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Divorce: MagBaz vs MMM PDF Printable Version E-mail

Divorce: MagBaz vs MMM

Barry and Margaret Williamson
September 2012

We resigned as volunMMM_Cartoon.JPGtary Travel Consultants for the MMM (Motorhome Motorcaravan Monthly) magazine in April 2011.

In late September 2011, the magazine's editor, Daniel Attwood, claimed that he didn't understand why we had resigned. So we wrote the email copied below.

The MMM was clearly guilty of abuse: they took for granted our freely given contributions to the partnership over many years and then rejected our attempt at closer relationship. Fortunately, we get custody of this website and they have the monthly Sisyphean task of rolling out an overweight magazine, gaining progressively less and less distance up the hill of profit.

The decline of the magazine is illustrated by one of their cartoons, shown here. John Peachey drew our attention to this nonsense when he wrote: 'Hi, I cancelled my subscription very soon after this cartoon appeared in MMM. I thought we were light years beyond this feeble stuff.' In reply, we wrote: 

'Many thanks for your email. We share your disgust although we are not surprised that the MMM has continued its downward slide. We were always aware of the way in which it denigrated the role of women in motorhoming, stereotyped as 'her indoors', ridiculed as the 'navigator' and exploited as the 'cook'. Andy Stothert turned this into a way of making a living in his 'writing'. We saw this prejudice carried forward into the MMM advertisements which were dominated by men as salesmen, dealers, mechanics and women as adjuncts to these important people.

The existence of people of different ethnic origins was rarely even ackowledged! Their role was to provide and be photographed in poor countries through which intrepid motorhomers could drive their £50,000+ motorhomes, 'risking life and limb' in order to gain admiration!

What continues to surprise us is the way in which organisations in the UK ridicule and denigrate their customers! This is evident in the so-called cartoon and is present in advertisements for quite a range of products.

We haven't opened the magazine for quite some time, but we do remember its wonderful early days as a kitchen-table production by founders John and Audrey Hunt.'

The losers in the divorce are the readers.

Emails of support are copied below and, if you feel like it, you can always add your comment. Which side do you take?

Varberg
Halland
Sweden

27 September 2011

Dear Daniel Attwood

We wonder why you are so concerned about the reasons for our resignation as 'Travel Consultants'. It was a voluntary, unpaid activity with no formal contract or agreement and we were free to ask you to remove us from your list at any time, with or without reasons.

The immediate trigger for the resignation was clear enough and it was made obvious at that time. To remind you:
In addition to having written numerous articles for MMM over the years (including the extremely popular 4-part series on Full-timing, published twice in your magazine), we had been MMM Travel Consultants for many years, dealing with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Balkan Routes to Greece and Long-term Motorhoming in Mainland Europe. In February 2011, we also offered to include Hungary. All these countries and areas of knowledge - which also include Western Europe, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Australia, New Zealand and the USA - have become very familiar to us in over 16 years of long-term motorhoming

A regular series of enquiries came to us from your readers, initially by post and later via our Hotmail address, given in the MMM along with the name of our non-commercial website; many more people (an average of 4,000 per day overall) gain free access to the information gathered in our website. The number of enquiries continues to grow, with particular interest in Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Long-term Motorhoming on the Continent.

Initially we submitted our article 'Halcyon Days' (centred on the Monastery and the Birds in and around Lake Vistonida in NE Greece) to Mike and Jane Jago in April 2011. Without any acknowledgement or comment to us, they passed it to Ms Stothert with a simple 'OTY'.  

We then received the following reply from Ms Stothert:

“I've had a look at your submission, and It's not quite right for our final pitch article, but thanks for thinking of us, and please e-mail me with any other ideas you have.”

It was not the rejection that offended, but the manner of it, coming as it did from a person who we consider barely capable of writing herself, with a marginal grasp of both English and the technicalities of Motorhoming (eg 'Get Practical' in the May 2011 issue – the last one we bought). No reasons were given in Ms Stothert's abrupt note and we were in effect asked to try again to see if we could get it right a second time. Or a third time. And with no suggestion of what was actually 'right', nor any referral to your Travel Editor.

After all the years of 'working' for the magazine as unpaid Travel Consultants, answering many emails a week, we deserved a little more than that.

We did look at other recent published contributions to 'Final Pitch'. One was from Ms Stothert's father and was about his dog that died – no mention of motorhoming. Another was from Ms Stothert's father about his old record collection – no mention of motorhoming. Another (admittedly not from Ms Stothert's father) was about washing up.

