BoSacks: No B.S. : The New Rules for PublishingJanuary 2011 By Robert M. Sacks
What are the 'new rules' in a world where everyone, including grandma, can be a publisher and have a global following? What are the long-term consequences of trying to maintain our past business models in a completely changed environment? We were once comfortable experts in manufacturing and cloning millions of copies of a static product called a printed magazine. The print magazine was finished with specific regularity, and sometimes closed and put to bed two months before it got into the readers' happy hands. How do we, as publishers, compete with today's instantaneous information-distribution systems?
The interesting thing is that the importance of what we do as publishers hasn't changed; we are still journalists, chroniclers and storytellers. The writing and importance of our content hasn't changed, nor has the public's desire to know things, to be entertained and kept informed about their interests and business essentials.
Our business, really, has always been in a continuous state of transformation. Perhaps we were lulled into a false sense of security when Gutenberg invented movable type and nothing seemed to change for 600 years. Entrepreneurs looked at the accomplishment of the printing press and knew how to make money. They did so for half a millennium. Now, we seem to be confused and, perhaps as an industry, we have lost our edge. We believed we were invincible at the very pinnacle of information distribution. We were wrong.
Media (and publishing) is nothing more or less than information distribution. We are the product of 4.5 billion years of slow industrial evolution. The evolutionary process of communication has never stopped, and never will. Printing on paper has been really just a transitional process. It is not the climax of information distribution.
Today's technologic advances are so revolutionary and occurring at such an accelerated pace that I question whether we can truly understand and properly react to them. I expect that we are only at the very beginning of innovations and inventions that will proceed for generations at a speed far beyond our ability to understand, much less forecast.
Over the next 10 years, in the great publishing realignment, the magazine industry will experience many deep-rooted changes—going from a primarily print-oriented business to one where digital products will represent the largest share of a smaller periodical industry.
Recent mediaIDEAS research suggest that by 2014, the digital portion of the U.S. periodical industry will be worth approximately $8.5 billion—about 28 percent of the total market. By 2020, this will have increased to approximately $19.7 billion, or about 58 percent of total market share. During this period, an increasingly significant part of the industry's digital revenue will be associated with digital magazines distributed and read on an ever-expanding range of digital devices.
A report delivered a few weeks ago at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) projected that 48 million tablets would be sold in 2011, and 85 million by 2012. Combine that with the fact that 70 new iPad-like tablets were on display at the show, and you can conceptualize the smallest idea of what is happening. The iPad is not even a year old, and its form factor has rewritten the rules of the information highway.
More or less, your company's future and the rest of your career come down to attitude. You either believe that it is your job to figure out how to combat the plague of that damned intrusive Internet or, conversely, you are looking at all the amazing opportunities that exist to grow new portions of your franchises. For me, I see unlimited possibilities and opportunities for fun and profit in the ever-changing information distribution game. PE
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He also is co-founder of research company mediaIDEAS (MediaIdeas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web.
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