Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for the ‘futureculture’ Category

Comics, Geeks and the evolution of media

Posted by shannonclark on July 18, 2012

If you didn’t already know this about me – I’m a geek and proud of it. I’m also an analyst and observer of business trends and for many years now one area I have been studying very carefully is the ongoing evolution of media an evolution which is occurring all around us on a global scale in ways that may change billion dollar industries (and already have). For the past few years I have been focusing on studying a variety of specialized niches both because they are areas that interest me personally and also because I believe that each niche offers insights into the future of the larger market. Individual creators and content focused businesses should study these niches for what is working as well as what is not and for the direction of things to come.

While there are many great examples here are a few specific cases across a variety of niches which I think are worth careful study. Hopefully these are also entertaining and enjoyable.

Comics

As the big two comics publishers Marvel and DC experiment with line-wide relaunches and explorations of digital content (see DC Comics on Amazon for example – note my Affiliate link is in there – that’s a link to DC Comics available on the Kindle where for a while at least they were exclusive) independent comics publishers have been doing some really interesting experiments. The web comic world for example has launched a lot of highly successful Kickstarter projects to fund the physical print versions of web comics (which are mostly available online for free) and the model of free-online frequent web comic supported in part by infrequent collections in physical form (or as paid digital collections) is starting to see some successes.

The comics site that I will be watching carefully over the rest of 2012 (and into 2013 and beyond) however illustrates some other relevant trends around the comics industry – namely that comics are a fertile source of new IP that leads into other media and increasingly creators are crossing between many different genres and media types to tell and explore their story ideas. This site is ThrillBent which is a collaboration of Mark Waid and Jon Rodgers. Mark Waid is a highly acclaimed comics writer and Jon Rodgers is the producer and writer of the fantastic TV series Leverage (and other projects in the past and future). Jon Rodgers is also a gamer (see below where I embed a video that includes him talking about his game playing).

Video entertainment

Increasingly there are entertainment options that are available on-demand from a wide array of options (physical media – DVDs/BluRay being the least useful option) and as this evolution continues to expand the 500+ channel cable/satellite TV model is increasingly under attack and likely will evolve considerably in the next few years. Just this year YouTube has taken a major step in generating eve more new ongoing content on YouTube via their program of channels many of which they are helping fund. My personal favorite is the Geek And Sundry channel which has become my regular video viewing on a weekly (and often daily) basis.

See this video from Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series feature Jon Rodgers among other guests.

Shows like this may not garner the millions of viewers of the latest reality tv show but they are compelling and engaging and, in this case, highly geeky…

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We live in the beyond past Science Fiction…

Posted by shannonclark on August 1, 2011

We live in the beyond past Science FictionI am a science fiction fan. What is more I was, perhaps still am a member of the subset of SF Fans who are SMOFs (“Secret Masters of Fandom” i.e. the folks who organize and run science fiction conventions – I started a new science fiction convention over 20 years ago at my high school which as far as a I know is still happening once a year and I used to help volunteer at and helped fun other local to Chicago SF conventions).But I fear that Science Fiction Fandom thinks far too small these days and that SF Fans as self-defined, have not, in most cases, kept up with a world which has surpassed the imagination of our past futurists.

A small example of this – a bunch of great SF writers and fans have launched The World SF Travel Fund (see http://peerbackers.com/projects/the-world-sf-travel-fund/) but note the highly limited scope of their imagination.

One Fan each year to One Science Fiction convention.

$6000 for two years of running the fund (i.e. implying $3000/award which seems about right)

The “World” Science Fiction conventions, one of the oldest science fiction conventions still happening now draw between 2000-6000 people each year depending on where it is held (the lower numbers in years when it is held outside of the US, the larger numbers when it is held in a major US city).

But at the same time conventions such as San Diego ComicCon, PAX Prime and PAX East sell out every single year and attract 125k+ attendees (in the case of ComicCon). These are massive events with the participation of many of the largest media companies in the world.

At the box office SF and Fantasy films dominate every year with billions of box office (and billions more in other revenues). Likewise while there are hit computer games that aren’t SF (EA Sports franchises, Rock Band etc) many of the biggest and most profitable franchise in gaming have SF or Fantasy elements – the over $1B/year World of Warcraft franchise, HALO, Diablo, Starcraft and countless others.

And leaving media and entertainment aside (I haven’t even mentioned the billions more in revenues from SF or Fantasy TV series over the years) we ourselves live in a world surrounded by real gadgets and experiences unimagined by most of our fiction, especially most of our Science Fiction, of the past decades.

A few examples

1) Everything Apple makes – the iPhone, the iPad, the AppleTV, the MacBook Air. All woven together in ways that dwarf the imaginations even of the 1980’s and 90’s “cyberpunks” and with capabilities in excess even of the perhaps original inspirations such as the Star Trek PADD (see http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/star-trek-padd/id446277240?mt=8 to turn your iPad into a version of one) or the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – see Wikipedia there…

2) Sometime earlier this year the number of cell phones globally hit over 5 Billion. That means that over 2/3rds of the planet likely has a cell phone (there are many people who have more than one phone so the exact # without a phone is hard to estimate). The societal, cultural and economic impact of that has yes to be explored – but the reality of this is something few writers have explored in our fiction (indeed most fiction – whether “science fiction” or “serious” rarely is written set in our current world – few characters have cell phones, smartphones etc)

3) Global logistics. This is the not-so-sexy stuff that allows you to place an order in CA on the weekend and get product from halfway across the planet delivered in the middle of the afternoon to your doorstep less than a week later. This is what allows you to order a customized piece of electronics, a made-to-order car, even entire homes or in the case of San Francisco most of a bridge to be built across the planet and shipped as needed.This is what ties businesses, people and countries together. This isn’t sexy and rarely is acknowledged in fiction but this is what has changed the planet in the past few decades (along with the Internet in the past two decades)

and there is much more
*&refresh=31536000&resize_h=16Peerbackers | The World SF Travel Fundpeerbackers-logo. Join Peerbackers Write About Us Get in. How It Works; Back Project; Submit Project; FAQ; Blog; Resources. Explore By. select an option to browse; closest to goal; buzz (most backers)…
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Blogging with a computer

Posted by shannonclark on July 14, 2010

I am in Las Vegas for the next couple of days, here to celebrate with my friend Tara Hunt her birthday. She has brought together a group of her friends from all over the world and together we are spending sometime in what is perhaps my least favorite city but much improved by the company of friends.