Our conclusion was that we didn't want to continue 'working' for a magazine which preferred such nonsense to a fully informed and well-written and illustrated article about real life on the road in a motorhome. Our website contains over 500 comments from users commending both the content of the site and the inspiration it provides. Can that be said of articles about dogs, records and washing up?

This event was also a final straw. For a long time we had been unhappy with the policy of the editors and publishers of the MMM. There is a growing gap between the content and style of the magazine and the needs and interests of motorhomers, as we understand them through our website and our travels. The relationship between the editorial staff, the publishers, the manufacturers, the dealers, certain products and publications is far too cosy for truth to emerge.

Where, for example, are motorhomes thoroughly tested, as opposed to described in estate agent language; where are the malpractices of dealers, insurance agents, garages and campsite owners exposed; and where are the costs involved in motorhoming (the vehicle, servicing, accessories, camping, ferries, etc) fully analysed and profiteering revealed? The German monthly motorhoming magazine 'Promobil', for example, does all of this.

We did make clear our position in an email copied to you, dated 28 August last, about the continuing dissatisfaction of many of our correspondents with the service offered by Brownhills. None of this would you publish, of course, given their role as one of your major advertisers.

In fact most of the pages of MMM consist of advertisements, making the magazine heavy and unwieldy. Much of the remaining content is provided by readers, mainly describing tourist activities in the UK, with occasional forays into France or Spain. The motorhome plays no real part in this form of domestic tourism and often makes access to towns and tourist hotspots more difficult which, in turn, simply gives cause for complaint about lack of parking space, height barriers, etc.

We do not expect any of our reasons to be published in your magazine, or to influence editorial policy in any way, so what is the point of sharing them with you? Thankfully, the future of the glossy, expensive, resource-wasting, biased print media is limited. It is only through non-commercial websites that serious, unbiased information on the nature of the motorhome market (including the magazines) can be ascertained and malpractice exposed. That is where we are now putting our emphasis in our very popular and influential website.

Returning to 'Halcyon Days', it is now a popular article on our website in 'Greece 1' at: http://www.magbaztravels.com/content/view/1230/30/

We will also add a copy of this correspondence to the website.

Barry and Margaret Williamson
www.magbaztravels.com 

Readers' Comments

Steve & Janet Richardson write:

"All the comments about MMM are so true. I found only the readers' letters and interchange worth a read. The comments on Brownhills are just as all other motorhomers tell me when discussing dealers. The best thing about MMM was the case of Autoglym products I got for subscribing to the magazine. Not only did I find the products useful, the bag made the best Toilet Bag I have ever had. So a free tip to all readers. I stopped the MMM 3 months ago as I got so fed up with seeing Mr Stothert every time I opened the magazine."

Maggie Bevis writes:

"Well done! ... and well written ... unlike much of the content of MMM (recent article by Catherine Warrington on full-timing round Europe www.theworldisourlobster.com excepted). Regarding the content, I was starting to think I was going slightly mad. I read articles about waste pipes and fixing smells, hoping for a solution . When I'd read them, I was no wiser. I passed the MMM to Pete to read the same articles, hoping he'd see what I'd missed, but he couldn't find answers either.

So, where do I go for answers? Well not MMM for sure. I find I get the best support and answers from fellow motorhomers, both on your website, other people's blogs and www.motorhomefacts.com. We'd never have travelled so often to Greece without the invaluable travel tips that you gave and you've inspired us to visit more places. I value our correspondence.

I took issue with a somewhat racist comment Mr Stothert made in one of his articles and wrote to the editors but the reply I had was far from satisfactory. Surely it was their job to remove offensive comments? I do love the photographs in the magazine but now there are so many wonderful blogs about, I can find fantastic pictures elsewhere ... and better reading material! Keep up the good work and many thanks for all your information and help."

Henry Love writes:

“Divorce is always an acrimonious affair and I'm sorry that you have parted ways with MMM. If it makes either or both of you feel better, I stopped reading MMM many years ago because I found it to be a magazine of whinge and whine by Daisy and Nigel about the way a nut gets loose, or the really interesting fact that some people do not share their own tastes for Doggy diddies, or pitch protection from the sun or wind or overflying birds.

These three-week season travellers are more interested in reading about how to shine the interior of their belly button than the tricks of reverse loading the motorhome on to a narrow bow ramp of a pitching ferry with a strongly gusting side wind. Stuff real motorhomers are likely to have to learn if they want to explore a few places in, say, the Scottish isles or Croatian islands.

Now. Do you know the correct way to place your van to get perfect reception of Coronation Street at Ferry Meadows CCC site on a Wednesday in March, when the leaves might be budding? (Please secretly email the pitch number so that I can book two years hence, I like to be certain about things you see, I'm sure you understand) That is what proper Motorhoming is about AND I will pay a princely sum every month to receive this wisdom one day.

