Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 4, 2014

Not Comics: EW Going "Platform Route" Seems Like A Semi-Terrifying Development For Journalists

This cover feature on Jason Patric in advance of 1993's Geronimo is the last time I remember buying a copy of Entertainment Weekly. I bought it in a 7-11 in MIllersville, Pennsylvania. I worked for QVC, Inc. I suppose in a way this makes me part of the underlying drift towards something other than paid print content that one might argue has two decades later cost Owen Gleiberman his longtime job and sent EW on a course of exploiting free labor for content on a platform-style web site that will dangle the promise of reaching an audience that one used to build into gigs writing for publications like EW. I tend to think this kind of thing is a choice as much as it is an inevitability. Moreso, in most cases. I don't know if it was the author's intent, but the quotes in this article from the magazine people were pretty repulsive. It's hard to imagine putting dialogue like that into someone's mouth and having anyone believe it.

I think a great deal of the frustration with these things may be in that we all kind of suspect that using an army of bloggers willing for whatever reason to work for free or near-free while someone else is being paid -- as is frequently noted, you never hear about plans to bring on free lawyers and corporate officers -- just might be a path to profitability. I think we also know that even if you buy the premise of platform publishing, a lot of the statements made on behalf of this kind of thing are horseshit. There would seem to be no reasonable way to maintain baseline standards for 1000 unpaid writers commensurate to that you can achieve with 50 paid contributors, but we let people assert this anyway. Then again, it's unclear both how much that matters and how high the standard was in the first place. It's also true that while many people might prefer entertainment companies to function a certain way, they're not willing to constantly think these things through when it comes to their consumptive habits. I suspect the best outcome across the board is developing a counter-ethos of getting money to people that make things we value, including insightful commentary, and to work towards greater honesty about all the ways we contribute to a culture of exploitation. In the meantime, I wish those fired folks the best.
posted 1:45 am PST | Permalink

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