As I packed for my short trip I debated about whether or not to bring my new MacBook Pro with me. It is a fantastic new machine and working on it still feels more like play than work. But if I had brought it I would have to watch it, would have to secure it when I joined the group at a cabana by the pool or went to a show (Ka tomorrow evening).

So instead I decided to only bring my iPhone 4 (along with bumper case – I haven’t had any antenna problems other than AT&T’s usual horrible service and dropped calls). I didn’t even bring my trusty and fairly new Panasonic Lumix.

As you can see from the photo, taken of the Irish band that played while er had dinner this evening, the iPhone 4 does indeed shoot well in low light and with the right apps – such as the WordPress app I’m using now – is a very powerful tool for new media creation.

I don’t know how many more posts I’ll write this week – mostly this is a vacation and though every move is likely documented by cameras, tweets and foursquare checkins in this particular crowd my focus this week is on catching up with my friends and making new friends.

But as I work on a new venture around helping game companies (mostly online social game companies) make more money there are a lot of lessons big and small I am seeing in how casinos (ie “gaming”) work here in Las Vegas.

Where the gaming is a bit less social though the social aspects are important and where the rewards are mostly very simple – cold, hard cash.

But I can also see that with casinos such as the Mandalay Bay Resort gambling is no longer the only (and indeed perhaps not the major) source of revenues for these establishments. Clearly food, drinks and entertainment as well as the hotel rooms themselves are now also significant revenue streams and may actually often be more profitable than gaming.

I haven’t been back to Las Vegas in a few years I think it may have been nearly four years and even in that short of a time it is clear that a lot has changed. As I sit here writing this post I am seeing a lot more people dressed (well barely in the case of many of the women) for a nightclub.

At the same time the poker rooms I have passed have been very full (since the World Series of Poker (wsop.com) is ongoing this doesn’t surprise me. But while much of Las Vegas depresses me at least with poker real actual skill is present.

I may try to catch some of the WSOP tomorrow after I tire of lounging poolside or swimming.

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Billion dollar ideas for the next decade

Posted by shannonclark on April 23, 2010

What will be the next set of Billion dollar industries?

In the past week one of the biggest angel investors in technology, Ron Conway, announced that he has closed a new venture fund and he spoke to TechCrunch about what he sees as the opportunities for the next few years, the opportunities he will be investing in with his new fund. He identified three “megatrends” – the real-time data, the social web and flash marketing.

I agree with Ron that these are big trends and that there are many companies already pursuing them but still many opportunities in these areas for new companies to be created and to succeed.

However I think there are a number of other very large opportunities which will be huge in the next decade, opportunities which will transform not just entire industries but how we (and by we I mean people around the globe) live. Some of these opportunities may require massive investments and infrastructure which means that the winners in these spaces will likely be existing large companies that navigate the transition to a new business model though there likely will be opportunities for large, venture backed (and eventually public IPO backed) companies to prosper in these spaces as well.

I’m sure there are other, very large opportunities, but here are a few which I have identified.

  1. Full lifecycle manufacturing – products which are designed to be recycled and reused. Yes, physical goods. As Moore’s Law continues to move forward the pace of technological change is rapidly increasing, manufacturing is increasingly global and nimble yet climate change concerns, the cost of transportation and energy and many other concerns suggests a need to reevaluate many products. My prediction is that across products from cars to toothpaste design for full-lifecycle use will inspire billions of dollars in new products and industry opportunities. Businesses designed to take products after the initial purchaser of the product is done with that good and reusing those products, at scale, to add value and reenter the value chain. This is much much more than just “recycling” it is an underlying shift in design. Done well this is highly “green” but will also be highly profitable with lower costs, multiple revenue streams and ongoing, engaged relationships with customers over the lifetime of the product – whether it is a car or toothpaste or a laptop computer.
  2. Renewal products to extend the usefulness and value of goods. Cars designed just two years ago have technology components which are already massively out of date and limited (20gb disks for the media players in the car). Laptops and desktop computers are typically out of date when you buy them and new models come out from most computer companies multiple times a year. And while the trend for the past few decades has been to replace our electronic devices (and indeed much of our consumer society) on a frequent basis, I think there is a huge opportunity for a new business of retrofitting and updating a wide array of devices. This opportunity is two-fold. The big but complicated part is retrofitting current products – such as cars made in the past decade with modernized electronics. The even bigger opportunity is when the design of products starts to shift to be designed for ongoing upgrades. This has happened in software in the past five years – both desktop and mobile applications (and to a degree server based applications) are almost all now designed to have ongoing and automatically checked for updates which allows these products to upgrade over time. My first generation iPhone is still useful over 3 years later as a result of having been designed to accept significant ongoing updates both for the core software of the device and for the dozens of applications I run upon it (which wasn’t even an option when I purchased the phone initially!)
  3. Many pieces loosely coupled. This is a trend which exists online and offline. In place of monolithic products whether software or hardware the next decade will see many more opportunities to integrate small discrete items together in ways they may have not been designed to be combined or expected to be used. In software the rise of widgets, such as Facebook’s recently announced Social Plugins is an example of this trend. In hardware this trend is a bit slower but there are examples of it in action in the home entertainment center changes of the past few years – the rise of Internet connected devices other than computers within many homes. Most Blue-ray players sold today, for example, come with wired or wireless Internet access and along with the ability to play Blue-Ray disks the ability to connect to Internet delivered services such as Pandora, NetFlix Streaming, Flickr and more. I predict that there are billion dollar opportunities for increasing the types of devices that can connect with each other and for more combinations of hardware and software working together. Specific short term opportunities I see are around Bluetooth devices that are more complex than keyboards, mice or headphones. Eye-fi’s line of wifi enabled SD cards is a great example of how a second part added to an existing device, say a basic digital camera, can transform the functionality of that device.
  4. Hyperlocal but global curated experiences. At first this may sound like a contradiction, how can an experience be both hyperlocal and global? What I mean by this is the emergence of new retail opportunities which combine deep connections and relationships with the local community around the retailer alongside of a global perspective and sourcing. The emergence of Third-wave coffee roasters over the past few years is one great case study. (here’s a list my favorite coffee places  in San Francisco). This trend is not limited to small, nimble entrepreneurs, even large corporations such as Walmart with their recent major switch to sourcing most of the fresh food they sell locally to each store is an example of this trend. But in the next decade I think there will be a major retailing shift & opportunity where hyperlocal smart retailers who deeply know the needs and interests of their local buyers connect to a global network and source parts of what they sell from across the globe, curate these elements carefully and present specific to their community goods and services. In many cases building and finishing these goods locally but sourcing parts and raw goods on a global scale. But increasingly not just sourcing from massive global businesses but buying nearly directly from global producers. Third Wave coffee roasters increasingly buy their green coffee directly from farmers across the globe. These small scale local retailers are able to afford to send buyers around the globe to source their beans and are building highly successful (and highly profitable businesses). Four Barrel Coffee here in San Francisco recently was quoted in a New York Times article on Coffee in San Francisco that their retail business alone is generating over $100,000 a month with a 45% profit margin. Add to that significant margin a large wholesale business and you have a highly successful new business. 45% margins in a retail business can sustain significant growth.
  5. Global brands, local products. New brands and businesses across the globe will with ever increasing frequency in the next decade expand outside of their initial “home” markets into a more competitive global market. The brands which will prosper in this new world will be ones which combine the best of global sourcing with local connections, resources and awareness. In the media space large media brands will emerge that translate media generated in one country & language into another. Viz Media in San Francisco, for example, translates highly successful Japanese media properties (Manga & Anima mostly) into English and has had great success. TOKYOPOP in LA is one of the most successful publishers (in any media) in the US with many of the bestsellers each year from their highly successful English language manga.

