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Micro-Magazines: Future or Fad of Media
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Seth Godin (among others) proposes that Micro-magazines are the Future of Media. He defines a Micro-magazine as:
Being digital (probably a PDF), that's free to 'print', fast to make and easy to share. (Newsweek spends seventeen million dollars a year on paper.)
Having subscribers, either by email or RSS
Focused on issues that appeal to some, but not all
Having a very specific audience (call it a tribe)
Enabling that tribe to connect by sharing the ideas in the magazine among them, as well as supporting it with a forum or blog
Containing ads that are relevant to that audience
Being longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail (Seth Godin)
This is not a new idea, it is an old one. So let's start by calling them what they are. Every time I see the word Micro-Magazine I really want to say Micromachines and John Moschitta, Jr. I feel like I need to start talking as fast as I possibly can. What we are really talking about are Zines: Extremely focused magazines made by people you have a strong interest in the subject for people with a strong interest in the subject.
I know some people won't like my use of Zine here. To them, they think of poorly photocopied, saddle-stitched pamphlets someone cooked up in their mother's basement. I think of the periodicals I always loved to read, and looked forward to more than any other. To each their own, but we cannot have this discussion unless we are honest with ourselves. What we are really talking about is the professionalizing of Zine publication. Low cost, quality content for a focused audience.
That said, let's look at each of Seth's points individually:
Agreed. Future of media is digital publishing.
I call upon all Gods and Devils to prevent the PDF from being the format of the future!
The format of the future is going to be variable. It needs to be available on the web, as a download, as an app for our favorite mobile device, and print on demand. It needs to be available in every format a reader may want to read it in. Conversly, there needs to be a singular tool for the publisher to post once and have the content appear every where.
The format need to be easy to share. One button click to all our favorite networks, to email, and to print. How ever the reader wants to share it, out it goes.
Why do podcasts work? 1 click subscriptions.
The platform will need to have the ability to allow the reader to subscribe in the manner of their choosing in one click and to have the content auto-delivered. Email and RSS already exist, it is possible though not easy to make a mobile app, but it also needs to be added automatically to our Kindles, iBook shelf, or to be mailed via a print on demand. Options are the solution.
The content needs to be focused. That is why we offer the new minisites on dashPunk so people who are only interested in a particular subject can find that content easier.
The days of Mass Media are for the most part over. The long term future in in producing content that will appeal to a niche audience and evangelizing for the importance of niche to bring more people in.
A Tribe of its own
Some topics appeal to a lot of people, others don't. The trick is to find a way to get your tribe to support the Zine no matter the size.
It is also important to let your tribe talk to itself. The more people involved the stronger the Zine will be for it.
Awwwww, I said a dirty word.
I would really like to be a utopian, but everything costs money, and thus has to make money to succeed. It is a hard truth to face, but that's the deal. If I want to give my content away for free, I have to sell ads to cover the cost, and hope that my readers will support my sponsors and affiliates, shop in my Amazon Stores, and buy my books.
I know that this is a great place to link out to these thinks, but I feel like that would violate my contract with my readers. I am not posting to advertise the ways I make money, but to share thoughts I find interesting. I know I can tell went someone is pushing a sale and I think you all can to. That is a lesson I think more writers need to learn.
Content Collection and Exploring Ideas
This is the Holy Grail.
The Problem: (Content) longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail
The Solution: The Link.
Hypertext does this really well. The MMO Aoin does this very well in that all Mission text is linked to dictionary articles, which link to the game's UI. I never leave the game to find out more information. I can easily surface this information if I want to, but it doesn't clutter the game if I am not interested.
Google Living Stories is an interesting model for this, but it is not polished enough to be useful yet, but it is movement in the right direction.
Scribd has also delivers some of these features, but in isolation of any of the other content.
My Dream WordPress Project
Everyone has their favorite Open Source project. Mine is WordPress. I would love to see a BuddyPress scale open source project to bring these features into WordPress in a way that is simple and easy to use. If there are any developers out there interested in starting this project. I will set up a site and start gathering resources for it.
We can build a better media for the future, we just need to put our heads together and make it happen.