A Retrospective of Publishing Fraud Old and New
I am in Berlin, Germany attending one of my favorite publishing events, FIPP’s Digital Innovators Summit which starts Monday, March 20th. It is a cross-planet collection of modernizers trying to make sense and profit from the still evolving phenomenon we once called publishing. If you ever get the chance I recommend it.
As I sit here Sunday night in The Arcotel John F Berlin, my hotel for the next few days, I am reflecting on our businesses. There once was a time when there were rules and an established pecking order. If you were in TV, radio, or print, you knew the process and the possibilities of your profession. Each method of communication had pluses and minuses, boundaries and well-trodden logical pathways to reach the consumer and make a profit in the process. One might also say there was relative business stability.
What makes the current state of affairs so different is the evaporation of boundaries, rules, and stability. There is little distinction between TV, publishing, and radio because they are all streamed.
Print is obviously not streamed, and that is its problem. It is stuck in an old style world of rules and boundaries while connected, digitized communications are completely free range. For many the nostalgic rules of print are deemed a blessing and satisfying in their permanency, but the old rules also limit print’s value to the vagaries of young, inexperienced media buyers and a distracted pubic.
This new ‘freedom’ from order has its problems too, most notably fraud in the grandest of proportions. But if we are honest, the world — and print media too — has always dealt with fraud. We don’t like to admit it, but it is part of the capitalist process. In print there were always inflated circulation numbers and pass-along rates that were laughable, but usually expressed and accepted with a straight face. We all smiled, winked, and accepted it as one of the on-going rules. It wasn’t perceived as fraud but rather more of an exaggeration of reported events.
Now that we are in the digital space race, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the need to scam is still present. It is nothing new except for the grandness of the enterprise. I believe we are talking of fraud in the billions. With all of print’s shenanigans in the past, it never achieved “success” like that. It’s a wonder to me that the industry has enough slack to absorb billions of wasted dollars. If you can waist billions and not seem to care, then the actual real-time profits must be enormous for the fraud to continue.
But I digress. I started to talk about the Digital Innovators Summit. The reason I am fascinated by this event and come here each year is the global outreach. Here professionals from all over the world gather to share their latest successes, technologies, and theories about the business of communicating for a profit. Large companies and small, big countries and smaller geopolitical areas are represented, and each has a unique story to tell.
Starting in a day or two after absorbing the information I gather here, I hope to present to you an outline of the newest ideas and technologies under development in our still embryonic communications businesses.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.