I spoke yesterday with my friend Dana Shoaf, who is the editor of America’s Civil War, the sister publication of Civil War Times Illustrated and part of Weider History Group. He was justifiably concerned with the impression being propagated in the blogosphere about the prospects of the two magazines in the wake of the departure of CWTI editor Chris Lewis. Below are some of Mr. Shoaf’s comments and clarifications regarding three of the issues about which various bloggers and blog readers have been speculating:
Economics – The readership of our magazines has been declining over the past decade due to a variety of reasons, but the primary one is that our readership is aging and dying off. The number of new, young readers was not matching our losses. If the mags aren’t reinvigorated, there won’t be anything to complain about in a decade or so because bookstores will refuse to carry such low-selling titles.
During the past year at Weider History Group all the magazines have experienced an increase in subscriptions and newsstand sales. That’s good news for anyone interested in history, particularly so for those who write books or give tours or like to have people visit their blogs, I should think.
We have to reach younger readers to survive. No ands, ifs or buts.
Commitment – Eric Weider is very committed to history. There ain’t a big profit margin in history mags folks, and he didn’t pay 5 million bucks for the group to make a ton more money. He bought the group because he gives a damn.
Ownership – For the record, ACW and CWTI were previously owned by Primedia. Primedia sold the current magazine group to Weider History Group, a subsidiary of the magazine conglomerate that owned Muscle & Fitness and other fitness magazines. Those fitness magazines were sold to the media group which owns National Enquirer. The group that owns National Enquirer does not own or otherwise influence Weider History Group.
Dana Shoaf will soon take over as editor of Civil War Times Illustrated, a big responsibility with four more issues per year and a larger circulation than America’s Civil War. He is a professional historian with a deep appreciation for the American Civil War and enthusiasts of the same; he has been actively involved in battlefield preservation for years, and serves on the board of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. In my experience over the past year I have heard nothing but positive reactions to the significant changes made to America’s Civil War, and I have every reason to think that Mr. Shoaf’s good and dedicated work will continue at Civil War Times Illustrated.