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It Must Be Online Magazine Season

on Monday, Aug. 12th

Something must be in the ether, because it feels like every time I open up a browser window someone is launching a new online magazine.

Last week it was the science themed Omni Reboot, and a few weeks before that Pitchfork unleashed the film blog supergroup The Dissolve.

Today Epic, a blog focused on the kind of long-form, nonfiction journalism articles that get turned into movies, got a big write up from David Carr at the New York Times:

They are trying to build a model for long-form journalism where the revenue generated over the entire life of a story – magazine fees, sales on Audible.com and Amazon Kindle Singles, ancillary film and television rights – can be used to finance the costs of reporting.

The two men at the helm are Joshuah Bearman and Joshua Davis. You might be most familiar with Bearman's previous work as the article that set "Argo" into motion.

At present there's little to judge Epic–as a publisher–on aside from Carr's write-up and a vague teaser post on Medium, which is the platform Bearman and Davis are building their site on. The Epic "classics"–representations of the founder’s own writing–currently featured on the site use Scroll Kit, which took the New York Times article "Snow Fall" as inspiration for their design. While the adage “you’re only as good as you’re last work” might be true in Hollywood, the web lives fully in the moment. Teases irritate as much as they excite.

Whether the new magazine will attract established talent who want more control over the long-term fate of their work, or brash upstarts willing to forgo the built-in audience of established publishers in order to make their name on the frontier.

Another bit from Carr, about the "murky" business model for Epic and Medium, has my interest piqued:

Medium’s approach is tougher to game out, but Mr. Williams demonstrated at Twitter that if you build a compelling platform for content, a business will eventually emerge.

The Mr. Williams referenced is Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Medium. Williams is also co-founder of Blogger, the blogging platform that was sold to Google way back in the aughts.

The goal with Medium seems pretty clear to me: build a better mousetrap than other writing platforms. Take on WordPress, Blogger, Livejournal and what-have-you by having super-attractive technology. Back some premium projects like Epic and Matter, pull in some big name writers like Bruce Sterling and start to rewrite the standard for what writing on the web looks like, in much the way that Twitter defined short-burst messaging on the web.

Perhaps I'm confusing "business model" with "cultural intent". If I am, I blame Steve Jobs. I learned it from watching him.

Follow Noah Nelson on Twitter (@noahjnelson)

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