I’m wondering about a possible way to make my peculiar writing and organizing talents in the library field worthwhile as an ongoing source of revenue. (“Monetizing the synthesis” sounds awful, so I didn’t say that.)
Before describing a possibility, I should clarify a couple of things:
- Cites & Insights itself–the monthly+, PDF (and selective HTML) ejournal on the intersections of libraries, policy, technology and media, ISSN 1534-0937, 129 published issues, just over 3,000 pages and 2.4 million words–is not going to become a fee-based ejournal, a print journal, or something requiring authentication. That’s just not going to happen. Period.
- I’m still hoping to find an ongoing sponsor for Cites & Insights. Depending on the terms (and amount) of sponsorship, that sponsor might have textual space or actual ads in C&I–or might not. I’d prefer a sponsor with whom conflict of interest could not arise as a possibility, that is, a sponsor that operates in an area I don’t write about. That’s why I’ve mentioned library automation vendors, book jobbers, consortia, bibliographic utilities and the like as possibilities; consultancies would also fit in that category.
- While what follows is not even as polished as a rough proposal, and while all sorts of modifications to the vague idea are possible, I do not see founding a new ongoing print publication, for several reasons.
C&I Executive Edition?
Here’s my thinking:
- Cites & Insights is great for what it is–the best in the field (it’s the only one in the field, as far as I know).
- What seems to work best in Cites & Insights is the relatively long essay that includes a variety of perspectives on a given topic, combining my ideas and synthesis with lots of other folks’ commentaries. Increasingly, “relatively long” means 5,000 to 15,000 words or longer, with a handful of shorter features and occasionally “On” perspectives running 2,000 to 5,000 words.
- Lots of people who might benefit from what I do–let’s call them “executives,” but in fact they include leaders, managers, and a great many others–just don’t have or won’t take the time to read those long essays. After all, a typical library magazine column is 700-800 words; a typical article is rarely more than 2,000 words; there’s only one blog with posts averaging more than 2,000 words each, and even that one (do I need to name it?) comes in at under 3,000 words per post.
- So maybe I should offer something that serves people with either little time to spend on this kind of reading, or short attention spans, or both.
- And maybe people would pay for that something–or a company (or whatever) would be interested in underwriting it.
Here’s what I have in mind, right at the moment, noting again that this is very tentative
- Length: Two pages if printed out from single-column HTML original. Call it 1,000 words, more or less.
- Frequency: Say 24 or 26 issues per year–roughly fortnightly, with time off for good behavior vacations.
- Content: 12-14 issues would consist of extreme summaries of Cites & Insights issues, boiling each essay down to a few hundred words (and, of course, linking to the originals). The other issues would be some combination of “best of the liblogs” summaries (with links to original posts) and very brief versions of the kind of essay I was doing for my former place of work, on specific topics leaders should be aware of.
- Distribution & Funding: To be worked out. RSS distribution seems like one good possibility, with an email backup for executives who find RSS too newfangled. Presumably, either of these could be controlled if this was funded by its readers, or open if it was underwritten by a sponsor.
I think this might be interesting and worthwhile for the field. I know that I won’t consider doing it unless the economics make sense–if anything will survive as a retiree’s hobby (and that’s still very much an “if”), it will be C&I and the blog, not something new that specifically requires concise writing. This might be something where someone else should handle the distribution issues, or it might not. (I’m not sure I’m ready to get into the paid-subscription business: That has a variety of odd accounting and tax consequences.)
Reactions? Refinements? Potential partners? If this happened at all, I don’t see it happening before 2011, but that means this is the time to consider the possibilities. Feel free to comment here, or send me email. You know the routine: username waltcrawford, domain gmail dot com.