BoSacks Speaks Out: What is a Publisher?
Here are a few rhetorical questions for you. How do you define publishing? Wait—let me adjust that question just a little. What is a publisher? It seems to me that as we are reinventing our industry some old world definitions need to be reviewed.
Some time ago there used to be silly debates as to what a magazine was. Some pundits writing in Publishing Executive magazine stated that if it wasn't printed on paper, it wasn't a magazine. I have to assume that we are over that line of thought by now. The major print players have put that to rest with, for example, Conde Nast pulling in $800,000 in digital subscriptions in 2012 for, get ready for this, digital magazines. It won't be me that tells David Carey that those new dollars don't come from a magazine.
But what I'm interested in is this—do we draw the line anywhere with the term publisher? Does anyone who distributes words on any substrate get to be called a publisher? Radio doesn't call themselves publishers. Is that because their words are audio only? TV doesn't call themselves publishers. Is that because they only distribute moving pictures and sounds? Does every website have the right to call itself a publisher?
I told you that these were rhetorical questions, but I'm just wondering—what is a publisher?
One more thought on this topic. When I go to publishing conferences, and I go to many, no one is talking about printing, paper or distribution. The word magazine is rarely expressed even if it is called a magazine conference. All the talk is about digital. The bulk of our revenue is still from print, but nobody wishes to talk about that aspect of publishing. What does that tell us?
Editor's Note: Share your thoughts below and read more about this from Bo in the April issue of Publishing Executive—out soon!