Sunday, February 14, 2010

Poetry and Social Media

With the advent of the Internet, many speculated that print magazines would lose readership and have to transition to a digital format in order to survive. But the emergence of social media offers new opportunities for growth. An effective social media strategy allows a print magazine to enhance the visibility of their product, retain current readership, and reach a wider audience. The social media strategy of The Poetry Foundation and its publication Poetry is a perfect example.

Poetry is one of the most prestigious poetry publications in the United States. The magazine was established in 1912 by Harriet Monroe and has featured many of the country’s greatest poets: Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, among others. The magazine is published by The Poetry Foundation and prints poetry by leading and emerging poets, literary criticism, and book reviews. The Poetry Foundation's mission is to "discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience."

The foundation and magazine have made full use of social media and the Internet in order to fulfill their mission. The foundation maintains an official website and a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They also publish an email newsletter and provide an RSS feed.

Main Website
Poetry Foundation is the portal for all the resources of the foundation and the magazine Poetry. The site is a treasure trove of poetry and literary criticism, articles, news, and reviews. A user could spend hours reading the material and not come close to seeing all that the site has to offer. There are two interactive features that are of special note: the Poetry Tool and the Interactive Poetry Lab. The Poetry Tool allows users to search for poetry and criticism by category, occasion, poet, and title, among other listings. The Poetry Learning Lab displays individual poems, each with writing ideas, discussion questions, teaching tips, audio, and a poem guide. The lab is a good resource for teachers and students of poetry. Interactive features are a worthwhile investment as they keep users on the site for a longer period of time and also gives them another reason to return. The foundation also provides poetry podcasts and a poetry blog complete with user comments.

The foundation keeps users up-to-date with news from the world of poetry and publishes articles by leading poets and critics, audio and video, and reviews of new books of poetry. The content is updated frequently and the news is updated daily. Articles can be shared by Email or on
Digg, Google, MySpace, Live, Facebook, StumbleUpon, and Twitter via the toolbar found at the bottom of the entry.

Poetry's section of the website
offers the latest print issue digitally almost in its entirety along with an archive of issues back to 1987 and an index of all prior issues. Users can also view submission guidelines and learn how to subscribe to the magazine.

The Poetry Foundation & Poetry maintain a strong presence o
n Facebook via a fan page. The page currently has 5,247 fans. While most fan pages are mere placeholders with little original content, Poetry’s page is updated daily with poetry and literary news and notes. For example, there are already 33 postings in the first two weeks of February alone. In the info section, the mission of the Poetry Foundation is stated as an attempt to create “a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture.” The fan page reflects this aggressive approach. The page also includes photos of old magazine covers and fan photos, videos, and links to Poem Talk (poetry podcasts) via a music player.

Poetry maintains a Twitter page too
. The page has 3,830 followers and is updated daily. Most of the tweets are links to poems posted on the main site. The foundation also maintains Poetry News on Twitter . The page has 4,204 followers and is updated every few days with poetry news from around the web.

Poetry Foundation's Channel on YouTube offers 37 videos of animated poems. 140 people have subscribed to the channel but the videos are at least 10 months old. This was the only segment of the foundation's social media plan that was not up-to-date.

RSS Feed -

The Poetry Foundation is effectively using social media to achieve their mission to “"discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience." While Poetry (the print version) is the central part of their strategy, the online component complements the magazine and increase its visibility.


  1. Michael, is there any way of knowing the amount of overlap between the printed magazine subscribers and the Facebook fans and Twitter followers?

    I looked at Ode magazine this week, and wondered the same question: are the social networks actually growing their readerships or simply reaching their subscribers in new ways?

  2. This post is really encouraging. As a writer, I've often found it difficult to reconcile the rapid decline of print publications and the massive increase of online magazines and blogs. I used to think the hurdle was not to compromise the high standards found in traditional print by "lowering" oneself to online media. I totally missed the big picture. My perspective was far from accurate. While writing online may be a new art form, it doesn't mean standards have to be lowered or that content declines in substance. And that's what the Poetry Foundation is showing us.

    Some of us writers desperately try to hold on to the nostalgic styles of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Steinbeck, but weren't they trendsetters in the book business? When Sylvia Plath wrote the Bell Jar, was she not praised for exposing her characters by making them deal with issues people weren't yet discussing openly? So we must be trendsetters today. Social media doesn't mean we close the doors of literary magazines. Instead, we find a way to utilize social media to propel content to the inboxes and RSS feeds of every reader.

    It looks like the Poetry Foundation is changing with the times (excuse the cliche). The only way to stay afloat in a shifting market is to shift with it.

  3. Michael, your post was good news. I have long maintained that online publishing has its place. And that place is to augment print publication rather than replace it. With so many literary journals
    electing to shift to strictly online publication, it is good to see that Poetry Magazine and the Poetry Foundation are trying to do it right.

  4. @ Montyne: I'm not sure if it's possible to determine the overlap without manually reviewing each list and comparing. However, users may not always have the same user name so it probably wouldn't be helpful.

    I would like to think that social media is doing both: finding new readers/subscribers and providing additional content to those already reading/subscribed.

    @ Raymond: I agree too about online publishing having its place. I would think especially so for poetry. It would be sad to see print version of literary publications fade away completely but hopefully using social media can help keep them in print by bringing in new readers and retaining current readership through the added value provided by the online content.

  5. What I like about what The Poetry Foundation is doing is, as other have said, that they are augmenting and not replacing the print magazine. In doing so, The Poetry Foundation is able to accomplish their mission even more than they could ever do with a printed magazine. The added podcasts of animated poetry and the two-way conversations that can take place about the poems could not be without the internet.

    I would even argue that, by adding the section for teachers and students, they are going above and beyond their mission. They are not only "celebrat[ing] the best poetry and ...plac[ing] it before the largest possible audience;" they are also teaching a new generation in a way their print magazine would not be able to accomplish.

    Their way of looking at social media shows their passion for what they're trying to accomplish. I'm a fan.

  6. As a budding poet, I was very interested in reading about Poetry Magazine's social media strategy. I echo the sentiments that Poetry Magazine is doing it right by augmenting their print publications with online content.

    As you mentioned, many print magazines are now going online exclusively to save money. There's an interesting article written by David Alpaugh that examines the potential effects that social media will have on the art of poetry: