06 August 2007 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 3 comments

Earlier today, I posted the following on the forum boards at Armchair General:

I have heard the bad news about Chris Lewis leaving. Having worked with Chris on my lead article this past winter, I know that he is a capable, talented professional who cares a great deal about the magazine and about maintaining its quality and integrity. Hence, while I was disappointed to hear of his leaving, I know it’s in keeping with his character. I respect a man who’s willing to go to bat for his principles.

Eric Weider, I hope you’re reading this. There are lessons to be learned from this situation. That someone the caliber of Chris would leave your company due to disagreements with the unfortunate direction your staff wants to take cries out for a response. You’ve heard the same complaints here about Military History, and you’ve asked for patience. I have heard little since then to suggest that the readers are happy with the “new direction” of Military History, and I can tell you without hesitation, both as reader and as contributing author, that if the same “new direction” continues to be taken with CWTI and America’s Civil War, I’m done reading them, and I suspect most of your readers will be, too.

This situation is akin to the “new Coke” fiasco of the mid-1980’s. Coca Cola was losing market share to Pepsi, and decided to take Pepsi on in its own arena. Instead of attacking Pepsi, Coke introduced a new formulation that tasted just like Pepsi, and Pepsi–for good reason–made hay with the situation, arguing that its product was so good that Coke had copied it. Within a matter of a couple of months, Coca Cola had beaten a hasty retreat and had brought back the original formula as “Classic Coke.”

It’s time for you to abandon “New Coke” and go back to “Classic Coke”, or else I really fear that there will be no magazines at all left for you to sell.

The ball’s in your court.

And good luck to you, Chris Lewis. Wherever you end up, I wish you well, and I respect your integrity.

Eric

To his credit, Eric Weider responded to me. Here’s his response:

Eric I appreciate your feedback.

Regarding Military History we had some normal bumps early on. But for the record our August issue was one of the best selling issues of this magazine in a long time. And personally I think the Sept issue is better still. If you have read the recent Sept issue I would welcome your specific constructive feedback.

Regarding Civil War Times I won’t comment publicaly on Chris’ resignation because it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do that. But you can assume that as is usually the case there is more than one side to the story.

Regarding America’s Civil War I am surprised that you are critical of the direction of this magazine. Dana Shoaf and his team have been doing superb work on it and it is reflected in the sales which are up 20% in the last year. We are getting an abundance of positive feedback. Have you seen the latest issue?

In any event…I always welcome feedback. It is sincerely appreciated.

I have nothing further to say about this, other than to say that I hope that Eric is right. And in any event, I wish Chris Lewis nothing but the best.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Mon 06th Aug 2007 at 11:09 pm

    Who knew…better sales=better history magazine. LOL.

  2. Mike Nugent
    Tue 07th Aug 2007 at 10:11 am

    While it was to his credit that responded so promptly to your concerns, I’ve got to agree with the sentiments Drew W. expresses above. How well the magazines are selling is hardly an indication of their quality from a historical perspective.

    I’m afraid that the “history for the masses” approach will lead to the inevitable dumbing down of the real history, a “USA Today” version of the Civil War. They might sell well, but at the cost of abandoning thier original audience of folks who at least took the subject somewhat seriously.

    Best wishes to Chris Lewis and kudos for having the integrity to act on your beliefs.

  3. Rob Wick
    Tue 07th Aug 2007 at 12:13 pm

    If you look at this from a strictly business perspective, I think it makes sense to appeal to the broadest possible audience you can find, and I think it is a truism that there is only a select few who are interested in just the military aspects of a conflict. I can’t see the harm in expanding the subject matter to include the political or social, as long as the military aspects are also covered. To be honest, I’ve never read Military History or any of these other magazines because my own interests don’t relate to the minutiae of a battle, but after this discussion started I looked at the most recent issue on the newsstand and I have to say I still wouldn’t read it. While I continue to read North and South and peruse CWTI and America’s Civil War, I find myself skimming the articles that go into what I feel is mind-numbing detail over strategy and tactics. Again, that reflects only my interests and is not meant to say that there shouldn’t be an outlet for those who find that subject matter fascinating. However, if I were a publisher, my main goal would be to keep the magazine in business and not be bleeding red ink. After all, if you aren’t making money, that outlet will eventually go away. In this case wouldn’t it be better to have half a loaf than no bread at all?

    Best
    Rob

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