John Sargent’s statement and Tor.com: A pet peeve
April 18, 2012 | 1:12 am
So, perhaps this isn’t really very news-related, but it’s a pet peeve that’s been bothering me for the last few days: John Sargent’s statement on the DoJ agency pricing lawsuit. I’m not bothered so much by what he’s saying in it (though I think his prefacing it with “Dear authors, illustrators, and agents,” without a word for the consumer still shows just how out of touch he is with the people who ultimately buy his company’s books), but by its appearance in another context.
If you go to the blog Tor.com, the very first post you find on the front page, with a big yellow “sticky post” notice next to it, is “A Message from John Sargent” with that statement reprinted in full—with comments closed, and a link directing people to the original posting on Macmillan’s “Macmillan Speaks” official blog if they want to post their remarks. It has been there for days, meaning that it is the only post title people who visit the blog see “above the fold” (that is, the bottom of the screen) when they first hit the site. Plenty of new stories are added beneath it, and age downward and scroll off the bottom of the blog without ever having a chance to be featured as the top-of-the-page headline.
This is, of course, not the first time Tor.com has done this; it did something similar for his post defending his decision to impose agency pricing on Amazon in the first place, last year. But it was annoying then, and it’s still annoying now.
And this sort of post doesn’t even belong there! The people who run Tor.com have made it very clear (especially around the time of the great free e-books backlash) that they are not meant to be an official PR arm for Tor the publisher or its owner, Macmillan—they’re just building a community to boost Tor’s brand among Internet SF fans (and blog readers). While some short stories and novel excerpts get posted, most of the blog posts are reviews or other perspectives on various bits of pop culture. This blog isn’t meant for formal corporate communications, tablets passed down from on high—it’s for talking about things that are really neat and cool.
And yet Sargent’s post on the DoJ lawsuit sits there in pride of place at the top of the blog (just as its predecessor did last year), calling out to “authors, illustrators, and agents” on a blog read mostly by readers, consumers, and pop-culture fans. (I’m sure some “authors, illustrators, and agents” do read Tor.com, but they have to be in the minority, just because they’re in the minority in general and this is a generally-aimed blog.) Yes, it’s understandable that it should be posted to the blog, to age off the front page and into the archives the same as any other blog post—it’s news about Tor.com’s parent company, after all.
But what is there about that post that merits constant repeat exposure to the same people who read the blog day after day? Why should we have to scroll down past “A Message from John Sargent” every time we want to check out the latest Star Trek rewatch or an article on five screenplays surprisingly penned by famous novelists? Do the sort of people who want to read those articles even care about what Sargent has to say?
I’m probably making too big a deal out of it, but it’s been getting on my nerves. The post has been stickied for a few hours short of a whole week now. Maybe it will be gone by the time you read this. Either way, I’m glad that I mostly read the site by RSS, which doesn’t have this problem.