by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & Chucked
The Spokane Sidekick is officially dead -- the print version, anyway. A conversation with publisher Andy Rowse last week (and then the subsequent Website kiss-off letter) revealed as much. They're going to keep up with the Website, but the paper's gone.
Before I start musing, let me say this: Sidekick's dying sucks, unequivocally. The paper's existence raised the profile of musicians and forced its competitors (i.e., us) to do a better job of covering music. We're sorry to see it go.
Now to the point: It wasn't a journal of criticism, it was an entertainment magazine. As such, it sought to connect listeners with music and nothing more. It's an honest, unassuming print model, though often not a fiscally successful one.
One variant of the entertainment rag model that has come on lately, and to phenomenal success, though, is the music blog (with brooklynvegan.com and stereogum.com as prime examples of success). Seeking nothing more than to connect music nerds with music, they've grown in three or four years to rival the readership it's taken crit sites like pitchforkmedia.com a decade-plus to sustain (though readership and financial viability don't necessarily correlate).
The point is that a totally Web-based Sidekick will more effectively achieve the publisher's goals of steering music fans to music. The connection's more seamless. Even something as staid as hyperlinking makes accessing a band less cumbersome. Offering downloads and podcasting does too, while keeping the audience in-house and on-site.
Problem is, it probably won't earn them any money. Since the late '90s, Spokane's burned through a ton of music events-type Websites because the economics haven't worked. Threeimaginarygirls.com, a Seattle-based review site, didn't start generating revenue until after they expanded to cover national trends.
The bitter irony for Rowse and his partner Brian Clark is that they're better placed to connect with fans, while actually being -- by dint of advertisers' Internet skittishness -- worse off for revenue.