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GeneT
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Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes
      #5626721 - 01/16/13 06:13 PM

This is a sad day for me. Today, I cancelled my subscription to Astronomy Magazine. I have subscribed to both Astronomy and Sky and Telescope for more than 30 years.

Along with many other subscribers, I received my January issue of Astronomy Magazine. I read Editor David Eicher’s From the Editor piece. He talked his readers through some changes made to the magazine. “I proposed to Art Director LuAnn Williams Belter and her team a new look that would incorporate the news, columns, and letters with an environment that would be richer and more fun to explore,” wrote Eicher.

I then began reading through the magazine. As far as I can tell, most of the content was retained, however the elements were moved around. He is dropping his “Deep-sky Showcase”, and adding a new feature “Astro Sketching” written by Erika Rix. In my opinion, this is a good edition. However, should “Deep-sky Showcase have been dropped?

Here is my first question: why was it necessary to do a make-over of Astronomy Magazine? My personal take is that magazine was fine. Did Astronomy conduct some readership surveys to lead the editors to make these changes? I agree that publications should make changes when there is a good reason to do so. But, in my opinion, the shift in content did nothing to improve the magazine. However, shift in content may have aggravated some, if not many readers.

I kept moving through the magazine. Page 9, “Civilization in the universe”; I noticed that as a result of the magazine’s redo, the type face size was noticeably smaller on most of the articles and sidebars. Flip to page 11 and Bob Berman’s Strange Universe. Noticeably smaller type. Page 12, “What Caused Supernova 1006?” Briefcase Page 12, small type that is very hard to read. Page 13 “Astronews”, small type, with the rest of the items on that page set in very small type. And so it goes throughout Astronomy Magazine.

In my opinion, the editors of Astronomy tried to fix something that wasn’t broken. I would have stayed a subscriber had they only shifted the content around.

Reducing the type size to where I have to fight it to read through it was just too much. I have no problem reading other books and magazines and they come in a variety of formats and type faces. Readability of a publication should be a top priority.

I can’t believe that the editors of Astronomy did not realize that reducing the size of type in the magazine would cause difficulty with readers, even those with good eye sight. I can only imagine how readers with seeing problems will be affected.

I wrote the Editor of Sky and Telescope, and told him of my disappointment with the editors of Astronomy. He assured me that Sky and Telescope would not duplicate the mistake of editors of Astronomy, in making the size of the text difficult to read. The editor of Sky and Telescope told me that readability of the magazine is one of their top priorities.

After cancelling my subscription to Astronomy, I subscribed to Astronomy Technology Today Magazine.

Astronomy Magazine—so long my old friend, and good bye.


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okieav8r
I'd rather be flying!
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: GeneT]
      #5626912 - 01/16/13 08:06 PM

One thing I'm glad to see gone from Astronomy Magazine is the back page feature, Cosmic Grid. I thought it was a bit too quirky, and really didn't contribute anything. Beyond that, I'm a fan.

If you're a gearhead, you'll like Astronomy Technology Today magazine, but you'll find very little about observing there--it's strictly about telescopes and all the equipment that goes with them. I love the magazine. If you're looking for information about the latest gear, it's the one to consult.


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rockethead26
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: okieav8r]
      #5626985 - 01/16/13 08:43 PM

Actually, I like the new format and don't have an issue with the font size. I agree with Rex that the old back page feature won't be missed. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time.

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GeneT
Ely Kid
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Reged: 11/07/08

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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: rockethead26]
      #5627164 - 01/16/13 10:36 PM

Quote:

Actually, I like the new format and don't have an issue with the font size. I agree with Rex that the old back page feature won't be missed. I guess you can't please all of the people all of the time.




I have subscribed to Astronomy for more than 30 years. Over these years, they evolved both the look and the content of the magazine. It is true that you cannot please everyone. That is not my main point. If an editor changes the font size, in this case making it smaller, and more difficult to read for readers, in my opinion that is a poor decision. Some may not mind the smaller print. My objection of the smaller print is not based on an aesthetic reason. The reason is that the smaller print causes me to have to fight through the text.

