Features Music Coalition of the Webzines

Music: Coalition of the Webzines

pn.pngAdam White - Punknews.org

1. What is your name/publication/title?

I’m Adam White. I’m the managing editor of Punknews.org.

2. When did you start up? What was your intent in starting a webzine?

Punknews grew out of a print-zine Aubin Paul was publishing out of Toronto back in 1998 called “Anti-Manifesto” (after the “How to Clean Everything” era Propagandhi tune). By 1999 that project morphed into the website. There wasn’t a whole lot of quality punk rock resources online at that point so the early Punknews was one of the only websites aggregating and sharing punk music news. The model was in retrospect pretty similar to the early tech-news site Slashdot.

3. In the time you've been publishing, what do you feel has been the biggest change in the music scene/industry? How has this impacted your reporting of it?

The online tools bands have access to have grown quite a bit. With quick publishing platforms and social media communities available there are avenues to rapidly create a presence and start interacting with people that didn’t exist a few years ago. There’s so much less friction around media hosting in particular given that YouTube, BandCamp and SoundCloud (et al) are fast, easy to use and for the most part free.

In the era before social media era most music and video was hosted on band or label websites directly, which was both costly and more technically difficult. The hurdles were enough so that bands relied more on record label websites and music publicists to disseminate info to those of us in the press. These days it’s a lot easier for bands and their fans to get the word out themselves.

As such, the curation role that the publicist and label once played has become cloudier for us. Not to diminish the good work a lot of them do, but those affiliations are no longer a major driver of what bands we’re covering.

4. Do you think the decline in sales of print-based music magazines is partly due to the rise of webzines? Do you think webzines themselves are now dropping off in favour of something newer?

I think the decline of print has less to do with webzines and more to do with the overall trend towards online consumption of information. I’m not convinced it’s a zero sum game in any case, and there may be a role for niche, distinct print to co-exist with the web. I suspect the glossy ad-driven mass market publications are going to have a toughter time justifying their costs than, say, Maximum Rocknroll will. 

Are webzines themselves dropping off now? Only in the sense that with so many social networks and link sharing services no one publication gets to sequester their audience’s attention. Their individual pieces of writing live and die in the wider online ecosystem.

5. In terms of your readers, do they show any preference for any specific types of content? Do they favour multimedia features (mp3s, podcasts, videos, etc) or more traditional content types?

I’d love to say podcasts, but we mostly record those for our own amusement. Punknews is very much a site that people skim for mentions of their favourite bands, so that’s more important to our visitors than the type of media itself. Text seems to work best for us as it requires the least commitment from the reader. Audio of course is important given what we talk about. Our readers are far more comfortable with streams these days as in the past when anything other than downloadable MP3s was seen as a bit of a cheat. Videos, at least those we producer ourselves, are a rarity we save for special occasions. 

6. How have online commenting systems developed since you've been publishing? Have you taken any steps to “manage” the community of fans posting on your site?

Commenting systems have come a long way. If we were starting from scratch we’d absolutely look to something like Disqus as many of the features both users and moderators have come to expect are baked into such products. That said, at our traffic level and established community those freebies turn costly and it’s not something we’ve been able to transition to

It’s never been our intention to run a message board, let alone police one. For years aside from removing things that were racist or homophobic we largely left the comment sections to those who used them. While that decision certainly hasn’t helped our reputation at times, it has kept our attention focused where we’ve wanted it. 

7. What do you think the future is for web publishing? Do you have any plans to cater for users on different platforms (mobile devices, social networks, apps like Spotify)? Would you ever consider experimenting with print?

Mobile is of course incredibly important, so ensuring that content is mobile-accessible (not necessarily as an app) is a concern. It will inevitably be the majority of our traffic sooner rather than later.
As for social, having sharable content is obviously essential, and we’ll have a presence wherever the network suits our audience and frequency of updates. However I’m hesitant to change our writing style to cater to the trends in social sharing. While it may be good click-bait, I’d feel silly writing unnecessary and arbitrary lists like “The Top 7 Reasons The Next Bad Religion Album Will Blow You Away” so we’ll do our best to avoid playing that game.

8. Anything you’d like to add?

Nope. I've bored you all quite enough.

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Words by Matt on Jan. 26, 2013, 7:12 p.m.

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