Just under five years ago this quote appeared in a news release: “Publishing has a vital role to play in business-to-business media, and media in general – Spencer Green, GDS International”. Two years ago I started to have second thoughts about its relevance to my company, and last year we decided to close our publishing division – but I stand by that first quote.
I love publishing, I loved being a publisher – sending a magazine to print had a real, physical effect on our editorial and design staff, and the glue-y smell of the newly bound sent me back to school with my first highlighter.
In pure business terms, of course, things have changed for publishing across the board. Few of us reacted quickly enough to the advent of the Internet and social media, or knew this expectation that content should be free would be so widely and deeply held, so quickly. (This article sets out the current turmoil in the UK’s lifestyle publishing sector, and you can draw simple parallels to most developed markets).
That’s not why we stopped publishing (I covered that in an earlier blog). For my company, GDS International nee GDS Publishing, we changed to reflect our clients’ needs and the magazines didn’t fit.
So why do I stand by that first quote? Publishing is in transition, not decomposition.
That anyone can blog or tweet means the standards need to be higher. Read the comments section at the bottom of any online paper and you’ll see journalists and writers being called out on their research. This isn’t negative: readers want their chosen brand to be right.
Bad writing can no longer hide behind a brand – so the brands will get better. I think there will be a rise in classic apprenticeships: sit a junior with a senior. Invest in training again, because proper skill combined with reach and knowledge is a devastating competitive advantage.
Some brands won’t improve and they will disappear. Others will rise. This is healthy.
This move towards opinion and rhetoric (together with the culling of the BBC, in the UK at least) is a huge opportunity for news. Make genuine statements of fact and then link off, if you must, so we can nod along with our chosen political spectrum’s view.
Will the tablet save magazines and papers? Maybe – but there’s a big upfront cost and, to be honest, most of the papers I see are in the front of builders’ vans, pushed in with a lunchbox.
Can Murdoch’s powerhouse make tablets happen? He’s had a bigger impact on behaviour before.
Publishing is great. The costs are a bastard. Competition is furious and everywhere. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. As my French twin would say.