The State of Knife Magazines & the Web, Part II

Winds a blowing

In Part I of this series, we established our traditional print knife mags are primarily using their websites to generate new subscriptions for their print mags. Then we introduced potential problems they face if they give Web users what they want, while trying to maintain their content for their print editions.

Today, we want to look at the some other winds that are blowing against these print magazines and how they will be forced to change their business models, if they are to survive in today’s Web-oriented society.

Magazines Revenue Hit Hard

As reported in the New York Times, American magazines lost ad revenue- significant revenue, 58,340 pages worth of ad pages in 2009. Between 08 & 09, magazines lost, on average, one-quarter of their ad pages.

Is this decline a function of advertisers shifting their marketing dollars elsewhere or simply a result of their cutting back due to the economy? Don’t know, but it hit magazines hard either way.

Even the famous Sports Illustrated Magazine’s Swim Suit Edition has been impacted by all this-

The 2009 swim suit edition had 1.1 million readers, which is down from 1.5 million. The magazine had 70 print ads, which is 1/3 of the ad pages it usually runs. The President of the firm is talking about how they are using “new” channels (READ: THE WEB) for this edition’s “content.”

Many magazines also lowered their per-copy subscription prices to offset the loss in circulation.

Nate Ives in AdvertisingAge Magazine February 5, 2010 edition states,

“Nearly two-thirds of 344 magazines analyzed dropped their per-copy subscription prices between 2002 and the first half of 2009, but nearly 75% of those price-choppers also saw individually paid subscriptions decline anyway, according to an analysis of Audit Bureau of Circulations reports by Jack Hanrahan, the media-agency veteran who’s now an industry consultant and publisher of the CircMatters newsletter.”

Before we simply assume, “It’s the Economy, Stupid!” We must ask- “Are we witnessing a shift in what consumers want today?”

We Develop New Habits-

There is no doubt consumers’ habits are changing. More folks get their news and information online today than ever before. And I am certain the younger generations are already accustomed to using the Web as their primary source of information & entertainment.

We are in the Instant Information Age. We want news real-time, as it’s happening. We want information when we, the consumers, want it. The Web provides for both of these demands. Waiting on a monthly magazine to come out can be frustrating if the information is time sensitive. If it is not, and the articles are simply informational, then it is a function of if that information is exclusive, or is it provided elsewhere, like on the Web.

Form, Function and Place

MRI (Mediamark Research & Intelligence) MEDIA CONSUMPTION PATHWAYS IN AN EVOLVING WORLD reports-

“Ritual and current day passion for new media aside, there are some pragmatic reasons that arose within all of the generational groups that determine a reader’s choice of online versus offline. Much of print’s strength comes from the obvious portability and practicality in the commute as well as in the bathroom. Many talked about reading in bed. On the other hand, many of our participants spend a portion of their day in front of a computer, for work, school and recreation. Grabbing a few headlines in a short break at work is far less conspicuous than reading a newspaper or magazine.”

New Technology Helps Creates New Habits

How many folks subscribe to RSS Feeds or surf the Web on their phones today? I think you’d be surprised actually and the invention of Apple’s iPhone catapulted us into mobile computing unlike any other technology gadget.

So what does all this mean? It means it is becoming the norm to access the web everywhere, so the argument of “taking a pub to the bathroom because it is portable” is not as relevant.

Don’t like to stare at a small screen?- I hear ya. Pretty hard to see that Johnny Stout custom starting at it on your blackberry or iPhone isn’t it? So, isn’t that screen-size limitation going to deter folks from reading Web-content and will end up keeping the print mags safe for a while longer? Hold on there. Not so fast-

New Generation of Web Readers

Fast forward to portable media devices, like Amazon’s Kindle. The Kindle is a handheld device for reading e-books bought from Amazon. My 14-year-old daughter loves hers.

Apple's iPad

Last month, Apple announced the iPad for mobile websufing and its screen is the size of a regular print magazine. It is not targeting power uses either, but the folks who are computer users by virtue of their phones.

That’s right. Web content is mobile now, even without the smartphones.

In fact, an article on Seeking Alpha came out today showing that the website of the New York Times, the nation’s most popular newspaper, received 75 million page views from smartphones and the iPod just in the month of December 2009 and how the iPad is better than for reading the Their website is already as popular as their print edition.

And you know what? Your wrist won’t hurt cause there isn’t a mouse. It’s a touch screen instead. And curling up on the couch? No prob. These babies are highly portable.

The Hearst Corp just announced its electronic device for reading newspapers and magazines. It’s called the Skiff Reader.

If this new electronic platform is too George Jetson and you have doubts if they will ever take off? Consider this-

Magazine Publishing Biggies- Conde’ Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp and Time announced in Dec. 09 a joint venture to develop a digital storefront for consumers to enjoy their favorite magazine content on portable digital devices.

