Media brands / businesses are shitty businesses. They’re plagued by narrow profit margins and high overhead (people’s time being the most expensive resource of all).
Starting a new media whatchamagidgit is like saying “I’m going to be a rockstar” or at least “my Jimmy Buffet cover band is going to make enough money to pay for my mortgage and my new baby.”
Only crazy people decide to become content creators or, worse, aggregate the work of content creators into a destination called a ‘website’ or a ‘magazine.’
Is it any wonder so many magazine editors are egomaniacs whose pathological need for narcissistic supply has driven them into the only position on earth where they can exploit a constant stream of it?
What characterizes this bunch of cranks, their one redeeming quality, is a kind of blind faith. Exactly the kind you have to have when you are racing down a runway of uncertain length, burning cash, desperate to connect with the disparate audience you know is out there, hungry for your product — because the most powerful bits of recurring content, be they a show, a column, a blog or a magazine actually define whole new audiences, and gather together people who were previously unaware they were part of a larger community of similar tastes.
And anyway, with the shift to yet another new medium — the web, which is really all mediums in one, delivered in a sort of liminal dream state in which the number of access points to any given piece of content multiplies each day and the behavior of your audience is as maddeningly inscrutable as the movement of the stock market — means none of us who have already committed ourselves to this path have much of a choice. Digital delivery is here, only “here” keeps changing, rapidly, and if we don’t keep up we’ll be erased by someone too naive to know they weren’t supposed to succeed in this sphere.
Here’s rule 0 — 0 because it comes before all the other rules:
The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.