Unwarranted optimism about the publishing industry.

I’m quoted in Folio magazine’s annual survey of editors and publishers, making an uncharacteristically wild-eyed prediction about how great things are going to be in 2009:

In 2009, we’ll see even more magazine startups, as entrepreneurs with funding (or un-maxed-out credit cards) seize the twin opportunities of cheap journalistic labor and lower competitive barriers to start up publications of their own.

Many of these entrepreneurs will come from the swelling ranks of laid-off journalists. But there’s a catch: Most of these magazines will never see print. They’ll be online-only publications, aggregators of interesting stories, pictures and miscellany—the original definition of “magazine”—along the lines of Harper’s or its more modern analogue, The Huffington Post.

Reading that quote this morning, I felt a little chagrined. It sounds like the kind of bland optimism that any entrepreneur, venture capitalist or Death Row inmate holds, right up until the moment that they get put up against the wall. But I do think that it’s a good time to start a publication, if you can. It’s that “if you can” bit that is the catch.

As I go on to say, the coming year is going to be a bear for any advertising-supported ventures, so entrepreneurs kicking off new publications in this environment either need new ways of generating revenue, or they need a lot of patience. And in either case, they’ll need deep pockets.

Media Bistro gave my prediction a nice treatment in their blog post about the Folio story: 335 Magazines Launched in 2008 And Other Observations on the Future

Unwarranted optimism about the publishing industry.