There are many other industries which are likely to generate new billion dollar businesses in the next decade but which I know a bit less about – a few of these are Cleantech, Biotechnology especially around drug design,  and Renewable energy.

What other Billion Dollar opportunities have I missed?

Which of these opportunities should I expand upon in future blog posts?

And yes, if you are a venture fund or investor and want to work with me on exploring these ideas in greater detail I’m available…

Posted in customer service, economics, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, venture capital, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

13 questions for Twitter and the Library of Congress

Posted by shannonclark on April 15, 2010

Earlier this week Twitter announced that they had donated a copy of their entire corpus dating back to the first Tweet to the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress tweeted the announcement and wrote about it on the LOC Blog. Historians, social scientists and many many other researchers will soon (if access if made available) have access to a truly unique corpus of data on a global scale about individual expression, reactions to real time events and much more. Yet there are a lot of questions and nuances.
A few that come immediately to mind.
  1. How are deleted accounts handled – both from the past and into the future? (As a historian I think they should – though this may be controversial – continue to be archived and preserved as part of a moment in time)
  2. Is it noted when an account changed ownership? (ie was established and then in the future was either lapsed and taken by another party once Twitter released it or was perhaps due to a court order transfered to another person – for example if it was deemed to have been infringing someone’s trademark
  3. Are accounts which are set private part of this corpus of data? Their announcement notes that this was a donation of “public tweets” but what about accounts whose status has changed over time? Are tweets which were made when an account was set private – but which was later set public noted as having been sent when the account was private? Or conversely are public tweets preserved if they were public when they were sent even if the account is later reset to be private?
  4. Does the corpus include the changelog of each account? ie could the “following” and “followers” of a given account be recreated at a particular point in time & later analyzed for changes over time (who someone was following / who was following them is not a minor matter at all for a lot of academic research questions – even just historical interest
  5. Are spammer accounts which were created & detected & deleted part of this corpus? On the one hand their presence would complicate a lot of academic studies (they would inflate a lot of studies – since many spammers spammed via retweets etc) but on the other hand studying false positives and relative ratios of “spammer” accounts to “real” accounts would be pretty interesting to study – especially as Twitter’s ability to detect spammers got better it would be useful to revisit moments in time (such as @aplusk & @cnn’s race to 1M followers) to analyze what percentage of their “followers” were spammers, what percentage were accounts that hadn’t yet & didn’t into the future see much usage etc.
  6. Will the corpus include Direct Messages? (which are private) but which are still pretty crucial historical documents in many cases. The DM’s to public officials for example could be arguably already required to be publicly disclosed.
  7. Will the corpus include elements of Twitter which are no longer part of Twitter (for example people’s Track settings
  8. Will there be an attempt by Twitter (or by the Library of Congress) to pull an Internet Archive move (or partner with them) to resolve:
    1. Links to images, videos, music and other media?
    2. URL resolution (both archive what the state of the page was when it was tweeted out – which may now be impossible to replicate) and especially at least resolving (when still possible) what a shortened URL resolves to
  9. Will the corpus include people’s Avatar images (which have in many cases changed over time), their bios, URL’s, Locations and Twitter website background and other settings? (not just private/public but have they linked a phone number to their account? have they set anyone whom they are following to be delivered via SMS etc)
  10. Will it archive Lists from the point when they were introduced? (and with Lists will it track how those lists were created over time?)
  11. Will the corpus include noting which accounts were blocking other accounts? (and when Twitter rolled it out when accounts were marked as being spam). In some cases people who were not spammers were marked as spam by a few users – I’m sure – and in some cases may have been flagged and later reinstated – will the corpus track stuff such as that?)
  12. As Twitter added features (and changed others) will the corpus reflect those changes? (Retweets for example and more recently a lot of changes around Geo data and very soon a whole lot more meta data for every Tweet)
  13. Will the corpus attempt to reflect other public faces of Twitter? For example logs of searches which people performed on Twitter or Who was on the “Suggested User List” at a given point in time or what was shown to users at “trending topics” over time – etc.
Lots of questions – but mostly I’m very excited.

I hope that beyond preserving what is, I think we can all agree, a very real historical (and ongoing) document. I hope that this move is just the first of many – this archive should be widely available at least to be preserved for the future and it should, I hope, be made available to lots of academic researchers in the near future.

In their announcement Twitter notes that there will be a 6 month delay in what is available, which I think is unfortunate, and they are restricting it to “non-commercial researchers” which I think is also unfortunate as the line between commercial and non-commercial is never entirely clear. I also believe that there are many non-obvious uses for this corpus of data in a wide array of research fields beyond serving as a historical document, this corpus could help many fields of study such as linguistics, AI research and much more.

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What do you actually use your computers to do?

Posted by shannonclark on February 1, 2010

Last night I wrote about why I think the iPad will be a great device for content creation – and included a number of potential million dollar plus ideas.

Today as I read a bunch of blogs and articles covering the iPad I am struck by how many people who are objecting to the iPad or predicting that it will fail seem to have some idea of computer usage which differs, dramatically so, from how I have used my computers for the past decade and very much from how I use my computers today.

The image that people have of “using” a computer seems to involve lots of overlapping processes, deep customization of the system and a variety of applications running which all push the limits of the system.

My reality?

I usually have one application running on my computers – a browser. On my tablet I currently use Google Chrome as my primary browser (not least of which because it doesn’t have lots of extensions and thus loads quickly and smoothly).

