Harris Publications Closes: The Future of Firearms Media

While I was away last week, it was announced that Harris Publications closed it’s doors. On one level, I can’t say I was surprised. As an industry professional I understand there are some major issues facing the firearms media properties these days. But on the other hand, I admit I wouldn’t have predicted a “complete stop” to a NYC based publishing house either. Maybe a sale? Or a switch to electronic media only? But shutting down? I didn’t see that coming.

Some Harris Gun Magazines

Some Harris Gun Magazines

People smarter than me, who have more contacts inside of Harris than I have, will write the final obituary over their corpse. But the death of gun magazines isn’t the real, “real threat” facing gun media these days. That’s a separate issue driven by technology and economics that affects everyone.

These days, the REAL threat to firearms media is censorship. You see, too many of the new-media businesses are single source dependent, or damn near, with one or two major companies or outlets. A prime example would be the recent drama faced by the popular Youtube Channel Hickok45.

Hickok45 on his range

Hickok45 on his range. His typical video format.

All of a sudden without warning or notice, Hickok woke up to find his Youtube channel shutdown. Let me put that in B-school perspective. After 8 or 10 years of blood, sweat and tears posting almost 1000 videos, building an audience, a brand, a community, and a online identity; Google (The parent of Youtube) decided to take it all away. With the flip of one virtual switch.

Scary stuff.

About 4 years ago, we started to look at our business and worry about the same thing. For us it was Facebook. We were WAY too Facebook centric. And it didn’t take much war-gaming to see that if Facebook turned on us, we would be screwed. And one day…it happened. We had seen a MEME on FB and decided to post it to our page. Well…we learned that Facebook operates on a double standard. Things you as an individual can post with no issues, could easily get us locked out or even shutdown. They locked us out for a few days.

Example of shutdown FB Page.

Example of shutdown FB Page. Not us. 😉

But we were ready.

Within a few days, Tacticaltshirts expanded to more social media properties. We moved to a newsletter model. And we opened a second website that is our “gun lifestyle” blog: www.john1911.com Our website. Our rules. We can post whatever we want here.

The future.

One only has to look at the past to see the future for the firearms media businesses. I have already discussed the Hickok45 shutdown and how much coverage that ended up getting nationwide. And I am sure most of you know of other Youtube channels and Facebook pages that have been shutdown as well. And that is Google and Facebook’s right. Their properties, their rules. No freedom of speech there. (Sorry. If you don’t understand that, I suspect you went to public school).

Facebook goes after gun groups.

Facebook goes after gun groups.

But what surprises me is how few of my peers see what is coming. It was reported that Hickok45 wasn’t shutdown by a rogue employee with an ax to grind. No. He was shutdown by a “bot” or computer algorithm that looks for certain kinds of content and deletes it. Just look at the average surviving, private Facebook “gun” group. Almost daily you will read posts by members complaining that they have “spies” in their midsts reporting their for sale ads to corporate. Don’t these guys realize it’s data-mining that is doing that? Automatically. It’s not people. You can’t have a private, secret, group on Facebook that locks out…Facebook, Dummy!

All it’s going to take is another Newtown type event and you will see Facebook and Google implement policies that “ban assault weapons” from their sites. And the bots will go to work removing 95% of content very easily. Read that as destroying businesses. The very businesses and content most of you reading this are interested in.

Let me give other examples. I recall when you could sell guns on E-bay and openly pay for guns with Paypal. No more. Ditto Craigslist. Also…are you aware that Google intentionally downgrades and skews results for any website that sells firearms or has firearms listings? I’m still surprised at how few gun-folks have figured that out.

Annual editions of Harris Gun Magazines are no more.

Annual editions of Harris Gun Magazines are no more.

Here’s how to test it yourself. Come up with some esoteric firearms one may wish to buy. Type those descriptions into Google and look at the first couple of pages of results. Now use those same terms and enter them in small, independent search engines that don’t actually use Google. What you see might surprise you. Been going on for years and years. Quietly of course. And no-one bats an eye.

Summation.

