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No.71 April 2010
„The Absolute Audiophile”

Audio magazines are part of a broader group of specialist press, called hobby magazines. Those magazines (illustrated, color, almost uniquely monthly papers) are rather niche, addressed to a narrow community of readers. Computer papers are an exception, especially those devoted to games, as those are sold in quantities exceeding 300000 copies per month, and this is also not the level of mainstream, “man” and “woman” oriented ones. Audio magazines, like other niche papers, assemble around them hotheads interested in a particular topic. Their readers are mostly well educated in that area, what discerns them from readers of mainstream press. Good knowledge of the topic, sometimes related to a personal attitude towards it, determines a slightly different status of such publications – if a title is being trustworthy, then it has a stable, loyal group of readers, without big fluctuations. Interesting enough, this group is so devoted, that even if the quality of the published materials diminishes, if there are suspicions about the honesty of a given magazine, the “inertia” of this attachment results in the fact, that a magazine can still count on them for a long time. But this works both ways – trust in a title, once lost, results in not coming back to it – again – regardless of its quality.

Because it is not easy to gain faithful readers. Because in hobby magazines everything is bare, it is verifiable in other sources, etc. This is why starting such a title is always risky, an enterprise without a certain future. And it does not matter much, if we talk about a pressed paper or an e-zine – the difference is in the money invested. I know this well, because I started something like that myself almost six years ago, in May 2004, the “High Fidelity OnLine”, now having the title “High Fidelity”. I had the advantage, that there was no such magazine in Poland that time, and there is still none, and in Europe there was also not much going on.

Printed magazines are paid in 100%. This means, that a reader must buy it. But you should know, that the price of a magazine does not even cover the costs of printing it. After calculating in the returns (copies printed but never sold, but for which we need to pay the printing and distribution costs) it turns out, that the price paid covers about 80% of the printing fees. All the rest of the money has to come from advertising. And this is how it works around the globe. In internet magazines there are no printing costs. It is also much easier to publish things, because this usually can be done by one person, a webmaster, and we do not need large departments dealing with graphics and layout. This is also the reason, that many of such magazines are free. The most important and most known magazines in the world are:
„6moons.com”
„Enjoy the Music”
„Positive-Feedback”
“Stereo Times”
“Tone Audio”
“UHF”

You can easily notice, that those are English language magazines. Except for “Tone Audio” they have a layout resembling internet portals, and if they are “magazines” or “portals” depends on how they are perceived by their readers. But it is “Tone Audio” I would like to discuss longer. This magazine was created in the form we see today, from the beginning – as PDF files, and only the way of distribution is different. This is a much more expensive way of preparing materials, that requires more people in the editorial house. This makes the prizes of advertizing higher, than those of banners in magazines issued in a form similar to “High Fidelity”. For long time it was issued in a square form, but now, starting with issue #27 it has a classic rectangular format. This because it was prepared to be displayed on laptops and most of all in iPad – the editor of TA conducts talks with Apple. And this means, that the cost of preparing each new issue will be even higher. And this means further, that sooner or later, we will need to pay for it. The example of American press shows, that the era of free press in Internet is coming to the end – soon the magazines will be paid also in the net.

And now we come to the main topic of the lead article. It was August 26th, 2009 when I received the following e-mail:

Dear Wojciech!

I am Toni De Marchii and I am the editor in chief of the new monthly “The Absolute Audiophile”. The magazine will be talking about the listening habits and hi-end devices used for that. The magazine will be published in three languages (Italian, English and Chinese-Mandarin).

“The Absolute Audiophile” will look like a classic magazine (it will have the same format as written magazines), although it will only be distributed in an electronic form. This is why it will not be a internet magazine per se (although it will have a web page). But it will be prepared and distributed in the classic format by the best company dealing with electronic distribution of specialist magazines.

Our goal will be the preparation and conduct of an international magazine, which will have cooperating journalists from all over the world. I think that the audio market, now and in the foreseeable future, is too little for its participants – I am thinking about the manufacturers, distributors and publishers – for them to survive, attached only to their national markets. At least in Europe.

A second motivation, that was the motivator for this endeavor, was the urge, to allow some fresh air in this stagnated world, where just a few people, and even less publications, many times connected with big manufacturers and distributors are able to dictate rules for the specific markets. This is true for Italy as well as for other countries.



Actually the presence of web pages all over the world, devoted to passion and high quality, rather than paying the bills by pressed magazines, was the main force behind me and my colleagues went forward with “The Absolute Audiophile” project. Most of us have a past of dealing with audio publications. I wrote for the Italian magazine “Audio Review”, which I left a few years ago, attracted by other professional occupations, also related to journalism.

