MediaIDEAS Co-Founder Speaks About Today’s Publishing Challenges and Tomorrow’s Technology
As reported in last week’s Publishing Executive Inbox, publishers looking for advice and analysis in today’s continually evolving industry now have an additional resource at their disposal as a result of the launch of mediaIDEAS, a global consultancy specializing in the effects of technology on magazine publishing. Inbox spoke with one of the company’s founders, Bob Sacks, about the reasons behind the company’s launch, the ways in which it aims to assist publishers, and the future of the printed magazine.
INBOX: How do you know mediaIDEAS co-founders Nick Hampshire and David Renard, and what was the basis for the three of you getting together to launch the consultancy?
BOB SACKS: David Renard, Nick Hampshire and I were professionally aware of each other for many years. But it wasn’t until David asked us to contribute to a book he was going to publish called “The Last Magazine” that we started to truly collaborate. By collaborate, I mean twice weekly hours-long morning conference calls, across the globe for almost two years. No matter where we were, Paris, Mexico City, New York, London, Arizona, Disney World, the technology—in this case a combination of the Internet and Skype—was there and available. The dialog and idea-breeding was super-infectious and inspiring, and it was clear that we were onto something special.
INBOX: What type of research and analysis are you providing to magazine publishers?
SACKS: Our main research is focused on where technology meets publishing. We believe that publishers will need to invest far more in technology to remain competitive and to help sustain our industries’ future profitable pathways. We help publishers and the companies that service them in this process through our analysis of vendors, solutions and business models and our actionable advice. After all, what is the use of advice if it doesn’t contain specific actions and a compass to be guided by?
INBOX: What is your hope for the company both short and long term?
SACKS: It seems to me and many others we have interviewed that there seems to be a lack of resources in this industry to support publishers in their quest to remain relevant. We hear a lot of doom, but nothing constructive to guide publishers towards sustainable success. This is what we want to offer. Over time, we will be organizing technology and publishing conferences, with the same focus, where publishers can experience the available solutions and options, and discuss those coming quickly around the corner.
INBOX: What is the question you are hearing asked most frequently by publishers today?
SACKS: The main question I hear is “What will a magazine become?” which brings me full-circle to the release of our first Th(ink) Note, “What exactly is a magazine?” (http://www.media-ideas.net).
INBOX: You’ve been known to frequently tout the potential of e-paper. When do you see it becoming a mainstream method of distribution for publishers, and have there been any recent developments you view as significant?
SACKS: Yes, I believe that e-paper will be the next trigger mechanism that will complete the first digital information revolution that we have been experiencing for the last 12 years. After the successful introduction of inexpensive, wifi-connected, commercial e-paper, publishing technological growth won’t end there, but it will most likely plateau for a short period.
The most recent developments of some forms of e-paper [are] that they will use print-derived manufacturing technologies, such as ink jet printing and screen printing, which will allow these displays to be produced cheaply and in very large volume [with a] projected global production of 500 million units per annum in 2015 [and] a unit price of less than $50.
Currently, there is a program offered by Les Echos, a French financial newspaper, that allows a new subscriber to receive an Irex Iliad (a current e-paper device) with wifi connectivity, from which all stories are fed wirelessly throughout the day.
This is just the beginning of a process that has no end. I just had a conversation with a renowned publishing futurist and the topic of the conversation was ionizing the air in front of a reader to present a 3-D holographic display created on the molecules before us. The prediction was 10 to 15 years. So hold on to this thought. With all the new technologies that I am aware of, they still do one thing. They distribute words, written and edited by people. And that should be a comfortable concept for any publisher.