Weighing Options

By Jim McCloskey

In the weeks since we announced the suspension of WaterShapes as a printed magazine, I’ve gotten a fair amount of friendly advice about how I should do things differently in moving forward.

With all-new apologies to the reader who complained about our use of Marilyn Monroe’s curves to attract attention to our newsletter (see my blog of Sept. 13), I’ve been told by one correspondent to “think swimsuits” and take WaterShapes in what can best be described as a mildly pornographic direction. This one I dismissed as a joke, no matter how seriously it might have been proposed.

Another reader thought it would be best just to stage the magazine online with pretty much the same approach, look and feel as the print edition. It would be wonderful if this were possible, but it won’t work financially because WaterShapes was always supported by advertising, and advertisers have proved unwilling to pay as much for digital ads as they will for printed ones. (Although printing and postage are major expenses, maintaining a print magazine’s staff is far more costly.)    

A third reader endorsed what we’re doing in maintaining our www.watershapes.com Web site and keeping the WaterShapes EXTRA! e-newsletter going on a twice-monthly basis. This reader’s comment is much appreciated because it’s the path we’ve chosen to follow while we sort things out and set future courses.

 I’m also intrigued by a fourth possibility that came up just recently, when a longtime reader suggested I should use the site and newsletter to support a revolution in the industry — one in which the old ways and standards of doing things are all reconsidered, in which there’s no tolerance for anything other than excellence in design and construction and in which “truth” is told about products, technologies and even contractors on the level of Consumer Reports, no holds barred.

While the first two general concepts don’t move my spirits and the third is already under way, the fourth suggestion has the value of being new and different. What do you think? Is this a direction we should follow, or is it a step in the wrong direction?

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6 Responses to Weighing Options

  1. bill palmer says:

    truth is one thing , option is something else . go for no. 4 but the truth ( with facts , not
    options )

  2. Is it either-or? The third possibility – what you are doing now with your website and EXTRA! is certainly useful. And the ‘fourth possibility’ sounds like a more dramatic version of what you have always done: reporting on excellence in design and construction. How about both of the above? Is it financially possible?

  3. Dominic Shaw says:

    Hi Jim:
    We have never met, but I have contributed articles to the magazine in the past. It is an interesting path that you are on and one that merits careful consideration of what Watershapes’ mission is going to be for the future.

    When WaterShapes first showed up, I was very pleased that a forum had been created that would address a broad spectrum of issues that could be discussed and compared with respect to water features and swimming pools. There is great merit in sharing ideas and approaches amongst peers that are willing to share. Watershapes was doing a good job on presenting articles on all aspects of water design and I felt it was a great asset to the industry. We were able in one magazine to read about design and construction techniques, maintenance, products, materials and many aspects of water related context that anyone in the swimming pool, fountain or pond industry might not otherwise have an opportunity to learn about. It seemed that there was something for everyone, and that was good.

    I think that there was amply opportunity for anyone in the pool, spa, fountain or pond business to learn something new or at least see what others were doing and be inspired by what they saw in the magazine. Your magazine was probably the imputus that started Genisis 3, along with an economy that provided the wherewithall to sell upscale watershapes. There were times however, when I saw that the direction that some of the articles and authors were taking would definitely drive away readers of all levels. I could feel thousands of eyes roll when I read an article about how contractors should learn how to choose and drink wine in order to relate to wealthy clients. The beer drinking (or should I say swilling?) contractors of the world alas would not be able to measure up to such a challange, oh pity the unwashed masses. And what if they didn’t know who Luis Barragan was? Would thier clients be disappointed that they could not talk about orange plaster?

    My point is this: There are many levels of markets in the swimming pool and water feature business and while everyone would like to be able to design and build million dollar projects on a regular basis, the vast majority of designers and contractors work at a much smaller scale. The writers of articles and purveyors of knowledge should remember that their audience is vast and at all levels of the market, but just because they don’t drink wine or know who certain architects are or know to render perspectives does not mean that they can’t learn something or lift their game in their market sector. That was the beauty of most of the writing and articles in your magazine, in that if you could look past the egos there was something to learn and share. I am a strident believer in sharing information freely and openly for anyone who is working with water. I’ve had to learn on my own over the past 30 years that I have been lucky enough to work and survive in this business, and along the way I noticed that there were precisous few resources for designers or contractors to reference when it came to fountains or swimming pools. I asked many questions and was treated kindly by world class designers and lowly contractors around the world. I now subscribe to the Woodie Flowers mentality of being a gracious professional (google this and you will find what it means) and thoroughly enjoy speaking (for free) and teaching when I can. When I heard Mr. Flowers speak, he said that those of us that have learned from those that have gone before us have a contract with society to give back.

    As some would exclude those that do not subscribe to their way of thinking,….” in which there’s no tolerance for anything other than excellence in design and construction and in which “truth” is told about products, technologies and even contractors”….this would seem to be a disservice to many of the readers of Watershapes who strive to elevate themselves within their sphere of work. I wonder who’s truth would be told about products and technologies, and if I read you correctly, some of these manufacturers were the very people that paid your advertising fees. Any funny enough, they likely catered more so to the commodity market based on volume rather than the high end of things. We have to remember that many of these builders, designers and clients are in that commodity market and are not the highest hanging fruit.

    So now that I have ranted, I offer the following suggestions:
    1. Do not turn into a vehicle for one way thinking or exclusionary approaches to design, construction, products or anything else that is connected to this industry. Let people try things (products and designs) for themselves and determine their worth and effectiveness – that is how we learn.
    2. Keep publishing articles about all things that concern water. I have learned much from the magazine and look forward to learning more.
    3. If you do not go back to print, then consider a wiki format online – WikiWater? – one where there is open discourse by all levels of participants and expertise can be shared openly and freely.

    If you do go the way of the forth reader and head up a “revolution”, you would in my opinion, be headed in the wrong direction.


    Dominic Shaw
    Waterline Studios, Inc.

  4. Dean Stoddart says:

    The current format is good for me, though the extravagent headlines ( JLo’s Toddler Poops in Family Pool) sometimes leave me wondering why I bothered. Perhaps the message is that if it’s neccesary to blitz up a gotcha line to gain viewers, are you really getting the folks you would like to target?

    I would however welcome a bent towards excellence in design and construction, with a healthy dose of “truth” thrown in.

  5. Rod Ogilvie says:

    I actually like the 4th possibility! The traditional industry must move forward or get overtaken by a segment that is forward thinking. The future of the industry is a revolution that is currently underway and gaining strength despite the dismal economic and political future. I personally believe you would be wise to lead the revolution (however, i feel you already do).

  6. Gary Scott says:

    Jim – There is another option you have not mentioned here. Now call me old school but I pay for my Saturday newspaper every weekend. That’s about $10 a month.
    Are there not enough loyal readers out there that we couldn’t go to a pay per printed issue subscription format?
    I have been a reader for many years and promoted your good work, including the submissions (sometimes controversial) from readers and fans, to many many of my customers who in turn have become subscribers.
    Has no one else suggested that maybe a $10 per issue subscription wouldn’t be worth the personal investment to revive the old printed version.
    I will admit to having no idea of the true cost to you of publishing and mailing out a printed version but if your subscribers would support it and if your advertisers (apparently) prefer it maybe there is enough revenue there for you to bring back print.
    There has never been an issue I did not receive VALUE from and frankly I will sacrifice a few trees and a few dollars to have a handy copy on the shelf of the wealth of information provided in the old printed format.
    You don’t have to lose the digital idea but I for one would pay for a printed copy.

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