From the editor of Dimensions Magazine....
Another year is coming to an end, and that's always a good time to recap some of the achievements and challenges of the past twelve months.
The front page of Dimensions Online was accessed almost a million times. Our various bulletin boards and chat rooms have become places where many regulars meet, share experiences, at times argue and debate, or just hang out. In a sense, online chatrooms and bulletin boards seem to be replacing more conventional hangouts. It's just so easy to kick back behind the computer screen and talk to friends from all around the globe.
During the year, the very success of our boards actually became too much of a load on our landlord's server and we were forced to move Dimensions Online to our own AIX machine (an Apple Network Server 500 with about 12GB of disk and 224MB of RAM). A bit later the owner of the T1 line we use objected to the amount of traffic generated by Dimensions Online. We evaluated several options. We could have moved the site to a commercial server, but we didn't want to be at the mercy of someone else far away, and a T1 still costs around $1,000 per month. We installed a dual-ISDN line with data compression but never got it to work right. For the time being, we're still on the T1 and may be able to work out a deal with the owner of the line.
Another challenge was that the First Virtual payment service closed its doors during 1998. We had used FV for almost three years to provide pay-per-view access to high quality scans of some of our best images in the Image Mall and the popular 500 Club. While FV had its drawbacks, it was perfect for pay-per-view because all you had to do was enter your password, rather than having to fill out a form for every purchase. We looked at several replacement options, but haven't found one that we like. I am generally against password protected sites because they close the door to people who just want to browse and look around and also because they are a nightmare to administer. More and more sites generate revenue by using some sort of "age verification" system. I consider them a total rip-off. Many sites resort to peppering their pages with ad banners. That's certainly an option, but selling ad banners is a developing art and at times even more difficult than selling ad space in a magazine.
Bottomline is that the web (and its economics) continue to develop and change. Sites come and go, supersites like amazon.com rack up huge sales but even huger losses, people are annoyed at ever more ad banners and Java traps. And "keeping up with the Joneses" has become all but impossible as the corporate Joneses now have large programming staffs. The times where a clever computer whiz could have a site as cool as that of a big company are gone forever. We decided to just hang in there and see where things are headed. Hopefully, we'll soon find a suitable payment system so that we can recoup part of the significant costs of running the site.
And speaking of running the site, 90% of the credit goes to our exceedingly competent online editor, Dani Osborne. Dani is a pleasure to work with, and her productivity in not only maintaining the site, but to make it better and better never ceases to amaze me. Apart from that, Dani is also a most attractive BBW and we are deluged by requests to run a photo feature on her in the magazine. Thanks Dani, Dimensions Online couldn't do without you.
My own contributions to Dimensions Online have been minuscule this year. I have all these plans in my mind, all the areas that I want to add or change, but much of my time this year was consumed managing the growth of our publishing company. Pen Computing Magazine, our title that covers handheld computing and communications, has become a small but fairly established player in the computer magazine industry with print runs of over 100,000 copies per issue. Late in 1997, I became fascinated with digital cameras, and proposed to my business partner that we start a publication to cover the emergence of this exciting new technology. During the first part of 1998 we launched Digital Camera Magazine, also with a print run of over 100,000 copies an issue. Starting a new magazine is a huge effort, one that industry experts say cannot be done without substantial financial backing. Fact is, you can if you do it right, but it's still a risk. We hope Digital Camera will break even in another issue or two.
During much of the second part of the year, I worked on a deal that would enable us to acquire BBW Magazine. I had followed BBW ever since Carole Shaw and her husband started the magazine in 1979. While some early squabbles caused Carole to have a frosty relationship towards NAAFA and the size acceptance community, the work she did with the magazine was excellent and a much needed boost to the self esteem of large size women everywhere. And the BBW Friendship Express helped bring together many BBWs and FAs. Carole sold BBW about ten years ago, remained onboard for another five, then left. Despite capable leadership, the magazine floundered and seemed destined for extinction, something that I thought would have been a huge loss for BBWs everywhere. In mid-December we completed the acquisition of BBW Magazine and hired a new editor-in-chief, Sally E. Smith, who had been NAAFA's executive director for the past eleven years. Sally is an excellent writer and editor, and has great organizational talents and presentation skills. Sally will share her working hours between NAAFA and BBW until the end of January, then assume full-time duties as editor-in-chief of BBW. Lisa Krebs, a plus size woman and executive in Aeon Publishing, will be BBW's new publisher. At this point, Sally and Lisa are busy assembling the new BBW team. The first issue will likely appear around April. Incidentally, we have no illusions of being able to go head to head with Mode Magazine. They have major league financial backing and they concentrate on the smaller sizes.
What does all of this mean to Dimensions Magazine? First of all, no, there will be no merging with BBW. BBW is primarily a women's plus-size fashion and lifestyle magazine and that's what it will remain. For many years, Dimensions has been something that's almost impossible to do, a magazine that's supposed to bring large women and their admirers together. Many consider Dimensions neither fish nor fowl, either too tame or too riskée. Many others seem to appreciate our efforts. Among the bright spots this year was the emergence of what I consider a very strong team of columnists in Elizabeth Fisher (Inside), Glen Sommers (Outlook), Judi Davies (Female FA) in addition to longtime contributors such as Dr. Barbara Altman Bruno, Dr. Moe Lerner, Hillel Schwartz, Paul Feine, and, of course, multi-talented Sandie Sabo. With the addition of BBW Magazine to our publishing company, it's been suggested that we make Dimensions more of a dedicated FA magazine but at this point no decisions have been made.
The size acceptance movement in general has seen some victories and vindications.
Several successful plus-size actors and actresses are starting to provide positive large size role models. After attending NAAFA's Million Pount March, plus-size actress Camryn Manheim ("The Practice") celebrated her Emmy win with a hearty "This is for all the fat girls!"
The phen-fen diet drug tragedy, recklessly unleashed on millions of fat people against the explicit and well documented warnings of size acceptance activists, is likely to become the next breast implant/tobacco-style lawsuit bonanza--not necessarily a good thing, but certainly a wake-up call for the FDA and the diet industry to start behaving more responsibly.
Increasing criticism against the ideals of almost anorexic thinness portrayed by skeletal supermodels or actresses like Callista Flockheart are bringing a shift towards acknowledging and celebrating more womanly shapes. Heck, even Glamour Magazine announced that it will move towards larger models (though in their case that probably means the "size 6-plus" woman...).
A number of local and regional size acceptance groups have formed, a phenomenon that, depending on my frame of mind, I sometimes see as a regrettable duplication of effort and sometimes as an opportunity for fruitful cooperation in our common fight for size acceptance everywhere.
Anyway, all in all 1998 was a good year and we have a lot to be thankful for. Here's to making 1999 even better. Thanks for coming to our Dimensions Online website, and Happy New Year!!
Conrad H. Blickenstorfer