Yesterday Publishers Weekly decided to go bottom feeding for small-dollar fees from desperate, easily duped writers. On the same day, regarding his radical, forward-looking decision to abandon traditional publishing, Seth Godin finally got his multi-week campaign of hints and rolling announcements to go effortlessly viral. (Inconvenient historical footnotes here and here.)
At first blush this would appear to be perfect convergence. An old-school publication debases itself by pimping out its own client base, while a visionary independent leads a rag-tag band of revolutionaries into the future.
But wait a minute. To whatever extent such announcements (of both kinds) have become commonplace over the past year, it’s worth noting that the actions taken by Apples Weekly and Oranges Godin are differentiated by scale, not publishing philosophy. Apples Weekly is trying to solve an economic problem determined by its staff size and production demands. That it’s doing so in a desperate and ugly way is beside the point. Oranges Godin, as far as I can tell, only has to keep Oranges Godin alive, meaning his visionary approach to publishing is primarily a function of low overhead, not secret knowledge.
To be fair, after Publishers Weekly President George W. Slowik Jr. put his name on the ugly press release for PW Select, he probably spent a few minutes throwing up in a desk drawer — if not because of the program itself, then because his name was on such an obviously deceptive document. Whether Slowik cares about the writers he’s determined to fleece or not, it’s his job as captain of the PW Catamaran to make sure that it doesn’t sink. If that means cannibalism…well, that’s what it means.
Given that Oranges Godin probably has a few bucks in the bank, and his celebrity as a guru is clearly established, it doesn’t seem particularly brave of him to wander off into the wilds. Particularly when the wilds are a place he’s intimately familiar with, if not better positioned to exploit than the concrete jungle.
— Mark Barrett
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