KSJ Tracker September 5, 2012

The future of Discover mag's blogs

For those of you who have been wondering, as I have, about the future of Discover magazine's distinguished blog network, the early word is: Nothing will change.

That's what the publisher, Kalmbach Publishing Co., is telling the staff. As I reported here in mid-August, Kalmbach executives told editor Corey Powell that they "like the magazine as it is, and the intention is to keep the magazine intact." The same message has been sent to the bloggers, who include the distinguished writers and scientists Sean Carroll, Carl Zimmer, Ed Yong, Phil Plait, and others. But the publisher has not provided a lot of detail.

"We weren't told anything ahead of time, and not much since. But what we were told is that the blogs are expected to go on more or less exactly as before," Carroll told me in an email. "I personally don't have any dramatic plans to change things, but as always we'll have to see how things go."

The success of Discover's blog network seems to be largely due to Amos Zeeberg, the Discover blog honcho, whose proper title is managing editor-online. "Amos Zeeberg and (web producer) Gemma Shusterman have overseen the Discover web site ever since I moved my blog there, and they've done a wonderful job," Zimmer said in an email. "They knew how to make a blog network work--how to support bloggers with technology and ideas, while never trying to interfere with our experiments."

Zeeberg confirmed to me that he will not be moving to Kalmbach's headquarters in Waukesha, Wisc., and so will be leaving Discover. 

"I deeply regret losing Amos as our friendly neighbourhood overlord," Yong said in an email. "He's been fantastic about providing encouragement, promotion, speedy support, and general camaraderie - a combination not easily replaced." 

 Zeeberg said he expects to be training his successor, but he doesn't yet know who that will be. Despite the disruption to the staff--nearly all of the editorial staff will be replaced--he emailed that he expects the Discover blog network to continue in good health. "I expect the bloggers to remain. I'm consistently amazed and entertained by the Discover Blogs and very proud to have had a role in putting the network together." He said Kalmbach has told him that the website and the blogs should continue largely as they are, with a web redesign due around the time Discover decamps for Waukesha at the end of the year.

So far, there seems to be no mad dash for the exits. The question is whether Zeeberg's successor can maintain the same kind of benign despotic rule over an impressive and unruly band of bloggers. 

-Paul Raeburn




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