Blog author: awilkinson
Thursday, March 26, 2009

It is our pleasure to welcome guest ramblings on the PowerBlog, and we are happy to feature this contribution from Alissa Wilkinson, who is editor of The Curator, associate editor of Comment, and on staff at International Arts Movement. She is finishing a M.A. in Humanities & Social Thought at New York University. She frequently contributes writing on culture and film to a number of publications, including Paste and Christianity Today.

In response to the question, “What form will journalism take in the age of new media?”, I have to consider two of my nearly-daily activities.

First, I work as an editor on two publications which are enabled by or adapting to the new media age. My work on Comment, an opinion journal published by the North American think tank Cardus, is predicated on both the internet and print. We publish a weekly online edition and a quarterly print journal, and we’ve been experimenting with social media such as Facebook as a way to advertise. My other magazine, The Curator, has no budget at all, which meant we had no choice but to start as an online journal. Our contributors – some quite well-versed in their field – work for free at present, and we publish weekly on the web.

The lesson I’ve learned there is that new media forces journalism to be either hyperlocal or (like my work) broad-based in its appeal, since visitors may be browsing the magazine down the hall or on the other side of the world. And as my friends and I have watched some more well-funded publications like Culture11 go under, we’ve remarked that publishing online with no budget has its benefits; you can’t really go under for lack of funds. And small magazines have never really made any money, have they?

Second, I purchased a Kindle a few weeks ago and have slowly come to believe that this little device may just save journalism completely. According to a recent article in Business Insider, it costs the New York Times about twice as much to print and deliver the newspaper as it would to send each of its subscribers a Kindle. Though it costs about the same to subscribe to magazines on the Kindle as it does in print (The New Yorker is $40 per year for the print edition, and $36 for the Kindle edition), because you’re paying $3 monthly instead of a lump sum, it feels like less. And the overhead for the magazine is obviously much less, since everything is delivered wirelessly.

For sheer efficiency and lack of overhead, the Kindle wins out: for flexibility, online publishing just works.

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  • Good post. You idenfity some of the tectonic shifts in the way content is generated and distributed these days that will not only impact the content side but the very structures and patterns of the organizations that work with that content.

    I remember early attempts to digitize content that failed to see how the changing mediums changed the nature of the game. It reminds me of Neuemeir’s comment in The Designful Company where he suggests that we’ve become better and better at a management model that is getting worser and worser (his grammar). I’ve run Ingenuity Arts on a premise very similar to the one you’ve identified – if you have miniscule overhead, it’s very difficult to get backed into a corner – make it hard to kill.

    Comment has a growing print/digital momentum that reflects the ongoing interest in print despite having many digital options. So far an ‘either-or’ choice on the print/digital option turns out to be a ‘both-and’ response. I look forward to reading my first book on a Kindle sometime soon.