TechCrunch reports that Maker Media is being revived, sort of.
The company, responsible for Make: magazine and the popular Makerfaires that helped many 3D printing startups get going, shut its doors on June 3 when the banks froze their accounts. Since then the company has been in bankruptcy state.
Maker Media’s founder, Dale Dougherty, has been trying to restore some portions of the project since then, and now it seems there is some hope for a revival.
It seems that Dougherty has been unable to secure proper financing from investors, perhaps because of a lack of confidence from the investment community. TechCrunch says:
“Last time, he burned through $10 million in venture funding from Obvious Ventures, Raine Ventures and Floodgate. That could make VCs weary of putting more cash into a questionable business model.”
Using his own cash, Dougherty has purchased assets from the creditors that were seized during the bankruptcy, including all the digital content, domain names and trademarks. That’s a start, but how will this be financed going forward?
According to TechCrunch and the Maker Media website, Dougherty is to announce a membership scheme next week. In this model, passionate makers would pay a fee for access to the maker community and content. The fees in aggregate would theoretically fund the operation in perpetuity.
I’m a bit skeptical on whether this approach could succeed. Content subscription business models have generally not gone very well for companies; just look at anyone in the publishing business. Even worse, I have a suspicion that the maker community, a group that thrives on free open source assets, is unlikely to be sufficiently spendy to fund the replacement venture, particularly when there is already plenty of free-to-access alternative maker content available on YouTube, Instructables and other sources.
What Happens To Maker Faires?
This would permit continued content — the Make: magazine itself — but at a lesser frequency. Instead of a monthly issue, it would instead be punished quarterly. They would also continue to license independently organized Maker Faire events, but worse for the 3D print community is that the flagship New York and Bay Area Maker Faires are no more. They were centrally funded by Maker Media, not by independent organizers, and there’s no cash to do so anymore.
This is a big hit on small 3D print ventures, who saw these two events as perhaps the only inexpensive way to visibly launch their products. Yes, there are other shows to do so, some dedicated to 3D printing like RAPID, formnext and TCT Show, but they are significantly more expensive to participate in than Maker Faires.
It’s become a lot harder to launch a 3D printer company in the past few years, and now it’s gotten just a bit harder.