The Beginning of the Woodworker’s Journal eZine, Life and the Universe … and Everything

The Beginning of the Woodworker’s Journal eZine, Life and the Universe … and Everything

As you may have gathered by now, the Woodworker’s Journal eZine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. You may be thinking, “10 years old? I’ve got socks that are older than that!” and while, sadly, that is likely true, Internet years are not like the normal flow of time. To put the eZine’s age into proper perspective, the eZine was first published in what is considered the Paleozoic age of the World Wide Web. While we did not have to invent binary code in order to publish the eZine … it was a near thing. So, because that is true (more or less), we thought that for this 10th anniversary issue, it would be appropriate to interview ourselves.

WJ: So, Rob, you were there at the exciting and groundbreaking beginning. How did the technological marvel that we know as the Woodworker’s Journal eZine get started at such an early point in the web’s development?


Rob Johnstone: It was a long time ago, and memories do fade, but if you can remember what the early days of the Internet were like, it may be helpful. Before the bubble eventually burst, venture capital was flowing into new online start-ups like water over Niagara Falls (but for a reason I still don’t quite understand, we did not get any of that easy money … at all.). Business models on the Net were all about “getting eyes on the page.” When the Internet start-up geniuses were asked about how they were going to make money on the Web, they answered that “Worrying about money was old-fashioned thinking,” this was a new world of value exchanges and virtual credit — and did we tell you that we are going to get a million eyes on our pages?

Even so, I thought that Internet had possibilities, that it just might last, and that we should be doing more on the web than just tossing a Woodworker’s Journal homepage into the ether, and I proposed an idea to my boss, Larry Stoiaken.

WJ: So that’s when you came up with the idea of the eZine?

Rob Johnstone: Nope, not just then …

I proposed a woodworking “portal site” where we enticed woodworkers to our pages with clever woodworking-based graphics and links to hundreds of other woodworking websites with their own clever woodworking graphics.

“How is it going to make money?” asked Larry.

“That’s old-fashioned thinking,” said I, “we’ll get a whole bunch of eyes on our pages, and then we will have tons of Internet value. People will want to exchange it with us.”

“I’d rather make money,” said Larry.

WJ: So did you decide to start the eZine following that discussion?

Rob Johnstone: No, not quite yet …

My next plan was for an online library of out-of-print woodworking articles … we would scan them and offer them for free to readers, and surround them with groovy woodworking graphics, in addition to links to hundreds of other woodworking sites with their own groovy woodworking graphics.

“How is this going to put dinner on the table?” was Larry’s question.

I had no clear answer, so I went back to the virtual drawing table.

WJ: And hence was born the Woodworker’s Journal eZine!

Rob Johnstone: Well, kinda …

To say that I was completely flummoxed at this point would have been an understatement. My hot new 1990s Internet ideas were meeting with a solid wall of failed financial expectations. I was really at wit’s end. (Which for me is a bit of a short rope, if you know what I mean.) So I took stock of what I knew how to do, and took it to my boss.

“We can make a woodworking magazine, and stick it on the web,” I said.

“What’s new and cool about that?” asked Larry?

“We can email it to our readers!” I said, really hoping that it was true.

“Can we make money doing it?” asked Larry.

“Sure, we can sell ads in it.” I said … really, really hoping that it was true.

WJ: Okay then, is that when the eZine was started?

Rob Johnstone: Pretty much … yup … that’s it, all right.

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