If Penn State football spent 2012 surviving, they used 2013 emerging from the storm.
For fans, for a time, all we could do was put as much flesh as possible between the world and our eyes, and hope to ride it out. When we opened them again, we found a depth chart at a disadvantage and a gameplan that requires knowledge of dice.
Who are we now? Perhaps not the inexorable, indisputable battalion in plain, nameless blue and whites. We are the 8-4's and 7-6's, the survivors, the "despite"s. We were those who were 50 seconds and 85 yards from death, and threw it up to Robinson, and then did it again.
Shortly after last year's Blue and White game we launched We Are! 2013, a 100% independently published preview and feature magazine. We didn't have the roster depth of other pubs, so we tried harder, played smarter, and took the appropriate risks, holding the content to the kind of standards we the internet obsessives would want to read.
Our business model
Because the Allen Robinson of fanbases plays for us, astonishingly, this worked. So we've decided to try this "make-the-magazine-the-readers-want" strategy again for 2014. This time, we're going for the touchdown.
What We Are
We Are! 2014 is a 112-page preview and feature magazine covering the Penn State football team. The first half will be a position-by-position look at the depth chart and the new staff, and then previews of all of PSU's opponents, with generous portions of both advanced analysis and snark. Examples:
The second half of the book will be features by some of the most respected authors in PSU media…and us. They include:
- Lou Prato, the renowned Penn State historian will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Penn State's most recent undefeated season, with a first-person account of the highs and lows, from the demolition of Minnesota to the Rose Bowl victory over Oregon.
- Mike Poorman, veteran journalist of StateCollege.com and esteemed Penn State professor, will take us inside the life of a Penn State quarterback, with first-person accounts from current and past Nittany Lion signal callers.
- Tim Tolley, recruiting guru of Fansided, VictoryBellRings and State College's Centre County Gazette.
- Ben Jones, program insider and Penn State beat writer for StateCollege.com.
- Seth Fisher, our publisher and the associate editor of legendary Michigan site MGoBlog, will take a look at Big Ten and SEC coaching hires since 1999 to see how Franklin compares to the field, and how the conference's hiring practices have affected its national standing.
Plus contributions from the top notch PSU blogging team from Black Shoe Diaries: Devon Edwards, Adam Collyer, Tim Hyland, Dan Vecellio, and Ben Scaff.
How This Works
Last year we raised enough on Kickstarter to make a digital edition and basically break even. If we can raise $13,000 we will write, produce, and publish an entirely original, 112-page book for the 2014 season, and distribute it digitally and DRM-free to all of our backers.
We also have a Stretch Goal of $28,000 to make a Print edition and distribute that (in addition to the digital copy) to the $20 "Something Blue OR Something White" backers and the $35 backers. Even if we don't hit our stretch goal, the 4TH AND GOAL ($100) and above backers will get a print copy regardless.
So if this Kickstarter hits $13,000 you will be charged what you contributed and we'll make the book to distribute digitally; shirt-or-book orders will receive the shirt. If we raise $28,000, the shirt-or-book orders will receive a digital version as soon as it's ready, and we'll mail you the printed book as soon as it can be distributed.
Used with permission from Mauti, Professor Bacon, and his publisher. Some of us wanted bullet holes on it but cooler heads prevailed; you are welcome to cut them out yourself. Anyway there didn't seem to be a better sentiment to capture what We Are today.
How will you know where to send my stuff/what size I am, etc.? At the completion of this campaign, if our Kickstarter reaches the $13k goal we will send a survey to the e-mail address you used for Kickstarter. If you don't respond to that we'll continue bugging you on that address. We will not give out your e-mail address to anyone except our distribution partner, and we will not use it for anything except communication about We Are! books and your other stuff. Updates on this campaign and such will go there from Kickstarter; we'll make sure to limit those to important things that have to do with kickstarting this book. Moral of the story: use the email address you will respond to in a timely manner; spam will not be a problem.
If we don't reach the $13,000 goal we won't get your email. Kickstarter may email you something to say we didn't reach the goal.
Will I be charged if you don't hit the $13,000 goal? No. The way Kickstarter works is you don't get charged unless we hit our stated funding goal. Kickstarter's FAQ explains this in more detail.
Will I be charged if you don't hit the $28,000 goal? Yes. The way a "stretch goal" works is we promise to do something extra if we reach it. In this case we would like to print-publish the book if we have enough backers to not lose our shirts in doing so. Since that's a heady goal, we wanted to make sure that you're getting something of equal value if we don't reach it.
What if you hit the stretch goal but I want the t-shirt instead of the book? There's an option for that. If we hit the stretch goal, backers of $35 and over are getting both. When we ask you for your address/shirt size/etc. to send you your stuff, you'll have an option to opt out from anything you like.
