Sunday, February 1, 2015

Q&A with Judoka Quarterly co-founder David McFall

Q: What is Judoka Quarterly in a nutshell?
Judoka Quarterly is an international English-language judo magazine featuring long-form interviews and articles as well as photo essays. We want to cover many areas of judo and the judo lifestyle that have not been covered in English and, in some cases, have never been covered by any judo magazine in any language. This will include a large amount of content translated from Japanese.

Q: Why are you doing this?
A: Two years ago, when the All-Japan Judo Federation was having their problems with the physical abuse scandal concerning the women's national team followed by a financial scandal regarding the misuse of funds from the Japanese Olympic committee, there was very little information about these stories in the English language press. A few years before, we had a pretty vibrant community discussing judo and judo stories on the Judo Forum but that forum basically folded after its sister site was sold. I was looking for a way to get the judo information I craved and also discuss judo online. Since, I couldn't find what I wanted I decided to create my own magazine, website and eventually a new judo forum.

Q: In the age of Internet, won't a quarterly be a bit too slow?
A: The magazine will focus on topics that are not so time dependent: interviews, opinion pieces, athlete profiles, history articles, articles on strategies for teaching kids, special issues pertaining to women and technique articles for standing throws, newaza and kata. The website will feature more time-sensitive topics such as articles and pictures covering the major IJF competitions. You can have your cake and eat it too...

Q:  How much of the content will be competition oriented?
A: The website will be 70-80% competition oriented but will also have some teasers for articles in the magazine to encourage magazine sales. The internet site will also eventually link to a new judo forum. The magazine will be about 20-25% competition oriented with in-depth interviews and probing athlete profiles. We have some other IJF related projects planned but we want to keep a few surprises to ourselves for the time being.

Q: What do you plan to differentiate from other judo magazines out there?
A: There are some very good judo publications out there...Kindai Judo (Japanese), L’Esprit du Judo (French) and Revista Budo (Brazilian-Portuguese) come to mind. Where are the English magazines?  In the past, there were some good English ones as well such as Bob Willingham's The World of Judo and Jason Morris' Real Judo, but these publications have not put out an issue since 2007 and 2008 respectively. I really like Matt D'Aquino's Love Judo but his content 95% competition oriented. Where is the magazine for the people interested in the martial art aspect of judo? What about kata? How about people who teach children or even Para-Olympians? I am presenting a magazine for those who live and love the judo lifestyle.

Q:  How do you plan to compete against judo websites?
Judo websites and Facebook pages are great. They serve up wonderful short pieces, video and pictures at a real time pace that is just dizzying. I read them, enjoy the photos and take in the videos. I have also witnessed first-hand how hard the IJF and EJU media teams work to get out content to the public as fast as possible. These folks work really hard. We do not plan to compete with these websites. Instead, our competition articles will come out a few days after the competition. It gives us a chance to digest what we saw and analyze what it all means. One last thought on this subject. I read an article recently that said blogging is a dead writing form. I don't think that is true but I do believe that long-form writing is making a comeback. The blogs, website, updates, Facebook pages are like tapas. They are wonderful and tasty morsels. But after a few hours you want a meal. We want to be your steak...or your paella.

Q: What made you decide to seek funding through Kickstarter?
I saw a Kickstarter for a magazine called Howler. It’s a magazine about soccer (or football) for North American fans. I liked their idea and premise and I saw that they raised $69,000 with 1,500 backers in 30 days. At that time, I was talking to a graphic designer from a surfing magazine called Surfer's Journal. Surfer's Journal is a beautiful publication. I heard it described once as "the National Geographic of surfing." I had gotten some bids from several graphic designers to do our layout but the Surfer's Journal guy was my pick. However, I could not afford his services. At the same time, I was trying to think of how we could come up with a reliable figure for the circulation of the first issues so could calculate a fair rate for advertisers. Kickstarter seemed to be the solution to all these issues. If we could build a community of readers who invested in our project then we could both contract my preferred graphic designer and be able to provide the advertisers with some good statistics on our readership to determine their rates.

Q: What will you do if you don't raise enough funds?
A: Our first ten days have been a series of spurts and we have yet to reach 10% funding which is an important threshold. Some Kickstarters have raise $100,000 in as little as ten days so I know its possible. The campaign has to go viral and it needs to get going pretty soon. We are asking for $50,000 CAD, which is $40,000 US. That is 20% less than Howler. We have over 2,900 “Likes” on Facebook, so I believe that we have some publicity. The problem is getting people to go from "Liking" Facebook to contributing on Kickstarter. For those who don't know about Kickstarter, if you do not reach your goal on Kickstarter, the project creators get nothing (also no backers will be charged for their contributions and no rewards will be distributed). If we do not reach our goal, our project will not be dead in the water but it will have to be delayed. We will also have to seriously reconsider whether the worldwide judo community wants this kind of publication or not.

Click here for the Judoka Quarterly Kickstarter campaign page.

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