Why we spun out Maker Media

The Maker movement, like all enthusiast movements, is a harbinger of deeper change.

Today, O’Reilly Media announced that we have spun out Maker Media into a separate company. I want to give a bit of background on why we did this, and what we think the opportunity is for the new Maker Media company.

The arc from enthusiast to entrepreneur

Many of the most interesting technologies of the next decade will involve innovations in hardware, not just software. The Maker movement, like all enthusiast movements, is a harbinger of deeper change.

What Dale Dougherty first recognized in 2005 when he published Make: Magazine and began Maker Faire was that there was a new upwelling of interest in making things, embracing everything from new technologies like 3D printing and other forms of advanced manufacturing, robotics, sensor platforms, to crafting and older hands-on technologies. The early projects in the magazine — aerial photography with kites, a programmable cat feeder made out of an old VCR, hacked robot dogs sniffing out environmental toxins — may have seemed trivial at the time, but they were a sign of things to come.

In 2005, Jeff Han’s work with multitouch interfaces was a maker project at NYU. In February 2006, when he demoed his work at TED, it was a WOW moment. A year and a half later, with the release of the iPhone, the multitouch screen was the foundation of a transformative consumer product.

Multitouch was just the beginning. Smart phones are sensor platforms: GPS, compass, accelerometer, camera, microphone, and dozens more specialized sensors create new possibilities for application design that are only now being exploited more fully. Applications like Square Wallet and Uber are only possible because of these platforms.

The problem is that, as has often been said about AI as well, as soon as something crosses over into the consumer realm, it’s no longer seen as “makerish.” When Nike is selling quantified self devices, when your bathroom scale tweets your weight, it’s hard to see this as part of the Maker movement. Yet thinking about how much further we have to go in applying sensors to transform applications and business processes will help you see important opportunities that you might otherwise miss.

A sensor and control platform like Arduino still seems to belong to the Maker universe, but an application that uses the consumer sensor platform of a smart phone does not. But this is the very heart of the distinction that will help you to see the future more clearly.

To understand the trend line of the Maker movement, ask yourself “What are makers playing with today that has already become mainstream? What other kinds of devices and business processes can be transformed by the additions of sensors? What are the opportunities here for startups?”

When you ask yourself these questions, and then look around, you will realize that the Maker movement is the next big thing.

As a result, we decided it was time to create Maker Media as a standalone vehicle to ride this new wave of innovation. Dale Dougherty, my partner from the early days of O’Reilly, and the creator of both Make magazine and Maker Faire, was the one who recognized this wave coming, and has nurtured it for the last seven years. Now, he has a platform to continue his work and take it to the next level.

Below, a few thoughts from Dale about the origins of Make, and where he wants to take Maker Media.

Making becomes popular

Thoughts from Dale Dougherty

I first mentioned the idea for MAKE Magazine to Tim in a cab in Portland. We were heading to the Open Source Conference and I had a few minutes to pitch him on a magazine that I said would be “Martha Stewart for Geeks.”  We had a good conversation, talking about how hackers were hacking the physical world, applying a mindset learned from developing software to customize, personalize and create physical environments. Tim’s encouragement was the initial step in developing what would become MAKE Magazine. I certainly had no idea that many years later we’d be talking about a global Maker movement. Indeed, what has happened is simultaneously that making and the geeks behind it have broken into the mainstream. Making is now popular.

From the beginning, I was fascinated by makers. I enjoyed meeting makers, getting to know their stories, and seeing firsthand the amazing projects they were doing. I realized that makers would enjoy meeting each other and talking about their projects, sharing the kinds of details that they were able to share with me. That was the inspiration for Maker Faire, and I wondered at the time if other people would find makers as fascinating as I did. Maker Faire was really an experiment to find out. A team headed by Sherry Huss organized the first Maker Faire in the Bay Area, and we chose to hold it at a fairgrounds/expo center. We wanted Maker Faire to be fun and we wanted families to come. We re-invented the fair. In 2012, there were over 60 Maker Faires around the world, most of them organized by community-minded individuals who wanted to support and promote making in their city or region.

While MAKE started out with geek hobbyists, the audience now includes families who look for fun, educational projects to do together. It also includes makers who are developing new products and services for other makers and other audiences. It includes professional engineers and industrial designers. Makers have become entrepreneurs, sometimes accidentally, by discovering there’s a market for what they do. They build components and kits, and we sell them in Maker Shed, and many other places. They create tools such as 3D printers and CNC machines and microcontrollers. Makers have created a new market ecosystem.

