That was something I asked myself today. I stopped subscribing to every woodworking magazine, and I got pretty much all of them, a couple of years ago when I realized that there just wasn’t anything in them that I cared about and they just rotated content constantly, republishing essentially the same article over and over and over again. So I asked myself, is there anything in these magazines that is worth actually reading?The answer is, having sampled a bunch of issues, no. There is really no point to reading woodworking magazines, at least for me. I went through a big pile of them and found absolutely nothing that I either didn’t know before, or had any interest in learning. I pulled a full year of Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking, the two magazines I used to enjoy the most, and in reading through all of them, I just came up empty finding anything that either I didn’t already know or really cared about.
The problem, of course, is that nothing new ever really happens in woodworking. Sure, you get some new tools once in a while, but those tools are just adapting old ideas in new ways. There isn’t anything really new under the woodworking sun and once you know how to do something, it doesn’t change. Woodworking magazine articles are just recycled every couple of years. Oh look, another article on hand cutting dovetails. I’ve only seen that four times in the past decade in your magazine alone. Yeah, let’s read that again! Or let’s not.
I can get online and watch a dozen YouTube videos on any subject I want for free, why should I pay you for your magazine that doesn’t give me half the information I want? Yes, I can look at pretty furniture, but why? I already have the Internet for that. I have forums I can go talk to actual people in. What’s the point of paying $9 an issue for something I can get online for free, in better detail, with more input? I’m finding it hard to justify that.
But the same can be said for virtually all magazines which is why I don’t subscribe to any of them anymore. I used to get a dozen different ones a month, now… zero. They just aren’t worthwhile. The same goes for newspapers and other physical media. It’s just so much easier and cheaper to get the same thing or better digitally, why would I plunk down my hard earned money for that?
In fact, before we moved, I donated all of my woodworking magazines to the local library. I didn’t want to bring box after box of heavy magazines that I will never look at again with us. They were happy, I had less to move. We both win. Physical magazines and books simply cannot complete with what’s available online for free and honestly, I can’t find anything better in a physical magazine than I can elsewhere, regardless of cost. They could be handing them out for free and I wouldn’t bother. They take up space. I’d rather just put a digital version on my hard drive, if I bother with it at all. The world has changed and physical media needs to find a way to stay relevant, otherwise it just needs to go away.