Is there a difference between a content company and a technology company? The answer to that question is becoming increasingly difficult to answer. In the recent past, publishers were by and large content companies. Today, with the blending of multiple content distribution formats, magazine media companies have forged new business alliances and discovered new types of competitors, blurring the lines between magazine companies and technology companies.
Robert M. Sacks
One can make the argument that big data fine tunes engagement and gives the people what they want, sometimes before they themselves realize that it is what they wanted. We all love the convenience of being able to find the things we want easily. But have we participated innocently and unknowingly in a worrisome intrusion of our private lives?
Do you ever wonder if the publishing industry has learned enough in the last five years to be more effective and more profitable in the next five years? Of course, effective is a relative term and very much a moving target. And some publishing houses have prospered, while others decidedly have not. Nevertheless, it's reasonable to ponder where the publishing industry will be in five years. Or to look at that time frame somewhat differently, where will the publishing industry be 10 years after the introduction of the iPad
I think the magazine business, now called by some the magazine media business, has a branding problem. Is defining the brand of the magazine industry even possible in this day and age given we are no longer beholden to a single deliverable substrate and deliver our product in hundreds of ways? Are we branding ourselves as trusted information providers? If so, what distinguishes us from a billion web sites?
The future of our industry and our ability to make an honest living is digital. The only real question on that subject is when the watershed moment of digital supremacy will arrive. I think that when we look back at the end of 2014 we will see that that moment is happening now.
Is totality really the only effective way to look at the industry? Are we actually one big company and it's sink or swim together, or are there thousands of separate companies and titles that have their own hidden successes as well as some failures? Clearly when looked upon as a single unit, the trend is-well, the best you can say-not great. But hidden in the mix are wonderful examples that break from the trend and are outstanding when viewed as singular success stories.
A book that I read a few years ago has been popping back into and around my head lately, as I continue my pursuit of the future of reading and the future of our publishing business. The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt, is a great read for anyone, but especially for those in our business who like words and reading (in other words, all of us!).
Last week I discussed the opening session of the PBAA -MPA meeting in Philadelphia. My reactions were mostly confined to the uber-presidents of the publishers' panel and I dropped some hints of what I will talk about today. The rest of this dialog will be about my reaction to the state of the union of the magazine retail channel as expressed in two days of listening and observing.
In a very real sense our industry is grappling simultaneously with its near and far future, both of which have alternate possibilities that seem to transform every day. I would further comment that our near future may be somewhat different from our far future.
A wise friend in the know suggested to me that the new acquisition by Meredith of the Bonnier titles should be placed in the publishing consolidation file and not the death of print file, and I totally agree. There is way too much focus these days on the death of print, which isn't actually happening, and not enough focus on the normal logic and long-term business sensibilities of success.
Last week I had the privilege of attending what was called an executive sustainability summit in the Hearst tower. I went into this meeting thinking that I pretty much understood the important parts of sustainability in relationship to the publishing industry.
Yesterday, Barry Diller made an interesting comment when he said , "I wish I hadn't bought Newsweek, It was a mistake." It seems Mr. Diller does not yet understand that it is the value of the content provided to the public and not the perceived value of the property that makes one publication survive and thrive
As publishers, we have an interesting and increasingly complex relationship with technology. Till the end of the twentieth century, it was our best friend, but now as technology moves forward, it sometimes seems to threaten us as if it was our worst enemy.
There is an article circulating the net called 'Out of Print' Doc Examines The End of Print Books and What It Portends that presents some thoughts about the “destructive” nature of the digital invasion into the lives of our children. I do question the veracity of the subject, although I hear much of the same when I travel and give lectures on the future of reading.
Last week, The MPA held a digitally focused media conference called Swipe 2.0. Mary Berner, the MPA president, opened the meeting with her usual contagious verve and enthusiasm. Her foundation statement for the day was, “Why it’s a great time to be in magazine media.”