t and they continued to lose money for DC for another 3-4 years.
DC bent over backwards to let this magazine stay alive.
So the dilemma for DC is this…what do you do with this 60plus year old product that is nothing more than a money hole. You could just cut it. This is publishing, a lot of the cost is research and development because you need a new book every time. Or do you? Mad’s brain surgeon of a editor in chief unwittingly handed DC the means to remove him and still make a few bucks. He spent a solid amount of time reprinting and promoting OLD work. DC owns the rights to 60 plus years of research and development in the form of old issues…which it can simply reprint at it’s leisure, and make a few bucks on…as long as there is a central, official website putting out….something. They can make Mad online only, putting out less stuff, not having to pay printing and distribution costs, not having to pay the same rates to whoever they have put out the occasional new content, and print nice fancy high dollar collections at X-mas time for the old men who remember Mad Magazine…and that product that was losing money for nigh a decade will then make a small profit.
But hey, maybe we’re wrong! Maybe this is all some rope a dope! Maybe they’re playing possum and are going to come out with guns blazing after they move the offices to Burbank with some new team full of piss and vinegar and they promote the hell out of the mag and the whole world will be re introduced to Mad Magazine, everyone will get a raise!
That was a joke too, Tom…do you honestly see DC comics wasting any more time money or effort on this book and brand that has been run into the ground by the current editorial staff? It would take a monumental effort to even attempt to revive this book/brand from the death of a thousand cuts the current knuckle heads left it in. And for what? To maybe get it back to where it was 10 or more years ago?
How would you even do it?! Try to re-herd whatever baby boomers you can who sitll haven’t learned how to use the internet? Try to get Gen X to stop getting their satire instantly from several dozen professional comedy sources, outlets, and media types?! Try to get millennial and younger to buy a magazine?!?! HA! I don’t even know how you could do it. That’s a lie, I do know how..but I’m done giving advice for free. As it is DC’s time, money and effort is better spent on other things.
There, there…I could be wrong. I’m wrong once in awhile, like the time…uhm…the time…hmmm. I’m pretty much always right on here aren’t I?
“Always listen to Doug”
When it’s finally announced that Mad is done…come back here and I’ll go over everything I warned them about three years ago…which is now happening right in front of our eyes. When I blast people on this blog, no matter what is seems, it is generally not out of spite but as a teachable moment. Make no mistake…the next time it will be out of spite. Because they, through stupidity, laziness, and hubris, ran into the ground an iconic magazine that I and many others knew and loved. And contributors such as Tom deserved this magazine to have a better fate( yes even ole slow witted Tom…as much as I mock him as human being, he did his best each and every time he got an assignment, and did good work). It didn’t need to happen like this, and everyone who knew and loved Mad needs to know who and what is responsible for it’s demise.
_end of blog___
So yeah...I called this a long way off. actually even before that when I had a meeting with the editorial staff trying to get them to understand the dire situation they had put the magazine in. Come back for that blog Wednesday
That's all for today but I will be back on Wednesday to dance on the grave..in order to make a point. and also because it's fun and they deserve it.
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