I have recently jokingly begun to refer to myself as the tragic embodiment of the downfall of the print industry. That’s not (entirely) true of course, but it makes me laugh. Now that I’ve found a new home and a new family at Badlands Pawn I have been able to detach myself from the publishing world I have been engaged in and fueling for the past years. I have a few observations from my time steeped in this truly unique working environment: there are a lot of AMAZING people behind the scenes of your favorite blogs and magazines, there are a couple terrible ones, and the whole entire thing is a broken mess and it’s really not their fault.
Making money in the publishing industry is a difficult, daily uphill battle. What GunUp almost was and frankly should have been was a true anomaly in this day and age. Even the big companies are coming out with more and more print titles – essentially throwing spaghetti at the wall – in an effort to regain and retain consumer’s attention in a rapidly changing demographic of firearms owners and an infinitely adaptable digital world. With this understanding, there are a few behind-the-scenes practices I feel you, as readers, should understand that I hope will not only help you understand why a majority of the reviews you read are essentially useless and what we have been trying to do here at Gun Nuts to be as functionally independent as possible.
What I want to unpack is how different large firearms manufacturers deal with the press. I’m not going to name any names, because some manufacturers already get my verbal endorsement on a daily basis and others I do everything I can to steer people away from, even ones whose products don’t totally (totally) suck, simply because you shouldn’t be allowed to be a whiny little jerk toward ad sales people and get editorial reviews pulled and words changed around because your feelings were hurt.
My first example of the brokenness of firearms publishing comes from an experience with one of my favorite manufacturers. They are not very open with the press, but invited a select group out to see one of their longest-awaited releases early and opened their doors to their US factory. We were thrilled, signed NDAs with relish, and lined up to get a first look at the new product. We had a very specific release date, and I guarded the knowledge carefully.
It was leaked. Not by anyone in the editorial world, but by someone out of the shipping house of one of our at-the-time competitors.
If it was just the shipping house, why am I even bringing it up? Because it’s a problem. It should NEVER have happened and now that manufacturer will be hard pressed to open their doors even to a select group of press again.
So how do we stop it? I’ll be honest, I don’t know, I’ve never run a shipping house, but maybe ask Vanity Fair. You see, I don’t care how you feel about the Caitlyn Jenner story, but one of the most sought after stories of 2015 (love it or hate it you know it’s true) was kept safe until its release date, yet our industry gets a leak out of a shipping house? This is a mild, mild example of where we’re… They’re… Going wrong.
Then there’s the example of manufacturer number two who I have – at times markedly – avoided mentioning throughout much of my writing career. This is where you, dear readers, must understand what is really really going on behind the scenes. You see, once someone I know quite well suggested that another gun was a better tool for one job than this manufacturer’s, so naturally they’re out for blood. So much so that when another manufacturer’s firearm was called “laughably bad” (it is, you can’t fire me anymore publishing industry, I can enjoy my machine guns and probable alcohol problem in peace now) they called THE PERSON HANDLING THEIR ADS and had the phrase pulled.
You read that right. Welcome to firearms publishing, where ad sales managers like to call all the shots.
Could you imagine if Chrysler pulled advertising from Jalopnik for slighting their interior?! (Bad example, Chrysler has nice interiors, but you get my point.) What if Apple stopped talking to Tech Crunch because they ran a story about the bending iPhones? The thought is nearly laughable.
Money talks. Money will always talk. But when ad sales “professionals” and company marketers are calling editorial shots there’s a problem, a real problem. Ire is oft raised toward editors and writers, but it’s not their fault every single review you read is positive – they WANT to bring you the truth. What’s really broken is hidden behind the scenes, and can really only be fixed there.
Which brings me back around full circle: welcome to Gun Nuts. Yes, Caleb’s run a Kickstarter to go independent, yes, we are talking to some of our very favorite companies whose products we trust about sponsorship, because we want to get away from this, we want to bring you the truth. Readers who are familiar with us know we have always tried, and being in a position where we are hindered makes us uncomfortable. So bear with us, and maybe call for some behind-the-scenes change from the rest of the industry, because you deserve to know what’s crap (a lot of it is) and what’s not (I probably carry it).
Editor’s note: as of December, the kickstarter campaign has been cancelled, and refunds are being issued to donors