Crowd-Sourcing an Entire Magazine: The Way of the Future?

Ladies’ Home Journal, a long-running women’s magazine, has announced that beginning with their March issue,

Ladies Home Journal cover

it will allow readers to produce the majority of its articles. The 128-year-old magazine, with an average paid circulation of 3.2 million, would be the first major mass-market magazine to draw on user-generated content for most of its pages.

It’s a brave new world, where self-selected and audience-generated content can drive a major publication, in an attempt to make readers feel more a part of the community (and thus presumably more likely to continue subscribing). It’s not all unrestrained, though:

While most of the content will be user-generated, editors will continue to check facts in articles. Contributors will be paid the usual standard professional rates. And professional experts will also continue to provide advice, often alongside first-person accounts.

I’m really glad to see that they’re not switching to this as a form of cost-cutting. Too many places think of community content as free; it’s good to see contributors being paid for their writing.

I found myself wondering how this kind of process might work when it comes to comics, specifically the dominant genre of superhero comics. There has always been a tension between what fans say they want and what they actually buy. Comic fans are terrible at sending a message with their wallets, continuing to buy what they gripe about, but so very many of the readers also want to write the stories themselves.

What would a crowd-sourced superhero story look like? I’m envisioning the return of text pages, where user-submitted story ideas and short scenes could be run. I’d also incorporate something from the manga anthologies — reader surveys on which concepts they liked and which they hated, so fan writers could get feedback from their peers. That would, I imagine, draw an increased reader base as they bought the comics to see whether their ideas were included and what others thought of them.

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