Wildlife Art Journal: The Art of Nature Connecting The World

Project URL: www.wildlifeartjournal.com

Your Name: Todd Wilkinson

Tell us about yourself/your team: Old-school journalist, trained at City News Bureau of Chicago (as a violent crime reporter), who has written about environment, arts and nature for 25 years. I’ve written for several major newspapers and magazines. Kicking and screaming, I’ve resisted the shift to digital journalism, but now realize the profound advantages it represents for building new international media platforms more cheaply and effectively to connect people around the world.

Description of your project: Wildlife Art Journal—The Art of Nature Connecting the World just launched in summer 2009 and many outsiders probably say our timing could not be worse. First, please visit our site at www.wildlifeartjournal.com and look around. We are a two-person bootstrap and strictly online magazine. We have no sugar daddy venture capitalists behind us. We are making this happen with our own resources. Period. But this is where the power lies in a decentralized media environment. We are approaching this as an experiment in exploring the viral nature of positive human goodwill, the value of great written and visual content, the willingness of people to pay a MODEST subscription fee, and the power of art in bringing people together across generational and national boundaries in ways that haven’t been done before. So far, the results are promising, as we have had visitors from more than 35 countries in our first month of going live, but we are still in the nascent phase. Whether we reach the threshold of what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point” will be determined in the months ahead. Some quick background: For a long time, “wildlife art” has been dismissed as a second-tier sub-genre within fine art. Critics say it is prosaic. And yet today, given the growing number of environmental concerns, the fact that kids everywhere, as author Richard Louv points out convincingly, are becoming ever more disconnected from the natural world, and paradoxically, the daunting reality that environmental issues shape quality of life issues on a number of fronts, we are trying to create a platform for readers to think, viscerally, about their relationship to the natural world. Art is a way to do it without getting tripped up by politics. In fact, many social commentators say that art is a potent tool for bringing people together. Our agenda is drawing upon the universal appeal of wildlife and wildlife art to create a dialog and awareness about the world, such as it is, in our own time. . Because I am a journalist, I am attempting to shirk the formidable obstacles that have doomed old media—printing costs, mailing costs, salaries for a large number of staffers, office costs, and outdated approaches to marketing—with using the digital format as a way to make content delivery work faster, better, and more cheaply. Plus, we’re not killing any trees.

Date your Project Launched (will Launch): Summer 2009

How your Project works/What it does: As an online magazine based in the boondocks of Bozeman, Montana, Wildlife Art Journal is proving that a magazine with reach can be based anywhere. We use an old fashioned subscription model, but we offer plenty of free content. We see ourselves as a fluid, constantly evolving magazine with new content flowing in every week, and old content moving into the archives where it is available to subscribers who pay $12/year.

Why is your Project a model for Arts Journalism?: Because it helps to chart a different course. It is fundamentally inclusionary, affordable, bounteous in the volume of content it can deliver (which breaks the mold of the old physical art print publication), attractive to advertisers, and it adheres to real journalistic principles (as opposed to “citizen journalism” which raises serious questions about reliability of content). We are not selling snake oil and trying to lure in investors to part with lots of money based upon an amorphous dream of financial return. We are packing our site with longer pieces that tell real stories about art and artists (not abbreviated superficial stories hamstrung by small and shrinking editorial wells), lots of visuals (more so than any other art magazine currently out there), and the ability to dial up from pretty much anywhere on earth. For me personally, this has been an epiphany.

Explain (briefly) your business model [Please be specific - this is an important question]: Paid subscriptions plus advertising plus offset printing capabilities for those who desire tactile stories in their hands plus opportunities we haven’t yet recognized will lead to success. We must be brutally honest: We don’t know what will happen, yet. We believe that we, along with every other major newspaper and printed magazine, are at the forefront of a trend. However, we believe that content is king. By eliminating the costs of printing and distribution, and giving our readers content they’re not getting anywhere else at one location,, easier access, access with modest subscription fee to our growing archives, opportunities to gain printed versions of stories if they wish to pay for them, and a larger volume of visuals, we are providing MORE by spending LESS. We are conservative in our business principles.

Anything else we should know? : Again, let me repeat: I am old school in my journalistic inclinations. Ultimately, journalism is about accountability and real people standing behind their words. Like the species being celebrated by the artists we are covering, it is a matter of adapt and evolve or perish.

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