Hope for Publishing in 2009, Part 1

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Jan 5, 2009

While on vacation over the holidays, I visited the Barnes & Noble store in downtown Boston at Kenmore Square (you know, where the Citgo sign is). The first thing I usually do when I visit a massive bookstore chain is to check out the magazine racks, which are still piled high with many interesting titles. Even though stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders are large entities, they still manage to cater to many different special interests and topics, which is often best displayed in the magazine racks at these stores. Smaller, boutique magazine publications sometimes end up being sold at these stores, especially when a store is in close proximity to a college (or in this case, many colleges). While there are many general colleges in the Boston area, there is also the New England School of Photography (a.k.a. NESOP, also in Kenmore Square) and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (a.k.a. MassArt).

With all that in mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find a copy of JPG Magazine amongst some of the other art magazines even though I was. I had heard about JPG about a year ago. In case you’re not familiar with the magazine, it’s fueled by user-generated content and collaboration. Photographers submit their photos on the magazine’s website, the website’s community votes on the best ones, and those top-rated photos get published in the next issue of the magazine. It’s a great platform for bringing the Web and print together. Unfortunately, the New York Times’ Bits Blog broke the news the other day that JPG‘s parent company, 8020 Media, was folding and also ceasing production of JPG due to financial difficulties. In a letter to friends (full text in the Bits blog post) of 8020 Media, CEO Mitchell Fox discussed some of the triumphs of its publication:

There is no doubt that our company has done what no others have yet to do…that is, prove that the web and print can work effectively together, one supporting the other.

The riddle of having a sound web platform support that drives interactivity with a print product has been solved, however, none of us could have predicted the global economic collapse we’ve witnessed in the past few months. So our timing to grow the business and bring it to profitability through even the smallest amount of additional funding could not have been worse.

It remains undeniable that the publishing industry MUST find a new model, and mass collaboration and participation in the media property is certainly now proven it can be the foundation of this new model (NOTE: This is NOT citizen journalism).

Mr. Fox brings up some interesting points. When we normally discuss Web-to-print in our industry, we talk about a platform to drive business to a printer or publisher through a Web-enabled storefront. This type of platform is becoming more well-defined every year, and businesses are becoming increasingly agile in e-enabling their print ordering process. What the 8020 CEO emphasizes, however, is bringing an online social community into the web and print mix to come up with a totally different publishing model.

However, if JPG Magazine‘s attempt at this new model failed, what hope does that give to other publishers to adopt this model or other new models to keep publishing energized? Well, hope is not lost! First, members of the community have created a Website dedicated to saving the magazine, which shows the connection the community had to JPG. Also, there are a number of emerging publishing technologies that can help energize publishing in 2009, many with the same community-centric ideals that JPG Magazine instilled. Tomorrow I will detail some of those technologies and what we might expect to see from them in the new year.

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