Just Above Sunset
June 19, 2005 - There's Strength in Numbers

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Online Magazines Should Learn from the American Trucking Association: There's Strength in Numbers



World's Laziest Journalist

June 20, 2005

By Bob Patterson


(The information about the founding of the American Trucking Association is based on anecdotal evidence given directly to the columnist by the founder's son, back in the Sixties.  Fact finders who want something more quotable should check with the press liaison folks at the American Trucking Association.)


Back in the early 1930's there were two main groups trying to become the official industry association for truck companies.  The bulk of their time was spent jostling with each other.  While on an ocean liner bound for Europe, Ted V. Rodgers Sr. was contacted by one of the groups and asked if he wanted to serve as president for a one-year term of office.  He replied affirmatively but with the condition that if he took the helm, the group would follow his lead.  The rival group was scheduled to hold their annual meeting a short time later.  Rodgers went to that meeting, walked in, introduced himself and said it was time the two groups stopped fighting each other.  It was time, he asserted, to join forces for the common cause.  He announced he wanted to lead that group also and consolidate the two.


There is strength in numbers, publishers of online magazines intuitively know that, but, quite often they come down with a case of "reader greed."  They freeze when it comes time to provide their audience with links that will take them away from their site.  Maybe they should learn a lesson from the ATA and fight for the common good and not spend time competing with the others.


If bloggers can join together, why can't online magazine form an industry group that will promote the concept of online magazines per se?  It seems to this columnist, that audience greed is holding them back.  The newspaper people have an association for editors, for one for publishers, and even one for columnists.  Why can't there be an association to promote the concept of online magazines formed by the multitude of beloved editors and publishers.  (Why is it that someone who simultaneously performs the function of both editor and publisher is automatically described as "beloved"?  Google "beloved editor and publisher" and see how often that happens.)


Some time ago, this columnist was able to attend one of the pioneer blogging events that was conducted on the UCLA campus and organized by Gene Volokh.  The featured speaker was Glenn Reynolds of the Instapundit blog.  Reynolds' advice to rookies was to provide readers with an abundance of links to other sites.  Some folks are intimidated by the prospect of giving a brand new reader plenty of opportunities to go away from the newly discovered resource and never come back.  It can, however, be like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and work as a strategy while it also baffles logicians. 


One of the unique selling points for the Internet is that it is "interactive."  Books, newspapers, or an evening network news shows can all provide the audience with information, but they can't provide much in the way of "interactive" choices for their audience.  More likely than not, they will promote only those endeavors that are part of their corporate organizational chart.  For instance, NBC evening news might show Jay Leno getting off a good one-liner, or they may make a reference to something that occurred on the Today show, but it is rare when they refer to something that occurs on a rival network.  Internet websites can and do link their audience to the competition.


How does this philosophy of sending your audience away work?  Well, that's the hallmark for some of the most successful sites on the Internet.  It works for the Instapundit and for those interested in journalism "shop talk" such sites as James Romenesko's media news and LA Observed. 


All three of those websites attract large audience by providing a vast array of links for their readers. 


There are many small online magazines doing a great job, but they need publicity to gain a bigger audience, if they want to increase their effectiveness of delivering their message.


Online magazines seem reluctant to publicize other online magazines, but if they do, the gambit seems to increase circulation numbers.


When this columnist began to write for an online audience by doing columns for a music-oriented publication, Delusions of Adequacy online magazine, he was influence by information from some book (the title is forgotten, but we borrowed it from the Santa Monica Public Library) and Glen Reynold's talk to the UCLA gathering.  The columnist peppered his stories with links to as many different websites as possible.  The editor and publisher was a little wary of sending readers away, but since the circulation numbers improved, he was tolerant of the columnist's tactics. 


What happens when one online magazine plugs another? 


If the philosophy of "let's keep our readers for ourselves" is valid, then it seems ridiculous to mention another online publication, but if Misters Reynolds, Romenesko, and Roderick have the answer, then, why not copy their strategy? 


Let's give this theory a test drive.


Let's say, for example, that the columnist who writes for a civic minded, LA based, publication that features a multitude of political topics links to another online magazine such as the publication for the Tiki crowd, the one for folks headed to Paris, and his old alma matter that has an almost encyclopedic array of reviews of independent music. 


If the Paris based publication has a weekly meeting that is the best literary salon outside of Gertrude Stein's living room, (they can't hold it in that room because the building that housed it, has disappeared) why mention that?  Well, for one thing, maybe one of our readers in Los Angeles this week will be in Paris next week and enjoy stopping by and saying "hello."   


If readers find that they get information at the Just Above Sunset site that is interesting and informative such as a reference to the Sauna competition or a mention of a site that displays photos of expensive cars that have gotten smashed upthen won't those same readers expect that when we run a link to a new online magazine that also has political commentary, we are doing so primarily because we want to provide our readers with facts that they might like to know.


If we send our readers to a site that is miserly with their links, then, if those same readers like links, won't they soon be back proving that there was nothing to worry about?  Heck, let's get reckless and toss in a plug for a British humor (there is such a thing) magazine

and hold our breath while we wait for them to plug us.  If they don't maybe an online humor magazine will?


Alan, the beloved editor and publisher of Just Above Sunset, has informed the staff that the number of regular visitors to the site is increasing, so he is inclined to subscribe to the "if it ain't broke; don't fix it" philosophy and let this columnist provide links as liberally as a real estate office hands out free candy.


If other online magazines adopt the smorgasbord of links philosophy it has the potential for the ATA phenomenon of building strength by gathering big numbers.  An association of online magazines might be like the trade groups for newspaper editors and the one for newspaper publishers.  They don't promote any one member - they advocate the concept of newspaper reading itself.


Suppose we use a link that will take our readers to a long list of links to other magazines - or a list of online photo sites?  That will be of interest to folks who just want to surf the Internet, but if we follow one of those links ourselves and learn about an online magazine that seems to appeal to the cusp area of folks who are fans of both Ansel Adams and Jack Kerouac, mentioning that gives our readers an idea of what they will find if they follow the link.  Since we regularly run items about photography and the "on the road" genre of writing, we assume that our regular readers might like to follow such a link.


Regular readers are aware that Just Above Sunset has an affinity for Paris (France and Hilton) and French culture, so they might be interested in a photo magazine in French - N'est-ce pas? - or a site that features scenes from Paris. 


Now it's time for the "acid test" (no, not the Ken Kesey kind) we'll send our readers to sites that feature readers' photostravel photography 

online photo contests and news (from a very established print magazine),  one that features unexpected photosone with an odd title and one that advises that it is the oldest magazine in the world devoted to amateur photography.


Bonus time!  More links:


You want sausage links?






How about one for Jimmy Dean Sausage Pizza for Breakfast?



You want more photo magazine links?  Try:











Generosity of/for/to our readers?  Just watch and some cynic will remind us that Eric Hoffer once said: "There is sublime thieving in all giving.  Someone gives us all he has and we are his."  (That sounds like something Zorba would say.)


Now, if the disk jockey will play Paul Simon's song Kodachrome, we'll click our way out of here and go looking for great photo opportunities.  Maybe the next installment of this column will be titled:  "Where did all our readers go?"  Tune in and see, maybe it won't.  Until then have a week where you underexpose by about 1/3 of an f-stop for greater color saturation.  Cheers!



Copyright 2005 – Robert Patterson




Editor's Note: You want might want to visit an odd site – "My Cat Hates You"   


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....