I Salute You
Everyone on this list is involved in one way or another in the distribution of information. Some of us work for weeklies, some of us for monthlies, and some work on web sites and other dailies. Then there are the advertisers, the printers, the suppliers, and the industry infrastructure teams all working to assist publishers in getting our readers the information they need and want as quickly and as reasonably as possible. Our businesses may have different rhythms, different due dates, and different identities, but we are all involved in magically making some "thought" product appear for the use and enjoyment of someone else, somewhere on the planet. At the end of our efforts we hope our work is appreciated and valued and that our contributions will be needed once again in the near future.
The publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are still unexpected and unexplored. Think of how many companies that didn't exist ten years ago are now competing for the reading public's spare time, and are now outpacing traditional advertising models. Facebook, for example, is nine years old and has, it says, 1.11 billion people using the site each month, slightly more than the 1.06 billion reported three months earlier. That is a 23 percent growth from a year earlier. Instagram was created October 2010. It is said to have 150 million active users and is still growing rapidly. Pinterist, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post all now compete with us for the reader's time which was once ours alone.
Our industry is a bit battered, and understandably so with newsstand sales half of what they were five years ago and subs, on the whole, down 13% as well. But I assure you this is not a defeat; but rather, as the Wall Streeters say, a market correction. The old smoke and mirrors techniques of our industry are being blown away and what is left will be by the choice of the public and very sustainable. As 2014 draws to a close, while some still predict the death of print, I see mostly brightness and excitement for our evolving information industry, if we only look in the right places.
The sensible way to look at this is that new technologies have given us expanded markets of information distribution unheard of a generation ago. Though this outreach and process is growing exponentially, some of our profits and methodologies haven't been able to keep up with the new technologies, and the new distribution systems. The habits of the reading public are still in flux. Some of us clearly need new business models. Fear not -- we are inventing them all the time.
The truth is that we cannot be conquered, because the distribution of information is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Writers will write and publishers will distribute that writing to a willing public on the substrate of the reader's choice. And, as new and necessary changes continue to occur, publishing will manifest itself and grow in positive ways we can't yet imagine. All we need do is distribute something of intrinsic value to the public. If that true intrinsic value is our goal, it might be easier than we think.
As we all prepare to move into 2014, this is a perfect and natural time for us to take a moment or two for reflection and review and for evaluating the current and future possibilities of our professional and personal lives. I hope we can look back with pride on what we have accomplished in the past, and then hold our heads high as we look forward into an unknown future. We are, as a group and as a business, indispensable. As professional information providers we are the glue that holds society together. We provide the mortar we know as knowledge, and we make it available to all.
Let me suggest that I believe our industry can and will, not only survive, but thrive and prosper as never before.
For decades at this time of year I have shared one of my favorite Christmas poems with this readership. The title is I Salute You.
My 21st century interpretation of this 16th century poem, which was offered from one friend to another, is that once in a while we have stand above the fluctuating industry or personal commotion and take a historical look at the real circumstances. A look at history proves that wars come and then they go; that economic downturns have happened before and will happen again. They appear when least expected and retreat with the same regularity. We know that the winter is cold only to be followed by the joy and beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is our love of family and friends. That being said, I send my warmest greetings to you all with a big hug and the hope that you are surrounded by the love of your family and friends.
Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work too hard and forget the reasons for our energetic professional pursuits. I learned many years ago that I was "working to live, not living to work." I think sometimes we have a habit of forgetting that. Work is a means to keep a safe roof over our heads, food on the table, and to help facilitate the comfort and joy of our family and friends.
In the end, the real truth of life is our ability to love and the sharing of that love is the only thing of real or long-lasting meaning.
I SALUTE YOU
There is nothing I can give which you have not;
but there is much that, while I can not give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
No peace lies in the future, which is not somewhere hidden in this present instant.
The sometime gloom of the world is but a shadow;
Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
And so, at this holiday time, I greet you,
With the prayer that for you, now and forever
The days break with peace,
and all shadows flee from your path.
A salutation written to a friend in 1513