15 Years of Innocent Words History – Part 2: The Evolution

After everything was squared away with the new and improved Innocent Words, I also took on the task of delivery boy, because the one bugaboo with having the newspaper printers print Innocent Words was they wouldn’t deliver it. Well, they would for a hefty price.

When an issue was done at the printers I would go pick them up and stuff my car full. I would head home and mail them to any bands, labels, or PR companies we dealt with for that particular issue. (It’s always good to show people you do review the music). This really helped build credibility and spread the word about Innocent Words.

The rest of the issues I would drive around town dropping them off, mostly on the campus of the University of Illinois. College kids will read anything free. I kept tabs on what magazines were going fast at what location so I could distribute them accordingly. After a few issues it was noticeable we needed more copies because they were going fast. I increased the printing, which meant more ad sales to pay for said printing, and ad sales were pretty easy to come by in the early years. Again, credibility comes into play.

Innocent Words was kept local for the first couple years. We were delivering to about 50 spots in town, CD stores, guitar stores, bars, coffee shops, hell, we even had a spot for our magazine at a couple of porn stores. As the local spots increased, I also had an “in” with independent CD stores. I was working at the local campus mom and pop CD store and made a lot of contacts with other stores across the States. This gave me the idea of distributing Innocent Words nationally.

Once again, the print issue increased and so did my postal bill. We could box up issues of Innocent Words and mail them to roughly 50 locations outside of our area. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun most of the time.

At the height of Innocent Words during the print years, the magazine was in 100 locations spread out over 46 cities in 17 states. I guess, looking back that isn’t a lot, but considering we would have to box up all the magazines ourselves and mail them to people to pass out in a total do-it-yourself manner, I am still proud of the progress we made. To hear from someone in Seattle, Washington or Atlanta, Georgia saying they picked up our magazine and really liked it, was something special.

Unfortunately, as the music industry started to see changes and the economy took a dive, and ad sales were like pulling teeth. All those indie labels couldn’t afford to spread their money too thin. I can’t blame them, even though I was disappointed; they declined advertising in the small independent magazines in favor of the bigger magazines.

As magazines were shutting down left and right, and some were going online only, I struggled with the concept of change. Especially being an old-school music geek who loved having a magazine in my hands. Specifically, when I saw the magazine No Depression (a magazine I truly respected) change to an online only format I knew Innocent Words had to change to survive. So for our Holiday issue of 2008 we printed our last issue and beginning in 2009 we set sail for an online only indie zine.

Although I struggled with the concept of change, looking back, making Innocent Words an online magazine was the best decision I think we have made as a magazine. There are so many options, additions, and readers online, thanks to social networking. I am excited to see what new features we will bring our readers in the next few years.

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