3 responses to “WordCount Q&A: Michael Andersen on publishing Portland Afoot”

  1. Joan Lambert Bailey

    I’d never thought about starting a publication of my own, but it’s a brilliant idea. This piece also makes me think about something a woman I work with here mentioned, and that’s the idea that people will eventually begin wanting something they can hold in their hands. The virtual experience – reading things on the web for free – is all well and good, but eventually we’ll want something special (that we perhaps subscribe to) and something tangible (a magazine or newspaper we can hold in our hands).

  2. Michael Andersen

    Joan, it’s great that you like the idea of a personal publication and I’m proud to have gotten your juices going. I think that creating a small print product around your area of writerly expertise is an excellent way to brand yourself.

    Two notes of caution:

    1) The print product is a colossal hassle. Layout software, finding a printer, folding, addressing — to say nothing of the hassle of paying for it. My costs are about $10 per year per subscriber (so we’ll basically break even on the subscriptions offered above), but that’s only because we’ve gotten to several hundred subscribers. Not losing money on the print production required me to get a lot of volume quickly, and that’s difficult. There are workarounds — we use metal plates, an offset press and high-quality paper, all of which we could have done without — but people have a gut reaction to print products that correlates powerfully with production quality.

    2) I question your colleague’s prediction that people will eventually feel a need to return to print. This experience has confirmed for me that print is extremely powerful to the reader’s experience, but that doesn’t erase the numerous advantages of digital distribution — no marginal costs, open-and-shut production, easy interaction and linking from other sites. It’s not that paper is getting worse or less desirable — indeed, as it continues to get rarer, I think the novelty of it will be a slightly stronger asset — but digital products are improving so fast that I don’t expect paper to make sense for Portland Afoot for more than a few years.

    I could be wrong.

    If anyone reading this would like some details, financial and otherwise, about the costs of starting a similar publication, I’m always happy to share them. michael@portlandafoot.org.

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