In early 2005 I became a craft publisher by starting a craft blog. Between then and now I’ve watched the industry change in radical ways. Favorite magazines folded (remember Adorn? Domino? Now Stitch Craft Create is no more). Big companies bought out smaller, craft-exclusive publishing houses (most recently F+W bought my former publisher, Interweave). More independent crafters became bloggers and the number of craft blogs skyrocketed into the tens of thousands. Blogs are increasingly saavy, rivaling the pillar of craft and homemaking media, Martha Stewart, in the quality of photo styling and project originality.
Independent publishers like me create content nearly every day, and it’s free to consume. A friend of mine recently asked me about blogs, specifically why use an RSS reader. My response? “Your RSS reader is like
the best magazine you could ever imagine. You tailor it to your particular interests, it’s constantly refreshed with new content, and it’s free.”
I’ve created traditional print media for the craft industry, over the years contributing projects to books and magazines and writing two books of my own. Last spring I expanded my role as an independent craft
publisher by selling my sewing patterns as digital downloads on Etsy and writing an ebook. A year into it I can tell you what many internet-based businesses already know: selling information is profitable. If you search Etsy right now for PDF patterns 95,552 items come up. Now that Etsy offers automatic digital
file delivery that number will only increase.
What does that mean for print media? Craft projects are generally small. The pattern templates can easily be printed on a home printer. How many times have you bought a craft book for the single pattern that caught your eye? No more. Chances are that author now sells patterns individually directly, and instantly, to consumers.
Self-published posts and patterns aren’t edited necessarily and the authors aren’t vetted by industry experts. How do you know what you’re getting is good quality? The truth is patterns often weren’t tested even when they were published by well-regarded print publications. Indie designers prove our expertise to the public ourselves by consistently publishing quality content on our blogs and building our personal brand reputations. We don’t need another media company to intermediate.
What’s next? The radical shift I see is the rise of video instruction. Nothing can replace the value of watching a master at work. Say you’d like to learn to insert an invisible zipper. Would you rather read instructions from a book, or watch a video? Zippers are tricky. If I know I’m watching an expert, and I know the video is shot so that I can really see what’s happening, I would much prefer to watch than read.
Online teaching platforms like Craftsy and Creative Bug offer high definition videos of nationally known instructors demonstration their skills. The classes aren’t free, but they aren’t expensive either, and once you see the quality of instruction it’s hard to argue that print media is better.
“My favorite classes are the most advanced ones taught by the instructors who have many years, if not decades, of experience,” says Veronique from Verte Adelie, a self-described Craftsy junkie. “It’s like being a little mouse in their studio and watching them work. It’s just as if the internet suddenly allowed us to
experience a very traditional master apprentice relationship in a way books never allowed.”
Jackie Ashton has taken several Creative Bug classes and explains the benefits of video instruction this way. “When I view a blog post or a book I’m usually doing a lot of guessing and back and forth, re-reading to try to figure it out. It’s like having someone showing you how to tie your shoes, or trying to learn it from a book.”
It’s exciting to be a part of the new media landscape in craft, even as it’s sad to say goodbye to the familiar forms of media we grew up with. When it comes to craft instruction video is here to stay, first and foremost because it’s worth paying for. As for print publishing, it’s still challenging to print a
dress pattern on your home printer and for that it will remain, although much emaciated. Digital self-publishing will pick up the slack.
I’d see some voids. Tech editors and graphic designers could market themselves to indie designers to help
improve the quality of what’s being produced. Software products could make digitizing templates and creating page layouts as easy as PicMonkey has made editing photos.
Some holes have already been filled. There are great platforms for easily creating a professional online presensce and for getting self-published digital media to market (see my blog sponsors, Virb, Goodsie and Retailr, as examples). A blog makes it easy to share high-quality free content with customers. Social media allows us to interact with the public directly.
That’s my forecast for the future of craft publishing. What do you see? I’m curious what you think the
craft media landscape will look like in five years? And in ten?