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Copyright 1998-2021, Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG, Warp Expo West, and Warpfest are trademarks of the Southern California OS/2 User Group. OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation. All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.

The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA
The e-Zine! Story

Creator of OS/2 e-Zine! Takes A Breather

Trevor Smith and his OS/2 magazine


by Peter Skye

H
ALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, CANADA --- The young entrepreneurs of this era created our desktop computer industry.  Down from the hills and up from the valleys they marched, pushing the young and eager towards a common goal, dragging corporate administrators into a self-empowered world, kicking our reliance on mainframe power into the hinterlands.  OS/2 was born of this youth, implemented of this youth, fleshed out by the men and women who cared for its preciousness.  Their entrepreneurial spirit created our software, designed our networks, wrote our books.

           And when the mainstream press ignored us, one of them kept us informed.  One of them stepped forward and created a source of status, a monthly compendium we could look forward to, a family letter free to all comers, an online magazine of current OS/2 information so important that it became our platform's symbol of light.  One entrepreneur created an OS/2 legacy.

           Trevor Smith created OS/2 e-Zine!.

The Start

           Trevor began OS/2 e-Zine! in 1995, shortly after receiving a copy of OS/2 Warp 3 for Christmas from his girl friend.  "I had never been happier with my computer," grins Trevor.  "Surely I can be excused for believing that something as clearly superior as OS/2 would soon take over the market, right?"  Plans for his e-Zine quickly took shape, the first issue went online in November 1995, and Trevor recently sold his creation to Falcon Networking.

           "I had little writing experience other than academic items," says Trevor.  "I never took a writing or journalism course, I never wrote for the school newspaper, and I'd had only one item published --- by a magazine that published all submissions.  I never wrote a letter to an editor, I rarely even wrote letters to friends or relatives."

           Ah yes, let he who never writes become a publisher.  Entrepreneurs love to dabble where they've never dabbled before.  To be fair, Trevor has a B.A. in English Literature from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada.  Mount Allison is a highly rated school --- in fact, the MacLean's 1998 Universities Ranking lists it as the #1 primarily undergraduate university in all of Canada.

           "OS/2 e-Zine! came about simply as a merging of my various interests," continues Trevor.  "I was fascinated with the Internet and had been using OS/2 exclusively since I first installed it.  At the time there were no end-user online OS/2 magazines and I thought that there should be."

What's In A Name?

           "Where did the name OS/2 e-Zine! come from?", I ask.

           "From my very limited imagination," laughs Trevor.  "I tried to think of something catchy, couldn't, and stuck with the obvious.  The subject was OS/2.  The format was e-zine.  So the name was OS/2 e-Zine!."

           "The benefits of OS/2 e-Zine! were all fairly clear," continues Entrepreneur Smith.  "It was and is a constructive forum in which to promote OS/2, it was a good living and," Trevor grins broadly, "ISVs sent free software for review."

           "The only negative aspect was the amount of time it took to put together an issue.  I often worked feverishly for three days straight near publishing deadlines, sometimes staying up all night.  That began to wear on me and prompted me to increase Chris Wenham's responsibilities."

           "And who," I ask, "is Chris Wenham?"

Getting The Story

           "I was looking for contributors and I stumbled on Chris Wenham's personal web site where he had OS/2 software reviews that he had written.  I asked him if I could reprint a few and he signed on.  Chris is a young Englishman living in New York state and was just 'there' when I started looking for material.  He's probably been the most prolific contributor to OS/2 e-Zine! and he's certainly been around the longest.  For a long time he was the backbone of the mag and, near the end of my ownership, I relied on him a great deal.  I'll never forgive him, though, for not coming to Warpstock '98 and finally meeting me in person!"

           I ask Trevor what types of articles he enjoyed the most.  "You must have had some favorites," I say.

           "I've always liked the 'how to' articles we did the best," he replies.

           "And how did you get those articles?" I ask.

           "Getting people to submit articles wasn't hard," says Trevor, "although getting people to submit them on time often was.  I basically just asked around the newsgroups and people volunteered.  After we got rolling people contacted either me or Chris on their own initiative with article suggestions."

           "Were there ever articles that you didn't use?" I inquire.  "Seldom," says Trevor.  "There were very few articles I ever turned away.  The odd article that just wasn't relevant to end-users had to be rejected, but otherwise I was pretty willing to explore any topic."

Feedback

           "And did the readers email you with comments or suggestions?" I ask.

           Trevor is emphatic.  "Tons of readers emailed us over the years with suggestions and comments.  The surprising thing to me was that we got almost no complaints.  It was a bit weird how little negative correspondence I received."

           "So how did you gauge the popularity of the various articles," I continue.  "Did you have any 'server statistics' that showed which articles were getting the most hits?"

           "We did have server stats" Trevor responds, "but I didn't keep official counts to determine the most popular articles.  Generally, each month's most popular topic was the main review and, sometimes, the opinion pieces.  The surveys have also been popular."

The Business

           "I started OS/2 e-Zine! at the same time as a few other less memorable ventures, hoping that one of them would become popular enough to generate advertising revenue.  OS/2 e-Zine! was the project I enjoyed the most and, luckily, was the first to start showing financial promise.  I immediately dropped everything else and by the third issue there was a trickle of revenue.  By the twelfth there was enough to consider it a real job and I began to draw a full time salary."

