This week I gave a talk in San Francisco and I mentioned that Sunday – today – ArtsJournal is ten years old. In web terms, that makes us pretty old. Except, in the room were the editors of at least a couple of other arts sites that are older than AJ. Lori Sparrow of Voice of Dance and Patty Gessner of San Francisco Classical Voice run sites that are at least a couple of years older (also there was John Trippe who runs the very fun FecalFace.com; Zoneil Maharaj, who runs OhDangMag.com; and Marianne Stark, who writes the Stark Guide to San Francisco Art).
The first year or two of AJ, we didn’t have a content management system. Every time I wanted to add a story, I had to go into the code of the page and add it there. This made for all sorts of odd formatting issues. And every month, to make archives of our stories, I had to spend a couple of hours cutting all the stories out of our pages and pasting them into new ones. Here’s an example of one of our early pages.
Over the years things have changed enormously. When AJ started, there weren’t really any
arts blogs. Now, Technorati tracks some 300,000 of them (depending on how you define the search). A couple of years into AJ, we started adding blogs – Terry Teachout, Greg Sandow, Andrew Taylor and Tobi Tobias were the first. Now we have some 64 bloggers working on the site.
Ten years ago newspaper websites were pretty rudimentary. One of the most difficult jobs in putting AJ together at first was just finding where the arts stories lived. Now, sadly, the number and quality of arts stories in newspapers have declined precipitously and it’s difficult to find them for different reasons. Many newspapers we used to draw stories from have cut their coverage. In many cities, good arts stories in newspapers are a rarity.
The good news is that there are lots of amazing people and projects out there creating new ways of covering the arts. In the past year as arts coverage in the traditional press has declined precipitously, dozens and dozens of independent websites have stepped up to fill the void. But it isn’t just that the new is replacing the old. The very nature and definition of arts journalism is changing. The emphasis of coverage is changing, and ethically, it’s a Wild West out there at the moment.
Nonetheless, the breadth of what’s being written/videoed/recorded has expanded enormously. We’ve gone from single critics at local newspapers to a cacophony of voices debating and drawing attention to a much wider range of culture.
There are so many people I want to thank who have helped on ArtsJournal. I’m reluctant to make a list of names because I’ll forget people, but I want to give a special shout out to Sam Bergman, who for nine years was a major part of AJ’s success as associate editor. And I’d also like to thank Laura Collins-Hughes and Matthew Westphal, who now help to choose and write a good part of the site.
And the future. We’re working on the next version of ArtsJournal, which we hope to launch in the next month or so. As the media world changes from newspapers to other sources, we want to make sure we’re casting our nets in the right directions. And we want to make it easier to find the stories they’re looking for. Here’s to another ten. Thanks to you for reading.