Common User

Me rambling on.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nobody but the fans

I circled this in big red ink on yet another lenghty sojourn between Haywards Heath and East Croydon a couple of weeks ago. Its from David Hepworth's semi-regular column in the Media Guardian.
It sums up the problems for any publishers or how shall i put it large media company involved in creating editorial online; just how do you begin to understand the difference between publishing your stuff and what Hepworth calls the "arena". V.good on MSM attitude towards fans.

Here's the creative dilemma for magazine publishers on the web. They know how to fashion a product. A community site isn't really any such thing. A magazine is a compromise between the range of content that can realistically be offered, the people who can be persuaded to go into a shop to buy it and the advertisers who can be lured into supporting it. However, a website is an arena where things take place. The relationship between editor and reader is altered from priest-acolyte to host-guest. The magazine is no longer the gatekeeper guarding the door to the cupboard marked "content". They provide the name above the door of the club and what goes on inside will be dictated by the people who visit.

Editors are always ambivalent about the actual members of the public who pay their salaries. When readers are writing in to tell them how good their magazine is, they're people of rare taste and discrimination. When they're complaining about something, they're dangerous lunatics with too much time on their hands. With a community site you're inviting those self-same lunatics in and asking them to help
hand round the peanuts.

Just as the best websites are run by geeks in sheds rather than employees in cubicles, so the best community tends to be driven by people who are essentially intemperate, possibly not the kind of people you want near your carefully burnished brand.

And not that we need any more youtube commentary but Hepworth was at it again wading into the comments section of his blog for the v.fine Word Magazine which has been monitoring Youtube with love (an obsessive music fan) and horror (he 's a magazine publisher) for quite a while. Of all the tens of thousands of words about that i've ploughed through about that over the last few months, here is the best 100.

Most copyright owners don't pay much attention to their role as historical guardians until there's a pound to be made. Whenever record companies decide to reissue something from the pre-war period, for instance, they don't have a master tape to draw upon and end up having to re-master it from some fan's 78. In order to re-screen some of its old comedy the BBC has had to go to former members of staff who stole early tapes to stop them being wiped. Who's keepin all those promo videos and TV appearances and hanging on to them as companies change ownership? Nobody but the fans, if the example of YouTube is anything to go by.


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