PBS on science fiction pulps vs. the web

Simon sez, "John Scalzi and editors for two leading SF pulp magazines were interviewed recently for PBS about the dying medium and how it could possibly survive in a digital age. For the past two decades the pulp magazines have been hemorrhaging readers, and now there are only three in existence."

"The problems with the pulps — the big three — has very little to do with the advent of the web, though they could have done a much better job of positioning themselves when the web was younger," he said. "I think the major thrust of their problem has been that all the pulps have seemed to be content to work with what they have in terms of subscribers and readers, as opposed to being very active about acquiring new readers."

It's this constant state of defense, he said, that made them more vulnerable once the web had matured and publications across the board began to face increased competition online. Like Williams, Scalzi attributed much of the decline in speculative fiction magazines to changes in newsstand distribution, but noted that other publications had still managed to thrive despite these changes. The sci-fi mags, he argued, did not adequately adapt to the new landscape. He compared it to America Online in the '90s when it quickly began losing its market dominance.

"And then people started migrating to the web, and AOL started doing a bunch of me-too initiatives," he explained. "It was member retention. They were like, 'Look we're doing this too, so you don't have to leave us.' Eventually people went 'Yeah, there's other stuff out here, and it's cheaper or it's free or it's more interesting,' and they leave anyway. What eventually happens with those retention efforts is that perhaps they delay the inevitable for a little while, but eventually the inevitable is inevitable. It eventually comes."

Pulp Magazines Struggle to Survive in Wired World

(Thanks, Simon!)