The Ecology Action Centre (EAC), an environmental non-governmental organization (ENGO) in Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently put out a call for volunteers and paid personnel to help produce and sell ad space for its Between the Issues (BTI) paper magazine “to help BTI pay for itself”.
At a key point for the future of the magazine, EAC opted to seek replacements: paid editor, commissioned ad sales rep and volunteer distributors to continue producing the 32-48 page full colour magazine. I’m blogging to debate the economic, media, environmental and public perception merits for an ENGO to be staying on Paper 1.0 (or Web 1.0 with non-interactive PDF online) when the world is already on Web 2.0, where EAC could produce something as simple as a blog.
Here were arguments provided to continue the paper publication, by an EAC staff. I won’t identify my source beyond that because I consider him/her a friend, comments were through Facebook comments and my source did acknowledge he/she were not in the position to be having this debate so it was all informal by me.
EAC did have “a long complex discussion behind this that relates to the demographics of membership; the level of tech comfort in the green citizenry of NS, our mission / audience; the practicality of existing off web ads at this point in time in this constrained market; control of the message and quality of this, our primary high end communication tool with the majority of our membership; the ability to consider this a membership benefit. The time for the online blog / mag is coming.”
Furthermore, “…overestimating Nova Scotia. Our audience is Nova Scotia. There are still areas with no high speed. Yes, the world you and I inhabit is all about web 2.0, but I’d need some proof that there are people outside major media that are actually making money at online advertising in a NS environment. There are lots of online resources. BTI serves a very constrained purpose. We are not trying to be all things to all people. With all due respect, what you propose goes beyond a simple individually run blog… The reputation of EAC is tied up in BTI and a lot of people are invested in that. The choice to go paperfree is coming, but it can’t be rushed.“
If that were really a fair representation of EAC’s stance, I would politely say I think that’s very reactionary in nature for what I know to be a proactive organization. My arguments included the following.
EAC’s great work deserves to be for more than Nova Scotians. Also, you can’t Google stories in a PDF as EAC shares them now. Then, add social bookmarks to help readers recommend quality stories, for which they have many. Record readership on views (including locally with widgets like Feedjit) and engagement on number of comments to “prove” blog value for ad sales. If EAC still wants to have some paper copies, email sources the files to print out laser copies or deliver similar printouts that will be less resource intensive than full colour publications.
The young will read it online, and feeds should be supplied to notify of new posts. As for older generations, even grandparents are tech-savvy these days because it’s how they can best stay in touch with their grand kids (or photos of them by Parents on Facebook, Flickr, Myspace, etc.). Nova Scotia’s Premier Rodney MacDonald has also committed to providing broadband access to the entire province by the end of 2009 that is well under way. Even on dial-up, though, blogs are not bandwidth intensive to upload. Put a few paper copies in select places if still desired.
This is the huge factor. Magazines just don’t bring the audience interaction a blog with comments could. It is also less convenient to ask questions than typing in comments reading it online. As well, published thrice annually, it is a long time between issues. A blog could spread the stories to one per week or more frequently, keeping the audience interested all year round. If EAC wants to build audience base, this is what they have to be doing. Reaching and losing readers because they weren’t effectively engaged due to one way information presented is so old skool.
On the cost side, a blog doesn’t cost much to run, even if done on house resources rather than freely like at WordPress.com, mapped to EAC’s domain. Money for paper design and print could be put towards guest writers, although I’m sure EAC has plenty of great volunteer contributors. On the revenue side, given enough readership, which I am confident EAC could attract, they could sell online ads the same way they sell paper ads. Better, they could sell ads at much smaller rates for shorter durations (monthly versus once every 4 months) that would likely bring in more clients who have smaller ad budgets in these tough economic times. They also wouldn’t need many ads to profit on a smaller cost budget, and could rotate ads to get more ads!
EAC is continuing to produce a full colour paper magazine when it has a choice to go completely online, without loss of jobs as they are seeking replacements to people leaving, staying in a medium that does not engage nearly as big an audience as it could be, nor as well. As an environmentalist and Web 2.0 participant, I can only say I am frankly disappointed, both philosophically and in it not reaching its potential.
I’d love to hear your views on this matter. Please leave a comment!
(I realize the print readers aren’t present much to reply so please include or be considerate of their views! Thank you.)
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: 8.8