           I remember back to when a financier in New York carefully explained to me how he selected the startup companies he would invest in.  "A successful business," he summarized after a lengthy discussion, "should see a positive cash flow within eighteen months."  So when Mr. Trevor Smith, the OS/2 e-Zine! entrepreneur, saw his startup become a full-time career with a positive cash flow in just twelve months, the business world would consider him a success.

           "How much," I ask, "did it cost to start OS/2 e-Zine!?"

           "It cost me nothing," replies Trevor.  "I didn't sink any financial investment into the magazine.  I already owned my computer and had an Internet connection.  I had OS/2 and the other software I needed in the beginning.  Anything can be done on a shoestring budget if you really want to."

           "I originally had OS/2 e-Zine! on the servers of a local ISP called ISIS, which then got bought by another ISP called Auracom, both of which are now defunct I think.  I later moved for a short time to another local ISP called DBIS but soon took Dirk Terrell up on an offer to move the mag to Falcon Networking's servers.  This was the best server-related move I ever made as they turned out to be very reliable and fast.  I moved to the Falcon Networking servers at the same time that I registered the os2ezine.com domain --- around February '97."

The Revenue

           "It took money to keep OS/2 e-Zine! going," I say.  "What was your source of revenue?  Was it advertising?  Was there something else that helped pay the bills?"

           "Ads were, and presumably still are, the main source of revenue" is Trevor's response.  "Getting them was surprisingly easy; I just started calling ISVs and other vendors, asked to speak to the president or owner, and explained what I was doing.  The response was mostly positive and, after a few months of demonstrating that I was serious, many were eager to support the project and gain exposure.  There was the odd skeptic who didn't believe advertising in OS/2 e-Zine! was worthwhile," Trevor laughs, "but they're all out of business now!"

The Sale

           "And now you've sold your creation, something you've nurtured and lived with for three years," I say.  "Why would you leave something that is so much a part of you?"

           "I sold the magazine simply because I was tired of it," is Trevor's quick reply.  "Like any entrepreneurial venture, it's a great deal of fun and excitement in the beginning.  But I'm more of an entrepreneur than a businessman and as the magazine became successful and settled I found it less exciting.  Because of my waning enthusiasm I wasn't working as hard and the magazine was beginning to suffer because of it.  Selling it allowed me to move on to other things and allowed the magazine to thrive again."

           "I knew I needed to get out of the publishing business but the choice of a buyer was extremely important to me.  Without someone that I knew would care about the continued success of the mag, I couldn't have sold it.  Also, the buyer needed to be someone whose integrity I trusted.  This limited the field of potential buyers a great deal.  Happily, when I told Dirk how I was feeling and asked if he was interested he gave me a positive answer within an hour of my original phone call.  Dirk was the first and only person I offered to sell to."

           "Dirk," as Trevor calls him, is Dr. Dirk Terrell, operator of the OS/2 Supersite and current owner of OS/2 e-Zine!.  "He's generous, intelligent and unbelievably hard working," says Trevor.  "Dirk Terrell is one of the finest human beings I've ever met, on the 'net or in person.  He's also one of the most important figures in the OS/2 community."

An Entrepreneur's Future

           "And what of your future," I say, "now that you've got free time to think about one?"

           "My goals right now are still vague," replies Trevor.  "I haven't decided yet if it will be a computer related business or something more traditional."

           "OS/2 has had some low points in the past year, but I think those were the worst we'll see for the near future.  OS/2 has more chance of an improved future now than it has had for years."

           "There are at least three separate groups I know of that are trying to negotiate rights to market and sell an OEM version of OS/2.  If one of them is successful, OS/2's market should actually grow some in the next 24 months."

           I ask for the names of these groups, but Trevor won't give them to me.  "Two of them have asked that I not mention their names, and I'll respect that.  Besides," he continues, "I'd like to see an OEM version, and quiet negotiations may be more fruitful."

Varley

           Trevor was born in Nova Scotia, in 1967.  He enjoys the outdoors there and often camps in the back woods with a minimum of equipment, accompanied by his dog Varley.  "Varley has become, more or less, the focal point of my life," says Trevor.  "I got him when he was a puppy, and he's turned out to be a nearly perfect dog.  There is a National Park called Kejimkujik here with some 'back country' sites, and we like to go there."

           "Perhaps your future is in the back woods," I say to Trevor, "a welcome change from the hectic pace of OS/2 e-Zine!."

           "Sure!" replies Trevor.  "Peace and quiet for a while.  Just me and Varley."



Trevor Smith


References

Trevor Smith, trevor@haligonian.com

OS/2 e-Zine!, http://www.os2ezine.com/

Chris Wenham, editor@os2ezine.com

Dr. Dirk Terrell, terrell@falcon-net.net

Falcon Networking, Inc., http://www.falcon-net.net/

Mount Allison University, http://www.mta.ca/

MacLean's 1998 Universities Ranking, http://www.macleans.ca/pipeline/unimag/98winners.html


Section List

The Start
What's In A Name?
Getting The Story
Feedback
The Business
The Revenue
The Sale
An Entrepreneur's Future
Varley


The Southern California OS/2 User Group
P.O. Box 26904
Santa Ana, CA 92799-6904, USA

Copyright 1998 the Southern California OS/2 User Group. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

SCOUG is a trademark of the Southern California OS/2 User Group.
OS/2, Workplace Shell, and IBM are registered trademarks of International Business Machines Corporation.
All other trademarks remain the property of their respective owners.