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Check Out New IPad Magazine 'Backstory': Long, Gorgeous and Deep

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 7, 2012 at 3:35PM

You've got to applaud the chutzpah of ex-Creative Screenwriting senior editor Jeff Goldsmith, who has plunked his life savings down on bimonthly iPad publishing experiment: "Backstory." The gorgeously mounted magazine champions scriptwriters by telling their behind-the-scenes stories. Airily designed for the iPad, which doesn't need to cram columns of print into a small space, "Backstory" is easy to read via free iPad app. The first double issue is still available for free, and starting this month with new issue Number Two, the newstand sale is $4.99. A year's subscription is $24.99. "It feels like an eBook on crack," says Goldsmith.
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Backstory Closetland

"There's no free floating file, you can't email scripts to friends, you can't print," explains Goldsmith. "A fanboy could type out every page, but I run a copyright notice on front page. It's the author's copyright, not mine. Anyone who violates hosting or publishing will get a cease and desist letter."

Goldsmith likes running unproduced scripts that might otherwise never see the light of day, accompanied by interviews. In the second issue, he runs Radha Bharadwaj's script for Universal/Imagine's 1991 drama "Closet Land," an admirable torture two-hander starring Madeline Stowe and Alan Rickman that few have ever seen. And it's hard to find on video, too. It was eventually turned into a stage play.

"Backstory" takes the opposite direction from short-form, opinionated blogs: "The economics of blogging is this swim or die mentality, you keep getting to the next story," he says. So Goldsmith runs what he likes to read: in-depth, reported, edited pieces with an average length of 1500-2000 words. A cover story can be 3000-4000 words. In short, "Backstory" is a big read.

And unlike many online start-ups, Goldsmith feels strongly about paying everyone--editors, writers, art directors, copy editors--within 30 days. He's doing a "paid content experiment to make this magazine," he says. "I want to pay everybody better than the average rate they get as bloggers." Using private funding and his own money, Goldsmith has bought into the "'if you built it, they will come' model," he says. "The only person not getting paid is me. As a society if we don't acknowledge sometimes that it's OK to pay for content, we're going to lose over time."

Goldsmith will continue his experiment for one year, until June 2013, hoping that the longtail model will also work to keep the archives active, like his iTunes podcasts. Phase Two: figuring out how to get advertising into the mix, and letting people know about the magazine, he says: "I'm ready to drop some serious coinage on publicity."

This article is related to: Media, Books, Stuck In Love, Richard Kelly, New Media & Technology, Apple


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