First off, even though you are now greeted by a hiatus announcement on the front page when you get to the site, please note that you can still access all of the site’s archives.
So why a relaunch? There are quite a few reasons, actually, and I’ll try to cover as many as I can here. I think the first thing I need to say is that for a few months now, I’ve been feeling more and more like updating the site was a chore. I wasn’t having much fun doing it anymore, and so I started thinking about why I was doing it.
If you’ll recall, it was a year ago that the site launched — towards the end of January — and there were a few reasons for doing it. In short, I wanted to continue the art/design/culture covering from Japan I’d been doing for years on my blog, but wanted it to feel less like a blog, and more like a proper site or web magazine. The other goal was to bring together a whole bunch of voices, to build a community out of people I love and respect, to help spread “our” view of this country.
That last part is where the site has mostly failed. Although I did realize that it would be difficult to get a whole bunch of people to contribute regular columns (that I was hoping to be “mostly” monthly) for no pay, that’s why I tried bringing together such a large group — I was hoping that the sheer volume would ensure a regular stream of newness. But if you don’t count the re-posts from Néojaponisme, Papersky, and Art Space Tokyo, the only regular contributor has been Bianca with her terrific “Japanese Package Design” series, and she deserves my eternal thanks for that (and it’s the reason I wanted the final post on the site to be her latest column). Now, I don’t blame anyone, as I certainly know what it’s like to want to contribute to something, but simply getting too busy with all of the other things in your life.
And this resulted in another problem with the site. Since this community aspect of the site was so important to me, I really wanted all of the columns to act as the “meat” of the site, with my contribution being a regular stream of smaller news items and links, to keep the site feeling alive with daily content. While doing this, I also purposely changed the way I wrote these — as opposed to how I would cover them on my blog — giving them a more neutral style. In part it was because I wanted to give the site an authoritative voice (more objective, less subjective).
But in the end, as a friend of mine remarked, what was interesting when I used to do this kind of coverage on my blog was that it was usually placed in the context of how I encountered it — the anecdotes that went with them were part of the fun. On SNOW, it came off as dry, and since the site was pretty much resting on these due to the lack of columns, it made for a relatively boring read.
The other elephant in the room is, well, a big one. I alluded to it recently when I addressed something Momus had said in a recent podcast, and it’s the fact that I’m just not particularly inspired by the creative output of this country these days. This feeling has been growing over the past year, and although I’ve constantly tried to explain it as “just me,” thinking that I’d just been here for too long and that my constant focus on this particularly topic had maybe burned me out on it — and hey, that may really be the case — I do feel like there’s a serious lack of exciting development happening here. That’s not to say there aren’t some amazing creators doing some amazing things, but it’s no longer enough for me to want to base the entirety of my writings on — especially the kind that I do on my own time.
So what do I do? Although I haven’t completely finalized the exact shape that SNOW Magazine will take — and that’s why I’m giving myself a few weeks to flesh that out — I do have a few thoughts on what I’m going to do with the site. Some of these changes include an end to outside contributions to the site, writing longer opinionated/subjective pieces (probably 3-5 times a week), and — the big one — no longer tying myself to covering Tokyo/Japan-related content exclusively. As you’ll notice with The Magaziner, I don’t have a problem writing when it’s something I’m passionate about, and that’s what I want to bring back to SNOW Magazine.
These changes will also bring with them a drastic change in the site’s design, especially since I’ll want it to better reflect the difference in content and frequency.
I would like to thank everyone who has helped me with feedback in the past week or so — your comments and suggestions have been priceless — as well as everyone who has contributed something to the site over the year. Although it may sound like I ended the year with rather negative thoughts about the site, the idea to bring changes has really been invigorating — and liberating — and I’m absolutely positive that SNOW Magazine in 2011 will be even better than what you experienced in 2010, and I can promise that you’ll be seeing other SNOW-related projects happening as well, so stay tuned!