What we can learn from Imphobia
Written by Adok
Now let me talk about the differences between Imphobia and the diskmags of today, and what we can learn from Imphobia. I am mainly referring to the "high-time" of Imphobia, i.e the issues 9-12. I cannot refer to Imphobia #7 and #8 because the interface of these issues does not work on my PC, and I read only parts of the mag in a text-editor. However, those issues are not essential for this article anyway.
If you have not read the article about the History of Imphobia, do that now before continuing here.
What was different in Imphobia, compared to the diskmags of today?
First, each issue had many articles by various authors (about 70 in Imp12) for the reason that people apparently wanted to write for the mag. Check out Sam's article about writing in Imphobia #9, where he tells us that he has asked several friends to write for Imphobia and they were happy that they were asked to contribute to this great magazine but just did not know what topic they should write about.
Today the problem is often not the topic but simply that people do not want to write. You have to bug them a lot until they write. That has probably been the same in the past, but apparently there used to be more people to write voluntarily. And another peculiarity is that in the first Imphobia times, you had to contact the staff via snailmail: at the start, you did not get back your disk until the diskback-service was introduced. So it even cost money to publish in Imphobia, whereas nowadays you just have to send an e-mail to the mag's staff.
You see, the people actually _wanted_ to write for Imphobia. Why was that? I think because it was the major diskmag. Why was it the major diskmag? Because no other diskmag had managed to establish itself. If you read through my article about the history of Imphobia, you will see that there were quite a few diskmags beside Imphobia. But most of them vanished soon, or their quality dropped down so that the interest in the magazine decreased. By contrast, Imphobia has always been there since diskmags were introduced to the PC scene, as Imphobia was the first demo scene diskmag on PC. And it was still there once many other mags had already died. So the scene was convinced that Imphobia was the only reliable mag and wrote for it.
That also explains why Imphobia #9 could be released only three months after Imphobia #8, which was released ten months after Imphobia #7: In the meantime there had been no Imphobia, and people realized that the other diskmags were no alternative. When Imphobia surprised the scene with its - according to several statements in Imp9 - brilliant issue 8, the people saw that Imphobia was consistently good and that its staff knew how to make diskmags. Hence they supported it.
Second difference to the mags of today: There were many high-quality articles They were long (about 10 kbyte in average), and were not contributed by just one person, but there were many people who wrote such good articles. To name a few: Darkness, Sam, Aap, The REW, Unreal, Sleeping Dog, DGM, Nemesis, and Mop. In contrast, many diskmags of today only have authors without real writing experience.
But wasn't it all the same in the past, you might ask? - Yes, just Imphobia had _several_ good authors, for it was the largest and dominating diskmag. Today, however, almost all people who enjoy writing publish their own diskmags - this was not the case in the old days. Many of them wrote for Imphobia instead.
Thirdly: The articles in Imphobia covered many various topics, all scene topics and also interesting non-scene topics, while today, most mags either contain only a few articles about constant topics or articles that deal with a variety of topics but have a low quality.
In Imphobia, people wanted to express their opinions. Today there seems to be no need for this. Apparently people have no opinions because the newsgroup activity is low, too: the newsgroup articles are mostly adverts or stupid chitchat. Or am I wrong, and you people actually do have opinions? Well, why don't you express them in some diskmag?
Finally, well-known sceners wrote for Imphobia. You cannot deny that Unreal, Aap, The REW or Necros are well-known sceners, can you? Of course everyone, no matter how famous, could write in Imphobia. But nowadays the mags are mostly edited by newcomers, and the writers are largely newcomers, too. The old writers of Imphobia (you know whom I mean) are still active but no longer write for diskmags. Maybe they have no time. But it might also be that all, or at least most, mags are too bad for them; thus they have no interest in writing for diskmags any more.
Similar to the mags of today, however, was that the content in Imphobia mainly depended on a few people who were always the same ones. However, in spite of that the situation was better than nowadays: there were more of these regular writers. They had more endurance and hence more experience in writing, which is why the articles became better and better. And new writers joined them.
Imphobia had these facilities because of its dominant position in the diskmag scene. There were hardly any other serious mags. The mags came and left. The better ones (like Autark, BadNews, Daskmig, Pulse, Parrot, Hoax) vanished soon or turned poor. Therefore all good writers went to imphobia.
Another important point of the success of Imphobia is the interface. Even though it had the same layout as most mags today (because the newer mags copied it from Imphobia), it had some advantages: There were no great bugs. Hence, the interface ran on any PC of that time that met the minimum system requirements. (On today's PCs Imp7/8 do not work, and no issue works under Win95 due to the used video mode; but they could not foresee that then.) And the system requirements were very low indeed: A 386 with a Trident graphic card was enough for the full mode. For older PCs, compatibility modes existed. Furthermore, the interface has remained the same since issue 6 with only a few changes. By contrast, some other mags change their interface after every issue, so that they have to waste time on bug-fixing sessions after every new issue.
These advantages were so important that you forgot minor details such as the rather lame non-graphical setup menu. And as new tunes and unique background gfx came along with every issue, you always had a new atmospheric experience reading Imphobia.
To sum this all up, the important points for the success of Imphobia were:
- The good interface that ran (almost?) anywhere
- and had an atmosphere that motivated to continue reading.
- The fact that the mag endured that long and survived many other diskmags that were released in the meantime (Imphobia was the first demo diskmag!)
- and that it was thus very well-known
- and so everyone who wanted to express his thoughts to a large audience wrote for imphobia ("because he wanted to be heard" - quote from an article in Imphobia #12).
- The great quality over all (in spite of quite a few English spelling/grammar mistakes here and there) and that there were various articles interesting to anyone.
- The fact that most of the time Imphobia was released regularly every 3-4 months.
- But even when Imphobia was more irregular from time to time, it was appriciated because there were simply no comparable diskmags. So the fact that no diskmag could be compared to Imphobia was important for its success, too.
My conclusion is: To create a diskmag which can be compared with Imphobia, the diskmags have to grow stronger in general. There has to be one "main" diskmag that gets a position that is similar to Imphobia. This "main" diskmag has to have many and good article writers and many other supporters such as spreaders(!), musicians, gfxers etc. A big regular staff with good writers could help to reach this aim. And finally, the interface must not be buggy. (The graphic and the music is good today, even partly superior to Imphobia, anyway.)
But is it possible at all to get into such a position as Imphobia as a diskmag nowadays, in the time of Internet? Shouldn't we rather try to create a good online magazine? That is to be discussed.
In fact it was the time of the Internet getting more popular when the delays between Imphobia issues grew bigger and bigger in the end. Was Imphobia itself suffering from the influence of the net?