From the Editor: Putting Paranoia in Perspective
I often agree with Bob Sacks, our longtime columnist, and a friend and mentor. (He is much older than me, you know.) But after reading his column in this issue, "Paranoia in Publishing" (page 42), I felt the need to address a few things.
I understand the fear he talks about—last year especially, it was virtually tangible. Budgets were being sliced and diced, layoffs were occurring seemingly weekly, and talented, brilliant publishing executives were standing in unemployment lines or working unrelated jobs to pay the bills. I am not about to say that we are on the road to a swift recovery (although revenue for many is on the rise, and many companies have begun lifting hiring freezes and issuing raises).
That is not to say the fear is gone. I know many executives who still question whether their jobs will be here in a year or whether they should leave publishing altogether. But beyond those people, I encounter more, like myself, who believe that within this industry evolution—or, as some have called it, revolution—also lies opportunity.
New publications still are being launched. According to a blog by Samir Husni, aka "Mr. Magazine," more magazines were launched in January (56) than in any year since 2007— and almost double that of a year ago. "So here you have it," Husni notes, "a recap of the first month of the second decade of the 21st century showing no signs of cold, death or any frozen [ink]-on-paper experience." As far as year-to-year comparisons, Husni says 747 titles were launched in 2009, more than 2008 (685) and 2007 (713).
Custom publishing is on the rise as well. According to a press release announcing results of a Custom Publishing Council (CPC) study in December 2009, 2009 spending was double that of 2008—its highest level since the survey was launched in 2003. "Total spending on branded content was over $1.8 million per company," the release stated, "with 51 percent spent on print publications, 27 percent on Internet media, and 22 percent on categories such as video or audio."
Digital content sites are cropping up daily. Are they competition for many traditional print publishers? Yes. Are they also opportunities for those of us with careers in publishing? Yes.
Does this opportunity require that publishers, sales staffs, editors, and even company presidents reinvent themselves? As Sarah Palin would say, "You betcha." Digital is growing, and print—while still carrying the bulk of the revenue load for most companies—is on the decline; the shifting balance can't be ignored. But as Tom Cintarino, executive vice president of digital media for Northstar Travel Media says in the Corner Office interview (page 16), "The transformation of staff certainly is an ongoing process, but it's not one that you want to flip the switch on [too quickly to digital]. It just would not make business sense." The challenge is to find that balance, and adjust resources and your own skills as the balance shifts.
What about all the magazines shuttered last year? Magazines die every year, but it makes sense that more would suffer deaths in one of the worst recessions in our history. Add to that the Internet's impact on media consumption and marketing, and publishers floundering around with online strategies, and you've got a situation on your hands. But it does not spell the end of publishing or our careers.
Bob Sacks writes, "It is very clear that what we do as an industry is vitally important and, in whatever form it finally manifests itself … after a short pause of serious introspection, we will be back on track to growth and grandeur"—and with that, I agree. But he also writes, "We as a group will definitely survive, but we as individuals haven't a clue whether that survival will include us."
That's where I disagree. Those of us who are taking steps to adapt to industry shifts will have a place, whether at multiplatform publishing companies, custom publishers, corporate publishing, digital-only media, whatever. Why wouldn't we? We know how to build and engage audiences, and unite marketers with those audiences. The changes around us are what threaten our positions, and to those, we must adapt.
As Sheila Robinson, founder and publisher of Diversity Woman says in the cover story (page 22), "Anyone in the market at this time with print-only will not survive." The same holds true for executives who want to continue their careers in this industry. If like most of us, the goal is to serve your audiences with great content and advertising value, no matter the medium, as Sacks says, "We as a group will definitely survive."