Recently I have been using Mindjet’s MindManager (I have the old 7.0 version installed here) which I enjoy but really only barely use, mostly I use it to capture all my various ongoing projects, to-do lists and the like (in short as my electronic GTD system).

Occasionally I use an IM application, mostly Google gchat – which I could just about as easily just use from within the browser, though I do appreciate the occasional notifications that pop up about new messages in my primary inbox. Though since I have at least three main email addresses and only get notifications for one email address and then only for my inbox and not for the many important messages I get but autofilter into various labels, the utility of this notification service is minimal at best.

And when I sync my iPod and iPhone I fire up iTunes – but since my library is vastly larger than my laptop’s HD, doing so requires that I attach an external HD to my system for the syncing to work. I use a wide array of complex smart playlists to result in every device I own and sync getting exactly the content I want to reside on that particular device – which always includes the latest podcasts I have downloaded as well as any other new content I have recently added to my iTunes library (so if I buy new content, rip a CD or download legal digital content it will get onto my music player automatically and be added to the primary playlists I use to select what to listen to during my walks, waits for buses and other podcast listening opportunities during the day.

But that is about all the applications i use on a regular basis. Sure, I have some compilers installed on my laptop, the full MSFT Office suite and much more but the reality is that I almost never need to run any of these applications. And when I do other than looking up information in my browser from time to time, I rarely need to have multiple applications open at the same time – for one my screen resolution though good for a laptop is still so low that I almost always run every app I use in full window mode.

Perhaps I am missing something major about how people use their computers today – some suite of applications that everyone other than me uses – but I don’t think this is the case.

A few possibilities.

  1. Photo & Video editing. My digital camera died a few months ago and I have yet to replace it (need a camera but don’t have the spare funds to buy one at the moment) so I don’t do a lot of photo and no video editing. But there are some great online alternatives to applications such as Photoshop. Aviary is my personal favorite – they offer a wide range of image and vector art online editing tools along with even some music editing tools. Adobe even offers an iPhone application for Photo editing (limited but
  2. Games. I don’t have powerful enough video cards in either of my computers to do much gaming (definitely not in my tablet, my iMac could handle a bit more though there are far fewer MacOS games to select amongst). But PC gaming is and likely will remain a big deal. But so too is gaming on the iPhone and in the future on the iPad and I suspect very rapidly the iPad will attract games that may be better in many ways (or at least very uniquely different) than games not just on PC’s but even against games on any of the major game console systems. I predict that the iPad will be a gaming platform as big, perhaps bigger, than the current game consoles (not their portable game systems which the iPhone already is a potent competitor to but also the main game consoles – Wii, Playstation3 and Xbox360)
  3. Personal Finance. Here in the US we have started to shift into preparing for Tax season shortly. I know in the past many years I have used TurboTax in some form to help prepare my taxes and that many friends run software such as Quickbooks for their family finances or small business finances. That said, there is a reason why Intuit bought Mint last year. Finance software including tax preparation and small (and large) business bookkeeping is rapidly moving from local computers to web/cloud delivered products.
  4. Customized “run the business” applications. These vary by business but think the Point of Sale systems in a retail shop or restaurant. Even here, however, with the rise of platforms such as Square there are many opportunities for many retail transactions to move to the cloud & mobile applications.

So what uses of your personal or business computers have I missed?

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, mac, microsoft, mobile, networks, tablet pc, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

the state of my media diet in 2010

Posted by shannonclark on January 5, 2010

As 2010 begins I have been taking stock of the media I pay attention to and am looking to add to my current diet, I’m looking for new flavors and cuisines, new forms to replace stale old ones.

At the moment my media consumption looks like:

No daily newspapers, no TV news of any form, no Radio (either over the air or Internet). I catch a few TV series, mostly at my girlfriend’s house (or via various means online) but not too many (mostly SF series & a few Food Network shows)

Magazines

  • The New Yorker magazine – I have been a New Yorker subscriber since college in the early 1990’s, however as I write this I am nearly two months behind and all year have found myself increasingly disappointed in the quality of the writing and the point of view of most of the writers for the New Yorker (Malcolm Gladwell excepted).
  • occasional issues of Monocle and even less often The Atlantic Monthly – I may subscribe to both magazines in 2010 even though I am currently months behind on my Monocle reading

And that is it. Years ago I had a dozen of magazine subscriptions (including free technical publications) and would supplement those with local free weekly newspapers and often one or more magazines purchased from a newstand. But that is no longer the case, even when I’m in one of San Francisco’s many excellent newstands with literally 1000’s of magazines available to me I rarely see one I have to buy. I feel there are, I hope, magazines out there I really should be reading – but I do not know what they are!

Podcasts and video podcasts

Mostly a mix of music podcasts & some niche focused podcasts. Here’s the roughly complete list:

  • Accident Hash – CC Chapman’s long running podsafe music podcast, in 2009 this was fairly irregular but usually enjoyable
  • American Public Media’s Sound Opinions – One of my favorites, I have been a listener since an earlier version of this show was on commercial radio in Chicago
  • CO-OP – a video podcast from Revision3 covering video games
  • Critical Hit – a newer audio podcast from students in the Game Design program at Columbia College in Chicago
  • Critical Hit: A Dungeons & Dragons podcast – from the website MajorSpoilers.com a podcast of a group of players playing D&D 4th edition – a bit of a nostalgia trip for me – but also it has been catching me up on the new rules of a game I played years ago
  • Doctor Who podshock – for my occasional Dr. Who fan discusison
  • Dungeons & Dragons podcast – an occasional podcast from Wizards of the Coast, I subscribed for a series of episodes they did with Wil Wheaton & folks from Penny Arcade playing a series of D&D games. The website archive is a bit clunky – subscribe to this podcast via iTunes.
  • Games with Garfield – an occasional podcast from Richard Garfield on game design (inventor of many great games – including Magic the Gathering)
  • The Geekbox – a group of B ay Area geeks – fun even if I’m a bit older than many of them and have slightly different tastes
  • iFanboy – I subscribe to two audio and one video podcast by the iFanboy team (the video is with Revision3) these cover the Comics industry exceptionally well
  • KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic – one of the best music radio shows anywhere – live in studio sets of great music are what they include in their podcast, but every show is available for streaming on demand.
  • Major Spoilers – another comics (mostly) but also all things geek discussion podcast from a great comics review website
  • Monocle (videos & audio podcast) – great short videos and audio podcast series from one of my favorite magazines, Monocle
  • Murmur.com podcast – from the folks who do iFanboy an occasional podcast on movies & TV & other things geek
  • NPR All Songs Considered podcast – amazing music podcast from NPR – almost always stuff I really enjoy
  • NPR: Live Concerts from All Songs Considered – videos and audios of amazing live concerts
  • Only A Game – NPR’s sports weekly podcast
  • Radio Free Burrito – Wil Wheaton’s personal podcast which he has recently restarted after his recent Memories of the Futurecast series
  • This American Life – another series I started listening to on radio, when it was first broadcast but now catch (occasionally) via podcast

There are a handful of other podcasts I still subscribe to but which haven’t been updated in months so are mostly archives in my iTunes.

