Friends, Partners & Co: a sustainable model for the media?

by Gabriela Pedranti.

There is no doubt that the emergence of active “prosumers” redefine what we used to understand in terms of media proposals, advertising and financial models.

Through Eliseo Verón’s concept of “reading contract”, Pierre Levy’s idea of “collective intelligence” and different ideas around fan cultures (proposed by Henry Jenkins and Carlos Scolari) I would like to present the analysis of a case study that challenges the “old” concepts regarding publishing and media: Orsai, nadie en el medio.

Originally a blog, Orsai learnt from its own experience: active readers sharing their views on what the author, Hernán Casciari, published; feeling they were being heard; commenting their ideas and enjoying being part of that community. Orsai became a high quality paper magazine with no advertising in 2011 and started publishing books in 2012. They also opened a bar (2011-2014) and a “club” (2013) where they teach writing and illustration classes. They are launching a new magazine in 2014, Bonsai.

Something to point out is that apart from selling the magazine, they also offer it for free in PDF; they believe in free culture, and at the same time, of making a living out of what they do. The distribution system is also a new way of thinking the business: the readers become distributors in their area.

How can Orsai (that is a team composed by a few friends who live in Spain and Argentina) manage successful projects and live out of them, if in terms of traditional media business models, this seems impossible (no advertising, giving it for free in pdf, etc.)? My hypothesis proposes that they have understood how to establish a meaningful bond with these “new” audiences, and it’s such a strong bond, that it inspires loyalty beyond reason. The readers want to become part of the project, and they are willing to “invest” in it (both economically and emotionally). This is related to “the other economies” that Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green talk about in their recent book Spreadable Media and the complexities these “economies” represent. I would like to reflect on an “an (alternative) model” for media in the 21st century, based upon Orsai’s experience, and also mention some other examples of flexible models, similar to this one (Libero, Jot Down, eldiario.es) and how traditional media, such as El Mundo newspaper in Spain are learning from it.

This is the visual presentation that was shown at the Transmedia Literacy Seminar, Barcelona, December 10th, 2013. The full paper can be dowloaded here.

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