"It works for people but it doesn't necessarily work as a business"
June 9, 2019 10:47 PM   Subscribe

After laying off a quarter of its staff this May, Maker Media -- founder of the San Mateo Maker Faire and Make Magazine -- has ceased operations and laid off remaining staff.

The more than 200 licensed Maker Faires around the world will continue and founder Dale Dougherty hopes to bring the project forward again as a nonprofit. "Our mission is wonderful, we just weren't making a lot of money."
posted by Ogre Lawless (26 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Aw. Boo. I still have the issue where I got listed as a Maker, forever ago. The did awesome stuff, but they did it in a very high dollar way. (Like the magazine, that was serious production value and cost.) I am so sorry for all the staff and everyone who worked for, and hoped for it's success. Hopefully someone can figure out a way to keep moving forward. Make was revolutionary and I'm sad to see it go.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:19 PM on June 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

This strikes me as kind of tragic. I mean I see how it happened - they cast their net really really wide - from things that would appeal to a precocious 10 year old to things that would appeal to a second year EE major in an age when they had to compete with a zillion different things on the web. But bringing those different populations into close proximity with one another is a thing that we kind of need.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:34 PM on June 9, 2019 [15 favorites]

Given that making is expressly anti-commercial, you're not going to sell enough ads to keep MAKE being a physical thing. We found that out with the brief glut of shareware magazines in the early 90s. 20+ staff on California salaries is one hell of an overhead, too.

Ah well, at least it'll mean surplus MAKE:electronics kits in a few months.
posted by scruss at 12:50 AM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

My initial thought when I heard this was that the Raspberry Pi Foundation might be at least partly responsible.

They've been launching magazine after magazine for the past couple of years - starting out with the MagPi but then branching out into more general magazines like HackSpace for the maker community. They even bought a Custom PC building magazine a few months ago, for some reason. Because they're a non-profit, the magazines are free to download when they come out each month which can't help paid-for commercial outfits like Make.
posted by winterhill at 1:22 AM on June 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think the way that the Faires were financed might've had more to do with MAKE's downfall than a not-for-profit in a different country.
posted by scruss at 2:32 AM on June 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

They lost a lot of their sponsors for the big Maker Faires, and words were heard at Bay Area Maker Faire a couple weeks ago it might be the last one,

It’s very sad, especially when one of the biggest supporters of the Maker ethos just released a book last month about his processes and how her got there. (That book being Every Tool’s A Hammer by MeFi’s Own asavage.)
posted by mephron at 3:53 AM on June 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

Ohnoes! I hope Frank Howarth will weather this out. I never knew until now his youtube username is "urbantrash". kek.
posted by sydnius at 5:13 AM on June 10, 2019

posted by ZeusHumms at 6:31 AM on June 10, 2019

This is unfortunate.

I'm a long time subscriber to Make Magazine, even though I never really liked it very much. The stuff they focused on (3D printers, Arduino) didn't really interest me, though obviously I'm in the minority. I appreciated that the magazine existed. It was nice that someone was supporting this community.

I never managed to get to a Maker Fair. They didn't have them local to me and honestly the big ones always seemed like overly-crowded shows filled with Burning Man type creations.

I listen to a couple making-related podcasts and they were discussing the decline of Makerfair. I think if they can get a few good sponsors from companies that really support the community they could maybe still pull them off. Relying on one big company like Microsoft just isn't going to work. There's a a lot of smaller companies like Lincoln Electric and Carolina Shoes who really seem to support makers. Maybe if a dozen of them can get together they could put on a fair. We'll see.
posted by bondcliff at 7:49 AM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that the problem will have been with corporate sponsorship, but I think that will have wained because there just isn't the footfall that these things had a decade ago. Maybe people got scared off because they didn't want to learn how to code in Arduino, or they had a bad experience at a makerspace, or they couldn't afford to keep their new 3D printer spooled up. But, anecdotally, I don't meet as many people fired up about open source as I did ten years ago. Those people seem to be more interested in actual politics these days.
posted by The River Ivel at 7:57 AM on June 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

What a shame. The Maker Movement is a wonderful and joyful thing and I appreciated O'Reilly and Dale's attempts at organizing and writing about it. Part of me thinks things like this just run a natural cycle.

Hopefully some of the maker spaces survive this cycle. Particularly the community and non-profit ones. Up in Grass Valley, CA we have the Curious Forge, as wonderful for its community as its 20,000 square feet of tools for making stuff with all sorts of materials. I noticed a lot of the bigger equipment has half-removed TechShop stickers on it, they've been smart about picking up tools at fire sale prices as some of the more commercial maker spaces have failed.

I also like how the maker movement has embraced more stereotypically-feminine arts. Particularly textiles; every space I've been talks a lot about knitting, weaving, sewing, etc. They have some crazy looms at the Curious Forge. Just as much "making" as nerds fiddling with soldiering irons and a lot longer history of community, at that.
posted by Nelson at 8:00 AM on June 10, 2019 [10 favorites]

Much of my early life was shaped by my obsession with collecting every single copy of Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, Popular Science, Popular Electronics, and others of that ilk (mostly popular), all published in a hand-friendly perfect-bound 6.5" x 9.5" format. In issues from the thirties through the sixties and beyond, techno gee-whizzery mixed with a dizzying array of ads for tools and odd objects and amazing things like complete television chassis sets meant to be installed in furniture of your own construction. Plywood was the big thing, and seemingly every issue came with detailed plans for furniture and useful things to build out of a single sheet of the stuff, from boats to folding workshop cabinets to entire vacation cabins, and the underlying message was electrifying—you can do things.

