I’m really intrigued by the Kickstarter launch of The Big Roundtable – one of several longform web publishers to appear in the last year.
Not because it’s longform (though, yes, the longform publishing trend is a welcome turnaround in a medium that has been training us to deliver content in screen sized chunks) – but because it inverts the argument about publishing.
To recap, the big argument in news and current affairs publishing is currently “how do we carry on doing what we’ve always done, and still make money?”.
For me, the conceptual stumbling block that prevents publishers from seeing beyond that question is that digital is perceived as merely another distribution method.
Funnily enough, the people who “got” this first were the “hyperlocal” crowd. Remember them from five years ago? It was a big thing before Facebook made it obsolete – because hyperlocal had the right idea. Narrow focus, niche audience.
Hyperlocal’s fatal flaw was the local part… Their audience is highly finite.
But when you target niche segments – or even cultures and subcultures that legacy media simply don’t see as valuable – the Internet makes your audience potentially global. Those niches start to look profitable after all.
When the village is global, communities are no longer geographically defined.
The proliferation of fan-run sites, brimming with enthusiastically produced free content, bookmarked by loyal, international communities since Web year zero is testimony to that.
The Big Roundtable seems to understand that – using the one-shot format to leverage the advantages of a global niche. A hyperniche.
As they say on their Kickstarter page:
“Writers are now freed from the constraints of convention in telling their stories and from the commercial needs of editors and publishers, who determine what tales get told.
That, in turn, means a new era of creativity for authors of narrative nonfiction—new writers, new stories, new audiences waiting for a friend to say, Here’s a story you’ll want to read.”
I’ll buy that for a dollar.