With the news today that Wizard was ceasing publication, our phones have been ringing off the hook and our e-mail inboxes filled with news and opinions from all around the comic book industry. Say what you will about Wizard, but it was definitely a catalyst when it came to discussion and analysis. But when we got the opportunity to speak to a former Wizard employee who was among the group laid off today as the magazine came to an end, we jumped at the opportunity. This employee requested to remain anonymous but was willing to answer our questions. Keep in mind that this is just one former employee's thoughts and opinions.
iFanboy: Tell us what happened today at Wizard.
Former Wizard Employee: Actually its pretty screwed up what they did. They gave everyone off on Friday (very strange) then last night at 6:30 PM (right before kickoff [of the Jets/Steelers playoff game]) they called me and told me the magazines were no longer in publication. I was asked to go get my personal belongings and they told me the office was closed and moved to a different location and they would let us know when it was okay to get them. When I asked about severance or unemployment they shrugged me off and quickly dismissed me. So, I still have no idea what is happening in those regards.
iF: Did the Wizard Magazine employees know this was coming or was it a surprise?
FWE: A few people were told what was going on. This was pure favoritism by the staff. Things seemed very shady and obviously they did not want us taking home our things for some reason.
iF: Were you, or anyone you're aware of, briefed on the changes and given the opportunity to move over to the upcoming digital magazine?
FWE: No. I was not asked to be moved. A friend of mine on the edit side was simply told "This is what you're doing now." No one was given the option. Not even people who were kept on.
iF: What was the state of Wizard in recent years? What sense of the magazine's performance did you have?
FWE: The magazine was in complete disarray. I had not been there long before I realized that no one knew what they were doing. All the senior staff were promoted simply because everyone above them was fired. They had no working relationships with any of the major publishers. They had not covered Marvel for a number of years because (again, very shady) they re-published a few Marvel books in a "masterpiece" type collection. When Marvel asked them about they simply refused the calls and never paid them a cent. Once I heard this I realized that these people did not give a shit about anyone or anything. I was never given any numbers on how the magazine was doing but I am sure they have been consistent in the sales as they are a very niche magazine.
iF: What was Wizard's online strategy, if you knew of it, while you were employed there?
FWE: It is really funny that you ask about the online strategy; as far as I knew, there was none. A few weeks ago, I heard some talk of having our magazine published on the iPad through Comixology. Having had some experience with digital publishing, I suggested to the editorial director and most senior member of the editorial staff that pages might need to be re-thought to fit the format. He seemed very confused as to what that even meant as far as workflow, etc. I later heard that the iPad idea was dead. About a week later, we needed to take our editorial blog piemonkey.com offline for a few days because Gareb was supposedly severing his ties with his old web project, GeekChicDaily. Thats all I know of the web strategy. Most importantly, I think, is that our ad sales department was not doing well. No one wanted to buy ads and it seemed they were failing miserably. This is probably the number one reason for the switch.
iF: Do you think their new venture that was announced earlier today will succeed? Why or why not?
FWE: Honestly, I know it will fail. First off, there is no leadership. The people that are still on staff have no digital publishing experience or seem to want to be there. As more money goes into the conventions, the less the owners care about the magazine side. They plan on publicly trading and launching this app for free with no real advertising. I think anyone who does a little research before purchasing stock will find just how screwed that place is.