Monday, August 1, 2011

Start-up Journal: A Big F-You to You Know Who.

I spent all day yesterday roaming the streets of my neighborhood listening to some really awesome live music. It was so much fun and, frankly, invigorating. I needed yesterday.

The challenges of running this magazine are plentiful, and last week was a tough one. I had writers disappear on me and a few potential advertisers said, "No thank you." Financially, we're nowhere near where we should be and that is a little frightening.

The long-term business strategy for the magazine has us relying upon smaller local businesses to advertise in the magazine. The smaller outlets don't have budgets to advertise in legacy media places like the Inquirer or the local TV stations, so consumers instead run to the crappy national chains who do have ad budgets. The smaller businesses then continue to struggle, teetering on the brink of a downward spiral.

We hit the targeted audiences of the smaller operations so, in theory, their ad dollars are well-placed with us. By advertising in JUMP, they get much needed promotion, we get to publish our magazine and Philly gets a world of information about the awesomeness of Philly music.

The problem is that the smaller businesses are running tight ships these days because of the crappy economy. They don't have the cash to spare.

So, in the short-run, I've been trying to hit up some of the larger businesses in the region. It's tough even finding the right people to hit up at those places. My emails have gone unanswered. My phone calls are not returned.

JUMP is not a lifestyle magazine, so I have no problems with not running a lot of ads. I don't want people to shell out money for crap they don't need. That's not our goal.

We are a community-building project.

The goal is for the spiral to go upward: we write about bands and places, the bands and places succeed, the city gets a better reputation, people stay in the city and support the scene, the schools get better, political corruption ends, my garden bursts with ripened tomatoes and everyone is happy.

That's only a slight exaggeration.

One friend continuously tells me that print is pointless in the modern world. To me, that's short-sighted. In the future (as well as now), all the platforms will co-exist. The Internet is great but it's strengths are immediacy and interaction with the audience. There is a lack of depth to the majority of what goes online, no storytelling and no context (of course, context exists online but the public must find that themselves). And few places online are seen as credible.

By saying that the future is online only, it sounds, to me, like you assume everyone is stupid with a short attention span. If they aren't stupid already, the lack of information provided to them will ensure they are stupid in the future.

Print has a purpose: it's attractive and in-depth, as well as long lasting. It will continue to exist despite the constant scare from big media who could save a ton of money by cutting printing costs (even though all newspapers and magazines generate the bulk of their revenue through print ad sales).

I never, ever wanted to sell anything to anyone so I am the worst ad salesman you could ever possibly imagine. Running an ad-free magazine would be so awesome, I think, a big, rigid middle finger in the face of the corporate world. But we really need the cash.

The last time I posted about the financial end of the business, a local promoter told me he'd run an ad in the mag. He never advertises anywhere but he said he liked what we represented. We talked a few times and then he disappeared. Despite repeated emails, texts and phone calls, I never heard from him again.

And this is a guy I'm pretty friendly with. Even he won't return my messages. That's how awful selling ads really is.

I applied for a Knight Arts Journalism grant. So keep your fingers crossed. The $20,000 grant would fund the magazine for 2012.

For now, I'll continue to do this on my own dime and my own time as long as there is interest in the project. I can think of no better way to say fuck you to all the naysayers than to do it without them.

The fall issue hits the streets on September 2nd.