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SciFi Wire Cancels Written Columns – Are They Truly An Unfortunate Holdover From The Days of Print?

Sci Fi Wire, the online news arm of the SyFy Channel [still cringes at new name], has canceled their weekly written columns. This includes long-running and well-respected series from John Clute, Wil McCarthy, and Michael Cassutt, who have been asked to remain as contributors in “other ways”. The reason given for this decision is that columns are considered an antiquated form of communication from the days of print.

I say hooey. Mostly because I like saying hooey, but also because I suspect it’s more a matter of money.


This is all conjecture – I have absolutely no idea of how SciFi Wire generates money for the SyFy Channel nor pays its writers – but I’m guessing that the columns are paid at a per-word rate. This means that the average column probably costs them more than the average article. Recall that earlier this year, along with the channel image change, SciFi Wire switched from being a weekly magazine to daily bog format. So your average article is either an extended news blurb or a list post.

I applauded SyFy Channel for SciFi Wire’s format change. It was a great way to update the site. Even so — and call me silly — I liked the SciFi Wire columns. They were a bright spot in what can be seen as yet another cookie-cutter sf blog. [Studiously avoids looking at self.] It’s the same way I enjoy the columns at AMC TV’s SciFi Scanner written by John Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Scott Sigler and others. They provide something more personal, something extra.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll miss ’em.

What do you think? Are online columns an unfortunate holdover from the days of print? Or, is there still a place for them today?

About John DeNardo (13014 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

13 Comments on SciFi Wire Cancels Written Columns – Are They Truly An Unfortunate Holdover From The Days of Print?

  1. Who can be surprised by this from a channel that makes ‘dumbing down’ not just a virtue, but practically a manifesto? Let’s not forget the axing of Scifiction, or the abyssmal slide of their programming into wrestling, ghosts, and the ever popular ghost wrestling shows.

    I wonder how much longer Tor will want to use the ‘Scifi Essentials’ label on some of their books — given that most genre fans associate the channel with mouth breathers and those who have difficulty remembering which way to hold a book.

  2. I also enjoyed the SciFi Wire columns and used to read them on a regular basis. 

    Since they changed to the blog format, I rarely go to the SyFy site. I’ve pretty

    much given up on the channel, too.

  3. I don’t see much reason to read them, now. It’s all TV gossip, hype for crappy movies, and lists of the ten hottest robot women or whatever. I understand they want to score hits and make a profit, but they’ve really managed to turn themselves into SF news’ lowest common denominator.

  4. Hooey indeed. “the column format is a legacy from the days of print that doesn’t serve Wire’s readers or our writers particularly well anymore.” What a crock. This sort of thing does very well online – in fact, it’s one of the contributers to the death of actual print (news papers and magazines).

    Why on earth can’t Scott Edelman just admit it’s for economic reasons? If they don’t feel they have the budget for it, that’s unfortunate, but at least it’s honest. Instead he just spits out some jargon and demonstrates that he (or more likely those he reports to) have no real understanding of content the web.

  5. So…they want to be a lesser version of io9?  (no part of that question is intended to be remotely complimentary). 

    Like Cheryl, I stopped reading when they went blog.  It was too much work to find the content I wanted amidst all the crap. 

     

    Why on earth can’t Scott Edelman just admit it’s for economic reasons? If they don’t feel they have the budget for it, that’s unfortunate, but at least it’s honest. Instead he just spits out some jargon and demonstrates that he (or more likely those he reports to) have no real understanding of content the web.”

     

    Fheywood: Do you think that Scott had a choice in how he presented the decision?  I don’t think the messenger should be lumped into the message.  I suspect Scott argued against the decision, but it’s not his call.

  6. With this decision, they are clearly driving away SF fans and trying to pander to whatever insipid gaggle of fake-thrill junkies they believe forms their core audience.  It’s as if they want to repel thoughtful viewers and cut ties to the SF fan community.  Of course, they started doing that a long time ago,  and a lot of people are obliging them, me included.

  7. I stopped going to their site long ago and the channel itself is just one step above an infomersal channel.

  8. I agree with the comments above–this seems like an economic decision more than a technology issue.  It has the net effect, unfortunately, of dumbing down an already dumbed down product.

     

     

  9. I too will miss the columns.  I was a regular reader of most of them when the site was still in magazine format.

    When things went to blog format though, I found myself missing them, despite regular visits to the site, because they didn’t stand out from the clutter.  The attraction to a column is the columnist as much as the subject matter, and without a clear handle to lead you to that content, it’s easy to fall out of the reading habit, and more difficult to catch up with a “reading binge” when you fall behind.

    The blog format on the site was in many ways an improvement, but I rather wish they’d put their content into several topical streams instead of jamming it all into one.

    This is a sad development, but a natural consequence of jamming the site through one pipe like a sausage. I know many of the people involved, and I’d be pleased if they found new venues more hospitable to this kind of opinion-based work.

  10. “still cringes at new name]”

    I’m still cringing at the old name, but that’s because I’m Of That Generation.

    Why on earth can’t Scott Edelman just admit it’s for economic reasons?”

    I’m sure his employers would appreciate that. 

    Or maybe not so much.

    “The blog format on the site was in many ways an improvement, but I rather wish they’d put their content into several topical streams instead of jamming it all into one.”

    They actually do allow you to select, but that doesn’t help with any of the other criticisms above.

  11. I think I kind-of get the print vs. web issue.  I’ve been a subscriber of a number of different newspapers over the years and sometimes the columnists were the primary reason why I chose a particular paper to subscribe to. Newspaper columns provide personality and opinion and less dry commentary on news and entertainment than the regular articles.

    On a site like SciFi Wired that provides little “serious” reporting at all, it’s the columns where you find the more in-depth articles. While I personally enjoy the columns, I’m sure the SFW columnists didn’t get nearly as many visitors and backlinks as the “rate the hotness of SF babes”-type posts. And it’s the visitors that help provide the advertising revenue  – and if you are getting paid for people clicking on the ads, what you want are casual surfers, not people deeply interested in the subject matter of your site.

    So it’s not that surprising, even though I’m disappointed.

  12. I guess if written comments are passe, they can always integrate with some kind of paint program and display their info in drawings. Maybe comic books are better for their clientele?

  13. joshua corning // November 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm //

    Did Syfy just say that TV is new and hip and the Internet is old and square?

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