Big Thinkers Discuss Publishing Industry
I've recently started to avidly listen to podcasts and came across an interesting discussion of the publishing industry in an unlikely place, and wanted to share it. Not a huge sports fan myself, a friend turned me on to sports writer Bill Simmons' The B.S. Report.
One particular podcast immediately grabbed my attention: it features statistics wunderkind Nate Silver and best-selling author and social commentator Malcolm Gladwell. Those two alone discussing patio furniture would probably be interesting, but I was delighted to hear the conversation mostly followed the state of the publishing industry.
I encourage you to take a listen here, but following are a few highlights I took from the conversation:
Publishing Power Shift
After becoming a shining star political analyst during the 2012 presidential elections, Silver decided to leave The New York Times, taking his FiveThirtyEight brand with him to ESPN. Silver's dramatic rise to media power-player illustrates a recent trend in publishing, which Jack Shafer aptly analyzes in his piece, Journalism's new Marquee Brothers. Simmons, Gladwell, and Silver go on to discuss how Silver's move signifies the shift in power from publishing organizations to individuals, spurred in part by metrics now available on who drives value and who doesn't.
Industry in Decline
What Silver is doing is considered a "new kind of journalism" based on statistical analysis empowered by big data. And he admits that leaving The New York Times was in part because "it's constrained a lot from a business model standpoint."
The conversation then turns fittingly to how an aging industry can respond to new things. The ever-eloquent Gladwell puts it this way: "The paradox of industries in decline is that they get more conservative not less conservative. You'd think the opposite would be true, right? You'd think if everything is crashing around you, you would scramble and be most open to new ideas and most willing to try things. The weird thing is, you look at actual case studies of companies or industries in decline, how often the opposite happens, they almost double down and become more reluctant to change."
Rigid Old School vs. Fluid New School
Gladwell, who worked in newspaper for 10 years, speaks about how rigidly organized newspapers have traditionally been about subject areas. If you write sports you write sports, if you write for politics, that's it and you defend your turf. The web has shot that idea out the window. "The inability of newspapers to adapt to the fluidity of modern thinking and pop culture, I think that's their biggest problem."
The group goes on to discuss media consolidation and fragmentation, Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post and the hubris with which Silicon Valley often approaches new industries-for better and worse.
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.