Maker Media pauses operations, community rallies to save it

A tough blow to the maker movement – the fate of MAKE: magazine and Maker Faire events is now in the balance as parent company Maker Media’s activity has been put on hold. In news that broke on Saturday June 8, 2019, Maker Media has made each of its employees redundant citing financial troubles.

The news comes just weeks after the company hosted Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 in San Mateo, California, with CEO Dale Dougherty hinting at this potential outcome. Speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle Dougherty expressed uncertainty about the future of Maker Faire events which, in the past 14 years, have grown to a multitude of 200 licensed events each year.

“We’re doing it this year. We tightened everything down so we could do it,” he said, “But I’m not sure what the future holds for Maker Faire.”

“[…] we’ve had to reconsider what we do and reconsider the things that we provide.”

A brief history of Maker Media

The first edition of MAKE was published in 2005 as the original “magazine for makers,” containing how-to projects for hobbyists and enthusiasts of 3D printing, CNC machining, laser cutting, AI, VR, Arduino and more. One year later, the founders held the very first Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of the 200 owned or licensed events around the globe, at their peak the four top locations attracted a footfall of “at or above” 100,000 people.

These events have been lauded as an inspiration for those getting into STEM education, as well as being an invaluable means of networking with like-minded individuals (at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 two show veterans even got married at the event.)

Attendees of Maker Faire Bay Area 2019. Photo via Maker Media
Attendees of Maker Faire Bay Area 2019. Photo via Maker Media

What’s next for Maker Media?

A number of reasons have been cited for the company’s demise. Speaking to TechCrunch Dougherty described the company’s struggles with print publication, and noted how the withdrawal of corporate support (AutodeskIntel and Microsoft all, until recently, sponsored the events) affected the ability to carry on with Maker Faire.

“It started as a venture-backed company but we realized it wasn’t a venture-backed opportunity,” he said. “The company wasn’t that interesting to its investors anymore. It was failing as a business but not as a mission.”

As a follow-up, Dougherty added, “Should it be a non-profit or something like that? Some of our best successes for instance are in education.”

The intention, at present, is to keep the print publication going, archive online content, and maintain a licensing scheme allowing third parties to host their own Maker Faires. Maker Media is also working through an Assignment for Benefit of Creditors process instead of filing for bankruptcy, and is hopeful of resuscitating operations.

Luzlbot at Maker Faire NYC. Photo by Luis Rodriguez Alcalde of
Luzlbot at Maker Faire NYC 2017. Photo by Luis Rodriguez Alcalde of

“Save Maker Faire”

While some in the online community have criticized the organization and pricing of Maker Faire events, as well as its attempts to engage the general public rather than sticking to its niche audience in the maker movement, the majority of conversations about Maker Media have been encouragingly positive.

Publicly, the company has received the support of Oculus founder and longtime MAKE: magazine subscriber Palmer Luckey. AI developer MATRIX Labs, from Miami Beach, Florida, has also launched a GoFundMe campaign to “Save Maker Faire.” Of the $100,000 goal set by MATRIX, 18 contributors have so far raised $1,400 for the cause.

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Featured image shows BalloonBot by Airigami at World Maker Faire New York 2016 Photo via REUTERS/Andrew Kelly