Where is Dimensions going?
by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer Ph.D.

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It’s time to admit it—Dimensions is perhaps approaching a crossroad. Times have changed in so many ways that it’s time to rethink where we stand and what Dimensions means in this age of readily available electronic communication.

Times have also changed for us at Dimensions. We now publish four magazines (Dimensions, Pen Computing Magazine, Digital Camera Magazine, and BBI’VJ, of which Dimensions is the smallest by far. We now have an overall staff of 14 people and I increasingly find myself drawn in many directions. Which means I’ve had far less time for Dimensions over this past year than I would have liked. I am still proud of every issue we produce. And I think that we have an outstanding cast of columnists and contributors that never fail to raise interesting issues, provide valuable information and commentary, and generally are a great bunch of people who are not just writers but individuals who all know size acceptance and live their lives as FAs or fat people. And while amateur photography and a simple sheet press doesn’t result in world class quality photo features, our pictorials have consistently shown real people with real stories—attractive large women who share our contention that big is beautiful. Our personal ads continue to be popular and have resulted in numerous relationships and even marriages.

Finally, I think that Dimensions’ basic premise, that of providing a forum where fat women and their admirers can learn about each other remains as valid as it was when we started 15 years ago. However, just about everything else has changed.

Today, reaching out to like-minded souls and finding a huge wealth of size related resources is just a short hop onto America Online or the web away—anytime and almost anywhere. News is reported in real time and not even TV can keep up. What does that mean for a print publication that appears every other month? And much of that wealth of resources is available for free, with content often changing on a daily basis, keeping everything fresh and enticing.

As a result, the network of 900 number dating services we had built with a group of partners across the nation has virtually collapsed and we haven’t found an acceptable substitute to make up for the lost revenue that used cover much of the cost of publishing Dimensions.

Then there are other factors. Many Dimensions readers have probably heard that we acquired BBW Magazine late last year and will relaunch the tide very shortly. BBW, of course, is the large size fashion and lifestyle magazine that got started in 1979 and has become an institution. Today, the term “BBW” (which is a registered trademark of BBW Magazine) has become ubiquitous. BBW founder Carole Shaw, while an energetic supporter of plus size rights and lifestyle, was no friend of the size acceptance movement and certainly not of NAAFA, so there is a certain irony in the fact that a former chairman of NAAFA executed the acquisition of BBW and NAAFA’s longtime executive director Sally Smith is its new editor-in-chief. Those, however, who expect the new BBW to be sort of a glossy version of the NAAFA Newsletter will be surprised. The new BBW will be glossy alright, but it will be a hot fashion magazine.

I must admit that I originally considered merging Dimensions and BBW into some sort of ultimate large lifestyle publication, but quickly dropped that thought. It simply didn’t make sense. But the fact that we’re doing both publications will definitely have an impact on Dimensions. For example, now that we’ll cover plus-size fashion extensively in BBW there is much less of a reason to continue doing so in Dimensions. And with online personal ads increasing popularity, how much longer should we do printed ads where people often have to wait months to get a response? And with all the hassle, expense, and overhead of doing printed photo features, and the huge cost (and waste) of a print publication as opposed to an online website... does it still make sense to create a paper magazine at all?

For the time being it does, sort of. I believe that as of now there’s still nothing better than curling up with a magazine when you want to relax and spend some leisurely time, but with continuing advances in display technology, it probably won’t be much longer before we have foldable screens that display text and images as vibrantly and conveniently as a paper magazine. And to get the next edition, you just download the information from the Internet.

I also noticed that people routinely discuss topics in our online forums that we simply couldn’t publish without offending this or that segment of our subscribers. Online discussion is tremendously transient and forgiving. There is no permanent record at all. (Sometimes I actually regret to see brilliant posts and discussions disappear into oblivion within days). You see where I am getting at: I think the type of forum and focal point Dimensions provides continues to be needed, but I am not sure anymore if a printed magazine in its current form is the best way to go.

Each medium should be used for what it’s best suited for, and in the coming months we’ll be doing some serious thinking along those lines. We need to figure out what information is best offered on a website, and what areas work best in a magazine. The answers to these questions may possibly result in a different magazine and a different website, each with their own focus. The world has changed and there is no going back.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, please let us know and help us determine how Dimensions can best fulfill its mission of bringing FAs and fat women together in a changed world.

Editor at Large