Last week, REC Senior Editor David Jones stopped by with the news that Tierra Grande, our flagship magazine, turned 40 this year.
Longtime readers have grown so accustomed to the quarterly publication’s reliable research and beautiful design that starting a magazine back in ’77 probably seemed like a no-brainer. It wasn’t.
Jones said then-director Dr. Alvin B. Wooten was "a bit skeptical." He said Wooten and others on the staff had experience with academic or refereed journals, but they were uncomfortable writing for the public.
"Shortly after the first issue was published," Jones recalled, "Dr. Wooten told me, ‘Well, that’s one magazine in the books. Do you think we can find enough material for a second?’”
The rest, as they say, is history, although Wooten’s concerns didn’t go away entirely.
"He frequently cautioned the staff to avoid the ‘big error,’" Jones said. "He worried that publishing a big mistake would have a long-lasting negative effect on the young Center. We established a formal review and approval process using green cover letters. That process continues today, except the cover sheets are blue.
"It took a couple of years before the staff really understood the concept of popular magazine writing. Although they did not say so to me, I think the staff secretly hoped the magazine would just go away if they ignored it."
It didn’t. In fact, on July 13, 1977, Wooten sent a memo to the staff saying, “Each staff member should now consider the magazine a reality and begin planning accordingly.”
The magazine was an instant hit with readers. The inaugural issue included articles about economic growth, homebuyer demographic, and real estate education. There was even a profile of that most quintessential of Texas towns—Luckenbach.
Some of these topics will undoubtedly ring familiar to today’s readers, but there’s a key difference.
"Articles in early issues were based on data that was months and sometimes years old," Jones said. "Today, data is current, and authors write more about what is going to happen rather than what has happened."
Of course, evolving technology has made a difference in the life of the magazine as well.
"The digital age makes it possible for us to publish electronic versions of articles days, weeks, or even months before they appear in the print version. That keeps content relevant," Jones said.
One other thing changed as well: the size of the magazine’s audience.
In the beginning, Tierra Grande was mailed only to the 35,000 Texas real estate brokers. Today, it goes to all active and inactive licensees. As of this month, that number is about 166,000.