Monday, January 05, 2009

BoSacks Speaks Out: The Terrible Burden of Destiny

BoSacks Speaks Out: The Terrible Burden of Destiny
6 guidelines publishers need to consider while pondering their futures.
By Bob Sacks

As we move forward in this economic recession, it is important to remember that while some processes may be slowed, others will continue to fling us forward and create both unexpected opportunities and, depending on your perspective, unfortunate struggles to simply survive. We are faced with, some might say, "the terrible burden of a digital destiny." As an industry, we will adjust and adapt to the conditions at hand, not necessarily because we want to, but because we must.

The following is a series of guidelines or propositions that we must be aware of and be prepared to deal with as we move forward.

1. Advancements by the digital universe will never retreat, and will only improve and become more ubiquitous.
Digital publishing will continue to become a stronger platform that is easier and easier to use. The print-only world has not been able to hold its own, nor will it be able to do so against such formidable odds. If you can't accept this as a truthful premise, you will continue to struggle with your own destiny.

2. Our competition has been totally redefined.
While our publishing competitors used to be easy to identify, today almost any company, group or individual can become a future competitor. New technologies empower this and enable it to be done anywhere on the planet. There is a new and increasingly lower threshold of entry, which means new competitors are in abundance. They can come from anywhere and will come from well below the radar screen. They will be online, global, fast-moving and smart.

3. Content remains important.
A critical concept to understand is that content is more important than the delivery vehicle. This is a new concept for publishers rooted in tree fibers. The digital delivery of news, information, instruction or fiction has just as much validity as pulp-delivered products, and in many cases it has more creditability-the creditability to be timely and immediately fact-checked for accuracy.

4. New revenue models are required.
The new technologies of information distribution offer endless options to reach a world full of future customers. The shipping cost to reach this global market is exactly the same as it is to reach the girl next door. This empowers a style of publishing that I call "universal niche"-an idea, concept or hobby enjoyed by a few on a global basis. Basically, the scale of the available readership redefines small as big.

5. Our audience will increasingly demand to be treated as individuals.
Despite the growing trend of individualism in society, mass media continues to offer the same message to everybody while new media opportunities have the power to offer individual content based on our uniqueness rather than our sameness. This concept combines very nicely with the power of citizen journalism. The "screenager" generation wants to be involved and take part in news reporting. They have grown into a generation that has the ability to be in touch with each other immediately at earlier and earlier ages. This from-birth experience is fostering a new generation of readers who are naturally adept with technology and comfortable with having virtual access to friends, family and the world at large.

6. Advertisers will demand accountability more than ever.
Advertisers increasingly want to reach their customers directly. They want a one-to-one relationship that heretofore was not possible.

Today, that kind of science is not only possible, but perhaps mandatory as a part of doing business. Simply put, digital media offers improved measures of success. Digital publishing has an increasingly important advantage of being able to measure the impact of advertisements, clicks, transactions, etc. As the economy goes through the current parabolic curve of dipping south, flattening out and then starting the climb to profitability again, publishers need to adapt to the inherent changes before them.

Will publishing survive? Definitively yes. Will it survive with the old-school business models of our fathers? Categorically no. Every aspect of publishing has to be reevaluated and reexamined against the digital criteria outlined above and be reconstituted as an advanced publishing formula for the 21st century. It is never going to be the way it was, and sure as the sky is blue, it is not going to be the way it is. Your future is in your hands.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (, and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.