What happened to Hyper magazine? Part 2.
Former editor David Hollingworth talks us through the final, grisly details…
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“When you are dead, you don’t know that you are dead. It is difficult only for the others…”
Hyper magazine was well and truly dead by 2018. It just didn’t know it.
While its quarterly specials still haunted newsagents, the low circulation numbers, dwindling advertising, and a barely there web presence told the real story.
So when it was announced that long serving editor Daniel Wilks was leaving and the magazine’s assets were being sold to a foreign publisher, those of us still paying attention assumed it was all over. After 23 years of homegrown video game content, Hyper was being laid to rest.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, the magazine found itself in a weird purgatory, with sporadic issues appearing in the wild for another 18 months. These were politely ignored, and the magazine was eventually taken out back and put out of its misery.
David Hollingworth was the last man standing; the editor tasked with getting those final issues out the door with no budget and no support.
If Daniel Wilks’ story was about the slow and steady decline of video game print media in Australia, this is the epilogue. A short sharp sprint to the bitter end. Which, in this instance, was a military themed special left to gather dust in tobacco shops while the lunchtime crowd bought tickets to the weekend lotto.
I’d buy that for a dollar
David Hollingworth’s history with Hyper goes way back. As he explains, “I was working at Next Media when it first started, though on a different title. I wrote the odd piece for it, and knew the first editor socially. In fact, I’ve worked at Next Media on three separate occasions, and each time there was a slightly different team [of writers and editors] on it.”
By 2018 David was looking after the collective website for PCPP, Atomic, Hyper, and PC & Tech Authority at Next Media. When Daniel Wilks left David was named editor of the whole operation. Not long after that Hyper (and a bunch of other magazines) were sold to Future Publishing.
Given the shrinking page counts and lack of advertiser interest in Hyper, David was aware that this may be a short term gig when he moved across to Future Publishing with the magazine.
“I knew it wasn’t going to last, though I gave it the best I could given everything else I had on my plate. It had already had its circulation and issue-count dropped drastically, sales were continuing to slide, and ads were increasingly hard to sell.”
Stop, stop, it’s already dead
In the end, David served as editor for “two or three issues,” fighting a losing battle against reality.
The way he sees it, “There were two main challenges, both of them existential and pretty much beyond anyone’s control;
- You can’t make people buy a magazine they’re no longer interested in, and
- You can’t make advertisers want to invest in something they don’t want to.
“These lead into the next challenge — managing content on a shrinking budget. You can’t raise the cover price, because that just kills the mag faster, and you can’t keep throwing good money after bad.”
The end. For real this time.
David worked with local writers to produce one final issue with Next Media, a Nintendo themed special that barely made it out the door.
“I can say that James O’Connor and the other freelancers worked their butts off for the last original issue, and though it nearly killed me (working on two mags and three websites lead me to an actual nervous breakdown), I was super proud of what we all produced. It was the last big charge to make Hyper do what it does best, with an Australian voice… And getting Nintendo to support us was like pulling teeth.”
But the final, final issue would be a very different product. By this point the whole operation had moved across to Future Publishing, where the content was just licensed articles stitched together from other publications.
“We got one issue of Hyper out the door at Future, but there was just no commercial support for it. The money for printing and even writing — not to mention my own wage — has to come from somewhere. If there’s no money, there’s no mag — like Michael Corleone says, it’s strictly business.”
So could anything have been done differently? Was there any way to save the magazine at this late stage? David doesn’t believe so.
“No one in publishing wants to see a magazine close, and that counts double when it’s one that broke as much ground, and meant as much to so many people, as Hyper. But in the end, all the hard work in the world won’t save a mag that isn’t being bought.
“Something I heard from a few old readers, when the issues stopped, was ‘Oh, that’s so sad — I used to read Hyper all the time’. That sums it up, really. And it’s really no one’s fault.”
When the conversation turns to digital channels, and transitioning to an online model, David’s thoughts echo those of Daniel Wilks.
“From day one, Next Media (no matter the owner) was never the smartest company in the business when it came to building a web presence. With a minimum budget and one permanent staffer, management expected us to take on the likes of Kotaku and GameSpot, which was just never going to happen.”
By 2018 any digital aspirations had long since expired.
Which just left David. A one-person team; trying to juggle the websites, the print publications, and the social aspect, alone in the office, under cold fluorescent lights.
“Next or Future could have turned Hyper into a loss-leading exercise, but publishing in Australia runs on very thin margins, especially once you step out of the arena of the big mainstream and lifestyle brands — and that was true even before COVID gutted the industry. Honestly, if it wasn’t already done — COVID would have been the last nail in the coffin.”