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Otakon 2005
Anime News Network

by Trisha L. Sebastian,
Anime News Network
Representatives: Christopher Macdonald, Bamboo Dong, Jon Mays

Editor-in-chief Christopher Macdonald lead this year's Anime News Network panel, introducing two of his associate editors, Bamboo Dong and Jonathan Mays. In addition to their duties, Dong also writes the weekly DVD review column Shelf Life while Mays is the writer for the Sound Decision column about Japanese music.
Macdonald then gave a brief history of the website, indicating that the mission statement was to provide coverage about news in the North American anime industry and other items of interest that would be useful to North American anime fans. He then covered briefly the connection between ANN and Protoculture Addicts — an 18-year old quarterly magazine — which is now published by Macdonald and ANN. The next issue of Protoculture Addicts is currently at the printers.

A new announcement that Macdonald made was the addition (or rather, the re-acquisition) of Zac Bertschy, former associate editor of Wizard's Anime Insider magazine, to the ANN staff. Bertschy used to write the popular Answerman column, the seasonal anime previews features and a slew of other projects for ANN. His new duties will include helping to provide better content and helping Macdonald.
Other new updates that may be in store for ANN include the potential of providing content and reviews of anime-related video games or other video games that might be of interest to the ANN readers. Macdonald also urged the people in the audience to polish up their resumes, because he hopes to increase the number of manga reviews on the site by hiring two to four freelance reviewers.

Dong elaborated on some new feature articles and columns for the site, including weblogs written by members of the anime industry and ANN staff writers. These blogs would hopefully provide more of an insider view about what people who work in the North American anime industry do and how the industry works.
A major site redesign is currently in progress, with the focus on how to make the features and columns more accessible to the readers. The trickiest part, Macdonald revealed, will be how to maintain the balance between the readers and the advertisers. "We refuse to annoy our readers," he said, "but [companies] will only advertise if they know people will see it." Macdonald aims to maintain the policy of never allowing companies to advertise using pop-up ads, pop-under ads, and other intrusive Internet advertising gimmicks that some advertisers have asked for.

Both ANN and Protoculture Addicts are scheduled to get a new logo design, one that will unify the two mediums and promote the idea that the two entities are related.
Dong also revealed that there will be some new columns running on the site. "The Hype" will examine the buzz behind the hottest anime titles, while "Akiba Alley" aims to focus on anime-related toys and other merchandise. The details on a third column will be announced later.
Another new innovation for the website will be the introduction of merchandise, including T-shirts with the new logo and a 7-inch plush of Answercat Jr. Other plush and merchandise may follow.Dong even teased about the possibility of custom magic 8-balls with phrases that can be used and/or repeated on the ANN forums in response to contentious messages.

Mays talked a bit more about Project New Future, the charity he started in 2004. The way the organization works is that in exchange for documented visits with children who are suffering from cancer, interested parties will receive free anime and manga that has been donated to Project New Future by the various North American distributors.
(After the panel, more information was obtained from Mays. At this time, TOKYOPOP, Urban Vision, The Right Stuf International, Viz, Bandai Entertainment, FUNimation Entertainment, Central Park Media, Dark Horse Comics and ADV Films have all pledged their support. Unfortunately, the project is still in need of working out some serious logistical concerns, including how to verify someone's interaction with a sick child.). Presently they are working out the kinks and hope to have the project fully re-launched in time for the 2006 summer season.
Mays also talked about the possibility of adding 30 second music clips to Sound Decision so that readers can listen to the music while they read the reviews.

There will also be new promotional contests that will be run at ANN, including one that was to run shortly after the convention ended, with the prize being a Petite Cossette wine glass and a bottle of wine.
Talk shifted back to Protoculture Addicts, with Macdonald noting that issue 85 is the fourth one that has been published by ANN. Macdonald stressed that the difference between Protoculture Addicts and other anime magazines has been the focus on content over "eye candy," written with the sensibilities of the older, more mature anime fan in mind.

One of the goals that Macdonald has for Protoculture Adducts this year is to expand into the book market with distribution into the brick-and-mortar stores like Waldenbooks.
Macdonald then opened the panel to questions, with the questioners getting a prize. Here are some select responses:

  • In response to a question about Protoculture Addict's circulation and the specialty market (comic book stores, etc.) Macdonald said that since ANN has become involved with the magazine, he's seen subscriptions increase, however circulation through the direct market (comic & specialty stores) is shrinking. He reiterated that the book trade was the only way that a magazine could see significant growth.
  • Macdonald also said that they may try to get information about novels into the encyclopedia, as well as anime-related video games, when those products are pertinent to North American readers.
  • When asked what the requirements were to be a manga reviewer for ANN, Dong answered that a reviewer would have to write three or four reviews a week and that the turnaround time was very important. She also suggested that potential writers read the reviews that are already on the site for guidelines as to what they're looking for in terms of style.
  • Since the encyclopedia project was started on July 1, 2002, there are now approximately 3,000 to 4,000 individual anime title entries, 2,000 manga entries and 40,000 staff and cast member entries.

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