Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Key to Publishing's Survival

The Key to Publishing's Survival
Bob Sacks

The key to survival in the near and far future is for everyone in the publishing business to embrace everything digital. That doesn't mean you should stop printing magazines, but it does mean that if you aren't comfortable in the digital world you won't/can't survive. It is that simple.

All publishing leaders must jump in with both feet, learn the new languages, join Facebook, have at least 3 e-mail addresses, and get a Twitter page. If your kids speak the digital language and you don't, how can you possibly lead your flagship publication or publishing association into the new world? The answer clearly is that you cannot. If you are fearful of the Web's Second Life or worse, don't know what that is, then you can't have one.

To survive you must embrace digital technology like there's no tomorrow, because if you don't, there won't be. No one should be spared this digital education. Let me repeat that so we are on the same page: No one can be spared this digital education. That includes everyone from the mail room to the executive boards. I mean the leadership of MPA to the ABC. I am including the membership of the PBAA, GCA, PIA and the AARP. If you can't upload a video file and are not subscribed to several RSS feeds, you should be fired. If you can't convert a word docx file to a PDF, you are history. If you can't do the voodoo, you sure as hell shouldn't/can't manage those that do.

The rate of change in digital technologies is accelerating at an inhuman pace. If you don’t use it and aren't comfortable living in it, you can’t understand the importance of adapting your flagship for the times ahead, and you won’t be able to stay on the curve, let alone ahead of it.

I have recently come to believe that too much of our leadership is either incapable or too fearful to understand the true future of publishing. I think that we have limitless opportunities before us - the chance to reach more people and more advertisers instantly and more efficiently than ever before.

It is ok to love and respect our past and yet be prepared for the prosperous adventures ahead of us in the new world. There are 4 billion people connected to the web right now. That number will only grow. This should make any publisher salivate with here-to-fore undreamt of possibilities.

The question is who is going to lead you there. The old adage has never been truer: lead, follow or get out of the way. You have no other option