Saturday, 14 July 2007

Blogging vs Writing

I've been forced to consider what the relationship is between writing (free, promotional) articles for publications and my blogging. Here's what happened:

1. I agreed to write an article for a trends magazine, to a tight deadline
2. I used my blog greenormal to get input on 3 successive drafts
3. after a lot of help from comments at greenormal I got to a draft I was really happy with
4. I sent it in on time but quite tentatively because I actually worried it might be too theoretical - but they wrote straight back to say they really loved it too
5. then I got this message:

"we can’t really publish the piece in the magazine, as since the piece has been published on your blog it’s been picked up by other people and posted elsewhere online, like PSFK. It’s a hazard of being a printed magazine, and an old media way of going about things, but as ___ is expensive and fairly exclusive we can’t really publish content in the magazine that will have been available for people to read a from six weeks before we come out. Instead, we were going to run the essay as part of our newsletter this week, if that sounds ok"

I can see their point I suppose. And there's no hard feelings - they've said they are open to other submissions.

But on the other hand the article was very much the product of a discussion on the blog

And most publications really like the fact that I am a blogger, and want to mention my blog as much as my books

And you could say the same thing about my book as it was freely available in draft form on the blog and I have given getting on for 20 public presentations telling people in detail what the 'model' in the book is ('the grid'). The publisher could worry that it would seem old news by the time it appears. But its different with books, you buy them as references to dip into and draw from, you want them even more when you are familiar with the contents in some ways.

The same with journal articles. These are often papers which have been given at MRS conferences, summaries of arguments appearing in longer studies or books. They are for reference rather than having to be new news.

I dont know what to do about this because I have usually shared drafts of all my articles and in many cases they have been helped by it. I think this case is unusual because firstly it is a trends magazine ('you heard it here first') and because there is such an overlap in audience; between psfk (who I didnt approach about this piece, but its a free bloggosphere) and ---. whereas something for a magazine in turkey, for the innovation page, the marketer magazine etc is more remote.

On the other hand this is the modern world. A place where the CEO of LEGO once wrote on his blog "Draft presentation for board meeting. Comments please."

Here's some possible things I could do:
- make it clear to anyone who wants a free article for their non-free magazine that they can only have this if they agree I can share it on the blog (I made that sort of upfront agreement with my publisher)
- publish the articles on my blog retrospectively so they get priority
- get input from the usual suspects by mailing the article to them rather than posting it
- or if I am to comply with professional journalistic constraints and act like someone else actually owned the IP: charge publications the commercial rate (about £1 a word) for articles & refuse to write free ones
- or even start an online journal for plannersphere articles written and shaped on people's blogs including mine

As far as that article goes I actually think it is worth publishing & is pretty good, so I think I'm going to do the green thing (recycle) and develop it further into a whole new unblogged article and either submit it to a journal who is waiting on a proposal or maybe even a national newspaper I've written for b4, who presumably may not be as concerned about earlier drafts and comments online, any more than they would be about my having produced a book covering the same ground.


Charles Frith said...

I'd suggest that magazines which rely on 'virgin' content are exposing themselves to less from the gene pool . Magazines are a tactile experience with a distribution channel that isn't reliant on an internet connection. They've enough competitive pressures without being picky about some recombinant culture input. I would welcome it if it was my publication.

Rodney Tanner said...

I have just been approached by a newspaper to do a weekly marketing column and have agreed to only post articles retropectively (like Russell does for his Campaign articles). So, to me, that puts them in the same category as planning work or a research project. ie confidential and not something I would directly blog about.
Books and conference material are another category: they benefit greatly from the community input of Blogging, as GMM will and BIM did.
But you could also argue that it is all (your) content and thinking anyway and how that gets developed is up to you.
Just my 2 cents worth.

Amelia said...

thought that you might be interested in this -
This became the lead cover story for Wired magazine's Radical Transparency issue in May