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Who's Yo Daddy?

October 19, 2007

I just gave a talk for a group of philanthropists at The Hewlett Foundation about the role played by the media in expanding / developing audiences for theatre.

Preparing for the talk encouraged me to probe into the relationship between media and audiences, something I hadn't thought about a great deal before, except in the sense of possessing a strong desire to engage people in a dialogue about the arts. The philanthropists' reactions to my words also made me look at a few ideas from a different perspective.

One issue that came up was in answer to one of my grandiose proclamations, that "the future of arts journalism is online." An astute listener asked, "If the future of arts journalism is online, then what's the business model?
I answered by reeling off some examples of bloggers - like myself - who begin blogging for free simply out of passion and then get "picked up" by a media outlet -- in my case, SF Weekly, which pays me a fee to publish a couple of my blog entries every week on its own blog. I also mentioned Michael Rice, whose Cool As Hell Theatre podcast was bought by KQED a few months ago.

It was only after I had finished my talk that I realized that all the examples I had given relied on old media for funding. The irony hit me hard, though I wish it hadn't been such a delayed response. If I could transport myself back to 1.30pm today and could give my speech again, I would have liked to mention other structures for financing new media arts journalism projects. Advertising is a big one. Finding a good old fashioned patron who believes in what you're doing is another. Doing something unrelated (writing books, giving media appearances etc) as a way of funding a blog is a third route.

But I think it's safe to say that when I said "the future of arts journalism is online," I think the emphasis was firmly on "future." Arts journalists still rely on being validated by old media as my examples suggest. This won't go away anytime soon.

In other news, I am taking off to Seattle for a few days. Will not be posting on Monday as a result. Back on Tuesday. Toodle-pip.


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