“For the consumer, this digital initiative will provide access to an extraordinary selection of engaging content products, all customized for easy download on the device of their choice, including smartphones, e-readers and laptops,” explained John Squires, the venture’s interim managing director.

The digital initiatives underway by the leading publishers are staggering. The Atlantic Magazine, for example, announced in December 09, it was joining with Amazon for its magazine to be downloaded and read on the Kindle. And yet, the biggest buzz for the print media industry is the development of iPhone and iPad apps for content delivery.

Are consumers now using a new medium for content delivery because they want to or is the invention of web readers an attempt by a handful of companies to change our reading habits to online vs print?

The Skiff Web Reader- Not only highly portable, but also flexible.

The way I see it the answer doesn’t matter because in the end- we will change our habits and at some point- sooner or later- we’ll all be reading online as the norm.


So, what does all this mean for our traditional print knife magazines? Your guess is as good as mine, but I say the publishing industry is changing, either out of necessity, or survival, or in anticipation of future demand. Many are now trying to get ahead of the curve as we speak.

And if you think knife pictures don’t look as good on the Web as they do in the glossy mags, then you haven’t check out lately.

All I have to say is our knife magazines better take heed cause it is not a matter of if, only when.

Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 10:52 pm  Comments (6)  
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The State of Knife Magazines & the Web Part I

A recent editorial by Mark Zalesky in Knife World Magazine caused me to stop and think about the state of our Knife Magazines and the Web today.

Mark writes Irons in the Fire each month and in the February 2010 edition he shares with their readers the reasons for not publishing current, or past editions, articles or features online. I would link to the editorial so you can read it for yourself, but…

One of Mark’s reasons, among many, for KW not going digital is a concern about sustaining their revenue.

“But once one factors in the cost of material, preparation, setting it up and maintaining it online….generating enough income to make the effort pay for itself is one hard row to hoe.”

OK, that’s Knife World’s position for not publishing online, so what about our other Knife Magazines? We can tell a lot about their business models by looking at how they are using their websites today.

Knife magazines and their websites

What about Blade Magazine? When you visit their website, you quickly get the impression Blade is stuck between publishing fresh content for their website and selling print magazine subscriptions. In fact, the moment you hit their site a “subscribe” window pops up and won’t go away until you click it closed, or subscribe. Clearly their business model is to use their website to sell magazine subscriptions, or CDs of back editions. To their credit the site does include some articles and a blog.

Then take Tactical Knives Magazine, part of the Tactical-Life family- Tactical Knives publishes its traditional print magazine every other month. Their website is also used to sell subscriptions or back editions but they take a different approach. Once each edition comes out, they will put up the contents. I’m not sure of the lag time between when each print edition hits the street and when they add it to their website, but why subscribe if each edition is published online?

“Stuck in the middle with you…”

The traditional print magazines are stuck-not just our knife magazines, but the whole print magazine industry. Their business model is to generate ad revenue and sell subscriptions. If they go online with their content, folks will probably quit subscribing to their print magazine. Then their circulation drops and advertisers quit running ads. On the other hand, web users today want content- substantive content. The trend is clearly going that direction. Sure some folks may want to curl up on the couch with a print edition, but more folks are comfortable reading online than ever before, and that trend will continue too (more on this in Part II).

Flip the switch?

You’d think traditional print magazines could just flip a switch and go totally online. Think of the huge cost savings- no more printing, paper, or postage. Sell online advertising and move on without a hitch. Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The challenge our print knife magazines face is the continual operating expenses during the time to get the new online business model up and running. And they may not be able to have the same amount of ad space in their digital magazine as they do in their print editions, which are very ad heavy.

Plus, another challenge is most content online today is FREE. While there are a few online magazines that charge for access to their articles, it is too early to see if the other content providers are going that way. A publication must have an extremely strong brand or exclusive content to pull it off right now. If the others follow, then the norm becomes for consumers to pay for content, if they don’t follow, then it will be difficult to be in the minority.

Traditional magazines simply can’t make the shift to publishing exclusively online without additional risks. At face value it appears they will have to generate additional revenue streams, like charging fees to join their forums, putting up a paywall to access their magazine or even pay-per-click articles, like the New York Times does with their archives.

My opinion is they are right dead in the middle of a paradigm shift and the answers depend on how you look at it. However, there are clearly other strong forces blowing right now- we’ll look at what they are in the second installment.

Stay tuned for Part II

The Burden of a Knife Repairer

In our Knife Resortation Series we are looking at the big picture, and some of the ramifications, of bringing knives back to life. We recently established The Line all Knife Repairers (or repairmen) see when restoring knives.

