‘The Scrabble News’ goes online only

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03/08/2011 9:35 AM |

COURTESY PHOTO | The cover of the last print edition of 'The Scrabble News,' which has gone online only.

What puts The Scrabble News on the same list as the Ann Arbor News, The Capital Times, The Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer?

C-O-M-M-O-N-A-L-I-T-Y.

The North Fork-based publication, long the authoritative source of news for hard-core Scrabble players and competitors, has put out its last print edition. All future issues will be available exclusively online.

“It will be more fluid, appearing as it happens,” said John Williams of Greenport, executive director of the National Scrabble Association and publisher of The Scrabble News for the past 25 years. “Time and money is much better spent in other ways.”

At its peak, The Scrabble News came out eight times a year and each edition’s 7,000 copies were distributed all over the world. The readers “are smart and demanding people, often with an oblique way of looking at the real world,” said Mr. Williams, owner of the Williams & Associates public relations and advertising company.

The National Scrabble Association serves as a go-between linking the game’s players and the Hasbro company, which makes the iconic board game. To take part in sanctioned Scrabble tourneys, players once had to be members of the National Scrabble Association, Mr. Williams said. That rule was dropped at the end of 2009.

“We lost a few thousand readers in that one move, which was another reason to go digital,” said Mr. Williams.

This is not the first time the new digital media has forced changes in The Scrabble News.

“Over the last decade the news of who won in competition was available immediately,” Mr. Williams said. “It was all on illegal sites, but out there nevertheless. We became an all-features publication out of necessity.”

The online game publication “certainly will be more immediate,” said Mr. Williams. “But the core content will be the same. We’ll interview luminaries in the world of words, language and games.”

He described comedian Jimmy Kimmel and comic actor Jack Black as “Scrabble nuts” and said he hopes to one day schedule a celebrity Scrabble charity tournament.

A 1998 competition at Madison Square Garden during Scrabble’s 50th anniversary year “was a veritable Noah’s Ark of B- and C-level celebrities,” said Mr. Williams.

With his background as an editor at McGraw-Hill Books and an advertising copywriter and art director, Mr. Williams’ experience and background pre-date the Internet — and he makes no apologies for that. He expects future Scrabble games will be played on a digital platform rather than a tabletop board, although he’s not particularly happy about that particular change.

“I hope I’ll be long gone by then,” he said.

Still, he’s shedding no tears for the now-defunct paper version of The Scrabble News.

Asked if he’ll miss it, he paused a moment.

“No” is all he said.

tkelly@timesreview.com