I compared page by page of the January and February issues, comparing them with the August and September issues. Prior to January, the text was a nice size to read. An editor should never worsen the readability of his or her publication.

In my opinion, Astronomy should have left the text size as is, and made the other changes to the magazine. That is what the past editors did. They evolved the content, but kept the readability the same.


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okieav8r
I'd rather be flying!
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: GeneT]
      #5627208 - 01/16/13 11:03 PM

I agree with you about the font size Gene. I've read more than one article that says that amateur astronomy is enjoyed more by older people rather than younger, and that the median age of folks who enjoy our hobby is getting older yet. I've recently passed the half century mark myself, and I know a lot more astronomers my age and older than I do astronomers who are younger. Given that, it makes no sense to go to a smaller font when probably the majority of your audience is having to wear reading glasses to read your content. It hasn't gotten bad for me, but eventually, I'm sure I'll start relying on my reading glasses more. I got bifocals for the first time last summer, mainly so that it would be easier for me to read charts when I'm out observing.

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7331Peg
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Reged: 09/01/08

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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: okieav8r]
      #5628127 - 01/17/13 01:47 PM

Maybe they'll have a change of heart and start sending a magnifying glass along with their unsolicited DVD's.


John


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BobinKy
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: 7331Peg]
      #5628403 - 01/17/13 04:19 PM

Let's talk photos of the columnists. . .

Stephen James O'Meara's undated photo shows a receding hair line, while Erika Rix's photo shows lots of pretty hair.

I enjoy both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines. To follow the hobby, both subscriptions are necessary.


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Rick Woods
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: BobinKy]
      #5628450 - 01/17/13 04:45 PM

Gene,

I canceled Astronomy several years ago when it became insufferably "girlie" (IMO) under Bonnie Gordon. But, if I could venture a suggestion, stick with them for a few issues. They're obviously trying to improve things somehow, and maybe you should give them a chance to iron it all out. As to the font, maybe they're trying to get more information on a limited number of pages, and they're figuring we all go to Wally World and buy $5 cheaters for reading small font.
Complain to them; but don't cut them loose after one issue. They're hanging on by their fingernails like everyone else.


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GeneT
Ely Kid
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Reged: 11/07/08

Loc: South Texas
Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5628977 - 01/17/13 10:06 PM

Quote:

But, if I could venture a suggestion, stick with them for a few issues. They're obviously trying to improve things somehow, and maybe you should give them a chance to iron it all out.




Maybe this is a good point to personalize this some. I have a degree in journalism, have edited newspapers to include my first job where I served as managing editor of a large weekly serving Salt Lake County. This newspaper won several major awards. I served as Editor of Airman Magazine, the official magazine of the Air Force. More than 250 thousand copies were sent out worldwide each month. Later, I served as the Editor of Stars and Stripes, a 200 thousand circulation daily newspaper serving our troops and dependents living in Europe.

In the last two jobs, I had design and layout directors who were experts in layout and design of mass produced publications. There is always two main foci--content and design. The most important foci is content. If you get the content right, people will read your stuff--if the price is also right. However, design is also important. I sat through hours of meetings where my editors discussed both content and design.

I did not drop Astronomy Magazine because of the content. I agree with one of our posters that it is good to read both Sky and Telescope and Astronomy. They show the universe from a different perspective.

I dropped Astronomy because they screw-d up the design--the text size. Some readers may not find the smaller text objectionable. But, what about those of us who do? As an editor, I never would have allowed my other editorial staff to make a similar decision as did the editor of Astronomy.

Why not give the editors a chance to straighten things out? Good point. However, based on my prior magazine editorial experience I don't believe this will happen. Magazines have their content laid out 90 days or more in the future. I don't believe Astronomy can turn on a dime.

