“Viable on all platforms”

We’re not opposed to the expansion of Web “properties” into magazines. Presumably Nerve is a wonderful magazine, if you’re a middlebrow Windows user and self-styled intellectual. Yahoo<bang> Internet Life probably works just peachily for the ultra-newbies. Inside will surely become a must-read among the expense-account class.

But let’s not pretend this is a hedge against online losses. One of the guys behind Inside.com tells Forbes “You’ll see in the coming six to nine months that everyone is going to have to be viable on all platforms to survive.”

Um, reality check.

  1. That’s exactly the reasoning of the megalomaniacs who run newspaper and television empires. It’s a hip, Manhattan-elite way of dressing up the decomposing corpse of convergence.
  2. Online “properties” do have the advantage of working in the print medium, in a way. It isn’t as much of a leap to go from online to print as it is from online to television, but all of a sudden you’re going to be dealing with entirely different design principles; radically reduced space for articles; a payment and residual system which, while under litigation presently, has decades of precedents and will inevitably cost money; and, quite obviously, paper and printing costs. You’ll also have to bribe the big magazine distributors, and hold sexy, expensive new launch parties.
  3. Online “properties” are rife with twits. Leader of the pack? Salon, of course, which crashed and burned mightily in its hubristic plans to start a TV show (even if it was to be hosted by the peerless Daniel Richler; skimpy coverage). Even Slate has been flapping its fey little wings trying to get a PBS television series off the ground. Can you imagine anything more tedious? Don’t we have to put up with enough kinsleyesque milquetoasts on the existing twee chat shows? (Salon seems to have come to its senses, now simply sponsoring an existing show.)
  4. TV costs millions. It is impossible to produce an inexpensive television program that will pass muster even with U.S. syndication services, let alone networks. The concept of broadcast quality is an exclusionary cabal, though anyone can join with enough expensive equipment and talent. Who online has that, again?
  5. As the more sensible critics point out (we’re among them), it takes years and years and years for print “properties” to make money. Online “properties” haven’t had that time yet and generally are losing money coke-encrusted hand over Skittles-stained fist. Remind us again how starting a new business proven to eat up time before breaking even makes you “viable” for “survival.”

To be “viable” in more than one medium takes more than some self-important executive’s declaration that we all need to do it.

Posted on 2000-11-01