Ejected Wizard Online editor Rick Marshall partook in a widely quoted interview at Comics Reporter last week. Under his stewardship, Wizard started covering webcomics, indies, Fantagraphics, etc etc etc — in short all those things that Wizard isn’t known for covering. The result? Steadily increasing traffic. There’s a certainly a lot of fodder for Wizard-watchers in this classic bridge burner of an interview, but the most interesting part is surely this:
However, the most prominent conflict was always the traffic-vs-political content issue. From the start, my marching orders were always “More Traffic” and “More Readers.” But it became painfully obvious that many people at the company assumed that the most popular stories would always be the stories about the companies who buy the most space at conventions or advertise the most on the site — that we could MAKE a topic popular simply by posting it. It was an ideology framed around the notion that “it’s interesting because we tell you it’s interesting.”
That wasn’t the case, though. I obsessively tracked the traffic for the site, and there was rarely any overlap between the people who were considered “Friends of Wizard” (yes, that was an actual term thrown around) and the types of content and subject matter that generated the most traffic. So, most of the time, we operated under a cycle of unavoidable bridge-burning and tail-chasing, with the people at the higher levels of the company alternating between complaints of “Why didn’t you give my friend/client a front-page story?” and “Why weren’t the numbers as high today as they were yesterday?” It was a Catch-22 situation.
Our takeaway? The transition from print to web ain’t always easy. In conclusion, we wish Marshall the best in his future endeavors. We were frequent comrades in various press room on the circuit, and the legacy of his hard work is still evident at the Wizard site.