In just a few weeks, we will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of the founding of The Escapist. Words cannot express the pride and pleasure it has given me to have been a part of this unique organization since very near to its beginning and to have led the editorial team as Editor-in-Chief for the past two years. I look forward to the challenges and rewards ahead as we plan for our seventh year and beyond.
Many of you will remember the early days of The Escapist, when each page of the website was a literal page of our magazine, and the five or seven feature articles we published each week comprised the totality of our offerings. A lot has changed since then. Shortly after I joined the team in May of 2006, we added a blog of sorts, where we published content that was not quite of the “print quality on the web” variety that made our features so unique. Mostly given over to editorials and news commentary, the blog (called The Escapist Lounge) was our attempt to resolve our desire for quality content with the audience’s need for “up to the now” online discourse. As a harbinger of things to come, it was prescient.
In 2007, the blog gave way to a total revision of our website, after which the “front page” of our magazine was no longer the cover of our weekly feature publish, but instead a more traditional website index page. The weekly features (still organized around a central theme, still published as full-color, fully-illustrated web pages) took a place of prominence, but much of the new front page was devoted to content that had previously appeared on the blog, as well as a new news feed, populated with up-to-the minute news stories about this videogaming lifestyle.
This change was controversial. Many believed we had strayed from our roots, but to us it was simply The Next Step. Just as we knew in 2005 that the future of videogame journalism was on the web, we knew that even more dramatic shifts in the way videogame-related content was presented were on the horizon. Specifically, we were looking to video.
In the summer of 2007 we premiered our first-ever video series, Zero Punctuation, which remains to this day one of the most popular video series on the web. The tremendous response to this content was a pleasant surprise, but transitioning that flood of interest into sustainable growth for The Escapist would not have been possible without key elements of our website redesign: the flexibility of our back-end publishing tech and our ability to pepper individual content pages with links and call-outs to other, related content. The latter is what we call “making it sticky,” since the technique can easily extend a single person’s visit to our website from minutes to hours. And it worked. In the months following the premiere of Zero Punctuation, the video series itself grew at an astonishing rate while interest in our other content grew at a rate ten times higher.
These successes did not come without sacrifice, as many of you know. We eventually transitioned the feature articles away from their resource-intensive full-color layouts, and subsequent website redesigns, while allowing for enhancements in community engagement and publication of even more and more arresting content, inevitably took focus away from our founding effort: the magazine. Our recent celebrations surrounding the 300th issue of The Escapist were bittersweet, as they represented not only how far we had come, but how far we had come away from where we began in ways both pleasant and poignant.
And yet, as of this writing our website is still experiencing record-setting growth and achieving notoriety none of us could have imagined in 2005. We are now counted among the top videogame-related publications in the world in terms of influence and popularity and to date we have won five Webby Awards for our work in that field and another for our contribution to the promotion of videogaming as a lifestyle. The future looks bright as ever, even if it must inevitably bring change.
As I write this, I am reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. What he meant, of course, is that people of character must be ready and willing to accept change, and to be flexible enough of mind to admit that what we once believed to be true may no longer be so.
That’s where we find ourselves today, dear friends. We at The Escapist have taken a hard look at some of our oldest, most cherished truths and decided they just aren’t as true as they used to be. Starting immediately, we will no longer be publishing an editorial calendar of topics each quarter. Our feature articles will instead be curated weekly, based on what our readers want to know right now and what we want to show them. It will remain our goal to publish up to four feature articles per week, but they will no longer be published in one lump all on the same day. Instead, they will be published throughout the week, as they are ready and as the need for each story arises, just like the rest of our content.
In short, what we have realized is that for several years, in spite of having made monumental and successful changes to the way we publish content about videogames, our core of feature articles had been preserved as a sacred cow, in ways both good and bad. While we had achieved our goal of creating a new kind of videogame magazine, one based on frequent interaction, usability and forms of content native to the web, we had stubbornly held to the idea of “The Magazine” as just a few pieces of our overall content. From now on, that will no longer be the case.
In deference to the changing tastes of our audience, wisdom gained over six long years and a great deal of soul-searching, everything we do will now be called “the magazine.” Our issue numbers will continue to grow, but will refer to every piece of content we produce each week. These may also tie in to plans for our upcoming mobile and social network apps, which we will begin unveiling this summer along with a new and improved newsletter.
The submission process will also change somewhat. In light of the fact that we will no longer be publishing our issue topics ahead of time, we will begin accepting completed story submissions as well as article pitches. Writers wishing to see their work appearing in Escapist Magazine can submit their stories or story ideas to our email address: email@example.com. We may, on occasion, publish a list of topics about which we would like to see article pitches, but the majority of our feature articles will come from where they have always come: writers writing passionately about things in which they are interested.
I know that change can be frightening, but in this case the change has already occurred, we’re simply striding forward to meet it. Again, to paraphrase Emerson, let us speak – and publish – what we believe today to be true, and do the same again tomorrow, even though it may contradict what we have said today. That is to say, what we’re doing may have changed, but why we’re doing it has not. It remains our goal to bring you the best and most meaningful content about videogames. We hope that you continue to enjoy how we’re doing that.