It is worth noting that I no longer subscribe to any tech industry podcasts – I’m sure there are some which are engaging & well edited enough to be worth subscribing to? What are they?

Online Blogs & websites

I mostly use Google Reader – currently I have 211 RSS feeds I subscribe to, but looking at Google’s stats, I mostly only read a very small number of feeds – a few customized feeds (Craigslist searches and the like). They break down as follows.

for Politics:

  • The Daily Dish – Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic Monthly blog along with a few other Atlantic Monthly political blogs
  • Jack and Jill Politics – an African American focused political blog friends of mine run

for Tech news:

  • Techcrunch – I subscribe the main, full feed but am annoyed by the partial feed elements from other TechCrunch sites
  • Mashable
  • The Next Web
  • Scobleizer – I have been reading Robert Scoble since before he joined Microsoft
  • Venturebeatfull disclosure – I wrote for Venturebeat in 2009
  • Boing Boing
  • and really that’s about it – I don’t get to or read many other blogs and of the above I average only about 25% at most of any one of them – and usually closer to 10% or less of their posts. I subscribe to many other tech industry blogs, but these are the ones I read the most frequently.

for Food

But again I have some 150+ other feeds I subscribe to yet rarely, if ever, get around to reading. If the feed isn’t a full text feed, even if from a very close personal friend, I will almost never, ever read that feed. Since I read on my iPhone over 50% of the time I’m reading RSS feeds, a non-full text feed requires a crapshoot of loading another site which is rarely well designed for an iPhone (or which breaks the links as far too many mobile site’s versions do) vs the easy navigation between stories when all full text and in Google Reader which has a great iPhone interface.

So clearly I am missing a great deal – what would people suggestion I add in 2010?

Please leave suggestions as comments below – for print publications, podcasts, video podcasts or other forms of media I should pay attention to on a regular basis  in 2010. Please include areas I am missing as well as media in fields I am already following (so suggestions for business/econ focused podcasts are welcome). Even media which is niche & seemingly not likely focused for me – but which is a great example would be welcome suggestions. I’ll listen to or read everything suggest – at least once on the web.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, iTunes, music, personal, podcasts, politics, reading, San Francisco, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Modeling ourselves in the FourSquare and Twitter era

Posted by shannonclark on September 2, 2009

foursquare_logo_boy

As a child I grew up without a television, instead I read hundreds of books and listened to old time radio shows and dramas both on the radio and on cassette tape (yes, I’m old, my childhood pre-dates CDs). Then a bit later in my childhood my parents bought me an odd but fun clock radio cube which also could get the audio of over-the-air broadcast television (remember that, something now impossible with today’s transition to digital television). I then would wake up every morning to the Rocky & Bullwinkle show but as a radio broadcast, not as the animated cartoon.

I somewhat suspect that the resulting confusion and neccessary imagination is why I write fiction.

But a more telling result of my childhood, until nearly when I started high school, of growing up without a television is that my models for behavior were of an older age than that of my peers combined with the fact that I was a year or two younger than all my classmates as a result of skipping the end of 2nd grade and finishing 3rd grade that same year after we had moved to a new city, and I was a very strange kid (and perhaps a bit of a strange adult).

Why this discursion into my childhood?

What does this have to do with Foursquare and Twitter?

I have been playing FourSquare since my friends all joined it during SWSWi earlier this year. (btw go vote for my talk proposal for SXSWi 2010) I wasn’t sure if I would keep it up back in San Francisco post-SXSWi but so far I have and in the past few weeks I’ve been seeing more and more friends join (via their requests to be my friends on FourSquare) and I find myself using it nearly every day if I manage to get out of the house.

While the opportunity it presents me to run into friends via seeing where they have just checked in, something I have taken advantage of on multiple occasions as well as the value it gives me by reminding me (or in many cases informing me) of events via seeing multiple people I know all check into the same venue at the same time are all valuable, it is another, more subtle use of FourSquare which I am really enjoying.

That of presenting to me, in a manner which I missed growing up without a TV, of a model of how to be, of how to work and play in this city. It may not be a great model, it certainly isn’t the only model, but observing over time the ebbs and flows of my friends, when they check into their gyms, when they do their grocery shopping, when they are at work, when they are working from a cafe, where they have lunch, when they go out for dinner, drinks and movies, is all very imformative – it is creates a model that is bigger than any single event or check-in, a model that communicates a great deal about living life in this city.

My friends are gay & straight, younger & older, single & married and there are also differences in how they each pass through their days and weeks in this city. All of which is incrediably fascinating to me and revelatory.

Combined with Twitter, where I follow over 1200 people, but only allow a very small number of those people’s messages through to my phone (in which case I see nearly eveyr tweet they send vs seeing only a fraction of most tweets from everyone else I follow) I have found myself in the past 6 months getting a lot of new insight into how other adults live their lives, how other independent, entrepreneurial consultants manage their time. And how my single friends vs my married (or in serious relationships) friends differ in how they spend their time.

These revelations are not major but they are thought provoking for me nonetheless. I have always wondered how people fit going to the gym into their schedules, now I have a far better sense of how at least some of my friends manage that task. I’ve never been much of a going out for drinks kinda of guy, neither are many of my friends, but I do get a bit of a sense of how some of my friends who are a bit more of one do. And it is via observing my friends who are married (in most cases of my friends I’m friends with and follow both partners and thus get two perspectives usually on their activities and relationships) that I’m getting a clearer picture of how, at least my friends, manage many of the details of being in a modern relationship.

For the past three and a half years (and really more like four years) I have been single. My last relationship ended before Twitter started, before Facebook was a big deal, before most of this current round of Web 2.0 (and now whatever we call them) applications took off and long before the iPhone. Now as I begin a new relationship (yeah!!!) I’m glad that I have had months (and via twitter years) of observing a bit of how my friends manage their modern relationships in this city and online. Every relationship is, of course, different and I know we’ll find our own tools and balance – but I have been struck of late by just how much I have absorbed without intending to absorb it from the ongoing small signals and messages I’ve followed of late.

What have you learned from how you use such tools?

