A Letter to Our Readers
After 30 issues and 11 years, we have come to the difficult decision to stop printing Skyscraper Magazine. Our final issue has, in fact, already been published. The recently released Spring 2009 issue (Issue 30) is the final edition of Skyscraper that will appear in print. We will continue publishing online, however, in an enhanced and expanded format. A complete relaunch of skyscrapermagazine.com is tentatively scheduled to appear by August 2009.
There are numerous reasons why this discontinuation of the print edition is happening, and why it is happening now, specifically. In many ways, it is the result of a perfect storm of events. There are, of course, the widespread changes in the music industry, print publishing, and the broader economy. We are certainly not immune to these circumstances. Our printing and distribution costs have increased dramatically over the past few years, while at the same time advertising - the lifeblood of a small press publication like ours - has decreased, as the companies that support us are themselves hurting financially and/or redirecting their marketing efforts to the Internet. In addition, a number of our largest distributors have gone out of business, as have many of the independent retailers - the mom-and-pop bookstores and record shops - and even some of the major chains that are the primary sellers of independent publications like ours.
It would be easy enough to assign these economic hardships the blame for our upcoming changeover, or we could similarly ascribe it to competition from Web-zines and music blogs. Truth be told, though, these developments are not the only determining factors behind our decision. For years now, we have been rather willfully anachronistic in our commitment to the printed music zine format, and fortunately we have amassed a readership of people like you who clearly value our devotion to this format and the ethos of the zine revolution of the 1990s. As a matter of fact, despite the advertising and distribution woes, we have managed to keep our circulation fairly consistent over the past few years. Furthermore, we are probably better positioned than most magazines to weather the current turbulence in the economy because we have always adhered to the independent music community's DIY ethic, carefully planning and budgeting and keeping expenses low. It is quite likely that we could continue publishing for another year or two, if not far longer, in the print format.
Nevertheless, even though the above factors certainly influenced our thinking, the decision to move Skyscraper online has ultimately come down to a matter of choice. We are fully committed to continuing our work with the zine, and we wish to make it absolutely clear that a Web-only Skyscraper is not arriving as some sort of Plan B. As much as we are lovers of the printed word and a computer screen will never replace the sensation of holding a magazine in our hands, we are realists and can't help but acknowledge that the future of journalism is online (especially music and arts journalism, which is inherently multimedia). There is no point in our continuing to swim against the tides of culture.
Moreover, the Internet offers many unique benefits that we are eager to tap into: it significantly lowers our operation costs, it allows us to offer our content free to readers like you, and it is eco-friendly, to name but a few of the advantages. We will also no longer be restricted by word and page counts, meaning we can feature more content and go into more depth, as well as publish with much more regularity. We also envision the future skyscrapermagazine.com to be larger and more diverse than we were ever able to achieve with the print incarnation. While we are committed to sticking to what we consider to be our core strengths - namely, insightful interviews and features paired with thoughtful critical analysis of music of all stripes - we have plans to add a number of new sections as well as expand the types of media we cover.
Even more importantly, however, we believe that the Web embodies the freethinking, innovative, participatory spirit of the underground music community far better than any other communications format. Skyscraper was founded on and has always operated under these principles, and we are excited about the possibilities for interaction and cultural exchange that can be had through this Web site. We have never considered our writings to be the last word on any artist, record, or subject, but rather as the first utterance in a conversation with our readers. The print zine format, of course, is severely limited in this regard; it is a one-way mode of communications that is relatively closed off to feedback and debate. How exactly we plan to turn this site into a forum for active critical discussion and reader/user participation, different from any other music-oriented Web site currently available, is a matter to be dealt with later. Our point for now is simply that we have big plans in store for the future, and we feel as though the online medium can actually help us achieve goals that we were never quite able to reach through the print format. This is the real reason why we are choosing to make this transition now.
Needless to say, this decision was not made lightly and, despite that fact that we are enthusiastically moving on to what will hopefully be bigger and better things, it is impossible not to feel as though this is the end of an era. We are secure in knowing, however, that we have had a good (print) run, and it is a small victory that we made it this long. Eleven years is practically a lifetime in the underground music scene, and we are at once both proud and saddened by the fact that we have outlasted nearly all of our indie/punk music zine peers from the 1990s. We wish to take this opportunity to thank you, our readers, for following us over the years; without your support we never would have made it this far. Even more importantly, though, it is your passion for this music and community that gives our work purpose, and will continue to do so well into the future.
But again, the future is bright; we are changing our form of distribution and yet, fundamentally, our mission is not altering one iota and we will continue to offer the type of content that you have come to expect and rely upon. Please bear with us over the next few months, as there will be a brief developmental period during which time we will regroup and ready the new Web site for the late-summer relaunch. In the meantime, however, we have already begun posting new content to this current site, and we will continue to do so regularly until the new site goes up. We hope you will keep reading.
Andrew Bottomley and Peter Bottomley