A Publisher’s Secret Weapon
What good is a balloon with no air to fill it? What good is a rocket without the fuel to propel it? Of course, they are no good at all. They all have interesting potential, but that is all.
The same holds true for the Internet. The Internet is nothing but a tool. You can’t hold it or see it, at least not without the secret weapon that publishers have. It is, for all intents and purposes, as empty or as dumb as a rock.
What do people do on the Internet? They can basically do one of three things: They can hear, they can see, and they can read. All the Internet really does is act as the freight train for information. It is strictly a vehicle for the distribution of electrons. There is nothing else that the Internet does.
It is publishers who possess the secret weapon that give the Internet its appeal. It is publishers who use this oft-forgotten secret weapon who will prosper in the coming Internet wars. But let’s call the secret weapon by its other not-so-secret name. It is content that will rule the freight trains and fill the cars with information distilled down to electrons for global distribution.
The publisher is empowered to place that content on paper with ink, on the Internet with pixels, or beamed to a PDA, cell phone, or even a sheet of e-paper by wireless connection. The delivery method is and should be totally irrelevant to both the publisher and the consumer. With the only possible exception that electronic information distribution is by far the fastest and least expensive.
Now, each consumer has a different reading comfort level. That is OK, we can deliver exactly what they want, when and how they want it. The most important thing to remember is that successful publishers have exactly what the public wants. Content, in the multivaried form of facts, fiction and gossip, all distilled down to one word—information. That is what the Internet is all about. Getting information. Everything else that is going on is a distraction or a subset of getting information.
And at the end of the day, what is it that publishers have in abundance? Information. The better the information, the more the public will be willing to pay for it.
So we have nothing to fear as an industry, for we are content. The rest is simply a matter of having good information to charge for and the mundane task of distributing it.
THE SECRET TO GREAT CONTENT
That being said, the trick is to have the unique and specific content that readers must have. The only way to achieve that is with great editors and writers.
This, my friends, is often overlooked by bean counters and bottom-line publishers. Any publishing house can get hack writers or dispassionate editors. They can, and they do. That is the clear path to diminishing readers and diminishing returns, especially in this era of content glut.
But the smart publisher that invests in great edit is planting seeds into the Ethernet that will sprout readers clamoring for more, willing to pay the piper for the jewels of addictive content.
Giving the editor the power to get the brightest minds and set up an infrastructure of intriguing, addictive, thoughtful wordmanship—that is investing. Giving the editor the support of a competent staff—that is investing. Creating a tangible atmosphere in the industry that you are the very best, the most knowledgeable, most articulate, most visionary publishers—that is investing.
There is no known cure for addictive content. And the only way to get it is to have great editors and really compelling writers. In the content delivery world, there is no substitute. I leave you all with this question (and let’s be honest): How addictive is your content?
Bob Sacks is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group (www.BoSacks.com). He is publisher and editor of a daily, international industry e-newsletter, “Heard on the Web.” Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, cameraman and corporate janitor.
Don’t miss BoSacks at the PrintMedia/Publishing Executive Conference & Expo in New York. Bob Sacks will be moderating the opening session, “Magazine Publishing: The New Business Model,” on Monday, March 20. Visit www.PubXpo.com for more information, or check out the preliminary program polybagged with this issue.