Monday, March 15, 1999

SXSW Great Ideas & Secrets of Webzines

After the panel I met Matt Broermsa of ZDNet News, Stuart Heady of the Web Coalition in Austin and the famous Owen Thomas of Ditherati. Owen told me how United Flight 172 from San Francisco was pretty much filled with people coming for this show. The NY contingent also came out en masse and these two camps were interesting cliques to revolve around during the festivities.

One of the great things about the SXSWS was that there really were a lot of great ideas discussed. Unlike trade shows and conferences in Silicon Alley where sometimes it feels like it's always the same schpiel and ramblings about e-commerce and content and broadband and DaDeeDaDadDo, this one had truly rich discussions by serious content makers, designers, and business leaders.

One such panel was the one Joey Anuff of moderated. He led Janelle Brown (, Nikol Lohr (, Harry Knowles (Ain't It Cool News) and Halcyon Styn ( in a discussion on "Secrets of Successful Webzines." Janelle started her first zine in '96 and had a picture of Joey and Carl in her office as a dartboard for inspiration. Nikol's popular site originated out of her feeling she should stop bothering her friends with her gripes and put them on-line. She stared the Dick List and didn't even think people would read it. However, after her first Cease and Desist letter when a CEO of Prodigy was listed, the last names were taken down. Harry Knowles, another microstar in Austin, whose site gets over 400,000 hits per day started his zine out of a passion for and an expertise in film criticism. Joey and Carl started in reaction against the cult of personalities (yet have become personalities themselves now), and as he states, hates seeing pictures of columnists next to their work. His thought is that it gives people the chance to say "Hmmm. There's something I don’t like and I think its you!" when they can see your picture. Gee. I hope he doesn't see my site ;) ! Janelle said "the really good zines have a strong voice and personality." It doesn't matter if it's written perfectly or correctly, as long as the voice is there, to which Halcyon and Harry replied that they don't even use spell checkers or copyeditors at times.

Addressing the famedom aspect that these panelists enjoy, Janelle retorted that they at Salon are just like everyone else--there are no Madonna's on the web. (Really? Coulda fooled me!) Salon is just a group of people who have opinions and want to express themselves. People who have smart provocative viewpoints, that is. Janelle also spoke ardently against the use of the world "zine" feeling it diminutized the work. Harry didn't mind it and I personally think it's appropriate. Content rich sites with regular updates aren't MAG-a-zines, and Electronic Zine, e-zine, and zine are apt descriptions of something that's quick, changeable, mutable and new. Halcyon didn't focus on the word so much as the fact that anyone with Notepad and a pirated copy of PhotoShop can now compete with the likes of Microsoft as opposed to having to go to Kinkos and make copies for distribution. At Suck, Joey added, they thought having a white background was a step forward. He predicted a future where the next revolutionary site will have a gray background and broken Gifs. Maybe he should check out my site. (kidding!)