A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of obtaining a free cup of ice cream, thanks to Yahoo! Inc., which celebrated the tenth anniversary of its founding by teaming up with Baskin-Robbins in a huge ice cream giveaway.
I, of course, had to smirk a bit, because DargonZine was on the net ten years before Yahoo!, having celebrated the 20th anniversary of our first issue several months ago. Since we’re twice as old as Yahoo!, perhaps we should give all our users *two* free ice creams! Of course, we can’t, because DargonZine doesn’t have the immense number of users that Yahoo! does.
It’s actually difficult for us to detemine how many readers we really have, despite the fact that a circulation number appears in the masthead of each issue. While we send out six or seven hundred copies of each issue, some people read the zine via the Web and never subscribe, and sometimes it’s difficult for us to separate search engine “crawlers” from real users. Other readers periodically download a bunch of issues from our ftp site.
Another reason why we don’t know how many people read DargonZine is our RSS feed. RSS is a way for publishers to announce new material to the world, and several people subscribe to our RSS feed, but not to DargonZine directly. Unfortunately, although we create and host our RSS feed, and although it is one of the most-requested files on our Web site, there’s simply no way for us to identify or even count the people who read it.
From a publisher’s standpoint, that’s a very annoying shortcoming of RSS, but on the other hand it reminds me of the early days of the Internet and Stewart Brand’s quote that “information wants to be free”. Once a story is published in DargonZine, it’s out there for the general public to view, and we’ve relinquished a certain degree of control over it: including — surprisingly — the ability to know who or how many people have looked at it!
Having said that, I want to state that we heartily encourage people to use our RSS feed. If you already read a customized list of weblogs, My Yahoo!, or use any other syndicated feed aggregator, subscribing to our feed is an easy way to be notified whenever new issues come out. A detailed description of how to use our RSS feed can be found on our Web site, at <http://www.dargonzine.org/rssfeed.shtml>.
Of course, if you don’t use a news reader, you can still get new issue announcements by email by signing up for a “notification-only” subscription. In fact, even if you do use a news reader, we encourage you to maintain a notification subscription, both because the email notices come out more quickly than the RSS notices, and because it helps us get a handle on how many readers we really have.
But upon this, our 20th anniversary, I’m afraid I can’t offer you any free ice cream. But maybe if you stick around for our 30th anniversary …
This is the third issue in our ongoing Black Idol story arc, and now that the background has been set, we’re ready to get into the meat of the storyline.
Having already printed Rich Durbin’s stories and the first chapter from Liam Donahue, we now transition to two different writers. This issue begins with Dave Fallon’s arc contibution: the first chapter of “The Lost Opportunity”, which introduces Dourgam Finn, one of the more desperate residents of the accursed town of Northern Hope. And I’m naturally satisfied to round out this issue with the first chapter in my own “Liberated Hope”, in which Northern Hope welcomes the wizard Anarr, whom you saw hired by the ambitious Parris Dargon in “Have You Ever Been to Northern Hope?”, in DargonZine 18-2.
I hope you enjoy both these stories, and that you will be looking forward to the continuation of them both in our next issue, DargonZine 18-4, which should appear in your mailboxes (or your RSS news readers) around the middle of May.