‘...why would anyone need different journals?’

Sözcükler

If millions of students in Turkey were offered cultural journals, it could transform the sector. But culture is threatened, not least by a crude desire to secure popularity, argues Turgay Fisekçi of “Sözcükler”. The result: sclerosis and, in the end, the same writers appearing in the same journals.

Financing European cultural journals

Like other types of cultural organization reliant on public funds, cultural journals throughout Europe have felt the impact of recession. In addition to funding cuts, journals are also having to negotiate the upheavals taking place in the print sector.

Through a European survey of financing for cultural journals, Eurozine takes stock of the situation of the network, in order to communicate its experiences internally and to others who hold a stake in European cultural policy today. [more]

Read the statements here:

Varlik, Turkey

Ord&Bild and Glänta, Sweden

Vikerkaar, Estonia

Wespennest, Austria

Sodobnost, Slovenia

Host, Czech Republic

Res Publica Nowa, Poland

Mute, UK

Intellectum, Greece

Blätter für deutsche und internationale Politik, Germany

Roughly speaking, what percentage of your budget currently comes from sales and what percentage from and advertising? How do you deal with economic difficulties? Are you widening your field of activities beyond strictly publishing? Are you exploring new business models, lobbying cultural decision-makers, or appealing to the public?

Advertising accounts for ten percent of the budget and the rest comes from sales. We don’t have any other income or funding. To deal with economic difficulties, I simply do everything myself.

While journals in Europe continue their existence largely with the help of public support, this is not the case in Turkey. What should be done in Turkey to secure public support for art and literature journals?

There are millions of students in Turkey. Just a small effort in making literary journals available to students could do enough to resolve the issue. Yet, not just public schools but even private schools claiming to offer a better education remain indifferent.

What is your distribution and sales strategy? How do you take your journal to its readers?

We work with Yay-Sat, the largest distributor in Turkey, which means that we can reach newsstands and chain bookstores. This also means that we pay the distributor more than the fixed cost of the journal itself, or half of our sales revenue, under the name of “advance distribution fee”.

Journals tend to extend their publication intervals due to economic difficulties. How does this impact a journal’s communication with its readers?

Sözcükler has been in print for almost eight years, and it as always been on sale on the first day of every other month. Starting the journal, I knew that I would have to do everything myself, so I made a schedule accordingly and we have followed it so far. There were no great fluctuations in number of readers; we have a loyal readership.

Do you have a website? How much of your content do you make accessible on it and what other uses does it serve? How do you make use of social media and what do you perceive to be its benefits?

We only post the contents on our website, and we have no social media activity. I think this is nothing more than hollow words.

Are you experiencing opportunities for synergy or co-operation between big and small media, or print and digital media, that previously did not exist?

Not really. Everyone is out to save their own skin, and even the culture and arts pages of newspapers never cover anything about journals. There is only Dogan Hizlan (columnist in and head of the literature section of the daily Hürriyet) who sometimes mentions interesting articles he comes across in journals.

How do changing readership habits brought on by digitization and Internet media effect circulation and sales? Is digitization bringing a change in the type of text that is submitted to your journal? Do you plan to adapt the journal’s content to changing readership preferences?

There is no established reading habit in Turkey, so change is irrelevant. We are a literary journal that prioritizes writing and content, and we will continue to be this way.

Are there political or literary polarizations between journals? If any, what should be the nature of contest between journals?

Journals should have heated debates on concepts of art and literature. This would help to keep the cultural sphere alive. But this is not the case here – debate turns into quarrel and bitterness. Informed people should be able to like somebody only because they find him worthy of discussion.

Do you think journals continue to be a school for aspiring writers and poets? In the past, writers and poets would usually publish their books after gaining acceptance by having their works published in journals; journals were stepping stones for young writers and poets, and would introduce important foreign writers to their readers before their books were translated. Has this situation changed? What is your opinion of writers who publish books after gaining popularity online?

Some young people see journals as schools, and they still serve the function of promoting new writers. It is great pleasure for me to read the early works of aspiring, young writers.

What responsibility does the bias and cultural inadequacy of mainstream media (daily newspapers and others) bring on journals? Are journals able to stand up to the task? What responsibilities do readers expect journals to undertake?

Journals are not much different from mainstream media in terms of gaining popularity, expanding influence and increasing sales. Cultural issues are a step behind. We live in an age where national culture and the human culture is being devastated, but we don’t come across any conferences on the “defence of culture”. Journals today are hardly anything more than a showcase for writers who want to become or remain popular. It is ridiculous that the same writers are in every journal. You are supposed to contribute to a journal because it shares your thoughts and attitudes. If the same writers are going to appear in all the magazines, why would anyone need different journals?

Published 29 March 2013
Original in Turkish
Translated by Sila Okur
First published by Varlik 2/2013 (Turkish version); Eurozine (English version)

Contributed by Varlik © Turgay Fisekçi / Varlik / Eurozine

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