The Event Guide leaves the streets
It’s a story we’ll be hearing again and again in 2009: another print publication deciding that enough is enough and heading for the online hills. Following on from the news that relative newcomer State magazine is to become an online-only …
It’s a story we’ll be hearing again and again in 2009: another print publication deciding that enough is enough and heading for the online hills. Following on from the news that relative newcomer State magazine is to become an online-only title, veteran freebie listings mag the Event Guide (nee Dublin Event Guide) is also to cease print publication in favour of an online existence. Yep, it was a bad January for print.
For me, the news is particularly sad because I spent a couple of great years working for that title. I made some great friends and, most importantly of all, learned the ropes of how to write about music and everything else. I started out writing for them around about 1990 when editor Conor Owens got me in to write a column which was half-interview and half-food review. I remember going for a boxty with Ride (they had very little to say), afternoon tea with Smiley Bolger (naturally, Smiley didn’t shut up) and a burger with Hazel O’Connor (which resulted in the worst bout of food poisoning ever). It was the start of many, many different adventures. I didn’t write about food again, though. Or Hazel O’Connor, come to think of it.
The Event Guide was a great training house for new writers and there are a huge number of journalists who found out how to dodge deadlines with elan while working for the magazine. I’m not going to attempt to compile a list of former Event Guide writers for fear of leaving someone out and offending them, but suffice to say you probably read at least half-a-dozen people every week who learned their craft writing for such editors as the late, great Conor Owens or Michael Byrne or Kieran Owens during the paper’s long print run.
When you wrote for the Event Guide, you quickly discovered the importance of the magazine to the cultural ecosystem of the city. Like the imminient disappearance of Road Records, it’s the title’s connection to what was happening around it and its role as a chronicler of that energy which will be most missed. The paper’s various bases over the years (especially its lodgings on Dame Street, in the Ormond Multimedia Centre and on Eustace Street) were portals for all kinds of weirdos, wannabes and wiseguys to get news and views across to a readership which was as keen as mustard to find out what was going on.
During the pre-interweb age, when you went to blogs to foot turf and The Irish Times devoted just one broadsheet page a week apiece to movies and music, the Event Guide was one of the very few outlets providing the city with news, reviews and listings. Every single big city worldwide has an alternative, independent, unique voice in the form of its local listings paper where the cheap ink leaps off the page with opinions and views. For many years, the Event Guide proudly carried that banner in Dublin.
But that was then and such an unique selling point no longer exists. Consumption habits have changed and content providers now have to cut their cloth to suit that transformation. There are a huge plethora of online and offline outlets providing more news, views and listings than you could ever read about Dublin and Ireland. National newspapers which once went nowhere near popular culture now have dedicated weekly supplements about music, movies and going out. You’ll find the information you need about culture and entertainment online long before it hits the streets on a sheet of paper. Althought it was probably the credit crunch and advertising collapse of the last few months which did for the title in the end, the Event Guide also just ran out of road because the game had changed.
Not that it will be a picnic online. It’s stating the bleeding obvious to say that online is a completely different medium to print, yet many titles have failed to build their online presence in tandem with their print readership because they think that one will follow the other. Like so many mags who have moved to concentrate on their online presence only after the rug was pulled on the print side, the Event Guide will find things difficult in this regard. While the magazine has had a website for many years, it never assigned the same resources or attention to it that an online-only competitor like Entertainment.ie could afford to do. Many of the sites with which it will now be competing for readers and advertising have been online for many years and have already built up sizeable audiences for their wares. Furthermore, many existing readers saw the Event Guide simply as that print magazine they picked up every fortnight when they were at the cinema or in a cafe – they’ve already got other online appointments-to-read and won’t be going there.
But like so many of my peers, the ones who spent their years working to make sure the Guide made it to the printers on time, I do hope the title bucks that trend and flourishes online. I hope it will continue to be there to give elbow-room to people who have a passion and an enthusiasm about music or film or theatre or art and who are determined to get their voice across. Most of all, I hope it will continue to be the place where new journalists go to get their name in bold type.