Five Thoughts on Publishing

Publishing does not belong to publishers. It’s a fundamental activity that belongs to human life; it’s communication. One-to-many […]

  1. Publishing does not belong to publishers. It’s a fundamental activity that belongs to human life; it’s communication. One-to-many has irreplaceable value. Blogs are published diaries, newspapers are there to tell you what’s happening in the world, magazines to distract, entertain, educate. But in between those extremes we have a rich, fertile land full of publishing.
    • Businesses publish. They have to buy coffee, and they have to publish. Newsletters, comapny reports, status updates, brochures. You have to communicate to your customers and unless you plan to call each one up by phone, you are going to publish.
    • Professional organizations publish. You gather with other nurses, or IA’s, or engineers, or accountants to get better at your job, and the way you do that is to share what you’ve learned. From peer-reviewed papers to emailing lists, teh professional organization exists most to exchange knowledge.
    • Hobbyists publish. There is no delight on this earth that is as good as when its shared. Do you love fishing, knitting, lawn bowling, origami… doesn’t matter, your love is always better when you share it. Like the professional organization, everyone strives to get better but now you are broadcasting out of personal pride.
    • Enthusiasts Publish. From spec miatas to organic produce, everyone has some funny little thing that lights them up inside. And those people can’t stop looking to read more about it, and eventually when they run out, they start sharing what they know. Because its that great. And everyone should know its that great.
    • Schools- all school publish, from ‘zines to newspapers. It’s good for the kids.
    • Localities- The Mountain View Voice is a newspaper, but still rooted in its hood more than the world, the Barron Neighborhood Association is a jumped up newsletter and every coop seems to have their own “what’s happening” publication.
  2. alexa-IAs.pngBlogging is less satisfying *and* less effective than being with a group. I had coffee with Shel the other day, and he admitted that many bloggers he know were seeing their numbers go flat or drop. But groups have always out performed individuals, no matter how august the individual. Take my baby, Boxes and Arrows. The (arguably) four most prestigious IA’s can’t touch B&A’s numbers.

    (Note: mapped it a second time with peterme, and he’s in the pack with the rest of us little fellows.)

    And the same holds true for A List Apart and its very famous founder, Jeffrey Zeldman

    It would be silly of me to even bother mapping a mommyblogger to parent soup or babycenter. Groups do better. Every member is also a writer, a fan, a marketeer a copyeditor a bugtracker– there is power in the people, and more people more power.

  3. 90% of publishers are currently ignored. I’d like to argue that the vast majority of publishers are having to jury-rig the current set of tools to their use. Some are hacking blog tools, some hire a programmer to decrappify open source, others try to make Dreamweaver play nice with their team. Many cobble something together: basecamp+wordpress+dreamweaver+a wiki. If the vast majority of publishers are publishing as a secondary activity with other people, how come the tools so rarely reflect this? They are hard to use, expensive, missing features… it’s a mess. There should be a happy place between typepad and interwoven. And yet… and yet.
  4. The online world of publishing has segmented into the towers and the hoards. The towers are impermeable; from the small business’s website down the street to the New York Times herself, the readers are ghettoized into forums where they content with chaos. But what is the alternative? digg7-2-7.png
    Digg? Take a look at yesterday’s headlines: money making scams and insults. Is this the shining future of citizen journalism?

    There is a rising backlash against the lack of trustworthiness found in current citizen journalism; i.e. bloggers. Previous posts capture some of the frustration against un-fact-checked, biased, half-truthed, corporate shills and the rest of the rubble that makes ordinary people’s lives actually worse. I’ve also blogged about the mess anonymous comments and posts can create from spam to trolls to actual cyberstalking. It’s time for responsibility and reputation.

    What if there is a middle group? What if we can combine editorial insight with the collective wisdom fo the crowds? Do these two really have to be opposed? I think the future will take the best of old media and new, and create a far more participatory and engaging BUT trustworthy generation of publication, and in the best scenario that will also include Karl’s Printshop down the street allowing his customers to give each other advice on how to make chapbooks and posters.

  5. Finally, and this is the most difficult for me to articulate, I believe a new economy must emerge to support these folks. Maybe Karl the printshop is good for awhile longer yet, and small businesses like him can consider their publishing a cost of doing business or even a loyalty play. But the bloggers are begging for a way to make a buck doing the thing they love, the thing that eats up their every waking hour. The enthusiasts, the hobbyists, the schools and the rest may not have much hope for making a living doing this anymore than folks who help a garage sale once a year thought they’d go pro before ebay showed up. They deserve to make a living doing the thing they love best. I think we all deserve that.

That’s why I built PublicSquare, and the other products that will come on it’s heels such as the job board and the events calendar.
So let’s be honest here, while this is a bit sales its more manifesto. Publishing is changing, and I’d like to help.


Add Yours
  1. 1

    I totally agree with number one. Try explaining that you blog to someone who is in the publishing industry. they just turn their nose up at you. Long term that attitude will change.

    Regarding number 5, overtime things will change so bloggers can make some cash. Adsense and other programs will get better at serving better more targeted ads. Everyday companies are decreasing their traditional media buys and they are shifting more money to online ads. That money will start to trickle down to bloggers. People don’t realize that there are various programs (ebay ads) that can easily deliver some cash right now. Not much but things will keep growing.

  2. 2
    Lawrence Krubner

    Among my friends, any time they want to start a blog, they get a MySpace account and start blogging. MySpace addresses some of the issues of reputation, because a blog owner can restrict comments to people who are on their friend’s list. But these bloggers can’t make money because all the ads on the site are MySpace’s.

    Among my clients, of course, none would ever consider using MySpace, except maybe to sell music. What seems most likely to me to happen with the bigger publishing groups is that things will move in the direction of communities that require subscriptions.

    Among my friends who don’t blog, I see a desire for at least some walled gardens on the web. Some of my friends who are moms, for instance, want mom community sites, and they’d be willing to pay $5 a month if that would keep out the trolls.

    I do agree that as yet there are no perfect publishing tools. A client might ask for certain things and I say “It will cost $50,000” and they say “Why so much?” I wonder that too. It still seems like a lot of software has to be built from scratch each time, for each client. I suppose maybe some of the frameworks might eventually make it cheaper to build really quick CMSs.

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