Burst Culture

(Crossposted from Bad Signal)

I’d like you to ignore, for a while, anything that smacks of Web 3.0, or even Web 2.0, or any of the other dumb ideas that distract from production of actual content on the web. Instead, consider these simple things:

* The hurdle to credible publishing on the web, now, is the nine dollars it costs to buy a domain name from GoDaddy, which can be mapped on to a free Tumblr or Blogger space.

* Monetisation through a combination of ad programs like Indieclick or Federated Media, clickthrough systems like Amazon Associates, and merchandise operations like Cafe Press (which I’m assured is much better now)…do actually work.

* (The reaction to BoingBoing becoming a “band-managed” operation that paid its writers a salary out of the ad revenue should have been seismic. And it’s so obvious: what else is a groupblog but a daily (free!) magazine run according to the demands of the medium of the web?)

* 365Tomorrows was an ideal reaction to sf publishing in new media, the concept of flash fiction and the way the medium works. 100-word bursts of speculative fiction, daily. JR Blackwell’s gotten herself a career out of it. And note how 365T kept producing and fulfilled its mandate even as sf sites and sf print magazines died on either side of it.

* How far behind the curve is the sf publishing community? When International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day came around, hundreds of writers of gift and ambition ran short work for free on the web. This came about following a recently-resigned official of the Science Fiction Writers of America calling those who produce material for the web SCABS.

* Comics Foundry retreated from its position as a web “magazine” (though it was aping print magazine elements, rather than adopting the medium of the web fully, as I recall) to try and become a print magazine. And was summarily rejected for distribution by Diamond. They’re out time and money on a project that would have seen them, if successful, available in fewer venues and read by fewer people than if they’d stayed accessible by anyone with an internet-ready device.

* I love print. I love magazines that commit and pay for long articles and long fiction. The web rewards neither approach. It’s a packeted medium, a surf medium. Short bursts are the way to go. The web isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another” medium. That said, if your concept of a magazine is something designed in one-page bursts, or three pages that only carry 500 words due to the mass of images, then, really, you’re not doing anything the web can’t do better, are you?

* Every day, millions of people download single lumps of data that take them three minutes to consume. They’re called mp3s. It’s a burst culture. Embrace the idea for a while.

* Bursts aren’t contentless, nor do they denote the end of Attention Span. If attention span was dead, JK Rowling wouldn’t be selling paperbacks thick enough to choke a pig, and Neal Stephenson wouldn’t be making a living off books the size of the first bedsit I lived in.

* None of this is new thinking. None of it. And yet, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop all year. But time and again I’ve seen print magazines that should have been web objects all along launch and die — and, in most cases, reconfigure on the web. What was the point? Yes, back in the 90s BoingBoing did it, but web publishing was in its infancy then.

* And just a thought: if you’re an sf writer grappling for space in one of the fiction magazines for seven cents a word or whatever the rate is now — what exactly are you losing by teaming with writers of like mind, going to the web and convincing a friend to work out the monetising bells and whistles for you?

And…well, that wasn’t a burst so much as a hod of bricks, was it? Oops.

— W

Sent via mobile device
sent from pub, street or road

31 thoughts on “Burst Culture”

  1. Pingback: Right-Half Chow

Comments are closed.