Home > Local Stuff, music > The internet: a bittersweet ‘Taste’ for some…

The internet: a bittersweet ‘Taste’ for some…

These days it seems like there isn’t one organization that is not online, large or small. This is especially true in the world of journalism. And not just on the web, they are present in all forms of social media devices – take the New York Times iPod app, for instance. But it is not just large publications going online; small outlets are finding that they need to include web elements as well. Tastemakers magazine, a small student music publication at Northeastern University, is a great example of this phenomenon.

Tastemakers began in the fall of 2006, and currently has a circulation of about 3,000 readers on average. It has a pretty steady production rate: a few issues every year give or take, and features reviews of local music shows and CD releases, artist interviews, feature articles, and the like. But, being a student publication, its audience does not stretch beyond the Northeastern community by much, if at all.

In November 2008, the publication’s leaders finally decided to make the move and play in cyberspace.

Katie Price, editor-in-chief of Tastemakers magazine and third year journalism and music industry student at NU, pioneered the creation of the website, along with other members of the team, such as Jackson Connor, a third year journalism student at Northeastern and feature editor of the publication.

Now one might wonder what took Tastemakers so long to make the jump, but a number of technical issues arose when the idea to set up online first came about.

“It was really poorly maintained back then, and we didn’t have content going up every day like we wanted,” said Connor. “Katie and I really pressed for a new website; last semester we said we need a deadline for when there’s going to be an actual live website.”

The Tastemakers website

And that’s exactly what happened. Over this last semester the website has gone from being “just a solid blog”, according to Price, to now featuring, in addition to all the latest magazine content, feature articles, CD and show reviews, links to multiple music blogs and more, all using the Word Press platform. Tastemakers also makes good use of applications like Twitter and Facebook as well: they offer a feature called “Tasty Tweets”, which highlights the most interesting and popular feeds on the groups page at the time, and they also now have a Facebook Fan page as well, where they used to simply have a Group page.

In addition to all this material, the group plans to soon produce podcasts on the site using SoundCloud, offer advertising space to local businesses, and also include a forum and comments section. The website will also be group’s primary focus for the summer months, when the print staff writers are usually at home or participating in the co-op program and not on campus.

So would you say that Tastemakers needed a website? While first time staff writers like Michelle Buchman believe that the publication could survive on its own in just print form, higher ups like Price and Connor believe it was a key move in progressing the publication and the group as a whole. In fact, Price believes that they were getting to the point where they couldn’t be considered a legitimate publication without a website.

Click to view Slideshow

“We get now about nine 900 a week (on the Facebook Fan page), which is kind of crazy,” says Price, “and our website per month gets about three thousand views, which is how many magazines we can print. So what we are getting in a month (on the site) is what we are getting in a full issue cycle.”

Tastemakers’ marketing director, Diandra Apoyan, also claims that it was a necessary shift as well, and says that it has done wonders for her marketing endeavors, helping to spread the Tastemakers name and increasing readership of the physical publication on campus.

“It was definitely the best move we could make. If you’re not on a website you’re just not in the loop,” she said in an interview. “It was no question that we had to be on Twitter, be on Facebook, and that we needed a legitimate website.”

Price says that having the website has allowed her to reach out to more music executives and PR agencies interested in being involved with the evolving publication, in addition to attracting more writers to work with the magazine. Connor says it has been easier to get the publicists of bands to respond to interview requests after he sends links to the site to prove their legitimacy. Even writers like Buchman get a perk: she now feels more comfortable applying for jobs knowing that she can direct potential employers to the website to showcase her work.

The advertising that Price brought up is a big deal as well. Tish Grier, a Social Media Strategist and Freelance Writer at Tish Grier & Associates, said in a phone interview that one of the greatest resources available to online publications is the ability to do target advertising. This means that instead of having random advertisements appear next to articles (a guitar ad is placed next to an ad about guitars, for example).

“Tools will eventually become available to help outlets, even small ones, scale advertising to content,” says Tish. She says that up until now, savvy organizations have manually facilitated target advertising on their sites, but soon the ability to automatically and systematically place target advertising on publications’ websites will become such commonplace that all groups, small or large, will be taking advantage of this method.

While the physical publication is always the priority, the website is high on Tastemakers' to do list

But is everyone necessarily happy about this trend? While it is a great benefit for groups and helps to compete with larger publications, some, such as Connor, wish that they could go back to the good old days of straight print.

“Just in general I think the way that journalism is moving to be mainly based online is a bad thing,” Connor says. “I’m not a huge fan of it; it’s more bad than good for the business. But at the same time we’re not this veteran publication: we don’t get to make the rules, and we can’t really be relevant without a website.”

But as much as they admit that they need a website, it is clear that the print publication will always be their main focus, and that for them, having a website will never replace the feeling of holding and leafing through the glossy pages.

But experts like Grier maintain that there is no turning back, even for outlets like Tastemakers.

“It’s about keeping up with where readers want to access their information,” she says. “Where and when.”

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Categories: Local Stuff, music
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