Subscriber’s pleas fall upon dead ears

blechEarlier today, I happened across this post at dannychoo.org where Len-Vesper goes on about his “internet battle” with PiQ and how the magazine is closing its doors. Well, while I don’t remember hearing about or witnessing any “battle” and the magazine actually closed down two months ago, that’s hardly the focus of his tirade.

Like many others, Len-Vesper is actually more upset about the messy transition from Newtype USA to PiQ and how subscriptions were handled.

As I read on, I considered leaving a comment on his blog post here, but since I’ve never written at length about it and I got kinda wordy, I just thought I’d post it here on my own site.

So here’s my response. You can read it with the pretense that I’m talking to this guy directly. Use your hands like puppets for a visual aid if you like.

Just happened across this link and sorry to hear about all your troubles with PiQ. I can tell you that it was never our (being the magazine staff) intention to screw anyone out of their money, only to produce a magazine that was both a better quality product than Newtype USA, at least in terms of range of content and versatility. Sure, we figured that most of the old Newtype USA subscribers wouldn’t be into it, but it was never the goal of PiQ to be a replacement.

Unfortunately, we also had little choice in the matter, as it was either create a new magazine or lose our jobs. It wasn’t easy, and as you can see (although you’re a little late to the party), it didn’t work out so well and we still lost our jobs anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, you’re right to be angry about it. We were all angry about it, because as much as we tried to operate as an independent group, the financial backing and shitty business sense of ADV hamstrung us from the start. Any money from Newtype USA and/or PiQ subscriptions went straight into ADV’s pocket to fix their own financial troubles, and since PiQ was set up as a separate company, anyone still there at ADV can now be free of any fallout from its closure, or so they think.

The team behind Newtype USA and PiQ has now moved on to much, much greener pastures and you know, if you really had a problem with the content and craftsmanship that went into those magazines, then so be it. If you didn’t like the magazine, that’s OK.

But if you’re angry about getting the runaround and ultimately getting shafted, the people to hold accountable are still at ADV and still have your money, so you’d be wise to direct your attention there. I wish you luck in getting your situation resolved.

So, you see, I felt the need to clarify in no uncertain terms that the way things went down wasn’t by our own choosing. A statement like “The new mag was produced by the old staff of Newtype, and they didn’t warn anyone of the move, nor give anyone a choice.” is sad but true, unfortunately, both because the dissolution of Newtype USA and birth of PiQ was just as much of a shock to us as it was to our readers and ultimately, because we had no choice in it either.

Without a doubt, we feel really, really shitty about it all. I have friends and family that I encouraged to check out the magazine and spend money on it. I know people that lost their money on subscriptions too, and of course, we as a staff all lost our livelihoods.

So I’m glad this guy is helping people get their money back. As weird as it might seem, I’m kinda on his side. I know that Newtype USA and PiQ are most likely dust in the wind and no amount of phone calls or e-mails are going to help. In fact, I don’t even know if filing with the BBB would help because those companies are all but hollow shells now. I think anyone’s best bet is to dispute the charges with your credit card company and take your concerns to ADV directly.

11 thoughts on “Subscriber’s pleas fall upon dead ears

  1. I have to say, it’s good to finally have someone speaking openly about the subject. I do wish to clarify a few certain things though. Perhaps it may shed some light as to why I had just a heavy fingered typing style regarding the matter:

    What had originally, really set me off was how hard it was to get in actual contact with someone live to help stave off my worries that I was getting majorly hosed. Personally, I’m a person of extreme patience, part of my job revolves around it, after all; however the fact that I had to fight just to talk to someone doing even the most basic level representation of PiQ – and the times I did manage to get responses were either extremely brisk and rude on their behalf (and I insist, I was using my best business etiquette tone at the time) or answers that literally didn’t hold relevance to the question I asked.

    It made for extremely rocky beginnings, to say the least. There were some snaggy-bits here and there, metaphorically speaking, with the editing process and some of the things written in the mag, but I’m not afraid to admit that even if it wasn’t relevant to my interests, that it did at least have a nice visual appearance and composition.

    The human element behind it all has made me sort of balk at the things I wrote. There are people that are affected by the closure, as you said, livelihoods in what is already a difficult economy. I may dislike the PiQ historical, but I would never, ever wish harm on anyone’s family. I hope the best for those people involved BEHIND the scenes, deep behind, it’s just the scene itself that I had issues with. I hope all those involved find new employment, health, and fortune in the very near future, expedited.

    And for the record, I am not one to pop a fuse, open discussion, debate and such is always welcome at the Fuwablog. Things like this are important to discuss, after all.

    You are correct on the fact that BBB won’t help in this case. The only help a person can get is a monetary dispute open with a credit card provider or registered financial institution. BBB is only for unfair, dangerous or deceptive business practices affecting the consumer majority. The Mag’s closure isn’t an act of deception, moreso a act of last minute financial responsibility.