Posted in digital bedouin, futureculture, geeks, internet, personal, San Francisco | Leave a Comment »

Social game ideas – open ended, multi-sponsor ARGs

Posted by shannonclark on June 27, 2009

My background in games and the current state of things

I have been a game player since my grandfather taught me to play chess at the age of 4. In my youth I played AD&D, Shadowrun and many other role playing games – usually at the DM. At my high school there were a bunch of us who played all types of games on a regular basis, we played many boardgames after school, had AD&D campaigns including one we ran at times over lunch in the cafeteria and were regulars at the local games shops.

In fact the father of one of my high school classmates was a professional game designer at the time for Mayfair Games where he lead the development of many classic board games, games such as Cosmic Encounters. A number of us, myself included, occasionally were drafted as gametesters for new board games.

At the local games shop, a massive, custom designed building built by a serious historical minatures gamer, we would spend hours many evenings and weekends playing a wide range of games, including historical minatures, roleplaying games and all types of boardgames.

I always assumed that I would stay playing games on a highly regular basis when I entered college but that didn’t happen, somehow I didn’t stay as active a game player, though I did play the occasional game of chess and lots of card games with friends.

In the 90’s I spent many years as literally a professional Magic the Gathering player and dealer, in one year I earned over $40,000 trading pieces of cardboard and won prizes valued into well over $5,000 in many tournements which I often won or placed very highly. Friends of mine were even better, winning at a global level and traveling around the world to play Magic the Gathering (and winning well over $10k from some tournements in the process). I quite my regular job at the time when I realized I could make far more money in a few hours than I would earn in days.

A bit later I also became active in a range of Live Action Role Playing games, mostly around White Wolf’s World of Darkness game. The game I played started in the mid-90’s in Chicago, grew rapidly to include nearly 100 games in cities all around the world all sharing a common set of rules and world and which allowed players to play their characters from one city at the games held in other cities. As a result players could and did interact across continents (friends of mine went to Brazil to play the game) and there were games happening multiple times every week near to Chicago.

It was  great fun – immersive and engaging. While we did play in spaces we reserved just for ourselves (we would contribute to rent spacees from time to time) we also played in the midst of other events – often in nightclubs, once very memorably at the Chicago Museum of Modern Art when they stayed open for 24hrs to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Playing in the midst of 100’s or even 1000’s of people who were not playing the game added layers to the interactions and was extremely fun.

In the past few years Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) have become increasingly popular and successful, though with some notable caveats. Most, though not all, have been run as commercial promotions for a specific event or product – very often a movie or TV series. Currently the upcoming movie District 9 for example is running an ARG where you can play either a human or an alien in the world of the movie.

The model of ARG’s has become in some ways fairly formalized. They start with a series of clues usually embedded inside of something in mass release – billboards & posters, movie trailers, occasionally other forms of advertising. The clues in these ads, often a phone number or a web URL lead a player to signup to the ARG. From there a series of clues lead to other sites or phone numbers often with embeded small games or challenges.

Over time additional clues are released which further the ARG’s storyline. For most ARG’s the model has become a bit of a funnel, with fewer and fewer players continuing as the puzzles are released, usually these ARG’s lead up to a final end clue and often the players who figure it out in time arrive at an event or get a prize of some form (a sneak preview of a movie for example as well as other gifts & prizes). Then often the ARG comes to an end as the movie or TV show is released (or the season ends in the case of ARG’s such as Lost’s or Fringe’s where there were clues embedded inside of each episode).

These games are effective ways of engaging and building fans for a new media property but they have many unfortunate side effects of this model.

  1. They generally are less and less engaging for new players as they grow in complexity – sure most of the time players set up Wiki’s or other sites to explain what is known so far, but as the game goes on it becomes less compelling for new players – and once the final reward is given out it often is far less interesting to new players (and even existing players may cease engagement)
  2. While some ARGs have included a wide degree of player driven content & storytelling, for most there is a very heavyhand of the ARG designers at work in telling the story and though players can visit many parts & sites in any order they want there tends to be a very linear path of the story being told by the nature of new clues being released on a specific timetable.
  3. A few ARGs have had occasional “real world” events but the global distribution of most media for the most part means that most ARGs now primarily employ mass media & the Internet for the game play (also often voicemail/800 numbers for some parts and frequently SMS messages to players).

A few weeks ago a variation of a type of game which has been popular for a few years inside of social networks such as Facebook was released on top of Twitter – Spymaster – these games build upon usually preexisting social elements and relationships to form part of the game play. In the case of Spymaster your twitter followers become the size of your “spy ring” and you gain game play advantages by having more of your followers also playing Spymaster (they become “spymasters” in your “spy ring” and give you game bonuses).

Add in the fact that social tools such as Twitter (or Facebook) have many ways for you to communicate with people – and the games take advantage of these tools to send out messages about your game play activity to your social network (with your permission) and not surprisingly these games can and do often experience rapid, exponential growth as large networks of friends all start playing.

However while fun games such as SpyMaster or the multiple Mafia based games on Facebook (and in those cases now also with iPhone apps) suffer from (but also benefit from) a fairly simple game play and room for interactions between players. They offer only relatively limited sets of actions, have constraints on what you can do in a given period of time, and allow for only a handful of direct in game ways to interact with other players. Though often players evolve ways alongside of the formal game play elements to interact. In the case of SpyMaster many players have set up Twitter accounts only focused on playing Spymaster and have builtup networks of followers with whom they coordinate in game actions and for strong in game cliques.

I play Spymaster and enjoy it, though it is a relatively lightweight game, so I only play for a few minutes most days, if that. They haven’t yet settled on a business model, but it should be noted that some of the Mafia games on Facebook are already part of game companies rumored to be rapidly approaching over $100M/year in revenues, primarily through the same of virtual currencies to game players to use to enhance their game experiences.

A few players of SpyMaster are starting to expand the game via sites such as SpyMasterFans. There they are forming groups, sharing ideas & insights into the game, challenging each other to new interactions etc.

You may have noted that in my recounting of my own game playing background, I have not mentioned a lot of computer gaming. In the early 1990’s I ran a Muck (think an all text based version of Second Life) but I never got into computer gaming very much. So I haven’t played, though I do follow, the rise of social computer games. At present there are two very important models of social computer games.

