Thursday, June 1, 2006
Is it time for 'UU Voice' to abandon paper?
Michael Durall writes in the latest issue of the independent UU Voice that the Spring 2006 issue may be the publication's last:
This newsletter is an all-volunteer effort, though it costs about $6500 per year for layout and design, printing, and mailing. If a benefactor or congregation wishes to fund an issue or two of The UU Voice, I'll continue publishing. Please contact me if you're interested.
Even though suspicious types might distrust me on this — I edit the "official" magazine, after all — I would be sorry to see UU Voice join the long line of defunct independent periodicals addressed to Unitarian Universalists. But the Voice might be even more effective for a whole lot less money if it used the next $5000 or so to launch a fully modern periodical on the Web. The truth is that after it's built, the right kind of Web site requires next to no expense for design, publishing, or distribution. For the cost of printing one issue, you could get yourself a mighty fine Web magazine full of state-of-the-art publicity features and run the thing for practically nothing.
Sure, it could be done on the Web for less money. But does that mean it could have as much impact? Durall may not yet have grasped how much the media environment has changed, especially for younger Unitarian Universalists. If he's interested in finding a new way to leverage change, I'd suggest he look more seriously at the Web. (Oh yes, I'm also looking out at other, as-yet-unknown folks who may have their own visions for new publishing alternatives.) After all, the UU blogs are already inclined toward critical examination of denominational and congregational cultures; they resist the "party line"; and they tend to attract cranks — just like niche publications! Go where the action is, I say.
An open-source content management system (like Scoop or Drupal) or a free or fairly inexpensive non-profit license for a highly adaptable high-end blogging application (like Movable Type or Word Press) could provide the technical infrastructure. These low-cost publishing platforms come with RSS publishing, email newsletters, comments, and other highly interactive and useful features built in. That's like getting postage for nothing. Some even have a kind of constituent management component, enabling you to keep track of your supporters.
These tools aren't expensive, although it's worth spending money to have them adapted to your specifications and designed to project your distinctive brand. And, using these publicity tools, an independent periodical could plug itself directly into the conversations among UU bloggers — amplifying its voice and expanding its audience. As you can imagine, I'm keenly interested in how UU World can adapt to the Web, too, even though the print magazine remains a vital service to congregations and their members. (Or so I dearly hope.)
My point is very simple: Don't let a few thousand dollars kill off your interest in an independent periodical. Focus UU Advance's vision through new Web technologies and reach out to a new audience.
In the lead editorial, Durall writes:
I never envisioned The UU Voice to be anything comparable to Zion's Herald [an independent, financially strapped, progressive Methodist magazine that is about to relaunch as The Progressive Christian], but I do yearn for a UU publication that takes into account wider issues of contemporary religion beyond Unitarian Universalism. I wish we had a publication that included the voices of today's theologians; that published pro and con opinions on current religious issues; that contained in-depth book reviews; and that brought the world of religion into the day-to-day lives of UUs across the land.
Me, too! But the reality is that neither UU World nor UU Voice's publishing models can accommodate this vision right now. I hope that uuworld.org can grow to accommodate some of it by opening up space for articles that don't fit within the limited constraints of four 64-page issues of UU World or its mission as a general-interest magazine. But I especially think that the Web can help independent, volunteer publishers economize and focus on attracting an audience to important content rather than worrying over printing and postage costs.
After all, think how inexpensively individual UU bloggers have attracted significant audiences without spending a penny. Did Peacebang have to spend $6,500 every six months to attract a couple hundred readers a day? Nope. She did it for nothin'. There's a lesson there.
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 1 June 2006 at 8:40 PM