It’s time for change in the publishing industry.
There could not be a better time for change in the publishing industry. On the eve of new leadership for America, magazine publishers need to pull their collective heads out of their asses and stop hacking away at the quality of products they produce (and the spirit of those that produce them) and start leading this industry in a new direction.
After announcing a restructuring of their magazines and a staff cuts Anne Moore CEO of Time Inc. told publishers at a circulation conference that Time Inc.’s decision to reorganize had “nothing to do with digital and one hundred percent to do with the recession” (here).
Really Anne? Yes, advertisers are leaving because of the recession but they are also leaving because the product you produce no longer works for them, because there are new and exciting opportunities online and because you keep hacking away at the staff, frequency, page count, trim size and contributors until what’s left is not worth what you are charging. Was it ever worth what you charged them? You’ve certainly made millions off advertising to your readers but I think we’re about to find out if that was a fair deal for everyone.
This AdAge article (here) presents two scenarios for the next five years. Either, top tier magazines that somehow find a way to survive will reap huge returns when the recession ends or advertisers that are leaving now will never come back again. Without a doubt I know all the publishers are betting the former and I think they are all completely wrong.
There are two monumental changes in our industry:
1. The balance of power has gone to the consumers, contributors and even *gasp* your employees who can create, distribute and use content online practically for free.
2. The web allows you to save millions of dollars in creation and distribution costs.
Yet, I feel like many people in publishing think they’re not monumental. If a magazine is anything it’s a very expensive and complicated way to package and deliver content. Suddenly this takes zero effort and publishers are all standing around scratching their heads screaming how will we make money off this.
The changeover to the digital use and distribution of your content is going to be a mess, a complete mess, but without significant investment from existing publishers you will see your market share dwindle and eventually disappear completely. There’s nothing wrong with this really, it happens when the market changes and companies don’t see that hairpin turn in the road and just drive straight off the cliff. I’m sure there are many who will not be one bit sad to see the demise of a few publishers out there who don’t treat their employees or contributors very well.
Here are my 5 easy steps to making the transition to a new media economy:
1. Plow all of your profits back into the your company. Then get into the savings account an grab some of the profits from the 90’s when you were getting obscenely rich off your advertisers and plow some of that back into the product. Use it to make mistakes.
2. Gather all the employees you were about to fire because they don’t fit in so well with your organization or because they are too green to have mastered traditional publishing and give them promotions. Put them in charge. Gather all the people you’ve trained to say no to change and yes to whatever you say is good and fire them (ok I know this will mean there is nobody left in accounting and IT so keep a few of them around but maybe go for the junior ones).
3. Now, add staff and make everyone spend half the day doing traditional print work and half the day working on the online thing (it’s not a magazine). Make sure they try lots of crazy ideas and make lots of mistakes.
4. Invest in your contributors. You spend a tiny fraction of your production costs on the contributors yet the product without them is worthless. If you don’t start building some loyalty with your content creators they will leave you when a better deal comes along.
5. Photography is the key. Figure out how to use it. Video online is TV. We already know that works. Text online is, well, it’s great to read at a certain length but you know, it’s always going to work better printed. Photography is the perfect medium for communication online.
Change or die. It’s up to you.