  1. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (mmog’s) most famously World of Warcraft (or WOW) but also dozens of other games from companies around the world. There are three primary models of MMOG’s – subscription (usually with regular expansion packs as well) – this is WOW’s model and is the most common, free to play but game and expansions needed (Guild Wars is one of the few that use this model) and the newest model free to play including the software but virtual goods & items available for purchase (Sony’s Free Realms uses this model though subscriptions are available with additional benefits).
  2. Server based games. Increasingly console games as well as many PC games have multiplayer options and game companies are now often offering services that both run server instances and help players find other players to play against. Microsoft’s Xbox live for the XBox 360 and Valve’s Steam service for PC games are two examples of these game services. Often a fee is required for membership (for XBox live) and in most cases the games have to be purchased to play them.

There are many further nuances to computer and console games. For this post the most crucial of which is the number of players they are designed to facilate interactions amongst and the length of that interactions. Console games often are limited to a relatively small number of players competing against each other (4 vs 4) which can be over the Internet or over a local area network. MMOG’s differ in how many players they handle interactions amonst – many have multiple “servers” which are different instances of the world and which may have slightly different game rules, meaning that in most cases players on one server do not interact with players on another so they are limited to the number of players who choose to play on a given server. Some games are designed to encourage cooperative play where players cooperate together to achieve game goals (WOW has quests that can involve 40 or more players from a single Guild working together). Many games also have elements of player vs player interactions where players fight directly against other players – depending on the game this could occur anywhere in the game world (on a given PvP server) or in many games may be limited to a specific area of the game.

Some ideas for the future – open ended, multi-sponsor ARGs of a new form

While I know that computer and console games have many incredible aspects offering amazing graphics and game play capabilities they also have in-built limitations. Even with voicechat which is increasingly an important part of the player to player interactions in many games playing such games is limited to players who have the required equipment and financial resources to buy the necessary games & game subscriptions.

So here are a few ideas I have for where social games could go in addition the ongoing evolution of computer & console games.

Instead of an ARG which is sponsored by a single media property – and which is thus usually tied to the world of that particular movie or tv show (or less often an artist such as NIN) I would suggest a game with the following models & business elements.

  • A combination of lightweight, easy to adopt technologies AND frequent, multi-city live interactions & events. Neither element would be necessary to enjoy the other but if you used both your game play enjoyment would be enhanced.
  • The technologies could leverage and be built upon existing social tools such as Facebook or Twitter but would likely have a website and perhaps mobile applications as well
  • Much of the world and game interactions would be driven by the players with a light touch of the people designing and running the game – they would mostly design the world & backstory and would occasionally facilitate in game activities and elements, but the game would be designed for the players themselves to evolve the plots & ongoing stories.
  • In place of a single sponsor driving the event to a particular end point the game would have sponsors that come and go and which interact with the game in a variety of ways – I could see some sponsors embedding story from the game into their media (tv shows perhaps even movies) while others would provide real items and help support game related events in the “real” world (as well as having in game repurcussions). These interactions could at times be lightweight – having characters from the game (probably mostly actual player’s creations) who appear in the background of a movie – say as items in a newspaper story – this would I think be a lot of fun for players – and great marketing for those movies or tv shows.
  • The game would be designed to allow for new players to join at any time and for players to play at a wide range of play cycles – some playing daily while others playing only a few times a month or taking a summer off and resuming months later. This takes careful game design to balance and to give everyone a lot to do without the game becoming boring for anyone – but it suggests that for the most part these games would only have light elements of “levels” or the like but heavy elements of role playing and interaction. Though there could also be puzzles and cooperative quests so players uncomfortable with heavy roleplaying could ease into participating in the game as well and be rewarded for that interaction.
  • The business model could include clues & game elements embedded in physical items (t-shirts, trading cards, books, comic, digital downloads of many forms etc) which is a model that other similar in some ways games have already used quite successfully. Some of these products could be from sponsors who not only embed game elements in something they sell but also support the game finacially & through promotional efforts.

So that is the basic ideas – I haven’t yet designed an entire game example just started thinking about this, if it sounds like fun (or if you know of examples I should take a look at) please leave comments or contact me privately.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, meshwalk, mobile, networks, personal, web2.0 | 10 Comments »

Idea for a new magazine – to be named later

Posted by shannonclark on January 10, 2009

I recently learned about a very interesting new service, MagCloud, which prints magazines on demand and handles all subscription features (mailing, payment etc).  They are currently in limited Beta and have some limitations (the biggest of which is the cost for buyers – $0.20/page though the publisher can set the price for any given issue at a higher rate to make some profit. 

For a long time I have been thinking about creating a media outlet of some form and at the moment I am serious leaning towards a magazine of some form. This post is an exploration of those ideas, it is a stake in the ground as to the shape of this new publication. It is also a call for submissions and volunteers.

The Name – to be named later

My working name for the publication was going to be Mesh (or The Mesh) but it turns out that there was a MeshSF magazine here in SF a while back (appears to be out of print now) and there is another Mesh magazine in Jacksonville Florida. Thus to be named later – the name has to be highly inclusive and evocative of the range of topics to be covered, while also not being too long or hard to remember or use (and yes this includes requiring that there is a good domain available). 

The Format

My thinking is that to be named later will be more akin to a series of books than a monthly (or more frequent) magazine, though over time it may evolve into a more frequent publication. Thus I am torn about a number of physical formats – leaning between a book like size such as that used by Granta (or many University literary magazines), a slightly larger format such as that used by Foriegn Affairs, or a more traditional magazine size such as The New Yorker or Monocle (which is more booklike in format). 

That said, while a perfect bound format (glued edge) creates a more booklike publication, I personally find that format less conducive to reading – as quite literally it makes it harder to read the publication (since you can fold the magazine to only view one page at a time as you can with a traditional magazine). That said, it does create a more archival publication which has some advantages. 

Years ago when I was the editor of a literary magazine (in high school, we won an award) we decided to go with a half size format which had some advantages especially for the publication of poetry as it created a highly readable format (if small).

However for to be named later my goal is to have a publication which stays in print for a long time (so “back issues” remain available for a long period of time), which eventually (and as soon as possible) pays highly competitive rates for photos, art and articles, which supports a lot of very interesting writing, and most critically is a publication which I want to read myself. 

