|Hi Srajan (and John),
I recently caught up on your broken business model articles. As a manufacturer who has been a 6moons banner sponsor, I believe what you are proposing actually levels the playing field in a few ways. If all manufacturers have to pay the same amount for a review, then it should help how the reader perceives a review of a sponsor's product. There should be no doubts along the lines of "there is praise in that review because company XYZ is a site sponsor." This is good for everyone - the manufacturers, the reviewers (paid consultants if we want to call them that), and the readers.
Manufacturers would feel like everyone who gets a review is contributing to keeping the site going (no freeloaders) for the industry as a whole. The readers don't have to pay to learn about products that are usually not inexpensive in the first place. The reviewer/consultant gets paid for the long hours spent listening, analyzing, comparing, writing, photoshopping etc. I know it's a lot of work because when developing product, I have to put on my reviewer hat on and put in the hours. It's fun but it involves a lot of mental energy. Luckily it is work that makes you want to give it your best because you enjoy it and are free of conflict (which you wrote about in John Darko's KIH#14 and which especially mirrored my feelings towards self-employment in general). This part to be exact:
"Just as vital is not being in conflict. If you work for someone else, a certain amount of conflict and compromise is inevitable. If you’re self-employed, those shackles are off (as is job security). Absence of conflict leads to enthusiasm. Enthusiasm leads to giving it your all. Giving all of yourself to the job leads to getting reasonably good at what you do. That’s because you’re honestly motivated to improve yourself. You mean to see how far you can go since nobody is holding you back but yourself. All of that tends to lead to a certain amount of success. After all, success thrives on enthusiasm and self-improvement. It’s contagious and self-revealing."
Yes! As long as everything is fully disclosed, then what is the problem? I see it as a solution at least to the issues I raised above. When you free yourself of conflicts (the "box"), solutions appear all around you. I've been going through this process for quite a few months now and the results will show themselves soon enough (hopefully at RMAF). I have never been so energized like this before and I believe that I am getting ready to offer something that will be a true game-changer for our customers and those in the industry who will inevitably follow down this path. There is so much I want to talk about regarding this but it needs to wait for another 4 to 6 weeks. This was not the reason for this email but something that has me relate to your situation of wanting to change the game. Breaking free of the conflict, free of those who do not want to see change because they fear it, free of "the old appeals" (C.Sagan?). Everything needs to evolve and eventually it does, but sometimes slower or faster than we like to see. It sounds like the evolution of the audio review model is already in progress!
Finally (for now), one idea for a new reviewer model that has been on my mind has to do with providing the reader with more insight into the reviewer's listening room. Not just pictures but more about the setup of the speakers and the spatial relation between the speakers, listening position, and room (and what happens when these are tweaked). The room dimensions and even some way to give insight about the room acoustics (one could get deep into this part with measurements of the room's impulse response, time to decay, etc). The idea is that when readers have more knowledge about a reviewer's room, they might be able to understand and appreciate where the reviewer was coming from when reviewing a particular pair of speakers or electronic component. Of course it's more work and there is enough of that to do already and I understand that! But imagine if there were certain industry standards for how a reviewer details how the room is impacting their impressions of the product under test (just like a manufacturer follows certain standard such as specifying wattage, gain, sensitivity etc.). I am not saying this is something that can be figured out overnight, but it would probably change the way people relate to product reviews and perhaps the reader would be willing to pay to get this level of insight so they can get a better grasp of how a product would sound before they shell out their hard-earned cash. Certain parts of a review site could require a login that only paying members would have. It doesn't have to be a large amount. Even $10/ mo. x all those people who would want the detailed scoop directly from the "audio evaluation consultant" would hopefully raise enough money for the consultant to want to put in that next level of time and energy into the process. Just something that I wanted to throw out there:-)
Thanks for standing up to the system and wanting to make some needed changes in our industry, and wishing you continued success!
We'll be in touch soon enough,
Thank you for your well-considered note, Vinnie. You were one of the folks I particularly thought about. "If small firms like RWA support us to keep going whilst big firms like PS Audio or Naim have 8 reviews each in our archives yet never reciprocated once - then there's something wrong with the system. It's imbalanced and unfair."
I'm pleased to hear you agree that change is necessary and welcome.
You're perfectly correct that more information about the room and its influence on the results would be most useful. That's why we've had basic room stats (construction, dimensions) and setup (long wall, short wall) for a long time in our equipment listings plus actual photos. But I concur, more is required.
I'll think about how we can incorporate that, thank you!
Your new policy is not what oft was thought, but ne'er so well express'd.
