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How to Kill Your Favorite Website. (Or Magazine. Or TV show.)
This isn't Maker Faire-related, but I wanted to write about it before too much time passed. (Oh - and it's a bit long. Pack a snack.)
You may have read this elsewhere, but as of June, CraftStylish is no longer able to retain the group of contributors who've been producing crafty posts and tutorials each week (which includes me). The site will continue with more limited content, but you won't see many of us there anymore.
Several bloggers have written about how this is one more publishing demise in a sad string of them, including Adorn and the print side of CRAFT.
I think all these endings have a common source, and I also think they point to the dawn of a great opportunity.
First, the source: it's money. (I know - Surpriiiiiiise!) Here's the thing: all of us have been raised on free content - on TV, on radio, and on the web. We've gotten all these shows and sites for free because advertisers funded them. In return, the advertisers hoped we'd pay some attention to their products.
This is the only model publishers have used to fund themselves for decades. And what's happened? Over time, we consumers have gotten too saturated with advertising and started ignoring it.
Now our filters are cranked to ultra-high, advertisers can't get us to pay attention to their products, and they're re-considering buying ads. This stops the flow of money to our favorite content-producers.
So, by failing to hold up our end of the advertising chain, we've all inadvertently helped kill some of our favorite stuff.
Now, am I suggesting that we all start clicking on display ads to save crafting? No. In fact, I think it might be good for traditional advertising to go ahead and die, so it can be reborn into something more useful to the modern mindset.
This is where the opportunity comes in.
It's vitally important that we all recognize that everything we enjoy on the web, airwaves, or the printed page costs someone time and money to create. If we're no longer going to accept advertisers as the middlemen who pay for it, then we as consumers need to consider stepping up to support the content we love.
So yes, subscribe to magazines, and support makers. But that's only half the story, in my opinion.
Producers of TV, radio, print, and the web also need to get outside the ad box and start innovating new ways to monetize. This is a real frontier moment, because as I said, we consumers need to wake up to our responsibility in this food chain.
Until we do, it's challenging for producers to innovate new money models, because we're too passive an audience. So, we need each other if we're to create forward motion here.
I know first-hand that this isn't an easy road - I failed utterly to monetize my own DIY Alert website, partly because I couldn't seem to reach the people who consumed it, and partly because trying new money-models consumed too much time and energy.
Still, the old ad model is breaking down, and something has to arise in its place. Ideally, we'll find lots of "somethings" so that we don't run one money-model to death, like we did with advertising.
I do believe there are creative ways to engage the end user in supporting his or her favorite content. One I like in particular is the micropayment model, explained here in comic book form.
(Incidentally, I don't believe that everything you read, watch, or listen to should have a price tag on it. I adore the internet culture of sharing, and believe we should all give some content away, too. But this subject is best saved for another post.)
I loved writing for CraftStylish, and this turn of events is sad. But it's also symptomatic of the huge, roiling changes in all kinds of publishing.
When things break, they have a chance to rebuild themselves into something better, stronger, faster (and ten points to you if you get that reference).
For now, when you watch TV, read websites, or flip through magazines, consider asking yourself these questions: "Who made this? Did I get value from it? And if so, how can I support the people who created that value?"
I illustrated this post with images from tutorials I produced for CraftStylish. I think it's good to point out: all this content was brought to you by them. There's no way I could have created the time to make so many how-tos if they weren't paying me for them.