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Publishers (are) Perishing

December 21st, 2009 · No Comments

BLUF  (Bottom Line Up Front) All forms of publishing are dying, not just music and newspapers, but books, and magazines too.  The reason?  They can't compete with free.

Andy Warhol said "In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes"

There is an ongoing discussion of the future of publishers and content creators on the Internet.  This argument revolves around the death of newspapers, the tremendous decline of advertising print, the slower but still inevitable death of magazines, and the declining revenues of all businesses in the line of creating content.  The music industry merely forecast what is happening in the video, and print industries because it was the first industry to fall victim to the new technologies. 

I think it's valuable to look at why the music industry fell first to understand the decline and fall of print and video.  Music fell first because by and large music is the domain of the young.  The young generally don't have as much money to spend as older people, and they also are more likely to adopt new technologies.  And music is also more important to young people in general than it is to older people (yes there are certainly exceptions.)  I believe that for these reasons, the younger population caused the death of the music industry by quickly adopting, iPods, and stealing songs via MP3's.  They stole because music is more important to them, and they didn't have enough money to buy it.  This killed the music industry as it had existed for the previous 50+ years.

Why did the music industry die?  Because they couldn't compete with free.  When you can get the song from a friend for free, and are willing to expend the effort and time to do that, you don't spend money.

Now, what is killing print?  The same kinds of pressures, they can't compete with free.  Why would I spend money looking at a book, newspaper or magazine, when I can get the same info from 1000 other sites for free?

One of the arguments publishers use in their defense is that they create better work than many of the "amateurs".  However, I don't think that argument holds water because when you simply compare the volume of work being created every day, some of it is bound to be good, and some will be great.  The challenge comes not in creating the good, or great work, but in finding it among the all of the average and poor work out there.  That's not a job for a publisher, it's a job for a search engine.

A second argument is that some new technology, ebooks, iReader, Vooks (video enhanced books), etc will save the publishing business.  The main business of publishing, regardless of the topic: book, magazine, newspaper,etc, is that they are in the business of making things out of paper and shipping them to their customers.  Electronic distribution is almost infinitely cheaper than that.  Therefore, why would I buy a book when I can buy the ebook?  (echos of why by the CD when I can buy the MP3.)

Another argument I've heard is that people are willing to pay a premium for good stuff.  The example is that fine restaurants can make a living, and people can certainly buy food cheaper, therefore they'll pay for premium content.  The fallacy of this argument is that fine restaurants as a portion of the restaurant business, and as a portion of the food business are minuscule.  So yes, you may find someone willing, once a quarter to pay the price to read your words.  But not every day.  Also see Wired Magazine's article on "The Good Enough Revolution" which also undermines this argument and several of the previous arguments as well.

And finally the nail in the coffin of the concept of publishing is Chris Anderson's book Free which is available for free online at Scribd.  Along with 1000's of other titles.

What will save publishing?  Nothing.  The business is dead just like Kodak and Xerox, surpassed by better technology.  On the bright side, we may make a dent in global warming with the passing of the newspaper and magazines.

The title of this blog post periphrases "Publish or Perish" a phrase given to academics and scientists as career advice.  If you failed to get some of your ideas published on a regular basis then your career could perish as a result.

Recently Andy's phrase has been updated to "in the future everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes" because the future is here.  At least in how it relates to this idea.


TOMORROW: What will take the place of Newspapers and Magazines?

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Tags: Reasons For Net Marketing

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