Rather, it's what should have been done years ago
to correct widespread abuse. Most manufacturers
I know can relate (but only in private) stories of
extortion from the glossy magazines. You're trying
to clear the stables and the air. Um zu besser.
For taking a concrete step to address the broken model as you've explained it. There's no replacement for having the nerve to lead by action. As you say, subscriptions would be more perfect. Your model does seem like a solid intermediate step. I have faith in any reviewer who is willing to state clearly what the policy is and why. I've recently discovered Part-Time Audiophile and think that his series on reviewing is excellent.
In response to some previous posts about people's willingness to subscribe, I'd point out how low the price would probably have to be. Certainly some would pay any reasonable price but it seems most relevant to look at the price of print mags in your space. I've let my subscriptions lapse* several times. This quickly brings offers of less than $15/yr. for me to re-up.
I do have a predictable question. What happens when there's a product with great price/performance value but the mfr. won't pay for whatever reason? Surely some will say that they have a strict policy of not paying for press. Do you think these cases will likely be covered enough in other places so it won't be a major loss to your audience that they're not reviewed here?
* Too much coverage of "statement" products, which I've gone from lusting after to largely regarding with contempt and disdain. Maybe I've subscribed to the wrong mags?
Thanks for all of your excellent work,
PS: Maybe you should follow Stephen Colbert's lead and offer a "Six Moons Platinum." You could charge 2'000 eur/yr. for 50 page reviews of the extreme statement products.
Thanks. It's never been our obligation or even ability to review everything. That's obvious. We've been an attractive destination for newer smaller companies because we had no entry barrier.
Will those companies now balk at our minimum fee for access to the review process? That's hard to predict because, in our Western sector, this hasn't been done before. It's something to monitor and make adjustments for if necessary. As I wrote, the new policy was in response to successful makers refusing to support us despite participating in the review process. It wasn't an unwillingness to help newcomers. But you can't make a policy with the intent to be fairer than the one it replaces; and then make exceptions. That's just another form of unfairness all over again. Hence my deliberate decision to make this entry fee as low as possible - a token one-month small banner.
As to 'Platinum', like you I'm not keen on 'statement' products which very few can afford. I'm neither of the right mind set nor do I have the hardware context to pursue such a thing. There are other publications with specific writers who specialize in this sector to do a proper job of it already.
In UK terms 6moons is seriously Reithian - it entertains, and informs, and educates. I see no reason why it shouldn't be funded with a fee-based model, a bit like our beloved BBC. Would be delighted to see you go professional, and "unbiased", and ad-free - and to be paid properly for all your hard work.
Thanks for the heads-up. Who knows. Perhaps that's where we'll end up indeed. Now, Reithian... as my good deed for the day on improving my vocabulary, that I gotta look up right now.
If you will forgive me for saying so, your audio journalism might possibly have wider appeal than the worthy and somewhat joyless efforts of Mr Colloms. Reading 6M enabled me to put together a new system that sounds much better than my previous ‘Brit Kit’ setup. As well as trying out new equipment and new tweaks, there was also much good sense on offer as to how to avoid contracting a terminal case of audio nervosa, or needlessly wasting money.
Arguably that’s what you are selling rather than review copy: some wisdom, advice and fresh ideas to assist hobbyists in making it through the audio jungle relatively unscathed and having an epic listening experience at the end of it. On that basis I would happily pay $10 or $20 monthly subscription for 6M. However, as you note, it’s not really that simple and there probably need to be wider changes, adopted by others as well as by 6M. I really do hope this gets suitably sorted. You deserve proper remuneration, we need good professional audio journalism!
All the best, and I will watch for appropriate use of "Reithian" in your next Nagra or ModWright review…
|Hi Srajan ,
Yes Reithian.. had to look that up as well. I must admit that Mark has a point so kudos to you for standing up to be counted. We could do with a lot more reviewers like you who take an equal consideration of all viewpoints. As a recent start-up to the hifi market, I can attest as to how
valuable 6moons has been to us. So as they say, the best of British/Swiss luck and long live 6moons.
|New policy-phizog pics? Must be your inherent modesty?
Your 'New Policy' article has nice historic pics of your various rooms.
But, no equally historic pics of the Editor himself, in his various stages of life!
The 'fade-to-grey' feature,
let alone shots of the accompanying Art on the walls?
We need more 'Lifestyle' articles. A food page?
Yours, in jest.
"Life is not riches nor structures of stone, but remembrance of those few people you've joined spirits with''. (Kung Fu)
Quite so about the jest bit. I think my personality is imprinted strongly enough on this site. Adding to it with too many mug shots would arguably get a bit much. There's plenty of fellow contributors deserving face time.