MIT economist Michael Schrage, who wrote an article for MAKE’s Kits issue on kits as an engine of innovation, has a new book called Who Do You Want Your Customers To Become?*  He writes that the best innovation transforms your customers. It engages them in “reimagining, redefining, and redesigning” their future. The mission of Maker Media is to help more people become makers, and participate broadly in making a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.

I’m excited by the opportunity for Maker Media and its team. I’m grateful to Tim, Laura Baldwin, my colleagues at O’Reilly and the extended O’Reilly community for supporting the growth of MAKE. I look forward to developing this new edition of MAKE, and expanding the reach of MAKE as a global brand that brings makers together.

* (Schrage, Michael (2012-07-17). Who Do You Want Your Customers to Become? (Kindle Location 57). Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.)

tags: ,
  • Congratulations, Dale! Make is amazing and I can’t wait to see what it becomes.

  • Roger Ulrich

    I went to my 1st Maker Faire 4 years ago and it was a fantastic experience because I realized I wasn’t alone in my love for tinkering with electronics and mechanics. I think we are only at the beginning of this movement- an exciting time indeed!

  • nwmhqqty

    Congrats to O’Reilly. Let’s just hope the Maker Movement can counteract the Taker Movement sweeping through the tax happy halls of Congress. We need to create, not leech off of someone else’s hard work.

  • Visualeyes108

    Congratulations and continued good luck, Dale & Tim! Make it loud!

  • Some years back, I was at lunch with veteran skeptic and journalist, Steve Pizzo, and we were discussing an early issue of MAKE magazine with a cigar-box guitar on the cover. Pizzo said he really didn’t have any interest in making guitars from cigar boxes and wondered whether any of this mattered, and where it was going. I reminded him what GNN looked like early on, and asked him to roll that forward to the search industry of today. Dale, we agreed, had a knack for spotting the potential in little things and pushing on them until they became big things– and having fun doing it. Well done, Dale.

    Dave Sims
    O’Reilly Alum

    PS. In the years since, Pizzo has gone on to become a world-class Maker himself, restoring a Corbin Baby Ace prop plane on his own, learning mostly from YouTube videos: http://www.stephen.pizzo.com/babyace/BabyAce.html

  • Congratulations, to Dale and team and to all at O’Reilly and Make Media!

    You’ve all had an immeasurable impact on designers, educators and makers and especially on young learners worldwide!


  • Mark

    I did PR for Make/Maker Faire early on, and still to this day, it is the most satisfying PR work I’ve ever done. Seeing kids’ inspired, awestruck faces at the Maker Faires after they made something real or imaginary (didn’t really matter), and seeing a younger generation connecting with an older generation…it was thrilling. Thanks to Dale for the vision and thanks to Tim for believing in that vision. What you guys (and Sherry, and so many others) have accomplished is truly remarkable. Cheers to all of you!


    Continued success,
    Mark B.

  • anjan bacchu


    what’s the new site for the new organization ?

  • MauiJerry

    How does this affect the Makerspace.com and MakerEd.org projects? Are they under Make Media or separate corporate control? If separate, what connections are maintained? Neither of these really cool programs are mentioned in the press releases and discussions I’ve seen.

    Mahalo. Jerry

  • Making has certainly come a long way since 2005. Back then, it all seemed like such an amazing intersection of interests and possibilities. I remember wearing a T-shirt that said, “If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” Our group of engineers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and car-nuts had been cracking the code on Prius hybrids to show how much better they could be if they could be “fixed” to have more batteries and plug in. (Toyota was watching but we hadn’t asked permission.) We were asked to join the first Make Faire in San Mateo in 2006, so we did a “public conversion” in front of thousands of people. http://www.calcars.org/makerfaire.html We came back from many more years, there, and in Texas. There’s a direct line between cars saying “I get 100O+MPG” and To-shirts saying “I want 100+MPG” and the Chevy Volt in 2010, followed by the Prius Plug In and others. We haven’t succeeded in expanding the approach to “fix” tens of millions of existing non-hybrid gasoline vehicles, but that could still happen. Meanwhile, Makers, people at iFixit and all the others, keep up the good work!
    — Felix Kramer, founder, CalCars.org and DrivingElectric.org

  • Chris Jefferies

    Congratulations to the Makers who make Makers… and thank you, Dale. Your persistence furthers us all.