What if you hit the stretch goal and I decide I want both? If time hasn't expired you can change your donation level. If time has expired, we'll make some extra shirts available for purchase separately.
Who can see my payment info? Kickstarter works through Amazon's system, so we never see your credit card info or the address you supplied with it; that all goes through Amazon's secure payment system.
What's DRM and what did it ever do to make you hate it so? "Digital Rights Management." These are actions taken by publishers to make sure only people who bought the thing can read the thing. We understand why they do this, but we also feel like every effective DRM platform does more to devalue the product than protect sales.Often they require you to download and their (janky) software in order to access the thing you bought, and limit the devices you can use that on.
We feel if you bought a copy, you should be able to print it, put it on any device, read it in whatever reader program you prefer, save it to your hard drive, or clip a page out for future reference, etc. So we've chosen to leave DRM off the digital copies and just ask that you not give it away because it was not-free for you, and not-free for us to produce it. We'll put a password on a PDF but that's as far as we'll go.
Where does the money go, and why is there a Wolverine in our Lions' den? Well if we don't get funded there is no money--you only get charged if we meet our goal. If we do get funded it goes to a bank account started in February 2013 by our publisher expressly for this project. In the future we'll have a corp set up to handle these for multiple blogs but that will come after a few more of these get off the ground. The Wolverine is our publisher, Seth, aka person we take endless pleasure in tormenting in re: overtime field goal kicking and going for it on 4th down. See below.
Who We Are
Mike, Seth, Cari and Jared. Hello again. The inconsequential details:
The Editor in Chief is former PSU Blogging capo Mike Pettigano (@MikePettigano), a 2006 graduate of Penn State’s College of Communications and the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, and a four-year member of the Penn State Blue Band. A news reporter and editor since graduation, he was one of the early sports bloggerati, starting up Zombie Nation in 2007. He later brought together some of the best Penn State bloggers to create Linebacker-U.com. He spent three seasons as a sideline photographer and managing editor of Black Shoe Diaries through the end of the 2012 football season, and also worked with Phil Steele. His writing has been cited by, among others, FOX Sports, Sports Illustrated OnCampus, Sporting News Today, The Baltimore Sun, and the Chicago Sun-Times. Mike has been the Associate Digital News Editor for The Bergen Record (NorthJersey.com) since 2012.
Editor Cari Greene (@NotCarlotta) is the Managing Editor for Black Shoe Diaries. After graduating PSU in 2003 with a degree in film, she wallowed in the depths of retail management hell before getting a "real job" that allowed her to actually, you know, attend PSU football games. Cari lives in suburban Maryland, close enough to State College that she can make the trip every weekend but far enough away to not be all post-graduate creepy. She also really, really likes linebackers.
Editor Jared Slanina (@BSDtweet) is the other Managing Editor for Black Shoe Diaries. Despite being a lifelong Ohio resident, Jared has been a passionate and loyal Penn State fan throughout his life. He earned his master's degree in journalism from Kent State University and currently resides in Stow, Ohio, with his wife and two dogs. You can typically find Jared at Beaver Stadium most Saturdays in the fall, or in his "man cave" where he has three TVs set up to watch college football from noon until he drifts off watching a Pac-12 game late at night.
Publisher Seth Fisher (@Misopogon), successfully published three such books for MGoBlog and was in charge of all the behind-the-scenes stuff for WA13 after approaching us about the concept. He also attended last year's game, and is very sensitive about it, and this fact provides all sorts of amusement for the staff during the long hours of making this book.
Risks and challenges
Well, we learned a few things from last year. The first is how our costs align; we ended up with very little profit once everyone was paid. We decided not to decrease the editorial budget at all since the content is the thing we are building this around, but we also want this to be more than a lot of time put into a good cause.
The second is our production system. We learned that most of the editing will happen once the stories are on the page, and that graphs and photos take as much time as the 1,000 (actually it's more like 250-500) words they're replacing. We had some superfluous steps last year when working with two page designers. This time we hope to streamline that process better by having the designers work more independently, with our lead designer Courtney providing templates instead of draft pages.
Getting editorial in is always going to be a hassle, since we can't really get all the previews done until they've had the Spring Games, and that's true also for the opponents and features that center on this season. We've worked to get the historical stuff done ahead of time and asked the feature writers to play a more active role in providing imagery for their articles. We also changed our editorial roles around so that writers in each section report to a specific editor rather than the whoever's-up system we used last year.
The greatest challenges remain reaching our funding goals--we are reaching higher than we got to last year--and, long-term, finding a newstand distributor who would like to get printed copies of We Are! in stores. We believe the best way to start is to prove there's a market for intelligent Penn State football content, and that starts right here.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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