In my interviews with these master craftsmen, it is clear they inherently shoulder a burden. A big one. And this burden exists whether they like it or not.

What’s the burden? To cross the line or not.

Think about it. Put yourself in the shoes of a Knife Repairer. You repair knives. A knife owner sends you an old knife wanting its broken blade fixed. No problem. Fixing knives is what you do and you are good at it.

You evaluate your opinions-

  • you can go to your parts bin and select a blade that’s as close to the original as you have at the time
  • you can go on a hunt to try to find an exact match, but that could take a lot of time- weeks or months, maybe even years
  • you could even weld the broken blade tip back on, if the owner still has it, otherwise you must weld a different tip on instead. At least this way it has the authentic tang stamp.

Knife Part Bins

You know actually fixing the knife isn’t the problem. The issue here is “how” to fix it. The actual labor and repair part is doable, but must you authenticate the old knife?

Is the repair going to make the knife appear to be authentic and in original condition? If you have the exact blade to replace that is one thing, but if you don’t what is the customer asking you to do?

It’d be easy to say- My job to fix knives. This one needs a new blade and that I can do. What does it matter to me what the knife owner does with this knife? I’ve simply been hired to fix it. Plus, I don’t know he’s not just going to give it to little Johnny to dig in the dirt with.

Is it your responsibility to screen your customers to determine their intent for the knives? Are they going to sale or keep them? Even if your customers say they are collectors won’t the knives be sold eventually, so what then? Or do you simply do what you’ve been hired to do and fix the knife- no questions asked.

Do you repair it and then give the owner a “letter” explaining the repair that he must use if he ever decides to sell it so the buyer will know the knife’s not authentic (assuming you couldn’t find a blade original to the pattern and the knife company with the right stamp to use)? How then do you know the owner will provide the eventual buyer with your letter anyway? Or do you add something to the knife- an identifier,  so it’s “tagged” for the rest of its life clearly distinguishing it as having been worked on?

You are a Knife Repairer. And inherent with that job is a burden, because you see The Line.

Photo Credit: Knife Part Bins- Bob Picklesimer

Published in: on February 5, 2010 at 12:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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Knife Restoration- The Line

There is a line, and it is black and white.

In our Knife Restoration Series, we are looking at the bringing old knives back to life.

Knives do break and need repaired, but today, I’m not talking about fixing a knife; no, I’m talking The Line.

Some see it clearly, to others it isn’t quite so clear, but all know it’s there.

“A knife needs fixed.  That’s when the “restore or not” question comes in.  I guess that’s the thing…..when you’re working on a knife, you know if you’re doing something to blur the issue of authenticity to future observers of that knife.  When you get to that line, you have to decide….”

Quote from an interview with a knife repairer

There is a line, and it is black and white.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 8:37 am  Comments (1)  
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Cutlery News Journal’s Top Stories for 2009

The most popular stories for 2009 cover a wide-range of topics- knife company history, knife company and industry news, audio interviews, knife factoids, trends, contests and survey results. Interestingly, several posts were published in 2008 and remain popular.

2009 Knife Collector Survey Results
Famous Knife Factory Fires
Meet a master whittler
American Cutlery Company History Trivia
Wrench and Tool Knives
iBlade: A new cutting-edge iPod
All the types of knives and the firms that made them
Smoky Mountain Knife Works Executive Killed
Pocket Knives and Tool Knives in the Early America
Knife History References
Introduction to Great Eastern Cutlery’s
My Favorite Knife YouTube Video Contest
Knives used around the Kitchen in 1919
CNJ Audio Interview Series- Knifemaker Tony Bose

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Knife Restoration- Is it an acceptable practice for old knives?

Bringing an old knife back to life

Folks have different opinions on Knife Reconditioning, which is why it is the most widely debated topic today.

This discussion leads us head-on into seeking answers to questions like- What obligations do the sellers of repaired knives have, if any? What about the guys doing the reconditioning- are they free to do whatever their customers want or are they obligated to police customers’ requests?

Check most any knife forum and you’ll find Knife Squads critiquing old knives. And when they think a seller is trying to slip one by- Katie bar the door.

CNJ is wading knee-deep into this controversial topic through a series of articles exploring the ethics of working on and selling repaired old knives.

To launch this series, let me pose this situation to get you thinking.


You’re at an estate sale digging through a box of old knives when one catches your eye. It seems all the knives in the box have one problem or another, but you give the guy $2.00 and off you go.

Later that night you empty your pockets on your dresser and there that knife is. You decide to set aside time tomorrow, if you have it, to clean the knife up a bit, cause it really needs some attention.

