When I kicked off Eugene Art Talk last year, I told myself two things:
First, I’d give it a year, no matter what. Second, I’d re-evaluate what I was doing at the end of six months.
That half year is just about up, and so I’ve taken the opportunity in the past few days to go back and look at what I’ve accomplished so far in my first serious effort at online arts writing.
First, the basics. I’ve written 75 articles – oh, wait, they’re called “posts” now, aren’t they? – since opening the doors at Eugene Art Talk on July 31, 2014, with a piece called “What Was I Thinking, Anyway?” That averages out to nearly three articles a week – oddly enough, just slightly more than I used to write for a certain daily newspaper in town.
Those pieces have ranged from some fairly complete stories, such as a visit to Playa, the arts colony in eastern Oregon, or what it’s like to be in the orchestra pit at the Hult Center during a rehearsal, to brief newsy pieces such as this odd bit of information I discovered the other day in a new report from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Along the way I’ve broken some stories, beating the rest of the state’s news media and watching with some satisfaction as they followed along behind. If you’re an Art Talk reader, you found out here first about the University of Oregon’s bizarre decision to cancel a long-running figure drawing class, and about the sudden, unannounced and still badly explained departure of the executive director of the Oregon Bach Festival.
I’ve also been writing more reviews, both of local theater and classical music performances, neither of which I did in my newspaper days, as well as visual art reviews, which I’ve written for years. A bit to my surprise, this has become the backbone of the site – no one else in town is going to events and writing about them – usually the same evening – with any regularity. Want to know what you missed at the symphony last night? This is the place to find out.
Finally, I’ve been able, on several occasions, to feature work by a former colleague from that local daily newspaper, Serena Markstrom Nugent. Her stories on former Coburg singer Taylor John Williams’ appearances on “The Voice” pretty much blew my web analytics out of the water, with thousands of page views arriving from around the world. I hope to draft Serena to write more often in 2015.
Which brings up a question I’m sometimes asked: How many readers does Eugene Art Talk have, exactly? The answer, of course, is, it depends. Right now I’m cooking along with somewhere from a hundred to a few hundred visitors each time I post a new story. That’s pretty good, in my book, and better than I used to have at a certain daily newspaper.
My vision for the site is changing. Originally I envisioned something much more like a weekly newsletter or magazine, with a prominent weekly featured story and maybe occasional other posts. I also thought I would lock up most of the site behind a subscription wall.
As Eugene Art Talk has evolved, though, and as I’ve begun writing more quick-turnaround reviews of performances, I’m seeing it more as an ongoing blog and less as a weekly publication. And I’ve certainly been enjoying the freedom that a blog format offers.
I’m also less inclined to lock up stories. Originally I intended most of Eugene Art Talk to eventually lurk behind a pay wall. To my delight, a lot of you readers have subscribed anyway. I will continue to lock up breaking news stories (such as the departure of John Evans from OBF) and perhaps the occasional big feature, and trust that readers will continue to subscribe in much the same way as they might support public radio. I’m not making a fortune, believe me.
I see a few changes in the near future.
First, I will most likely abandon the magazine format of the site. I’m strongly considering changing back to a conventional blog format, with stories appearing in a single vertical column in reverse chronological order. If I do that, I’ll also try to post more often – at least four times a week. Some of those posts will be briefs, and some will contain only photos, as I love photographing the arts world and its people.
The format change will also allow me solve a vexing problem with the site, and that is its current lack of readability on phones and other mobile devices The WordPress theme I’m using – Expound – was supposed to be a responsive design, meaning it would scale itself properly to small screens. It doesn’t, but I was too close to going live when I discovered this annoying fact to change it.
One thing that won’t be changing is that I want to hear from readers. Like something, hate something, have an idea or a new tip? Posy a comment on the site, email me at eugenearttalk /at/ gmail.com, or call me at 541-357-9262.
And thanks very much for reading!