Friday, April 30, 2010

Publishing Online–The Beginning or the End

Ever since the Internet appeared on the scene, publishing on it has been given a bad rap. Some publishers refuse to publish any writing that’s previously appeared on a Web site. Hogwash!

The truth of the matter is that many of them fear the Internet, seeing it as prime competition. And rightly so. Big city newspapers, for example, are falling like a stack of dominos. They say they just can’t compete with sites that offer their content for free. Philadelphia’s leading newspaper, The Inquirer, and its sister publication, The Daily News, recently went on the auction block, and even though a group of investors won the bidding, their future is still uncertain.

Many periodical publishers cling to the notion that people need to hold some sort of paper in their hands to read it. In fact, recent surveys have shown that nearly 50 percent of readers get their news and other information online or through T.V. As the older generation gradually dies off, the younger one will increasingly turn to electronic media to satisfy their informational needs.

The fact is no one–editors, public relations people, and, yes, even writers–recognize the Internet as a legitimate publishing medium. One reason is that essentially non-writers communicate on it. And even if a professional writer publishes pieces on Web sites, there’s no way to tell the difference. Sure, the writing is most likely better quality, but there’s no definite line as there is in print publishing.

Secondly, few Web sites pay little or nothing for contributed work. Most site owners, beyond the corporate sites, are people with a special interest and are not professional editors or writers. And that’s the rub. Sites that do offer writers opportunities for publication don’t have any approval process, so they accept everything. Someone has got to decide which pieces are good or not before posting them.

What’s needed, both for the publishing industry and professional writers, is a professional publishing division of the Internet–a section with e-zines (electronic magazines) controlled by editors that pay writers rates comparable to print publications.

Unfortunately, Web site owners are a greedy lot. Even if they do have advertising on their sites, they don’t want to share the revenue from it with writers. Let’s face it, an e-zine wouldn’t have the high printing costs associated with print, so they could divert that income to paying good writers. Plus, the publications can easily be subscription controlled. And the subscriptions wouldn’t have to cost as much as print because of no printing costs.

The process of submission to these e-zines would be the same for writers. They would still send queries or manuscripts. They’d get paid on acceptance or on publication–or like some cheap publishers, a long time after publication.

It’s important that everyone–editors and writers, alike–recognize the Internet as a bonafide medium of communication. It may not happen immediately. But it will happen.

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