Tomorrow comes and goes, as does the next day and the next. Actually it is several weeks before you find the time and the interest to hit at that knife. But when you do, its character begins to shine through. And while you like the knife, it isn’t an EDC, so you put in back in the drawer with your other knives.

Then one day while you are looking for something in that drawer- there that knife is again. You’d forgotten all about it. You decide to take it to a guy who is a master craftsman to work his magic on it.

You drop it off the next week with the guy hoping he can bring it back to life.

A couple weeks later he calls- your knife is alive and doing well, and ready to be picked up.

_ _ _

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention- the master craftsman had to put another old blade on it, cause as you know when you bought it, that blade was broken off.

Stay tuned and get ready- the Knife Restoration Series should be real interesting.

Published in: on December 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm  Comments (5)  
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Interview with man who started working in knife factory in 1872

Part II in the American Life Histories– manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project 1936- 1940. Today’s interview is with William Dunbar of Reynolds Bridge, Connecticut during the year of 1938. The person conducting the interview is not identified and it begins with a note about Mr. Dunbar.

William Dunbar, of Reynolds Bridge, a hale and hearty old gentleman who admits to “over eighty” but astonishingly active is the last of the knifemakers remaining in his section. Commonly known as the “village,” this little suburb is composed of two straggling rows of houses over the mile long road intersecting the main highways from Thomaston to Waterbury and Watertown, (Connecticut). Built expressly for the English knifemakers who once worked in the old wooden factory in the heart of the village–long since abandoned and falling into decay–the little settlement is now occupied largely by poorer families attracted by the low rents. The home of Mr. Dunbar however is comfortably furnished, equipped with modern conveniences. He spends his winters in Florida, has a summer camp at a nearby lake–and only last year, he says, built himself a small power boat which he used successfully for fishing excursions.

“This here concern,” says Mr. Dunbar (meaning the old knife factory at Reynolds Bridge)” was called the American Knife Company, and when it started I can’t tell you. But I know it was begun by Pierpont and Morse. Squire Morse, he owned a clock shop down there on the site of the factory building, and it burned down. And afterwards (c.1849) he got together with Pierpont and started the knife factory. (Goins’ dates American Knife Company c. 1875- 1895. It was sold to Northfield Knife Co. in 1894- SK)

“No, I don’t think either one of them knew anything about knifemakin’. They were good businessmen. They hired the knifemakers and let ’em go, and I guess they made money. My father worked in Waterville and then came up here. No sir, he was a Yankee, he wasn’t an Englishman. I learned the trade from him when I was a kid and went to work in the shop here when I was fourteen.


Case Family & American Cutlery History Video Documentary by Brad Lockwood Part II

Today is Part II of the video documentary by Brad Lockwood, the great-great-great grandson of Job Case- the patriarch and icon of the Case family cutlers.

This two-part series is much like a cliff notes narrated version of his fantastic book, “Tested XX – The Case Cutlery Dynasty.” Brad does an excellent job providing us footage of many of the historic homes and knife factory sites in Little Valley, NY- “The Village of Knives,” in addition to Case family history. Members of the Case family either worked for or started 32 different knife companies over the years.

If you missed Part I, here it is. Check it out. You will like it.

Published in: on December 11, 2009 at 7:52 am  Comments (3)  
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Case Family & American Cutlery History Video Documentary by Brad Lockwood Part I

Introducing a two-part video series on the Case Knife Family

Brad Lockwood, great-great-great grandson of Job Case- the patriarch and icon of the Case family cutlers- produced these videos for all Case and American cutlery history fans to enjoy.

This series is much like a cliff notes narrated version of his fantastic book, “Tested XX – The Case Cutlery Dynasty.” Brad does an excellent job providing us footage of many of the historic homes and knife factory sites in Little Valley, NY- “The Village of Knives,” in addition to Case family history. Members of the Case family either worked for or started 32 different knife companies over the years.

Stay tuned for Part II later this week.

Introducing the CNJ Knife Game Series

Knife Game Series

“Playing knives” is my way of describing the fun I have with all things knife related and the camaraderie with fellow knife enthusiasts. And yet today, I’m introducing a new series that is literally playing with knives. It is entitled Knife Games.

Knife games are the epitome of playing with knives. They are recreation. In some cases, they served as a pastime and in others a venue for competition.

The Knife Games Series will look at all the different games using knives- from yesterday and today. I hope you enjoy, and if you know of one, let me know.

But before we begin I need to say- this series is a documentary and is not intended to be instructional. I will not be held responsible for injuries, deaths or dismemberment of any of your, or anyone else’s, members. If you aren’t able to play knives without hurting yourself or others, then leave it in your pocket. There I got that disclaimer out of the way, let’s have some fun. 🙂

Stay tuned for the first Knife Game-


Image credit:

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 12:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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