Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Web, Self-Publishing, Self-Promotion, and Writing

I find this post by Andrew Sullivan predicting the imminent demise of publishing as we know it slightly intriguing but mostly infuriating. In it we read the old saw that the Web lets writers write their own words and promote their own work, but first, and here's the hat trick, you have to become a brand -- or someone people read regardless of what you write about. Now, the hat trick is how do you become a brand? There are many ways, and, yes, the web offers many ore ways than previously imagined, but most of those ways cater to niche markets and then still rely on big media to break out. For example, you write a web only TV show -- it catches on for those 24 and younger in New York City and Chicago, viral marketing takes it to pockets in a few other cities, people like me hear about it, though, through the New York Times, and then the people who make it stop paying for it with their credit cards. Here's another example: Andrew Sullivan might have one of the most important blogs on the Web, but I believe it matters -- to some readers and certainly to Mr. Sullivan's bottom line -- that his URL reads ""

And that's the thing, new media doesn't become mass media without old media. I know I'm conflating media here (books/tv/web/magazines), but that's the point. It's all a mush. We don't know what the next big brands will be, but odds are good that the old media brands will still matter for a (long) while. They might slowly replace themselves with digital entities (look at The Atlantic, which started publishing in the nineteenth century), book publishers, too, but big brands will still make individual writers into writer-brands people read no matter what they're writing about. To pretend like they won't is to ignore what exactly a brand is, never mind the example successful writers themselves have set.

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