If you are in the firearms industry, it is my personal opinion that you need to diversify away from the major media properties. You need to own your own content (Check the Youtube TOS on licensing for example) and have a way for YOUR fans to find you without needing to go through a 3rd party. You need to have your own website. And frankly, you’ll probably need to have your own smart-phone app as well. I expect we’ll have, no actually need, an app within a year.
Harris went down with a whimper. If you are in electronic media, try to make sure you can survive a few of the inevitable booms that are coming.
Sincerely,
Marky
www.tacticaltshirts.com
www.john1911.com
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Marky Mark

Marky Mark

Writer at John1911.com
Writer for john1911.com. Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

Latest posts by Marky Mark (see all)

  • Brennen Munro

    There are several things that I take away from Harris-Publications closing up shop. Their business model was out dated by electronic media of today. People have lost faith in getting honest reviews from companies that are taking Add dollars from the companies whose products they are reviewing. Distributors of their publications were being forced to place these magazines out of sight of young impressionable minds (hidden from prominent view like porn USED to be). There are now many options for watching reviews online from individuals or even groups that have built relationships with their viewers just like how “Hicock45” has, and these have become the go-to sights to get a review of a firearm that you have an interest in, not matter how obscure. And the biggest take away is that most of these sights could just be made to disappear with just a flip of a switch… I am thankful that you have taken the time and applied the effort to insure that this sight is going to continue to be available, even when the anti’s go after everyone else. I feel that it is just a matter of when it happens, not if.

    Munro

  • Mikial

    I don’t use FB or any other social media. Too invasive, too driven by Liberal values just to maintain their market base of Millennials and other mindless youngsters. Nobody in our home uses social media with the possible exception of my wife, who insists on pissing people off on Tumblr by re-posting Conservative cartoons and articles. Kind of a hobby of hers.

    Google has always been an internet voyeur spying and trying to control what people look at and think. I applaud you for freeing yourself of FB and all the other net-Nazis. It always bothers me when I see an article of blog I’d like to comment on, and you have to sign in using your FB account. That’s when I just hit “delete” and then “unsubscribe’ to free myself of them.

    As for Harris, there are a LOT of gun mags these days. A lot. Competition is bound to thin the ranks. I am pretty old fashioned, and though I do access a lot on-line, I also subscribe to hard copy mags to read in the mornings over breakfast with my wife, or in the evenings over the first few shots of rum ,. . again with my wife.

    I like SWAT, Firearms News and Recoil the most, along with organizational mags like American Rifleman and Concealed Carry, and they are all doing fine. While I agree there is a censorship issue when dealing with these disgusting Liberal, money grubber organizations, I agree with you more. Free yourself of their shackles and then you can actually express what you want to with no fear of being shut down by some geek who spends his days sitting at Starbucks drinking his caramel latte and has never even touched a gun, let alone shot one.

    • I looked into having completely anonymous posting on our blog, but what happened was we ended up being inundated with spammers.

      So Disqus it is. Glad you like it.

      Marky

      • Mikial

        Yeah, a side effect of the “information highway.” No worries, I do like it.

        I know you don’t have as many posters as some blogs, but frankly, so many of the people posting are so full of s**t that not having them around is a blessing in disguise. What you have are a core of people who trust and respect you and look forward to every new post on your blog.

        • You are very kind. Truth be told, we could use some more posters. But we’re in a building phase so it’ll take time.

          The 1911 isn’t built in a day.

          😉

          Marky

          • Mikial

            So true.

            Let me know what you need/want, and I’ll be happy to submit something. And no, I won’t be insulted if you say it’s not what you need at the moment.

            These days I spend my time trying to teach do-gooders working around the world how not to get dead. I could use some reality for a change.

          • We need it. –Marky

          • Mikial

            Cool!

            I’ll come up with some proposed topics and see what you think.

            I’m also encouraging my wife, who is a LEGAL immigrant from Europe, hates European Socialism, and loves guns and the USA to write something. She’s a good writer and video editor, so we’ll see if i can get her to step out of her comfort zone.

            Thanks!

  • Bryce Mibeck

    Good article and very true.