I missed the feeling those magazines gave me, as all the old Populars mutated into car magazines and lifestyle magazines for the vaguely hands-on set, and I'd largely stopped subscribing to magazines altogether until the first issue of Make came along. It felt right, in an old, comfortable way, in spite of the fixations and favorite materials having changed (from plywood and metal to 3D printing and microcontrollers and IOT hardware), and I have archived every single issue since. I think it's leaned too heavily on 3D printing for those of us used to more traditional fabrication, and a bunch of the projects they laid out were things I could hardly care less about, but the old feeling was there, even when they shifted to the less-desirable giant-magazine format—you can do things.

I think that's such an important thing to feel in this day and age, even if much of what it was telling me about was projects that didn't interest me. The can-do spirit didn't talk me into buying a super-expensive 3D printer, and I use my RPi boxes to make music, not automated projects, but it's also why I have a homemade shaving horse in my cluttered basement workshop. Feeling empowered to do things, and build things, and try things is a glorious sensation of one's place in the world.

I'll miss Make.
posted by sonascope at 8:22 AM on June 10, 2019 [11 favorites]

Am I misremembering, or did Cory Doctorow/BoingBoing have something to do with Make in the beginning?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:31 AM on June 10, 2019

Am I misremembering, or did Cory Doctorow/BoingBoing have something to do with Make in the beginning?

Mark Frauenfelder of Boing Boing was the editor of Make for a while, possibly from the beginning, and I think BoingBoing were some of the very early promoters of Make for this reason. He also put out a book about his experience making stuff, which wasn't very good.

I feel like maybe some others at BB wrote articles for Make in the beginning. Maybe Xeni did, I don't remember.

I think there's less of a need for Make these days in part because there are so many makers on YouTube and Instagram. You really don't need a general-interest magazine when you can go to YT and find someone making the exact thing you want to make, or using the same materials/tech you want to use.
posted by bondcliff at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Mark Frauenfelder seemed to have something to do with it, but everything he does is self promotional.

I've been a subscriber since issue 1. Though I, too, haven't been all that interested. I have almost no interest in Arduinos and raspberry pis, so it held little relevance for me. But I was glad to support it anyhow. I was always curious how it could survive financially, and you guess I have answer now. It's a pity, but it was a pretty good run nonetheless. Despite it all, I'll be missing it.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:30 AM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

This is like the death of Readymade all over again.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:38 AM on June 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Darn... I hardly knew ye.
posted by jkaczor at 9:42 AM on June 10, 2019

Sad; I took my four-and-a-half year old niece to the Faire this year, and she'd already been looking forward to the next one. Dangit, I was all set for this to be Our Thing. Now I have to find a new Thing we can bond over.

I think there's less of a need for Make these days

One thing that struck me, years ago I guess, is the way they decided to be less hub, and more index. YouTube (and Patreon, Instagram, other social media, Instructables, etc. etc.) have been methodically taking over their various sectors, leaving precious little for Make itself to do besides point at things found elsewhere, and and the world didn't need yet another index.
posted by aramaic at 10:16 AM on June 10, 2019

A have several friends who are paid to build stuff for Makers Faire Bay Area, and have for years. They get half the money in advance and the rest after the show. This year, none of them got paid the balance on their contracts.

Bay Area makers are *pissed* and I wouldnt be surprised at a boycott of the next Faire if one does happen (which I doubt).

It's a shame to see this institution flounder, but shorting the makers is leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of the community.
posted by ananci at 11:25 AM on June 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

Shoot. I didn't love Make, but a lot of really cool stuff came out of it.
posted by aspersioncast at 5:43 PM on June 10, 2019

Arg. And this week my summer seminar explores the campus MakerHub.
posted by doctornemo at 7:50 PM on June 10, 2019

“or they had a bad experience at a makerspace” - I think this is a pretty big contributing factor. A culture that condescends to soft skills isn’t going to make sustainable institutions. And one that counts on family involvement while simultaneously alienating women and especially mothers doesn’t have good long term prospects. While I know plenty of awesome women who are makers, I know very few who choose to be involved in Maker Spaces. I know an awful lot who got burned and stepped away entirely. You can only squeeze so much money out of a group of people before you need new people to be interested. That problem only compounds if you’re driving people away.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:09 PM on June 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

...while simultaneously alienating women...

This is where I remind everyone that they had "Craft" magazine at one point. I'm semi-sure they didn't intend it to be "Make magazine, but for teh ladiez!" but...

...it weirded me the fuck out, that's for sure.
posted by aramaic at 8:33 PM on June 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

This makes me sad. I went to my first big Maker Faire last year and didn't go this year because I had to be in my neck of the woods by 5 pm and it's a 3 hour trip down and back for me. Now I am all "dammit, dammit, dammit." I had no idea it was ending.

I was not smart enough for Make's technical stuff but I did appreciate that they did do textile crafting, which is my particular thing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:30 AM on June 11, 2019

I kind of like the whole Make ethic, it was a glossy place talking about stuff I was generally interested in. But the vibe was always a bit “Instagram self promoter” and often seemed to be more about looking like doing stuff, buying tools or pre-compiled kits, rather than actually doing real world things.
I assumed this was an American conceit, but i like to think now it was a bit insincere for everywhere, limiting its success.
posted by bystander at 6:30 AM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm jsut back from the UK, and so was able to pick up a copy of HackSpace magazine at a less than swearies-inducing price. As a paper magazine, it leaves Make in the dust. Great print quality with a proper lacquered cover that won't transfer ink on your hands. Articles written for useful outcome, not just for ain't-it-cool factor.

Best of all, it passed the My Dad test. Dad's 80, now frustrated from gardening and golfing through health issues, but retains his superpower of reading anything and everything left within reach for more than two minutes. He was amazed by all the technology that he didn't even know existed.
posted by scruss at 5:43 AM on June 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

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