I have not looked into who owns MMM. Maybe Brownhills.”

Ian Shires writes:

“I read your article with great interest and enjoyed it. I have to agree about MMM. I've been buying it this last few months and I am getting bored already. As you say, 90% is taken up with adverts and the next 9% is articles about nothing special. I left one per cent because there must be something interesting.

Ah, I remember... the leading letter in the Interchange section explained that you can make an excellent washbag from a free bottle bag from the supermarket. I think that is really something because you can also cover up the supermarket logo.

If only I'd thought of that I too could have won a £15 voucher to spend at Milenco."

Paul, Sylv and Charlie Hawker write:

"I have just read with great interest the messages following your 'divorce' from MMM.

We agree that it is full of adverts and not a lot of useful information. The best part is the letters.

We are retiring at the end of this year and off to tour Europe - Croatia, Greece and Bulgaria in our motorhome with dog. We will not be renewing our subscription with MMM as we have got all the information we need via your website.

Please keep up the good work, I don't know what we would do without you."

Barbara Bailey writes:

"Checking your excellent website after a short break, I was very startled by the heading of this article. Now, I know living in a motorhome can be stressful, but you two are such an institution, I was taken aback. How would it be resolved, who would get to keep the motorhome, and who would be heading for Dale Farm etc, etc!

So it was a relief to find it was only a break with MMM. Actually, we lapsed our subscription after a couple of years, I couldn't stand the samey articles, ads and moans any more. Don't get me started on the puns in the article titles - a real turn off, and totally annoying.

I have referred loads of people asking for advice on Continental touring to your website, and none to MMM. 'Nuff said!"

Keith and Jenny Dear writes:

"To respond to your request for general views on the above issue, we completely agree that 3Ms were guilty in sending their rudely brief & unconsidered response to you. After all the work you have put in over the years to help us relative newcomers to enjoy our great hobby, they should obviously have performed more appropriately than they did. After all, were it not for your help & encouragement (initial contact being made via that magazine!) we might never have travelled down to Turkey via Romania, etc, & that just doesn't bear thinking about now! We do tell people about your web site, & they always seem glad of that.

As we said recently, we do agree with your comments on the modern editorial style & content of the magazine, & have pondered ceasing our subscription for this reason. We haven't done so as we find the Letters & Interchange sometimes contain items of interest. But as regards the Senior Stotherts' lengthy & bracket-infested articles, these would surely be better placed in a photographic magazine, as the photography is always first rate, & of course the images often fill complete pages in the magazine.

Also, it is tiresome to see every month the same old faces earning themselves £40 by reporting on Caravan Club sites - information which is freely available in the club magazine. Same with the Camping & Caravanning club site reports. Then there are all the glossy advertisements & favourably worded 'van test reports. Oh well, frankly, after 10 years & 120,000 miles spent travelling around Europe we have felt for some time that we have basically outgrown a magazine that we initially found to be of great interest. We realize that allied to this is the style change over the years, which we think isn't for the best, but no doubt sells more magazines per month.

Incidentally, reading the 'Letters' pages in the September issue we found two letters strongly defending the Stotherts' style following an apparent editorial criticism, now denied by 3Ms editors! It seems that the Stotherts had been criticised for not writing in a 'modern enough' style! So some people like it the way it is. Remarkable!"

Ian Kenyon writes:

“Did they reply? Great email”

Dr Robert Lyons writes:

“Loved the letter to MMM. Your tenacity reminds one of myself. (Is that good grammar?)”

Brian Anderson writes:

“I appreciated your letter of resignation to the motorhoming magazine - it is so sad when commercial interests rule over everything else.

Julie Skinner writes:

"Phew! I know it can be tough sometimes but divorce?? Then all became clear, don't blame you - good for you!"

Jennifer and Glenn Jones write:

"New to motorhoming and thought initially it (the MMM) was interesting. However, after a few months we find the magazine is full of adverts and buyers road tests. The Stotharts are full of wind and love to see themselves in their own photographs. What we need is a real magazine that excites and gives the sort of information that helps the motorhomer. MMM does nothing of the sort."

Margaret & Wayne Evans write:

"We agree with all your points concerning the magazine that shall not be named; over commercialised and definitely requiring some TLC from some genuine motor-homers to return it to the highly readable and useful publication that we waited patiently for each month in the early to late 90's. Sadly it isn't going to happen is it? It's now far too 'friends and family' and advert oriented!"

If you feel like it, you can always add your comment. Which side do you take?