Our good friends Nic + Ben from Bowerbird are taking their architecture media platform to the world! North America to be precise but it's a brilliant concept and I'm sure this will just be the first stop on the way to world domination. They've THANKED US for our support and I'd like to reciprocate the thanks. Bowerbird is the design media shake-up all architects needed. As Bowerbird points out:
Publication is crucial to the 99% of architects who have to establish themselves without fat cat patrons or the deep establishment connections required to push work into the office. The old print media gatekeepers decided who would or wouldn't be published and therefore whether we existed in the eyes of the public. In the new online universe, they're dying or struggling for breath and relevance - the gate is wide open.
By cutting out the middle man [insert name of your favourite media gatekeeper], Bowerbird has changed the architectural publication game. The single thing I admire most is how sharply they have seen what we, architects, have so stupidly not seen - and that is, how valuable our work is. In the Bowerbird universe it's the work that commands attention. Publications are not doing us a favour by publishing our work, we're allowing them the privilege of featuring our work. The bottle neck / speed bump of magazine editors, media agents or other fluffers who had previously held our work hostage to their taste and favour, no longer control media access. And they've had to go to the back of the queue.
Today, architectural projects are not published but broadcast. First, on "fast" media in blogs, e-mags, websites and social media streams, leaping around the world many times over before, eventually, being picked up by traditional print magazines and newspapers, TV and, very eventually, books.
And before we indulge the hoary old chestnut of hardcopy "reality"/permanence vs online media transience, just think how hard it is to remove information from the web. So many have tried. So many have failed. The stuff just doesn't go away even - or maybe especially - when you want it to. Ask any journo and they'll tell you that article from say, 2011 is still kicking around but good luck finding the actual newspaper clipping outside the white-gloved confines of the State Library. Online content can be more permanent than the "real thing" and its accessibility is vastly superior. All that also ignores the single most jaw-dropping and unique aspect of online media, its spectacular reach.
Designboom, for example, bills itself as "the world's first and most popular digital architecture and design magazine" and boasts a gargantuan readership of over a million followers each on its key social media streams on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram plus over 450,000 subscribers to its daily or weekly newsletter. It publishes relentlessly and posts anywhere from 10 to 25 articles a day. It has a voracious appetite to feed so it's always begging for content. And who makes that content?
Not magazine editors. Not PR agents. Us. Apps like Bowerbird prise the keys from the dead fingers of the middleman and return our power to release our work into the world. Yes it is wild out there but we can find our own audiences and they can find us. Our hands are on the steering wheel.
Not that I know where we’re going… but that’s a question for another time.
If you're an architect or design journo and you don't know what Bowerbird is, do yourselves a favour and check it out HERE.
PS: It’s not all beer and skittles. Yes, lazy re-publishing of unadulterated architect's blurb is rife. Yes, short attention spans privilege spectacular hero images over meaningful content. And sadly, yes, deep collateral damage has been done to serious architectural critique and discourse but that’s another question for another time.