Is Microsoft Right About Magazines' Future?
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer predicted the near-death of traditional media this week. To Steve, traditional media is defined as anything not digital.
It is a doom-and-gloom scenario from Ballmer about our industry. But let's remember a few things about Steve and his rant. He is a digital guy. That is what he is, what he does and, most importantly, what he sells. So, to say that his opinion is skewed is an understatement. I don't agree with a lot of what he says, but my disagreement is measured in degrees.
Where he is right, or perhaps I should say, where he and I agree is that it is never going to be the way it was. I have said so for over a decade. I follow that thought with the idea that it is not going to be the way it is either. We are in a new age and we are running with new technologies. And that, my friends, is the problem. This new technology has not stopped growing and developing, and it has not stopped getting better at what it does.
This is not like any other time in history. It used to be that a new technology was developed and that was that. You could understand it quickly and create a good business plan for it. Gutenberg invented the press, and we printed that way and made good money for 600 years. Now, the technology has not and will not stop changing and morphing into something else.
So when I say the new technologies are a problem, my question is this: How can you figure out a good and profitable business plan if the platform you are developing won't stay static? How can develop an adjustable, far-seeing business plan?
This time period that we are now in is all about communication. Not only communication, but also communication to any individual taste on a global platform. In my lectures I have been calling it reaching out to the "universal niche."
Publishers need to stop waiting for things to get back to normal. It is not going to happen, and there is no longer a "normal." If there were, we would already have a sensible business plan by now. Normal now can only be reckoned in small timeframes of a month or a quarter, but perhaps not even a year. Normal is that there is no normal. That is the new rule around which to build your publishing empire.
There are still going to be plenty of profits and new information empires will continue to be launched. And, yes, I still think that we are headed into a new golden age of publishing and reading. However, it will have little resemblance to our empires of old.