But you're right, the art on the walls has changed. My wife's been busy. In fact she's in Edinburgh right now finishing up an advanced 2-week course in botanical watercolour painting. She has no intentions of getting into the formal botanical part of it (you know, illustrate botanical resource books and such). She simply wanted to acquire the raw techniques to subsequently apply them to artistically freer paintings of flowers.
She's got another three days to finish up her portfolio to hand in for the certification. Then she'll be back primed to get creative. She sounds very excited about applying all the stuff she's learnt to her own compositions using various flowers in our garden for inspiration. So our art on the walls could be changing again soon. I let her know you noticed. She'll appreciate it.
My partner of the last 20 years (we're both 65+) gave up being a teacher at 51 and with my encouragement went to Art College for 4 years, ending up with a First Class Honours degree!
Claims it ruined her for 'Art' though she often produces all sorts of 'Art' things.
Coincidentally, given your 'botanical' mention, our flower-filled garden is her passion.- Perhaps your wife should pop down from Scotland en route home for some additional stimuli!
Chris - currently selling all my vinyl!
Ha. She can't wait to get back home, eat our own home-cooked food and be immersed in what we call our domestic sanctuary. Otherwise the invite would have great merit, thx.
IMO, the appropriate solution for the future of 6moons is to believe in the intrinsic value of what you have to offer. Charge a subscription for it! The notion that on-line subscriptions only work for porn is false. Please don't take my word for it. Go instead to today's article in The Guardian titled "New Yorker Website Redesign" (they have 12 million on-line viewers as opposed to one million print readers!!) and the initial story which appeared in the July 8th edition titled "New Yorker Alters Its Online Strategy." The following quote from the latter story is illuminating:
"Pay walls, once seen as untenable, have become something of a settled wisdom as online advertising revenue has proved disappointing. The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times all charge for online content using the kind of metered pay wall that The New Yorker plans to use."
I believe when you announce that access to 6moons—and its review archives!—will henceforth only be available to subscribers you will be instantly gratified at the response. What 6moons has to offer is unmatched in the audio world. Believe it! Readers will be quite happy to pay a modest monthly fee to hear what you and your cadre of reviewers have to say. In addition, with predictable revenues, reviewers can now be paid fixed amount(s) for their articles reflective of feature length vs. quick hitter. (The proposed idea to pay on the basis of the amount of advertising generated is simply loony.)
As The Guardian articles discuss, there are a number of ways to package and introduce the subscription. There may be some tinkering required to figure out what works best and how much to charge, but not nearly as complicated as trying to make sense of the mumbo-jumbo of computer playback (the abbreviations involved are worthy of Monty Python). I definitely think consideration should be given to an annual subscription, say $24.00, versus going monthly, say $3.00. The latter is a far cry from the $15.00 a month the NYTimes automatically bills me, which has quickly becomes as invisible as the monthly charge for my bank account.
You are right, the current model for audio reviews is broken. Charging manufacturers is not going to fix it. You have spent 12 years winning the absolute trust and respect of your readers. They will be only too happy to pay you to continue.
Thank you for your vote of confidence. Here is what Alan Sircom with a UK hifi print magazine had to say about the same position expressed as,
if your readers think you are professional and truly giving valuable advice with well written, concise and insightful reviews then they will pay.
His reply: Not enough will pay enough. For example, The New York Times lost more than 99% of its readership the moment it put up its pay wall in Feb 2011. Today, it currently posts 760,000 subscribers, which is better but still nothing like the 61.9m unique browsers it got before the pay wall. The London Times went from 20.4m unique browsers in 2010 to 131,000 fee-paying subscribers two years later (I don't have more recent statistics to hand). Most people in the subscriptions field expect an attrition rate of around 95-99% of the pre-pay wall audience, almost irrespective of content.
A lot of site owners feel their content is distinctive, valued, and valuable enough to be a financially bankable asset. They typically put up a pay wall for their services, and disappear without trace soon after.
A pay model is survivable (just) if you are the New York Times, because a tiny fraction of 61.9m is still hundreds of thousands willing to pay a subscription. It's survivable if you are the London Times too, because you have a very profitable multinational TV organisation holding out an umbrella for you. But when you don't have tens of millions of unique visitors every month, ridding yourself of almost all of them is suicide."
To be frank, I rather believe Alan has it right.
I am a full-time reviewer like yourself for www.avrev.com and I contribute
to every issue of Tone Audio and PFO.
I am writing to show full support for your editorial and asking manufacturers
to support the publication. It is about time.
I won't go on as I agree with ALL your reasons, the ones you eloquently laid out.
P.S. I have started a thread on the subject. Feel free to join in but please,
Very kind regards,
Thanks for pointing me at your thread. I'll participate if there are actual questions on the topic.