Monday, March 22, 2010

A fretboard tribe leads to print success

Traditional print publishers have been facing a challenging environment the last few years (though I have to think that there have been challenges of one kind or another for as long as there has been print). More astute observers than me have written extensively on the travails of the industry, but as a former designer of print publications it’s hard for me not to hope that the industry figures out how to make it work.

There are pockets of hope out there though. For a while now I’ve been telling friends and colleagues about one publication that I read that seems to have found a winning formula.

The Fretboard Journal started life as a high-quality quarterly magazine featuring beautiful photography and well-written articles by people passionate about music. Now in its fifth year, it remains that today, but the FJ team has augmented the magazine with a variety of online activities that support the printed product, build a community of passionate readers, and make real offline connections.
  • There’s a monthly email newsletter to subscribe to on their home page. Perhaps that’s a little quaint in the Internet of the 21st century, but I devour it as eagerly as I do the quarterly print magazine.
  • FJ is active on Twitter via both a @fbjournal and, somewhat more erratically, individual staff accounts. They’ve also created Twitter lists related to various fretted instruments. Nice!
  • I have to confess that I make little use of Facebook these days. In fact, the main reason that I check in is to see FJ updates — there’s a steady stream of announcements and pointers to YouTube videos.
  • The FJ podcast (also on iTunes) is an audio treat, with the focus being great conversations with a variety of musicians, luthiers, music store owners, and other folks. It has been weekly in the past, but seems to be on hiatus right now.
  • The FJ blog was far more active in the early days, and seems to have been supplanted by other activities. Still, it’s a presence. Of course, there’s also a website.
Is this a formula that can support a business? As it turns out, a new issue of The Fretboard Journal arrived in my mailbox while I had this post in draft form. It included the following from editor Marc Greilsamer in his ‘Opening Notes’ column:
It seems that the death of the magazine industry is upon us, or so we’ve been told by whatever media outlets still remain. But while it’s certainly true that many publications — young and old, big and small — seem to be falling by the wayside, The Fretboard Journal somehow continues to grow. For that we only have our wonderful readers (and fellow tribesmen) to thanks.
Not just a community, but a tribe. Sounds like a pretty healthy business to me.

Update (April 7, 2010): FJ recently unveiled a new web site and blog, with exclusive web-only content.

1 comment:

  1. The same issues exist in the photobook/magazine market. In some ways, publishers are turning to the past to limited edition productions for small markets. Here's two different approaches:
    5B4's archives is definitely worth reading.
    Phil R.