Revolutionary Content: Online Publishing


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Type Illustration by Jeremyhead

Fellow artists, we’ve never seen such a combination before. Old and new, big and small, all running around the same marketplace, pushing, shouting, shoving, and vying for attention. The result is cacophonic.

Wild prediction: Twenty years from now, people’s music collections will consist of bands they have personally met or were referred to by a friend. Their collections will include some of the classics, but gone will be the days when multi-national entertainment corporations chose what is popular and worth your purchase. Same for art, books, and movies.

Whatever your content, you now have tools of the same magnitude as the big guys. You have production tools. Software like Photoshop, digital tablets, and modern printing technologies can transform, not just photographs, but entire paintings into desktop wallpaper, or vinyl covering for half the side of a building.

Software like Pro-Tools, auto-tuners, multi-channel USB audio-converters, and a host of digital effects plug-ins that fit inside a laptop–record and produce a song on par with anything you’ll hear on the radio. We’re talking about technology that used to fill entire rooms and cost a quarter-million dollars just to rig.

Cheap USB microphones and free editing software like Audacity enables anyone in a living room, den, or basement studio to host their very own radio show. Without ever stepping into a conventional radio station, you can record, edit, upload, and broadcast (stream live) to the world, or make your shows available for download.

Now a $300 high definition helmet-mount camera can capture video footage of a mountain bike trail–something that was impossible on any budget only a couple of years ago. Oh, and that video footage can be edited on your laptop while sitting in an airplane at 35,000 feet.

Using free online publishing software like WordPress, or Blogger, anybody can publish an online magazine. Escape into Life is just that, an online arts journal with no aim whatsoever to enter the print world. Because, at this stage of the game, it’s better to think ahead–and the future is online publishing. Everything is going digital, and mobile, from the day’s news to the New York Times Bestseller List.

While building a readership may take years, launching the website itself is a synch, something that can be done with less than a hundred clicks of a mouse. And there are significant advantages an online magazine has over a paper one. The online version can deliver video, music, and spoken-word podcasts . . .

But wait, there’s more! Writers of essays, short stories, poetry and novels can sell electronic versions of their work through Amazon, or process direct individual transactions on PayPal. Similarly, they can publish their books in hardcover or paperback using online, print-on-demand services like Lulu or Blurb.

All of this with very little up-front investment.

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City Code by Greg Lamarche

When all is said and done and a masterpiece has been created, you can sell your work with absolutely no middle-man. You’ll need a fanbase before you start making the big bucks. But some argue that if you can cultivate a following of 1000 true fans, you’ll be able to earn a living on your artistic output.

Digging back into the business classic, The ClueTrain Manifesto, I learned that marketplaces were originally centers of conversation. What does this mean today? Today our marketplaces are returning to centers of conversation and intellectual exchange.

Conversations between people who share interests, between people who create stuff and people who buy stuff. Millions and millions of interactions, with personal one-on-one touches, promoting this, networking that. Using the power of social media, artists can now access the same markets for free that their once exclusive “Big” counterparts could only access using large sums of advertising dollars.

The engine that drives all this is referral, and Twitter is the nonpareil of referral systems. If I find a writer I like through one of the many networking sites, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Ning, I can make a connection, maybe even a friendship, and purchase the work directly.

Twitter is simply the most populated, bustling, buzzing interface for this possibility to arise. One recommendation leads to another. I tell my friends about my new favourite author, they tell their friends; the author generates more sales through word-of-mouth and social media networking. From a dozen close friends to scores of friends-of-friends to several hundred complete strangers. It all happens online.

Of course the big media companies are not sitting idly by. They want their control back. They’re spending the last of their crumbling profits on lawyers and lobbyists in a futile attempt to stop this revolution.

And here’s where things galvanize. Much of the content that makes it online is now traded without its owner’s permission or any kind of payment whatsoever. Illegal downloading is rampant. Witness the international spectacle in early 2009 in Sweden where several record companies sued the world’s biggest facilitator of illegal downloading at the time, an online bit-torrent tracking entity called The Pirate Bay. The event drew supporters from both sides. Former ABBA member, Bjorn Ulvaeus spoke harshly against The Pirate Bay while international best-selling author Paulo Coehlo showed how illegal downloading helped fuel his book sales.

I don’t think anybody really knows how this story is going to end, but one thing is certain. At the root of this revolution is money. How far you choose to get involved in the political side is up to you. But there is another way you can get involved. Make stuff. And take it to market. Revolutionary content is the content you choose to create.

Never before in the history of communications has there existed a platform, an enabler, an equalizer like the one we connect to each and every day. Use it.

Never before in the history of the arts could an artist create, share, and reap the benefits of their genius.

Take advantage right now. Do not hesitate. Don’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. Be part of this creative maelstrom. Forget the past. It’s a new media world and you’re a vital producer.

A wise teacher-friend once said to me, “Be there, say something.” (Thanks, Val)

Revolutionary, indeed.

dkern-33 Dan started writing fiction in 1995 and took it up full time in 2007. He’s worked in media & entertainment as a broadcaster, actor and professional photographer. Today he earns a living with his voice and spends his days working on novels, short stories and essays.