As the new year gets ready to roll in, there are several new projects I’ll be working on. Some I have mentioned, some I have yet to mention and some that I will reveal as they progress. One such project is my involvement with The Chestertown Spy. The Spy is a hyperlocal news and information website revolving around the Chestertown, MD area, where I now happen to live. I’ll be making regular contributions to the site, as well as something new that I’m very excited about and will let you know more as it happens. My first post for the Spy appeared earlier today, a short little business piece about WCTR Radion in Chestertown changing its format from music and talk to an all-talk station.
During my interview with station manager Ken Collins, I found that there are some parallels between the shift at WCTR and the shift that’s going on within the publishing community. Namely, tried and true formats that once held so much success have begun losing their relevance in today’s web and technology driven world. WCTR is shifting to a talk format in response to this, in a way that tries to give listeners something they don’t get anywhere else, news and information directly from the horse’s mouth, as it were, that the audience needs to know. Publishing is in a similar conundrum. Where once upon a time, the local newspaper held that role for the community almost solely, they have become not the lone voice at the head of the stage, but one voice among many. And the problem with that is their voice is primarily in print where so many people today are “listening” through web browsers, cell phones and other mobile devices.
The emergence of web-based equivalents to the platforms formerly held by standard media has simply exploded in the past decade, and is continuing to do so at an exponential rate. In truth, the decline of print has led to many, many trained people loose out there with the skills to do the job and new technological tools with which to do it at minimal, if any, costs. I’m exploring these avenues with my upcoming work with the Spy, and other things. It’s a scary time to be in publishing; the insecurity over money is probably at an all-time high for those working in the industry. But it’s also extremely exciting. There are possibilities that simply didn’t exist even just a few years ago, and the ability to reach and interact with a sizable audience has never been easier or more direct.
I’ve written quite a bit about the transitions that publishing in currently undergoing. Like many industries, fundamental change on this kind of level is never easy, but once it begins, there’s no going back. And, personally, I intend to be one of the people riding the waves into the new and different future, be it online or in print, rather than one of the folks trying to hold on to yesterday’s paycheck watching things around me shrivel away. I mean, who wouldn’t?