This is quite meta, but I couldn’t help but notice the dynamism of the media space in the maker community. Where a few months ago there were virtually no press outlets for solo entrepreneurs, indie founders, and bootstrappers, there are now new initiatives popping up every week. Some of them focus on daily updates, others, such as Maker Mag, on long-form content, and others on fostering conversations around important news in the maker community.
Just to get us out of the way – Maker Mag was created to fill a gap. While funded startups had WIRED and Techcrunch, indie startups had nothing. What do in-depth features look like when the focus is not on closing the next round? What about the implications of staying independent, defining your own company culture, and embracing “lifestyle” as a positive word?
Participatory and inclusive, Maker Mag was created in a few weeks by gathering a group of 40 contributors, each of them who are also makers. We are now 60 writers. It is quite unique in the sense that it is a publication for makers, by makers. Maker Mag is still young (you can explore our one-month anniversary performance numbers), but the loyal and growing readership is a good sign it is a least addressing a need.
Another news outlet for makers, Maker Weekly publishes a weekly roundup of the most important news in the maker community. What makes these digests particularly interesting is that they are thoughtfully curated and contain an analysis around a specific theme. It’s a great way to quickly stay up-to-date on the latest trends.
Previous roundups included productisation of services, job boards, and privacy-first products. It’s currently a two-man shop, with Alexander III and Hugo Di Francesco curating the links, writing the content, and designing the newsletter.
“It’s not full blown long-form articles or pseudo real-time updates. More recently we’ve been trying to turn the topics we’ve covered that have had some success into recurring series, featuring updates from the month between one issue and the next. With that we should also be able to slowly transform the medium-form content into more fleshed out timelines of trends.” – Hugo Di Francesco, co-founder, Maker Weekly.
Also managed by a small team of dedicated writers, Makers Up is a newsletter curating the best content published by makers from around the web. They guarantee one comprehensive summary each week, keeping each issue short and sweet, and focusing solely on makers content.
In addition to the newsletter, they publish timely updates on their Twitter feed thanks to their global team, allowing them to be responsive and cover the news 24/7. Overall, between the tweets and the newsletter, it’s a great source of snackable content for people who would like to stay in the know.
“The team is currently comprised of four individuals, including me, who I chose to recruit because of their interest in the maker’s space, active social media presence, and common like-mindedness and interest.” – Zachary Sy, Founder, Makers Up.
The newest kid on the block, MakerNews aims to become the HackerNews for indie makers. In his introductory post, the creator explains where the inspiration came from.
“The idea behind MakerNews came from seeing what seemed like an almost endless stream of posts, tweets, and articles about HackerNews negative comments. My hope is that MakerNews can develop into a positive community for Makers to share news, show their projects, and ask questions, without the trolls.” – Eric Lima, Founder, MakerNews.
MakerNews’ will be a friendly place to post links and discuss their content, without fear of negativity.
Finally, if you want the bare essentials without any of the fluff, Maker Updates promises to do just that. Makers can submit highlight, project milestones and updates to share with the community. The website then allows you to explore these and click on related links to learn more.
The creator has also recently started sending a weekly email called Maker’s Digest, which is a round-up of all the news shared by maker during the previous week.
So, what about the viability of these projects? Let’s have a look first at teams. Some outlets have decided to work in teams – namely, Maker Mag, Maker Weekly, and Makers Up – while others are keeping it solo – Makernews and Maker Updates. Both have their advantages and their inconvenients.
At Maker Mag, we are able to publish in-depth content on a regular basis because we are such a large team of writers who are deeply embedded in the maker ecosystem. But it comes with more logistical work smaller teams do not need to deal with. On the flip side, staying nimble means leaner operations, but also more work on the shoulders of one single person. What if they want to take a break, need to travel, or are sick? Contrary to products that can just sell while you sleep, news don’t write themselves – yet.
Another aspect is monetisation. Here everyone is having a different strategy. Some outlets don’t seem concerned with monetisation. Others are exploring different approaches. At Maker Mag, we decided to partner with curated sponsors that really get makers and understand how to contribute to the community. This approach allows for ethical tracking where only the number of clicks and such are shared with the partner, and where the partner can also share valuable content with our readers.
Makers Up are also working with sponsors and working on a premium membership. MakerNews have a membership system allowing them to not be offering ads. To launch the website, a certain number of free lifetime memberships where offered to makers through groups such as Women Make, allowing to seed it with its first members.
As with many new spaces such as this one, we can expect a period of proliferation followed by one of consolidation. The maker community is notoriously hard to monetise, as for example people tend to prefer to build a custom solution to their problem rather than subscribing to a SaaS. But at it matures, we can expect more members to be able to afford paid resources in order to save time.
Whether they will be willing to pay for news is debatable, but a few mainstream and tech publications – see The New York Times, The Economist, The Information, or The Correspondent – have shown that people do value quality journalism. Even TechCrunch has recently launched a premium subscription service called Extra Crunch.
As hyper-targeted, cost-per-click advertising has become the de facto standard for advertising, it has depreciated the traditional sponsorship concept. I still believe that, if done well, sponsorships offer benefits that go beyond easy-to-measure performance metrics. While anyone can buy more visits, sponsorships are forged with a mutual understanding that both parties can benefit from each other’s reputation. […] Let’s hope that spirit outlives our obsession with the measurable. – Kai Brach, founder, Dense Discovery & Offscreen.
In any case, this healthy level of dynamism is great news for the maker community. This means diverse coverage, timely updates, and a balanced view of what it means to be a maker. And more potential collaborations, too.