- by Barney Davey
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss – We Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who
Usually when you see those lyrics, you expect a bit of cynicism to follow, which would not be surprising, the song carries much of that sentiment. In this case, however, let’s hope the lyrics can by literally applied.
An announcement on the site came a few days ago that Wet Canvas has a new owner. F+W Publications, a huge media company with books and magazine titles in lots of fields, including the art patch where it publishes The Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Magic and Pastel Journal, is the buyer. It also owns the North Light Book Club for artists. I was honored to have my book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market, included in its Spring catalog last year and pleased to have a reorder for it late last year.
I’ve mentioned Wet Canvas here before as the largest artist community on the Web. It serves primarily as a forum with dozens of discussions on everything to do with art. The site boasts more than 108,000 members who have collectively posted a staggering 5.8 million posts. I sometimes participate there mostly in the General Art Business or Internet Sales Strategies discussions.
WC has passionate people who make the time to help their fellow artists. Some of the threads get heated when a topic gets differing opinions, which only makes them better and more fun to read. And, if someone is off topic, or not making a positive contribution, they will be told about it. What you have is a free-wheeling, self-policing site that serves a terrific useful purpose.
From my personal experience, F+W Publications runs a top drawer operation. The editorial quality of its products with which I am familiar is excellent. The art magazines are staffed with professional writers who are passionate about their subject matter. It shows in the articles and features that reach its readers.
It is my sincere wish for the well-being of the industry and for the WC community the new owners realize the glue that holds the site together is the passion and contributions made by those who take the time to post regularly with helpful information. And, that the site works so well because it has been unfettered with a bottom line mentality or a micro manage attitude from its previous owners.
This is not to say the site is being fully utilized or couldn’t stand to be upgraded. I’ve spent some time looking around at it and was baffled by advertising rate cards that were obviously years old. There were other signs of neglect on the site as well. Not that things didn’t work, that was never a problem. More like indications that it was just being left alone to its own devices rather than being actively managed. As one who spent most of my life working in media and realizing what a wonderful asset WC is to the artist community, it caused me some concern because those observations give the impression of a lack of involvement from the ownership. And, that can lead to the demise of a any media property.
So, from my perspective, I welcome the new owners of WC with open arms. I hope it is not overrun with those who wish to make it into an advertising vehicle with censored content. I’m not implying it will, but at the same time I realize new owners have an agenda which includes wringing new revenue out of newly acquired properties. I’m sure it’s no different with WC and F+W Publications.
Kerri Eustice, the former owner, who I do not personally know had a very benign approach to operating WC. Let’s hope her successors take the same approach to the site and work to keep it is the treasure it is for the artist community. When one looks at any other board for artists on the Web, none compare in scope to WC by any measure. A great deal of its success has been the trust its community members have in the way WC operated. It will be trickier for a large media company to maintain that homespun, freewheelin’ feeling that has fueled WC’s growth over the years. All the best to the new owners and the community for great things to come.