A Letter from the Editors: Former People is Dead, Long Live Former People

Hello Former People readers,

It’s about reaching that point where we are about to celebrate our first year. This maybe a minor milestone for some, but given some of the great content we have been able to bring to all of you, we think this is something about which we all can feel quite proud.

Perhaps the most useful outcome of being one year old is that we now have a little bit of experience to make some rational judgments about what we should and should not do and what we can and cannot do. Frankly the best way to do that is to pay attention to what our audience reads.

We may have entered this project thinking we were producing a literary magazine, but our reading figures suggest something a little different.  Based on the data we can see, you guys and gals will read our interviews, book reviews, and essays in large numbers.  You listen to our podcasts in solid numbers as well. Interestingly enough, however, you guys don’t read the fiction or poetry in significant numbers.  An interesting statistic here: if we published a short story and an interview by the same author, the interview would be read four to ten times as much as the short story.  Certainly this feels like an odd state of affairs for a literary magazine, but based on the statistics we encounter from other publications, maybe this isn’t something very unique to us. It does get our minds wondering.

Things get more complicated when you breakdown the amount of working ours we all put into the magazine. Not surprisingly for a literary magazine, the fiction and poetry sections take up the lion´s share of our workload. Don’t get us wrong, preparing interviews and reviewing literature takes a lot of care and effort too, but going through the general submissions pile, soliciting themed work, editing it, cultivating authors of poetry and fiction is no cake walk.  Now add this together with our reading figures, and you can see that we really have a low “bang for our buck” as far as the fiction and poetry is concerned.

Facebook also isn’t making our efforts any easier. As several of you may already know, the new algorithm logic has more or less created a situation where we can only communicate with about 1/8th or 1/5th of you guys at most via Facebook posting…unless of course we slip a few bucks to Zuckerberg. Indeed, according to some articles, the more “likes” you get, the more your organic reach is held off. Paying for likes for pages does not fix it either.   The many sites have seen decreased engagement even after paying facebook for promotion.   Our early growth was predicated on strategic use of facebook.  In light these changes, all we can say is so much for the “social” half of social media.

Well, we added all of these trends and figures together, and came to the conclusion that we have to redesign our means of engagement, and that’s what we are writing to you all about. This past issue will be our last as a literary magazine. That sounds a lot more dramatic than the what’s actually going to happen.  We are not fading away – just going through our next metamorphosis event.  This is what you are actually going to encounter here at Former People:

  • We are going to start describing ourselves as an arts and culture magazine instead of a literary magazine. Based on what we have recently been producing and what our audience has been reading, this just feels inherently right for us and for you. This will also give us the opportunity to expand our subject matter beyond literature and into film, visual arts, performing arts, and any other anti-chambers of world culture.
  • Rather than release monthly issues like a more traditional magazine, we are going to issue a series of regular podcasts on neo-modern art, literature, culture, and politics. A podcast approach to our magazine should help us open up our means of finding and communicating with an audience more effectively and perhaps more creatively that we have hitherto achieved in “print.”  It also us more means of audience growth outside of social media.
  • We’re rebranding our issue podcast into Former People Speak which will focus on arts and culture on a theme by theme basis. Our film podcast will remain as well, but will now be rebranded Former People Nickelodeon. There is a high likelihood that we will launch additional regular podcast series as we establish our new release rhythms.
  • We will begin releasing audios of our interviews. A fair portion of our interviews were actually conducted over telephone or Skype and then transcribed into print. Considering our shift to a podcast format, this seemed like a natural progression.
  • We will continue to accept fiction and poetry submissions, we just won’t solicit for them like we have done before. We won’t have the self-imposed urgency of trying to find a full issues worth of fiction and poetry. Instead we are going to leave our submissions email address open, and publish interesting work on an ad-hoc basis.
  • In fact, we are going to expand our submissions guidelines to include audio readings of stories and poetry. We think this will also help writers to find an audience beyond the restrictions of print and Facebook.
  • We will continue to publish print interviews, book reviews, essays and other material.

We always envisioned June/July to be a down time for us, so we will be redesigning our webpage and Youtube page to accomidate this change. We will also work on expanding our podcasts to other aggregators to increase our reach. To cut a long story short, taking the magazine where we think the audience wants it to go. We’re very excited about this change and we hope you’ll continue to come along with us for the ride.

Cheers to you all,

Steven A. Michalkow and C. Derick Varn

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