The Problem With Journalism Is You Need an AudienceIn fact, this imaginary Universal Law of Writing—“Make something great and the readers will come”—is false. It has always been false, though that does not prevent it from being harbored deep in the heart of every ambitious writer and prestige-starved press baron. The history of journalism is littered with the corpses of good publications. The “new media” world is no different. The “long tail” and “audience segmentation” and every other buzzword term does not change the nature of the business. The audience for quality prestige content is small. Even smaller than the actual output of quality prestige content, which itself is smaller than most media outlets like to imagine.
Book selling: its all about targettingAn audience of “everyone” is typically too big to grasp or connect with. Where does “everyone” get their information? There’s no single source. What motivates “everyone” to learn something? There’s no single motivation. What does “everyone” care about? There’s no single topic. You get the idea… “Everyone” is not your audience. Your audience is a specific set of people with specific motivations and values. They’re much easier to reach and connect with than everyone.
having the book out in public has already changed my relationship to writing, and not in the ways that I thought it would. I worried that I would become fixated on how the next thing would be received, bringing everyone in publishing and the wider reading world into the room with me, but it has actually made the process more private, more internal. It’s no longer about clearing some imaginary bar of professionalism, no longer about gaining entry into some club. I’ve talked about this with a friend of mine who’s a musician, but putting something out in the world and listening to the cacophony of reactions can actually have the effect of releasing you from what you had imagined others wanted, and in a way giving you back your space. This, for me, has been the healthiest outcome of publishing a book, and something I don’t think I would have gotten without it. Permission, I guess, to no longer ask for permission.