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Backbenchers

Culturing Media

07.25.07 | 4 Comments

shots-cover.jpg

8020 Publishing is a revolutionary company that brings the power of online communities to create printed magazines—well at least that’s what their web site says. The company is responsible for JPG magazine, which just celebrated its first anniversary and will soon launch Everywhere, a new travel magazine. As a blogger and card-carrying member of the web 2.0 generation (I’m currently trying to bend Drupal to my will), I’m a believer in online communities and participate in several, but I am not convinced that the collaboration possible on the web among a self-selected community is fundamentally different from the collaboration that has always been done by the self-selected communities that put out magazines. The give-and-take that modifies and adjusts an article over the course of editing at a good publication is not fundamentally different from what goes on at Wikipedia, and magazines draw upon hundreds of freelance writers, artists and photographers who are contributors for the same reason that people add content online—they’re interested in the topic, they enjoy it, and they’re good at it. The only fundamental difference between a magazine and a wiki is contributors are paid—try as I might, I can’t dismiss that as a bad thing.

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Take Shots magazine, a simply printed (B&W on uncoated paper) quarterly which has been doing what JPG does quietly, quite well, and using old-school methods for 20 years. In part because it’s put together by one person, in part because of the unpretentious packaging, Shots feels intimate and personal—almost like a letter to the reader or a limited-edition folio. The magazine has exquisite standards—both in terms of work and printing. Issues are arranged around loose themes and spreads have simple but satisfying juxtapositions of ideas—such as the tangles of natural and man-made materials below. There’s nothing wrong with what JPG does, but the end product feels less careful, less precious and more disposable.

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Although printed in black in white, the magazine accepts color and digital work. Because most contributors are also subscribers (Shots requires a small submission fee from non-subscribers) It is very much the artifact of a community. Yes, Shot‘s selection is mitigated by an editor—Russell Joslin, who is a fine photographer in his own right—but then so is JPG‘s. final selections for the print version of that magazine are also made the old fashioned way.

One certain thing you can say about online communities is they get the word out. JPG can be found on any big chain rack. Shots, on the other hand has a very limited newsstand distribution. I find one about once every 20 years.

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