"There is a new generation of publisher-produced content that seeks to be fully social, interactive, animated, graphical, new media native and multimedia in a way which no one (ok, publishers) has really done before. Except of course new media writers. Yet there has been no real conversation between the two. Why? It seems like we should have hit the meeting point where there could and should be a productive alliance, when in fact the gulf seems as wide as ever.
On the writing side I often hear that people feel ignored by publishers. Essentially the world of commercial publishing is a closed shop unwilling to listen to the maverick, the outsider and the original, and will ultimately pay for this as audiences gravitate to newer and amorphous forms that exist across the digital media they increasingly engage with at the expense of all others.
There is an element of truth in this. However publishers have to sell books – or something – to keep going. Understandably they are keen not to simply disappear and much new media writing is not designed to be commercial, being associated with a more recondite and experimental mindset. Publishers will always feel constrained by the nature of their audience and the retail opportunities available. This might be an argument for by-passing publishers or intermediaries’ altogether, although history (that most unreliable of guides?) suggests that there will always be a role for the market-making middle man.
What I would like is mediation. It’s time that publishers looked more closely at the field and the way it generates new ideas, interfaces, narrative and informational forms, the way it can unite technical and creative expertise, the way it innovates into whole new product categories. However hopefully also new media writers will look to publishers’ concerns, and constantly ask who is reading this and why, what is the scale and the nature of the audience, how can we package this for wider consumption and what is the business behind it. These grubby financial concerns may be some way removed from the discourse of a critical, digital avant garde but they are the kind of questions without which new media writing will forever marginalise itself.
So, yes, the view from the publisher’s office may have been negative in the past. Publishers are changing fast though. Digital departments are mushrooming and a new appetite is abroad for hitherto unforeseen modes of publishing. With a dialogue from both sides, we could be at the beginning of a new phase not only for publishing, but for writing."