The Guidelines

  1. Articles must have a point of view, but may not be purely opinions.
  2. Every article will have illustrations – photos or art
  3. Every article will be bylined
  4. A very wide range of topics and types of articles will be accepted – no subject is out of bounds IF the writing is good, consise, and well written.
  5. Serious as well as non-serious writing is welcome and encouraged, including in most issues at least a few articles that meet peer-reviewed academic writing standards (footnotes and all)
  6. The physical form & design matters.
  7. Every issue will have at least one work of fiction (clearly identified) – genre writing not just welcome but encouraged (Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance etc).
  8. Every issue will be meant to be relevant for at least a year, usually longer. Thus timely articles will not be printed, nor will reviews which are timelimited (i.e. of a limited run of a show – though movies which will eventually be on DVD may be accepted)
  9. While the focus may include regional and city interests – underlying to be named later will be a global perspective (though initially at least all articles will be in English)
  10. CC-licenses for the content will be encouraged (though not mandated) and while to be named later will retain a right to keep each issue “in print” for a long duration, authors & artists will have the right to sell their work for other publications (i.e. they retain all rights – but to be named later has the right to keep an issue “in print”, including via print-on-demand for a long duration – ideally perpetual). Much of to be named later (perhaps all) will be published online as well as in physical form – though the PRINT edition is the primary focus.

So what do those 10 somewhat random points mean?

First I am imagining a publication which will have a seriously broad range of articles – from writing about food, to serious academic exploration of economics, to science fiction stories, to photographic coverage of art and hacking. 

That said, the focus of to be named later will also be on timeless writing, on writing which is first and foremost eminently readable and engaging – which you want to turn back to and could pick up anytime after it is published and enjoy (i.e. this will not be a publication trying to cover breaking news or trying to get “exclusives” or scoops). 

to be named later will have advertising

Even if to be named later is wildly successful in generating interest and subscribers it will include commercial content from the beginning. Advertisers who welcome the timeless nature of to be named later and want to support the publication of high quality, challenging, intelligent writing covering a wide range of issues with a high focus on being enjoyable to read and experience. 

My tastes are wide ranging and eclectic – a magazine I publish will reflect these interests – and thus, I hope, will be of interest to an audiance that share some traits with me. In turn, I hope that there are (and I believe there are many) advertisers who want to reach this audience. Some may be local, some national, some global. All will be welcome (with some limited exceptions) specifically political or advocacy advertising will probably not be accepted as it would be discordant with the tone and focus of the magazine (which is inclusive not exclusive). 

Curation will be key. 

I may technically be the publisher, may also be an editor, but first and foremost I will be the Curator of to be named later – it will be my tastes and decisions (or my choices on delegation) which will determine the content of the magazine. 

Topics to be covered

  • Food – especially from a Slow Food and serious foodie perspective
  • Local businesses – not reviews persay but stories about local businesses but with a global perspective
  • Hacking – especially from an Arts perspective
  • Science Fiction – both via publishing great stories (including perhaps Fantasy or other genres) and also articles about the field & genre
  • Science – especially reports from the frontiers of research
  • Business – if written about in a highly engaging manner and in a timeless manner
  • Non-fiction storytelling – think This American Life style stories – which can cover any topic imaginable but are written with a point of view and story to tell
  • Design – especially highlighting intentional design applied in innovative ways.

Topics which will not, mostly, be covered:

  • Breaking news – i.e. current events, pop culture etc
  • Politics – while great stories about campaigns might be published, “stories” which are more manifestos will not
  • Activism – I am a CENTRIST. I am neither “left” nor “right” and my magazine will reflect this. While we may, occasionally, take (and publish and clearly label) an opinion on important matters, my magazine will not be a forum for activism, nor will it mirror the articles found in most Free weekly newspapers around the country (indeed in spirit we will likely be more capitalistic)
  • Time sensative reviews – stories about the arts (movies, theater, music, books, gallery shows or events) will definitely be published, but reviews of specific events or limited availability content will not
  • Product reviews – the focus of the magazine will be on stuff people want to and will enjoy reading, reviews of products rarely meet this criteria – nor do they usually meet the criteria of remaining relevant for years to come (since most products today are only sold for a limited time and replaced later with newer/better/cheaper/faster versions)

I intent to be named later to be eclectic, to be personal, to probably not be for everyone. That said, for those to whom it resonates I want it to be a publication which is read cover to cover. The focus will be on being reader friendly first – high design second (we will not be akin to Wired magazine in terms of design aesthetic)

All of this is tentative – now I am looking for:

  • Submissions: email submissions or ideas for articles/stories to shannon DOT clark AT gmail DOT com, please use a SUBJECT line of “Submission for to be named later”. Include a short bio of yourself, as well as the publication history (if any) of the article (preference is for unpublished writing). For the first issue(s) payment will depend on advertiser and subscriber targets so be prepared to only get a token initial payment (but the goal is to reach “professional” levels as quickly as we can. If you will only sell the story for a specific ammount include that, but realize that may impact our ability to accept the article/story for the first few issues
  • Volunteers: while in the future all staff will be paid (if only small amounts initially) to get going will be a labor of love, not money (unless we obtain financing or serious advertisers/sponsors quickly). Copyediting, “slush pile” reading, and pre-press layout help are initial core needs. Quickly as well help with advertising sales, distribution and more will also be needed.
  • Advertisers: From the first issue the plan is to have advertising. Rates almost certainly will go up as we grow the audiance, but the advertisers in the first few issues will be set – even as those issues remain (as is the plan) in print for at least a year, likely longer. So the first few advertisers will, we hope, get a bargain over the long term. There will be a limited number of full page ad opportunities, as well as a handful of partial page opportunities (think New Yorker style part of page ads). The back of the front cover as well as the back pages will be the highest cost ads. Rates are still to be determined, preference will be given for advertisers who are willing to commit to a full year of issues (at least 4 but the goal is to get to probably monthly). Advertisers will also be part of the online presense as well as the print publication – so should include a URL to link their ad to online. As a new publication ALL aspects of the readership are yet to be determined (including the size, demographics etc) so early advertisers must be interested in the mission of to be named later and willing to support it. Exact dollars are hard to determine (and to a point go up as the number of copies printed go up) but my initial “gut” guess is that for the first 4 issues something close to $100,000 is needed to pay all writers & artists, to physically print the magazine, and to pay staff (even just a token amount). So a target of about $25,000/issue is the goal though more may be needed for the very first issue.
  • Investors – My plan is to bootstrap. Even in the absense of all the advertising support I might like, the goal is to use a service such as MagCloud to enable us to put out a first issue (or two) and build up the audiance over time. To learn by doing and to thus incur as little costs upfront as possible. But if the right investor or sponsor/grantmaker were to offer I would listen. My goal is first to get great stories published, secondly to make money doing so (mostly I want to build something which is self supporting at a minimum). I also want to test my theories about how a new media publication could more than just made do but also prosper even in the Web 2.0, “the media is dying” world. 

So that is the idea – very rough, may not happen, but I hope it will. Please leave a comment, blog about this, link to this or at least contact me if you are interested!

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, personal, photos, reading, tbnl, working | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »