Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Poker Turning the Page

Card Player magazines, 2007-2011Bill Rini offers us a good read today with a post titled “The Death of Poker Media?” There Bill comments at length about how poker publications like Card Player have clearly been affected significantly by Black Friday and the sudden down-sizing of online poker in the U.S. that happened in its wake.

Bill’s post reminded me of one I wrote last May titled “On Spines, or the Lack Thereof” in which I noticed how Card Player had swiftly reduced in size after losing PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and UltimateBet/Absolute Poker as advertisers.

In that post I remarked on how it had taken a few issues of Card Player for there to be any comment whatsoever on Black Friday, and when they finally did get around to mentioning it -- only briefly, in the issue dated May 24, 2011 -- it just so happened that was the issue in which the advertising from the indicted sites had stopped. (The fact that the new issue didn’t have a spine but was stapled together encouraged the pun in the title.)

Bill noted in his post that he’d picked up a recent issue of Card Player (dated January 25, 2012) and saw it was a mere 68 pages long, less than half of which contained actual content (i.e., features, strategy articles, etc.). In fact, that issue from last May -- the first one without a spine -- was also just 68 pages, so CP in particular has been scaled down for quite a while.

Having also noticed how the content being provided had slowed to a trickle, it was late last year I finally let my subscription to Card Player run out after many years. Actually the slimming down of the magazine had been happening pretty much over that entire stretch, starting with the signing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

I still have all of my old issues of CP and so can quickly confirm what Bill is noting in his post about the lack of heft in the new Card Player compared to the good old days. The first issue of 2006 was 164 pages long, more than twice the number of pages of today’s Card Player. And observing the number of pages in the first issue of each year since further reveals the trend: 2007 (156 pages), 2008 (148), 2009 (112), 2010 (100), and 2011 (84).

Other poker-related print publications are struggling, too, of course, and Bill does a good job outlining how too great of a reliance on online sites’ ad revenue and the affiliate game help explain a lot of the wasting away that has occurred. As Bill points out, all poker media outlets are necessarily having to adapt to new circumstances in order to survive, let alone thrive.

I don’t think poker media’s “death” is necessarily imminent, although the future of print publications is understandably highly uncertain. Such is the case for much of print media, generally speaking.

Still, it is interesting to consider how the physicality of the magazines covering our favorite game -- not even their content, but how they feel in our hands -- can be said to provide a kind of literal marker of the game’s currently embattled status.

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