I sent the editors of Astronomy a personal communication through their 'contact' on their web site. No one has responded. I gave them my personal e-mail address and asked them to let me know if they might go back to their previous text size. I also left them my phone number. I would have thought that one of the editors would have least started some dialogue with me.

I don't believe they have any intention of changing. It is extremely hard for upper management to admit they make a mistake, and turn things around.

I will resubscribe should Astronomy reinstate their text size before the January changes.


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poodle
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Reged: 01/21/05

Loc: Breckenridge, Texas
Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: GeneT]
      #5629149 - 01/17/13 11:49 PM

I like it, but to each his own. I just dropped my Sky & Telescope after 1 year and went back to Astronomy.

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Rick Woods
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Reged: 01/27/05

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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: GeneT]
      #5630238 - 01/18/13 04:40 PM

Quote:

I don't believe they have any intention of changing. It is extremely hard for upper management to admit they make a mistake, and turn things around.





Well, I certainly see where you're coming from.
But, I suspect their management will be admitting plenty and soon, if there are a lot of people who feel like you do!


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George N
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: okieav8r]
      #5630354 - 01/18/13 06:20 PM

Quote:

I agree with you about the font size Gene. I've read more than one article that says that amateur astronomy is enjoyed more by older people rather than younger, and that the median age of folks who enjoy our hobby is getting older yet. ......




David Eicher certainly knows that. While speaking at NEAF 2012 he noted that the median age of Astronomy subscribers has gone up about 20 years just during his editorship.

Maybe he is thinking that “the future” is the web. On iPads, etc, you can change size with just a flick of the fingers. It is an ideal setup for older readers.

I’m half way thru a new book “The Mobile Wave” by M. Saylor. ( Mobile as in tablets and smart phones ) The author claims that all paper media will be gone soon. He provides lots of statistics to support his contention, but one interesting one is that the “manufacturing cost” for a news paper or magazine makes up 40% of total cost, and that goes away completely with e-publishing. He also noted that the paper making industry is having increasing problems with environmental regulation and major loss of sales. The biggest paper makers are already going bankrupt.


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GeneT
Ely Kid
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Reged: 11/07/08

Loc: South Texas
Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: George N]
      #5630396 - 01/18/13 06:55 PM

Quote:

David Eicher certainly knows that. While speaking at NEAF 2012 he noted that the median age of Astronomy subscribers has gone up about 20 years just during his editorship. Maybe he is thinking that “the future” is the web. On iPads, etc, you can change size with just a flick of the fingers. It is an ideal setup for older readers.




This is true. I read a lot of editorial content with my Tablet. If you download a book, you can set the pages with different type sizes, even black on white, or white on black. My news apps allow me to adjust the type size with a pinch of the screen. Astronomy Magazine and many other periodicals are in transition. I believe there will be a time when there will be few printed newspapers, magazines and books. However, until that day happens, editors must be careful to obtain and maintain as much readership as possible. Readability of your product is very important. A good movie might pull you into a movie theater. If the temperature is too cold, you have to fight through the cold to enjoy the movie. By Astronomy Magazine reducing the type size of its content, many readers are going to have to fight through this issue to get to the content. This is a big mistake. We can't pinch a page on the magazine to increase the text size like we can on our smart phones or tablets.


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Michael Rapp
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: Rick Woods]
      #5634854 - 01/21/13 12:27 PM

Quote:

I canceled Astronomy several years ago when it became insufferably "girlie" (IMO) under Bonnie Gordon.




Hi Rick (and all),

I have read that Bonnie Gordon's editorship made the magazine rather distasteful to many intermediate-to-advanced amateur astronomers, especially to those that had read the magazine during the pre-Kalmbach/Richard Berry era.

What were the changes that were made? I know that Bonnie Gordon was a science writer with no-to-little experience/interest in amateur astronomy. Was the content of the magazine abruptly/drastically changed? Were observing features eliminated? What happened?

I dropped my subscription in favor of S&T about a year into Robert Burnham's editorship so I really don't know.

