A group of well-known sports writers keen to “break the shackles” of national newspaper journalism have launched a digital magazine on football, The Blizzard, and have taken a leaf from Radiohead’s launch of its In Rainbows album by asking readers to pay what they think each issue is worth.
The co-operative includes well-known sports writers and authors such as Jonathan Wilson, a writer for the Guardian, Uli Hesse, author of Tor! The Story of German Football, and Gabriele Marcotti, who writes for titles including the Times and has written books on Fabio Capello and Paolo Di Canio.
Their new quarterly digital publication aims to be “somewhere in between” a book and a magazine and offer “more in-depth pieces, detailed reportage, history and analysis”.
The first issue (officially “issue zero”) went on sale with little fanfare – and no publicity – recently but nevertheless managed to drum up “a few thousand” pounds in sales of downloads of the pdf in the first hour alone.
“I became aware there were other writers so keen to break the shackles of search engine optimisation and the culture of quotes for quotes’ sake that they were prepared to write for a share of potential profit, that the joy of writing what they wanted and felt was important outweighed the desire to be paid,” said Wilson, who edits and is an investor in The Blizzard.
Although the collective has not revealed how well sales have done in total since launch, the initial demand has led to an expansion of the business model to include publication of the next issue of The Blizzard as a print edition, at about £5, which will appear in June. The Blizzard collective suggests a price of £10 for pre-ordering the pdf version, but again readers can pay what they think it is worth.
Kevin Miles, a director of the Football Supporters’ Federation and investor in the Blizzard parent company, A19Ltd, said the writers get paid on a notional “points” system based on how many words they contribute and then if there are any profits – after overheads and print costs – these are distributed proportionately.
“We’re not interested in any drive for profit, we’re more concerned about giving people access to the content, wherever in the world they are and related to what they can afford and the value they put on it,” said Miles.
Miles added that an article on Guus Hiddink, the current manager of the Turkish national football team, has already been reprinted by the press in Turkey despite the under-the-radar launch of The Blizzard.
The name of the magazine has been taken from a Sunderland newspaper launched by an eccentric businessman called Sidney Duncan in 1893. The title only published 12 times, with Duncan doubling the cover price in an attempt to cut circulation because “he found the effort of handling all the money he was making so tiresome”.
This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.