When I started my career in interactive media at one of Hollands first multimedia producers, I enrolled in the postacademic course ‘Economics and New Media’. The first lecture was by the then recently retired ceo of one of the world’s largest publishing houses. He blew my mind with his opening statement.
‘I’m a publisher and I don’t really care what is printed on the other side of my advertisements’.
That day in 1986, I learned a lot, besides the power of an opening statement. New at the game and naive, I was convinced that people would use any new medium, because it was there to use. Just because it was new, everything would change overnight. My own myopia blurred my view. I needed a giant wake up call. And I got one.
Publishing is an industry and, like in any industry, money has to be made.
The need to know publishing industry has changed quite a bit since 1986. Science was (and still is) big business: the same people that come up with the content for free, pay for it to read. It is a must have, a need to know and a must do (publish or perish & vanish). Professional info is needed to perform the service required and can & will be paid for by the client. But even these once very profitable businesses are under attack. There is too much. We suffer from infobesity. We are 24/7 under attack. We need to know everything in real time. Subscriptions will continue, but rates will slowly fall. New forms of filtering will have to be found. Publishers on top of their game will have to redefine their traditional role as a gatekeeper.
The nice to know publishing industry suffers from the avalanche of content as well, but is confronted with another, even more pressing problem. Advertisers are jumping ship. Advertising budgets are under pressure and shifting towards BTL. Will advertisers return? Is this business really cyclical, as most publishers still assume? Will magazines, newspapers, tv suffer from the migration to online and/or mobile? Is advertising a dead end street, as some futurists and business thinkers proclaim?
It is a Janus Head. We will have to look into the minds and souls of advertisers and viewers/readers/surfers/couch potatoes at the same time. And as always, look into the future and past.
Was Stewart Brand on target when he wrote (1995) : ‘Hindsight is better than Foresight’?