(As an aside, I'm very happy to see David Eicher at the helm. With his starting of Deep Sky in high school, I can only see that being the editor of Astronomy is the fulfillment of a great dream.)


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simpleisbetter
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: BobinKy]
      #5634943 - 01/21/13 01:07 PM

Quote:

Let's talk photos of the columnists. . .

Stephen James O'Meara's undated photo shows a receding hair line, while Erika Rix's photo shows lots of pretty hair.

I enjoy both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines. To follow the hobby, both subscriptions are necessary.




I disagree completely with that last sentence Bob. I've not subscribed to any astronomy (or other science/engineering) magazine for at least 4 years now. I can find all the information online. I get much more valuable information, content, and discussion from the Observing Forums here on CN than in either Astronomy or S&T. And I can pick and choose the information I find based on my desires, not some editor that I don't agree with whose ultimate goal is maintaining or growing his bottom line.


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faackanders2
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: simpleisbetter]
      #5635258 - 01/21/13 03:57 PM

With 24/7 CNN and headline news and online news options, newspapers are struggling to survive. Magazines differ in that they have a target audience that enjoys reading about the subject (most likely in paper format). Hobby and pet magazines will live on.

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George N
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: faackanders2]
      #5636698 - 01/22/13 11:33 AM

Quote:

With 24/7 CNN and headline news and online news options, newspapers are struggling to survive. Magazines differ in that they have a target audience that enjoys reading about the subject (most likely in paper format). Hobby and pet magazines will live on.




They will. However, as more and more people own tablets and smart-phones, and paper and distribution costs become ever more expensive, most magazines with convert to on-line only. News stands, book stores, and ‘magazine sections’ in grocery stores will all be gone.


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Tom Polakis
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: simpleisbetter]
      #5637231 - 01/22/13 04:06 PM

Quote:

Quote:

Let's talk photos of the columnists. . .

Stephen James O'Meara's undated photo shows a receding hair line, while Erika Rix's photo shows lots of pretty hair.

I enjoy both Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines. To follow the hobby, both subscriptions are necessary.




I disagree completely with that last sentence Bob. I've not subscribed to any astronomy (or other science/engineering) magazine for at least 4 years now. I can find all the information online. I get much more valuable information, content, and discussion from the Observing Forums here on CN than in either Astronomy or S&T. And I can pick and choose the information I find based on my desires, not some editor that I don't agree with whose ultimate goal is maintaining or growing his bottom line.





Other goals for that same editor might be to ensure that the explanations are clear, the writing is readable, and the facts are true. There are still some things the magazines provide that you may or may not get so consistently from online sources.

Tom


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StarStuff1
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Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: Tom Polakis]
      #5637573 - 01/22/13 07:15 PM

So far I have refused to buy a tablet or any other e-reader. Not saying they are not good it is just that I like a piece of paper in front of me with a star chart, or ISS path predictions or...

For almost 30 years I subscribed to both Astronomy and S&T. When Richard Berry left Brand A and ATMing became an after thought I dropped A. Now, S&T is so small one can read it in a little over an hour. Of course the net is much more up to date. But...I still like holding a magazine in my hands. Not sure how much longer, though.

BTW, about 12 years ago when I still subscribed to both mags I did a "count" comparing column inches of text/editorial content to column inches of advertising space. "A" definitely had much more advertising percentagewise than S&T, about 20% more IIRC. This was not just one month's issue but for 3 issues over a year.


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GeneT
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Reged: 11/07/08

Loc: South Texas
Re: Astronomy Magazine--Don’t Like the Changes new [Re: StarStuff1]
      #5637791 - 01/22/13 09:19 PM

Quote:

I did a "count" comparing column inches of text/editorial content to column inches of advertising space. "A" definitely had much more advertising percentagewise than S&T, about 20% more IIRC. This was not just one month's issue but for 3 issues over a year.




It is true that the ad dollars drive the process.


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