I am writing this email to you, because I would be happy, if you would agree to cooperate with us, if you would like to write to our magazine. The topics you would cover would depend on you, but for me it would be most interesting, if you could take care of the analysis of trends in your country and the whole region, reportages from audio shows, visits at manufacturers and tests of devices, as well as interviews with the most important people in audio. Including musicians.

I am planning to publish the initial issue in the beginning of November, and the first regular issue in January 2010, around the CES show.

If you would be interested in something like that, please let me know. I would be happy having you on board.

Thank you and best regards,
Toni

I could respond in only one way: I am in it. And add three exclamation signs (it looked like this: I am in it!!!)

The Toni, who signed the e-mail, is Antonio de Marchii, who was journalist writing for Italian audio magazines. The whole thing looked professional, well thought through, so why not… And in addition I received the unique opportunity to show that, what in this part of Europe, called Middle Europe, is to be shown. And there is a lot to show to other people, and we should not have any complexes about picking a few dozen companies, so interesting, so well grown into the market, proposing interesting devices, so that I will have enough work for the coming years. The two first articles described shortly the region, the most important brands – in the first part, that was published in the 1st issue I talked about our neighbors, Czech Republic and Slovakia, in the 2nd one about Poland. Like Toni mentioned in the beginning of his e-mail, the 1st issue was to be published in the beginning of the year, but due to the unexpected illness of Toni, and his stay in hospital, this prolonged a bit. But it is there!!! In the beginning of this month the first issue of “The Absolute Audiophile”, available on the Zinio platform. This is an American company, which distributes electronic versions of many magazines, including the Polish “Audio”, where I also write, since six or seven years. Coincidence? – There is no such thing like coincidence…

And now a very important thing: TAA (this title is a clear homage to the printed American magazine “The Abso!ute Sound”) is a paid magazine. Although the first issue is available for free (you just need to register on the TAA page), still all the subsequent magazines will cost 6.96 USD each. That is not a small amount. But this is probably how the audio magazine market will look like in the future, which will be internet based, for sure. Well – internet based, or only distributed by internet? Toni separates those two explicitly, writing about TAA in terms of an audio magazine, and not an e-zine. It seems, that he thinks about the latter, as only looking like a magazine, but are distributed by the internet and displayed on electronic devices. E-zines are magazines like “High Fidelity” and „6moons.com”. I think, that this is a logical error. E-zines are de facto magazines appearing in an electronic form, and not a printed one. Their form, the format in which they are published, has no meaning. It is important, that for their distribution and display electronic devices are needed (computers or readers). The opposite of that are “traditional” (of course only in terms of this reasoning) magazines, printed and distributed by classical means. I think, that this protection is there to appreciate the magazine, to show, that it does not differ from the printed one. This is not necessary!!! For six years (in May we will celebrate our sixth anniversary, please be invited: this will be an issue dealing only with Japanese gear) I am issuing an internet magazine, an e-zine, and I saw the position of the magazines published in the net change dramatically. This is where audio “is happening”, here the most important premieres take place. Yes, I still cannot live without the printed word, and I am reading a few titles every month, but this only a habit, I was raised that way, and it will probably remain like that. But to be afraid? To feel intimidated? I am cured of that, and I am just doing what I do. Because if we would count the size of the magazine, its position in terms of readers, then we surpassed the number of issue of all the Polish audio magazines, and even most the European ones, except for “What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision”. This is why I sometimes stand amazed, when I hear, how “important” one or another magazine is (I am thinking globally, and not locally), while knowing, that it is printed in a few (really a few) thousand copies, with many of them being returned. This is a mirage and wasted money. And although you can accuse me of being biased, you can just enter the internet and see for yourself, how it works. Because the internet is merciless and every lie is immediately visible.

This is why, at least I hope so, “The Absolute Audiophile” has big chances for success. This is a new format, connected with readers like Apple iPad. It seems to be a big change of paradigm, like the way music is being sold. So I am happy being a part of it, and to some extent, together with my country, being able to shape this change.

Contact:

„The Absolute Audiophile”

Zino

Wojciech Pacuła

About Us

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the Music.com”, “Positive-Feedback.com”“HiFiStatement.net”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

For years, "High Fidelity" has been cooperating with other audio magazines, including “Enjoy the Music.com” and “Positive-Feedback.com” in the U.S. and “HiFiStatement.net”  in Germany. Our reviews have also been published by “6moons.com”.

You can contact any of our contributors by clicking his email address on our CONTACT  page.

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