  2. I have to say, it’s good to finally have someone speaking openly about the subject. I do wish to clarify a few certain things though. Perhaps it may shed some light as to why I had just a heavy fingered typing style regarding the matter:

    What had originally, really set me off was how hard it was to get in actual contact with someone live to help stave off my worries that I was getting majorly hosed. Personally, I’m a person of extreme patience, part of my job revolves around it, after all; however the fact that I had to fight just to talk to someone doing even the most basic level representation of PiQ – and the times I did manage to get responses were either extremely brisk and rude on their behalf (and I insist, I was using my best business etiquette tone at the time) or answers that literally didn’t hold relevance to the question I asked.

    It made for extremely rocky beginnings, to say the least. There were some snaggy-bits here and there, metaphorically speaking, with the editing process and some of the things written in the mag, but I’m not afraid to admit that even if it wasn’t relevant to my interests, that it did at least have a nice visual appearance and composition.

    The human element behind it all has made me sort of balk at the things I wrote. There are people that are affected by the closure, as you said, livelihoods in what is already a difficult economy. I may dislike the PiQ historical, but I would never, ever wish harm on anyone’s family. I hope the best for those people involved BEHIND the scenes, deep behind, it’s just the scene itself that I had issues with. I hope all those involved find new employment, health, and fortune in the very near future, expedited.

    And for the record, I am not one to pop a fuse, open discussion, debate and such is always welcome at the Fuwablog. Things like this are important to discuss, after all.

    You are correct on the fact that BBB won’t help in this case. The only help a person can get is a monetary dispute open with a credit card provider or registered financial institution. BBB is only for unfair, dangerous or deceptive business practices affecting the consumer majority. The Mag’s closure isn’t an act of deception, moreso a act of last minute financial responsibility.

  3. A second comment here, too…

    My brain had not clicked on the fact you wrote there… where ADV is still the parent company of PiQ? I am actually, seriously surprised. Given the way (at the start) that everyone was ensuring Newtype, etc was not mentioned, I had assumed that PiQ had been purely independent from ADV. The fact that ADV still holds the cordon-of-cash is kind of worrysome, but in a way, it guarantees that anyone with a dispute should eventually get their cash back.

    I had no idea ADV had cut in so deep to PiQ and hamstrung it. I guess it truly goes to show that what a consumer sees and what the truth is goes far between depending on the vantage point one has. I had already known I knew perhaps only 1/4 of the issue… I’m starting to feel like this is actually 1/10th.

    For my own curiousity, may I ask for more information? How were they related? What kind of insanity did they do to hamstring the magazine? I guess it’s like a post-mortem report, even if late after a few months.

  4. A second comment here, too…

    My brain had not clicked on the fact you wrote there… where ADV is still the parent company of PiQ? I am actually, seriously surprised. Given the way (at the start) that everyone was ensuring Newtype, etc was not mentioned, I had assumed that PiQ had been purely independent from ADV. The fact that ADV still holds the cordon-of-cash is kind of worrysome, but in a way, it guarantees that anyone with a dispute should eventually get their cash back.

    I had no idea ADV had cut in so deep to PiQ and hamstrung it. I guess it truly goes to show that what a consumer sees and what the truth is goes far between depending on the vantage point one has. I had already known I knew perhaps only 1/4 of the issue… I’m starting to feel like this is actually 1/10th.

    For my own curiousity, may I ask for more information? How were they related? What kind of insanity did they do to hamstring the magazine? I guess it’s like a post-mortem report, even if late after a few months.

  5. Although PiQ was absolutely set up as a separate business entity, I say “parent company” because the group still operated out of ADV’s offices and shared resources, including upper management, human resources and accounting with the rest of ADV.

    We tried to emphasize this separation in regards to the magazine content (lest readers think that we were just another mouthpiece for ADV like so many had considered Newtype USA), but I always felt like it was still a semi-insidious situation and didn’t help that others in the company had no faith or even like the magazine. In fact, we avoided listing a name for a publisher in our masthead because after Gary left that name would have to be John Ledford, and that was not a distinction we were willing to make simply because we did not want to be another product of ADV. This, of course, actually worked in their favor because all the ill will that fell upon PiQ apparently never scathed anyone at ADV directly.

    How exactly did ADV kill the magazine? Well, it’s complicated but here’s the simple version: they didn’t believe in the magazine. Once editor-in-chief Gary Steinman left, there was a single effort to replace him and that fell through. When our ad sales reps left, there was no effort to replace them. When our carryover subscribers from Newtype USA started leaving, there was no effort to find new ones through marketing and promotion. We were left without a clear direction, without advertising revenue and with a plummeting subscriber base. As a team, we did our best to overcome, but it all fell apart when we discovered that ADV had projected a profit based on Newtype USA numbers and results and we’d never be able to match that sort of success in such short order.

    And as much as it pains me to say it, you’ll never get any money back from PiQ. I don’t know how that’s legally or even technically possible, but I know that’s the mindset. Like I said, good luck.

  6. Although PiQ was absolutely set up as a separate business entity, I say “parent company” because the group still operated out of ADV’s offices and shared resources, including upper management, human resources and accounting with the rest of ADV.

