Putting the “social” in social media

One cannot overstate how the advent of social media has changed the way we interact with each other on a daily basis.

Stories and reminiscences that had to wait for high school reunions and family get-togethers are now shared over Facebook every day. Fan clubs and monthly newsletters used to be the only source for new info on your favorite bands and celebrities, but these days, they can speak directly to their fans through Twitter.

We can take people on vacation with us on Instagram and share our deepest thoughts on Tumblr. We can document baby’s first steps on YouTube and delve into virtually any subject on various blogs.

And social media has undoubtedly changed the landscape for puzzles and constructors alike.

There are entire blogs dedicated to dissecting the New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords each and every day. Amy Reynaldo (Diary of a Crossword Fiend) and our recent 5 Questions interviewee Kathy Matheson (Crossword Kathy) are both terrific examples of engaging crossword bloggers.

Through Twitter and other platforms, constructors are marketing their puzzles directly to solvers, bypassing publishers and sparking a new wave of entrepreneurial creativity in puzzles.

(For more on this, check out our 5 Questions interview with Robin Stears and our subsequent post on digital puzzle distribution.)

Heck, I’ve seen solvers and celebrities alike asking for help with challenging clues by reaching out to their followers on Twitter. Crowdsourcing at its best!

As PuzzleNation’s resident social media helper monkey, I’ve seen firsthand the amazing changes wrought by social media. I play games and interact daily with PuzzleNationers on Facebook, meet fellow puzzlers and innovators through Twitter, and engage in all manner of puzzly topics on Pinterest.

At the end of every blog post, I offer up links to all of our social media platforms, and every time you tweet or comment or reply or re-pin or email, I’m left in awe by how involved and how passionate the PuzzleNation audience is. Interacting with you guys is by far the best part of this gig, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from the marvelous melding of puzzles and social media.

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, cruise our boards on Pinterest, check out our Classic Word Search iBook (recently featured by Apple in the Made for iBooks category!), play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!

Going Digital

Ever since the first crossword puzzle was published on December 21st, 1913, paper and puzzles have been inextricably linked.

Or, at least, they were. But with the advent of the Internet and the evolution of electronic publishing, that link is more tenuous than ever.

“Technology and the opportunities for puzzle creators and solvers to interact with one another will change the ways crosswords are created.” — crossword constructor Robin Stears

Digital puzzle distribution is gaining momentum, and it’s a fascinating time to be part of the puzzle community as individual puzzle constructors and major publishers begin the transition into the electronic market.

Here at PuzzleNation Blog, we’re smack dab in the middle of the revolution. We’re online-only content, representing an online puzzle-game website, and we’ve made recent forays into the mobile market with our Classic Word Search iBook. Digital distribution is literally what PuzzleNation‘s about.

During our 5 Questions interview, Robin Stears had quite a bit to say about the push for downloadable content and digital distribution, and I thought the subject merited its own separate blog post.

Here, Robin champions the move to digital content:

I’m on a mission to change the way crossword puzzles are distributed. Digital collections are easier to share, more affordable for solvers, and most important, they create no physical waste.

While I agree that sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than finishing the New York Times crossword in ink, and I’ve made a decent living selling puzzles to crossword puzzle books, thanks to Eileen Saunders at Penny Press, I do believe that digital, interactive crosswords are the future.

And she’s hardly alone in that assessment.

Many top-tier constructors are going straight to the fanbase with their puzzles, not only in distributing them, but in crowdfunding their newest puzzle projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo. (We’ve written several posts about endeavors like these.)

Here, Robin explains the benefits of digital puzzle distribution:

Fans should be able to buy crosswords directly from their favorite constructors at a reasonable price, and be able to share them with their friends even after they’ve solved them — that’s impossible to do with crossword puzzle books, but not with digital puzzles.

From now on, every collection I self-publish will be in digital format, .puz and .pdf files that puzzle fans can solve, share or print as much as they want. Not having them printed and mailed saves me both time and money, so I can publish more puzzles more often for a lower price.

More opportunities to share puzzles will create more crossword puzzle fans, and more puzzle constructors, and that’s good for everyone.

The next few years will no doubt prove critical for the growing digital puzzle market as a whole. It’ll be interesting not only to see how the big print companies adapt, but to watch how individual constructors like Robin Stears lead the charge.

Thanks for visiting the PuzzleNation blog today! You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check out our Classic Word Search iBook (recently featured by Apple in the Made for iBooks category!), play our games at PuzzleNation.com, or contact us here at the blog!