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August 31, 2004

FSP. exercise in narrowcasting

Posted by dogpossum on August 31, 2004 7:06 PM in the category

I'm working on another blog at the moment - it's called FSP and it's a guide to social swing dance in Melbourne.

This is my first attempt at 'serious' websiting. I'm using MT, as it's all I know, and it's actually quite useful. There are some things I wish this website had: a calendar for marking when gigs are on, for example. Or a template for a nice photo essay. But these things are beyond my technical know-how right now.
I know it’s got some lame bits: the design is pretty amateury, there are some broken code bits, etc etc. But as I’ve said, I’m just learning. And I don’t put any effort into seeking out new references and knowledge (I save that for my thesis). Except for this new site. It’s great.

But I’ve been getting quite a few hits on this freeswingpress. And I’ve really only done a tiny bit of promotion: two links on swingtalk ( this one and this one , plus a link in the links section of sweethotblue. I have just asked the tasswing people to put a link in their links page. Other than that, there’s only been word of mouth flogging this horse. In the last week I’ve had about 200 hits, which isn’t too shabby, considering how small the swing community in Australia is, overall. I’m just about to start a more aggressive promotional campaign: asking people in swing community in other states and countries to put fsp on their links pages, and there’s been requests for tshirts.
There’s one floating about that someone else did that has the site’s logo plus the words ‘swing socialist’ instead of ‘free swing press’. I kind of like this one as it’s a play on the site’s emphasis on social dancing, plus my own politics. The fact that it has the old address – is kind of interesting, as I’m known for my politics around town, and by my handle dogpossum.
There’s also been requests for business cards or flyers to promote the site in person.
I’m touched that people find it useful and want to promote. But that’s very swinger – plugging other people’s shit, because they understand how everyone benefits. Well, that’s very every swinger except swing patrol. They don’t seem to have grasped that concept. Interestingly enough, the swing patrol site doesn’t have a links page. Very un-community like, I reckon.

Meanwhile, the fsp site is going well. We’re on a separate server/domain now, so there’s some semblance of independence from dogpossum, but if you search on the fsp site you still get results from the dp site. That’s because there’s still a copy of the dp site on the server with the fsp one. Which I can’t delete yet as that’s where many of the photos are stored, as you can see if you look here. not so many, really, but still. It’s embarrassing.
Ah, dilemma! Will have to hassle The Squeeze about that one.

But it’s been nice working on fsp as it’s entirely practical: it has a function, unlike dogpossum. Which I do like, but really, it’s pretty useless. I’m still deciding about articles for fsp. I want to take it up a notch and maybe get into a bit of critical thinking/investigative journalism. But I dunno if I can be bothered with the fallout. I’m sure my hits would go up dramatically if I got gossipy. In fact, a gossip column would be a nice touch hmmmmm.

One of the nicest bits of fsp is thinking about it as an exercise in narrowcasting. Narrowcasting is a media studies term. In practice, narrowcasting is sort of the opposite of broadcasting. While broadcasting aims to secure the widest possible audience for a particular media form or text (let’s say television program or network), narrowcasting is more interested in smaller, niche markets. It’s generally a term used to describe minority media programs – like a Chinese language news program or a queer TV program. The audiences are smaller, but they tend to be quite loyal.

So when I imagine fsp as an example of narrowcasting, I think of it as a media form targeting a particular audience – swing dancers. But even more particular than that – people who are interested in swing dancing in Melbourne. I am working with an even narrower cast that that, really – people who’re interested in social swing dancing in Melbourne. Luckily there are a few thousand swing dancers in Melbourne, plus a fair few who visit every year.

I really think the site fills a gap in swing media in Australia: the schools focus on their own events and classes, the swing talk board is more a place for discussion and to-and-fro, so useful information is quite often hidden under the bulk of chitchat, plus the format’s a bit difficult to negotiate if you’re not used to discussion boards.

I also hope that the site – with its focus on social dancing – will encourage people to think of swing dance as a social dance, rather than the exclusive preserve of the schools. I use the title ‘free swing press’ because I wanted it to be an ‘independent swing media’ (as the subheading says), outside of the schools. I use the term ‘press’ because I want to draw allusions to the print media – newspapers. And therefore suggest that this is a site/medium devoted to swing ‘news’. There are all sorts of lovely ideological associations between ‘the news’ and ‘telling the truth’ or ‘revealing facts’ or ‘bringing information to people’ that I also like to hint at. Though I’m not pretending to do any of those things. If, coincidentally, I am actually putting people in touch with some useful information, then so be it. Huzzah.

I am also, sneakily, working on my own political agenda: in presenting a discursive space which values social dancing above all else I am (hopefully) encouraging people to revalue social dancing above classes and performances and competitions. Currently the focus-areas (and most-valued) aspects of swing patrol’s dancing agenda. It seems that shouting about it on swingtalk isn’t enough. Hopefully people will come across the site when they’re doing their first web searches for lindy hop and swing dance on the internet and that will shape their expectations of swing in Melbourne: that it is a social, street dance.

Plus I also want to present a medium where Melbourne’s swing bands are showcased. We have a very great many of them, and we’re very lucky. One of Melbourne’s One of Melbourne’s failings as a swing community, is its lack of attention to live music. I think it’s challenging for dancers to dance to live music, and something new for musicians. I also think it’s part of the heritage of the dance. One of my most favourite descriptions of jazz dance is that it’s music made visible. And that there has to be jazz in dance or dance in jazz, or it just don’t work.

I also think that getting out and dancing to live music is a way for the Melbourne swing community to heighten its profile in the wider community. Non-dancing music lovers may see the dancing and think ‘yeah, I’d like to get into that’. Bands will learn how to play for dancers – how to organise their sets: which songs to play in what order. Venues will think of customers as more than simply beer-swilling rabble though really, there’s much more benefit in a rabble of beer-swillers than there is in a floor full of dancers for venue management. Financially, if nothing else.

These all the things I’m thinking of when I edit fsp.
Those and the fact that I wanted a useful guide to social dancing in Melbourne that I could use, so I figured I might as well share it.

Posted by dogpossum on August 31, 2004 7:06 PM in the category