    We tried to emphasize this separation in regards to the magazine content (lest readers think that we were just another mouthpiece for ADV like so many had considered Newtype USA), but I always felt like it was still a semi-insidious situation and didn’t help that others in the company had no faith or even like the magazine. In fact, we avoided listing a name for a publisher in our masthead because after Gary left that name would have to be John Ledford, and that was not a distinction we were willing to make simply because we did not want to be another product of ADV. This, of course, actually worked in their favor because all the ill will that fell upon PiQ apparently never scathed anyone at ADV directly.

    How exactly did ADV kill the magazine? Well, it’s complicated but here’s the simple version: they didn’t believe in the magazine. Once editor-in-chief Gary Steinman left, there was a single effort to replace him and that fell through. When our ad sales reps left, there was no effort to replace them. When our carryover subscribers from Newtype USA started leaving, there was no effort to find new ones through marketing and promotion. We were left without a clear direction, without advertising revenue and with a plummeting subscriber base. As a team, we did our best to overcome, but it all fell apart when we discovered that ADV had projected a profit based on Newtype USA numbers and results and we’d never be able to match that sort of success in such short order.

    And as much as it pains me to say it, you’ll never get any money back from PiQ. I don’t know how that’s legally or even technically possible, but I know that’s the mindset. Like I said, good luck.

  7. That sounds like it was a disaster situation from the get-go. Seriously, if ADV, even if ‘shadowed’, was the source of HR/development etc, if they didn’t have faith then it’s no surprise that production seized. I understand, now, what you meant by ‘hamstrung’.

    The only way people can get their cash back is credit card dispute over services not rendered. There’s zero way people that used money-order or cheque or any ‘physical’ method of payment can get their cash now since it’s post closure. The name is probably well into receivership or debt recovery, and the amount wouldn’t merit any court action in the slightest.

    It’s crazy they didn’t fill the positions that were vacated, I mean… Ad sales and Editor-chief… it’s not exactly expendable positions.

    You, and the rest of PiQ staff have my sympathy and apology. This was more ADV’s meandering than PiQ’s.

  8. That sounds like it was a disaster situation from the get-go. Seriously, if ADV, even if ‘shadowed’, was the source of HR/development etc, if they didn’t have faith then it’s no surprise that production seized. I understand, now, what you meant by ‘hamstrung’.

    The only way people can get their cash back is credit card dispute over services not rendered. There’s zero way people that used money-order or cheque or any ‘physical’ method of payment can get their cash now since it’s post closure. The name is probably well into receivership or debt recovery, and the amount wouldn’t merit any court action in the slightest.

    It’s crazy they didn’t fill the positions that were vacated, I mean… Ad sales and Editor-chief… it’s not exactly expendable positions.

    You, and the rest of PiQ staff have my sympathy and apology. This was more ADV’s meandering than PiQ’s.

  9. Oh, and just to be clear, it is a common practice that when a magazine shuts down, the publisher has the option to transfer subscribers to another one of its magazines as a courtesy. Or, as is sometimes the case, the subscriber list of a folded magazine will be sold off to another publisher and again, subscribers will begin receiving a new, comparable magazine, and sometimes, yes, without any notice at all.

    The case with NTUSA/PiQ/ADV was similar to this, in that John Ledford as the owner of ADV and PIQ, sold the NTUSA subsciber list to himself for, let’s say, a dollar, and PiQ had instant subscribers. This wasn’t because we thought NTUSA subscribers were just going to love PiQ. Not at all. It was because ADV didn’t want to lose all the revenue from those 12,000 people it already had in its corner.

    With magazines shuttering left and right these days, it’s becoming more commonplace for publishers to consolidate their lingering subscribers, if possible. Otherwise, it only breeds ill will and contempt to leave people out of their money, as you’re now experiencing. The problem in this situation is that a publisher usually puts the burden on a larger, more-established magazine, but ADV did it backwards and it didn’t work, so now customers are paying the price two-fold.

  10. Oh, and just to be clear, it is a common practice that when a magazine shuts down, the publisher has the option to transfer subscribers to another one of its magazines as a courtesy. Or, as is sometimes the case, the subscriber list of a folded magazine will be sold off to another publisher and again, subscribers will begin receiving a new, comparable magazine, and sometimes, yes, without any notice at all.

    The case with NTUSA/PiQ/ADV was similar to this, in that John Ledford as the owner of ADV and PIQ, sold the NTUSA subsciber list to himself for, let’s say, a dollar, and PiQ had instant subscribers. This wasn’t because we thought NTUSA subscribers were just going to love PiQ. Not at all. It was because ADV didn’t want to lose all the revenue from those 12,000 people it already had in its corner.

    With magazines shuttering left and right these days, it’s becoming more commonplace for publishers to consolidate their lingering subscribers, if possible. Otherwise, it only breeds ill will and contempt to leave people out of their money, as you’re now experiencing. The problem in this situation is that a publisher usually puts the burden on a larger, more-established magazine, but ADV did it backwards and it didn’t work, so now customers are paying the price two-fold.

  11. Pingback: PiQ Subscribers Out of Luck on Refunds? » Comics Worth Reading

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