AM: I think the thing is, it is crazy to print, if you have to pay up front. You need this chunk of capital to send it to a printer, and then you have to try to make it all up on sales on the back end. But MagCloud and other print-on-demand programs are changing the way those economics work. For us, that’s the only thing that enables us to do it.
On the other hand, you get no scaling effects. Normally, if you print more, the per copy price drops, which doesn’t happen for us—the thousandth copy costs the same as the first—and second, we can’t use them as promotional tools. Every single copy of our magazine costs money, so we can’t just give them out or leave them in a pile somewhere. So that really changes how we approach promoting the magazine.
LK: What did you learn through this process about promotion and publicity? It seems like you got a fair amount of press coverage, and I know that you got submissions just by spreading the word over email lists and Twitter….
AM: Yeah, I like to say that MagCloud makes this possible, and Twitter makes it work. Online, we have a lot of diffuse social networks, and Twitter tends to encourage those relationships, it creates all these interactions between people who are interested in the same things but don’t know each other. It allows us to get the word out quickly and in real time, which is important because we’re working fast.
LK: From the outside, this project seemed to take on a life of its own—it looked really effortless, the way you were able to so quickly get so many people to submit and volunteer their time. Was it?
AM: We’re just sort of raising our hands to see if lightning continues to strike. I don’t really know why that happened, but now that it has, I think it’s a sustainable thing. I think people who got into media and journalism did it because they love words, they love stories, and they want to reveal truth about the world and package it so people can understand it. Often in our jobs, we can forget that, because we have to, you know, talk to the IT guy [laughs]. With Longshot, you only have forty-eight hours, and you just have to go make something good. It taps into the most fundamental reasons that we went into journalism, but it’s very pure, because there’s no structure, none of the stuff that gets in the way.
LK: Whenever I have to write something really quickly, I always wonder if it would have been better if I had had more time, or if instead, it actually benefited from the urgency of writing on deadline. How do you think the fast turnaround for contributions affects the submissions you get?
AM: There are definitely cons to only giving people twenty-four hours, but yes, I think there are also pros. Essentially, every other moment of your life is an opportunity to write without a deadline. Of course people don’t take advantage of that nearly enough as they could, to just write whatever they wanted, whenever. Maybe there’s a value to having an arbitrary deadline, and to having an arbitrary deadline that everyone else also has—that adds to the fun of it, that so many people have skin in the game, and there’s this “event” happening. We like to say about Longshot, “It’s is an event that is also a magazine.” (The other possible tag line we’ve been kicking around is “This is a magazine made out of Internet.”)
LK: How many submissions did you get for this issue?
AM: We got about 500 submissions. That number was actually down from last time, but that’s largely because this time we strongly discouraged fiction and poetry.
LK: That’ll do it.
AM: Yeah, definitely. Last time we got roughly 1,000 fiction and poetry submissions, and most of those got wiped out right away. So this time it actually felt like there were more things that we could use, because they were more in the vein of what we were doing.