Weekends bring out the avocation in people. Some rock-climb. Other people play in basketball leagues. Hobbyists build robots. My friends and I make magazines.
I co-founded Longshot Magazine with Mat Honan and Sarah Rich a few months ago. Our mission: to occasionally come together to write, edit, design, and ship a magazine in 48 hours. We accept contributions from all over the world and do it all with basically no money. It’s sort of insane, but also tremendously fun and a great way to learn new skills. (We don’t really make any money from it, but that’s also completely beside the point.)
Everything we do is made possible by the new (free) technological tools out there. But we’re the ones that have to figure out how to deploy — in what constellations, in what order — to actually run a magazine. Steel, engines, an assembly line, and some workers don’t just make cars on their own; you have to figure out how it works.
Lesson 1: Magcloud makes it possible.
Magcloud is a print-on-demand service run by HP. They allow you to put out a 60-page glossy, perfect-bound magazine for about $10 (if you give them an ad on the backpage, etc). What they allow you to do is start a magazine without the money you’d need to actually print the thing. (More on the economics of it later).
Lesson 2: Twitter makes it work.
Twitter is the social ligature of our project, and (I would say) of creatives more generally. We pretty much only get the word out about Longshot through Twitter and an email list. Yet thousands of people have sent in submissions and more than a hundred have dedicated serious amounts of time to the production of the magazine.
The thing about Twitter is that it’s interest-based, but the cost of following someone is low, so you tend to branch out beyond your tight work circle and your friend network. The end result is that these sparse networks grow and mature. One thing they lack is a focal point. I think Longshot (and other meatspace and/or short term events) distill these diffuse groups. Perhaps a better metaphor is that it allows us to conduct some of the electric serendipity of Twitter into a specific vessel. In the early days of batteries, they were called, “accumulators.” Maybe Longshot is an accumulator for Twitter.
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