A Report from SXSW on The Future of Publishing
Capturing the public's sustained attention is hard, and it's only going to become more difficult as the available reading platforms continue to grow, morph, and evolve. Relative newcomers like Buzzfeed and Gawker and many others have done something that traditional companies find extremely difficult. They are adjusting their business plans and offerings on the fly and successfully. They are changing their strategies and moving along with the changing habits of the public.
The problem for publishers is that digital disruption is still disrupting. This disruption isn't shackled just to the technological advances happening at an unprecedented rate, nor is it solely about the adaptive skill sets needed in a fluid business climate. It's about the confusing effects on our businesses when the general public continues to follow ever-newer reading platforms. The new apps, startups, and discussions at SXSW all show that our readers will have ever increasing and truly innovative paths to reading and information.
If there was one over-riding observation from SXSW it would be that the world is clearly moving at an accelerated pace towards global, ubiquitous connectivity. These capabilities will continue to expand our abilities to connect, collaborate, create, and consume media on an unprecedented scale. The media transformation we've experienced to date is just the harbinger of even more communications possibilities and opportunities. There is plenty of room for failure, but there is also room for enormous revenue possibilities. Though there are billions of readers online today, there are billions more who will be coming online during the next decade. I believe this can radically change the dynamics of the revenue pool in which magazine media swims and makes its living.
The lesson for the magazine media business I took from the show is to disrupt or be disrupted. Those are the only two options.