|Monthly Editorial by Doug Schneider|
The Fall and Rise of the E-Zine
Two years ago there was plenty of buzz surrounding electronic publishing, and for good reason. Low costs, a worldwide audience, and immediacy of content were just a few of the positive attributes that caused many to jump on the bandwagon. However, with all that the Internet seemed to offer, it also seemed too good to be true--and it was. Print magazines squared off in two camps. Some dove in headfirst and attempted to produce electronic equivalents of their print publications; others stared down from on high and pronounced the electronic world as inferior and kept on the long, straight paper road. Although there were some very impressive successes for the magazines that jumped on the Internet express early, many fell by the wayside as the benefits never materialized in the same way they were envisioned. The result was no real shock because looking back it was obvious that the Internet itself was not mature enough to fully support a major transition from print to electronic format. Too much still needed to be done. And what about the ones that watched from the sidelines? Were they right? Although waiting had its advantages, the loss in experience and the ability to learn from the process were critical.
Serious Internet publishing is now over two years old, and the times have certainly changed. For those early adopters that are still with us, most realized that the key to Internet success was the ability to adapt quickly. As a result, they have altered their formats to take full advantage of the Internet's unique advantages and are now offering spectacular, content-relevant sites that have eclipsed many of their print counterparts. The ones that liked to watch have now realized that they were on a bus while the others had caught a plane. Today they are scrambling to produce a site that is as relevant and useful as those of their predecessors. Unfortunately, many are haphazardly calling their sites e-zines when, in fact, they are little more than a vehicle to promote their non-Internet-based endeavors since they really have nothing on the Internet to offer.
I'm mostly concerned with the progress of e-zines--or electronic magazines or whatever you want to call them. As I scan the Internet I come across a multitude of examples, and some of them are very good and a pleasure to read. Because of some special quality the Internet offers, the same content could not be replicated in print. Many of the very good movie-review sites are fine examples. Their timeliness of content and the ability to mix sound, images, and links to other movie resources is perfect for the net. As an avid movie fan, I now read reviews on www.mrshowbiz.com, www.suntimes.com/ebert, and www.moviejuice.com instead of what I used to read in newspapers and magazines.
Other so-called e-zines have chosen to leverage one advantage of the Internet--low cost-- and not much more. In turn, they have produced sites that are completely devoid of any real information. What's worse is that some of these sites are updated so infrequently that they would make a print magazine's publishing schedule look bad. The actual good of these sites is highly suspect at best.
Does an audio-music-video publication belong on the Internet? Definitely! Timeliness of publication, the ability to interact with readers, and links to a vast array of related resources are just a few of the reasons that the Internet is a perfect medium. If I did not believe it myself, I would not be here today.
Since we began publishing in 1995 SoundStage! has been heaped with a large amount of praise. Our enthusiasm, resourcefulness, and ability to pick out great products have turned a few heads in the audio world--not to mention our timely show coverage. Hi-Fi '97 and CES '98 prove once and for all that trade show coverage belongs on the Internet.
I know of no other audio-based publication, print or electronic, that has our wealth of new, enthusiastic and promising writing talent. No, we're not perfect, and we don't claim to be, but we've had enviable results. Furthermore, I can proudly say that we have kicked a sizable dent in the audiophile world with our unconventional approach to this business that we know not much more about than what sounds good. In fact, we have been so successful that I've been approached with offers to turn SoundStage! into an actual print publication--a very enticing thought indeed. Companies that don't currently advertise with us offered to do so if we went paper. Frankly, though, there are already more than enough very good print magazines, and there is only room for growth and improvement on the electronic front. Our goal at SoundStage! is to keep leading the electronic charge through the next millenium. Long live the e-zine!
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