The New Media Revolution

Web-based magazines and online books that can be viewed for free thanks to the internet are rising in popularity and readership, whereas traditional print based magazines, journals, and books are suffering from declining readerships and subscription rates.

For instance, a few years ago Slate magazine started charging $19.95 for an annual subscription fee but when that scheme didn't work, less than a year later, Slate dropped the charge and instead offered free content, citing both sluggish subscription sales and increased advertising revenue. It has been available to read free of charge ever since.

This cautionary tale, among others, over the past few years has been causing many within the publishing industry to scratch their heads. What to do with the internet?

Top that with the bewildering popularity of e-book readers like Amazon's Kindle and the Sony Reader, lately there has been a flurry of opinions as to which way the wind is blowing. But methinks it's hard to ignore the waves of pro-internet sentiment that's been wafting about the land. It seems there's a "new media revolution" in the publishing industry afoot and there's no turning back now.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, we learn about the popular online mag, Narrative Magazine, that is defying publishing conventions:

Narrative may be atypical in terms of circulation for new literary magazines - most "small magazines," on- or offline, have a regular following of about 5,000 people - but its business model, if you can call it that, is decidedly nonprofit. Almost all of its 65 staff members, including Edgarian and Jenks, toil unpaid. There is no advertising on their site, nor do the editors give much thought to marketing or promotion. Narrative has no central office - except Edgarian and Jenk's storybook yellow Victorian home - though most staffers have never been there.

“This is a revolutionary period,” says Jenks, 57, who has held fiction editor positions at Esquire, GQ and Scribner’s. “And as with all revolutionary periods, it’s one of enormous opportunity - I don’t think there’s ever been a greater period of opportunity for writers, for literary work.”

“I think the transition for writers (from print to digital) is painful because it’s new,” adds Edgarian, 46, the author of the critically acclaimed novel “Rise of the Euphrates.” “But the opportunities are enormous.”

"One of the things that's been happening," says Jenks, "is that we're getting contact from other magazines who are having declining subscription rates, declining readerships and want a larger presence on the Web. Editors have been contacting us, saying: How are you doing what you're doing?"

Read "2 editors' online journal gives new life to literature" from The San Francisco Chronicle here.

The publisher and chief Executive of Faber and Faber, Stephen Page, still hasn't been fully convinced about life in the digital age, however, cracks are beginning to appear in his facade. In The Guardian he writes:

Technology, often feared by the bookish world, is a growing friend. As the mass market has risen so has the reality of a technologically connected society. This doesn't just mean Facebook. Global communities are gathering around common interests online, just as intellectuals gathered in cafes in 1900s Vienna. They are gloriously beyond corporate control and naturally antipathetic to the reductive mass market. We are only at the beginning of this social revolution. I am not an advocate of the life led online, but as broadband reaches all generations, genders and income brackets, so this will develop usefully. It won't be all of life but it must be a place where niche interests can develop, robbing the mass market of a portion of its control. Literature can thrive in these places.

Read "The free-thinking reader is not dead, but found online" by Stephen Page here.

Todd Swift, a fellow Canadian expat and poet has some more to say about Stephen Page's "digital conversion" on the blogzine, Eyewear. Swift writes:

Stephen Page, publisher and chief Executive of Faber and Faber, has begun to see the digital light - or at least, some of its glow. While his brief article in The Guardian is hardly evangelical, it does seem to represent a conversion, for mainstream British publishing, away from a model that ignores social networking on the Internet, to one which seeks to grab hold of that platform, and haul bricks and mortar publishing, paper and all, into the 21st century. Eyewear has been arguing, in these unpapered but lettered pages, for just such a decision, for some time now, and welcomes Page's moves, to an extent.

Read "Faber Rebooted" by Todd Swift here.

Whatever your position is on the matter, it's certainly an exciting time to be writing and publishing!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

does salon still charge for access? how about the well, how are they doing?

free content does not address the problem that short story and fiction writers face. just search on "the death of fiction" or "the death of the short story" - fiction writers do not have paying outlets like they used to. there is nothing in the major media for them, so people are not familiar with the same fiction writers. we basically lost the short story (and poetry don't forget) as a "national currency"