Publishing and distribution are concepts that are interwoven. There is a common assumption that distribution provides a type of aequitas amongst formats (i.e. In ancient Rome aequitas was used to refer to either the concept of fairness between individuals)—“the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed” to quote William Gibson—but this is a desire often imposed on the term. At its essence, distribution can be seen a ‘dispersion’ or a ‘dissemination’. ¶ Systems have been developed over the years to address the scatter-shot nature of this integral tool but are now regularly shown to be imperfect and slow to adapt to change. As much as there are well established networks of distribution, supported by specialists and circulation measurement tools, distribution is often shown to be an inexact science. ¶ This is particularly evident when it comes to physical product and distribution to the newsstand or newsagent. In the years leading up to the advent of the internet, magazine publishers had become enmeshed in a complex web of clauses and deals with distribution houses who had created bottlenecks between publishers and sellers—wielding influence over both. ¶ Digital means shifted emphasis away from large scale publishers, to be spread amongst a range of emergent magazine producers (helped by the development of a commune around said publishers). ¶ A raft of experiments in magazine distribution have also emerged. Print-on-demand services such as Lulu, Blurb and MagCloud embedded themselves online. The Stack magazine subscription service was launched in 2009 with the express purpose of tackling distribution issues within the area of independent and small scale publishing, opening up new networks and audiences for a range of titles previously ignored by ‘high street’ stockists. Peter Biľak’s ‘Works that Work’ magazine launched with a ‘Social Distribution’ model in which readers were encouraged to order extra copies at a discounted price to resell to friends and stockists. ¶ The recent wave of disruptive distribution, encouraged by the advent of online services, is not exclusive to print publishing. Netflix and The Pirate Bay have forged new routes from producer to public changing the way video entertainment is delivered. Apps and social media have dramatically altered both the way photos are shared and news media is perceived.
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