Chris Higgins

Portland-Based Author of "The Blogger Abides"
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Who Writes for “The Magazine”?

7 May, 2013
Photo: iPad showing The Magazine app, resting on a wooden bench

In its fifteenth issue, The Magazine ran my piece Second Wind, which happened to be my third for the publication. But who’s counting? I am. And why? Because Lex Friedman must be stopped.

Yes, dear readers, Lex has taken control of our reading minds from deep within his moon base New Jersey office. He has contributed articles to one-third of The Magazine’s issues. At this rate, I project that his super laser writing will supplant all other forms of human communication by early 2014.

I’m Coming for You, Lex…

I’m currently at a cabin without reliable access to the internet. But that doesn’t stop me from my mission: to find out who writes for The Magazine, and how much. Using a tin can attached to a mobile hotspot, I went through the extant issues and made a little spreadsheet (96k ZIP) of who wrote what and when. Results are below. (Also, please feel free to use the data to do your own analysis — for instance, you could figure out the gender balance in later issues, if you’re into that kind of thing.)

Top Contributors (By Number of Articles)

As of May 3, 2013:

  1. Lex Friedman, 5
  2. Chris Higgins, 3
  3. Eli Sanders, 3 (in one issue)
  4. Jason Snell, 2
  5. Marco Arment, 2
  6. Daniel Rutter, 2
  7. Dan Moren, 2
  8. Glenn Fleishman, 2
  9. Serenity Caldwell, 2
  10. Alison Hallett, 2
  11. Chris Breen, 2
  12. Mark Siegal, 2

A note on ordering in the above: I ordered first by number of articles, then by seniority (the latter defined as who appeared first in The Magazine).

In my analysis I didn’t include Marco’s introductory essay (the preface to the publication as a whole), as it doesn’t appear as an article on the website’s table of contents for any issue. If you include that, he’s a three-time contributor. Glenn’s Editor’s Notes have also been excluded, as they appear in four issues (looks like an every-issue item now) and are not “articles” per se.

The Early Crew

The first issue featured an impressive lineup: Guy English, Jason Snell, Alex Payne, and Michael Lopp (aka Rands) plus the aforementioned intro piece by Marco Arment. Only Snell went on to contribute again. It’s in the second issue that we see the rise of Friedman; that second issue includes contributions from John Siracusa, Gina Trapani, Lex Friedman, Daniel Rutter, Alex Knight, and Marco Arment. Of that second-issue crew, Lex, Brad, and Marco all returned. That pattern of repeat contributions holds up in later issues.

Rinse, Repeat

After Issue 2, almost every issue of The Magazine includes at least one repeat contributor. The exceptions are Issue 7 (where my first article appeared) and Issue 13 (with its epic 3-part piece by Eli Sanders). Of the 59 total contributors, 12 are repeat contributors.

Why does this matter? It means that a strong percentage of those who write for The Magazine are coming back and pitching again. This is significant. As a longtime freelancer, I’ve written for plenty of publications just once. A willingness to return to The Magazine indicates some mixture of enthusiasm for its format, editorial practices (read: Glenn), business, and the ease of pitching. I can tell you firsthand that The Magazine is the fastest-paying gig I’ve ever encountered — a check arrived two days after publication in the most recent case. This is insanely fast by “publishing industry” standards (where getting a check a 4-6 weeks “ish” after publication is nice if you can get it). This indicates a well-run business (or at least one that is well-funded enough to be generous with its cash flow), which is frankly a huge factor in whether writers return to the well.

The other big factor that likely encourages repeat contributors is the liberal terms of the contract. Here’s an oversimplified version: contributors may resell or otherwise reuse the work they first publish in The Magazine after about a month. This is a big deal (and unusual in magazine journalism), because it means contributors have more business opportunities for their work down the line. Want to sell a movie option on your piece? No problem, you own those rights. Want to anthologize your work and sell it on your own? Cool, go for it. Want to give it away for free on your website? Also cool. Want to expand it into a longer-form piece and sell that? Great! The emergence of interesting business models here is a huge reason why I think of The Magazine first when I pitch a story these days. I want long-term ownership of my work, and this is a rare publishing venue with a combination of good pay, a great contract, and fantastic editorial practices. What’s not to love?

Pitch On

By the time I return from my superfortress coast cabin, another issue will be out and another writer may join the ranks of the 3-time contributors’ list. It’s also possible that Lex will hit 6, in which case I’ll have to deploy peacekeeping forces.

Regardless, this is a fascinating time for The Magazine: it is still young enough that new contributors can enter the field and quickly become part of the repeat contributors’ list. But it’s mature enough that we know what it is, and we can observe some encouraging trends. Pitch on, fellow writers.

4 Comments

  1. [...] Chris Higgins on The Magazine’s writers: [...]

  2. Patrick Weigel says:

    Moon base? That’s no moon base!

  3. Bhuvaneswari says:

    Hei
    Thank you for this information. I am notawriter but a regular reader of The Magazine and since I am big on fair trade it feels good to know that the magazine treats its contributors well and to support it. I am sure this kind of treatment will help attract good writers and that will be good for us readers as well. The Magazine seems to be setting a good example.

  4. [...] contributor Chris Higgins breaks down who’s written what and [...]