I’m broadening my media horizons and taking my passion for discussing and researching the evolution of the media and publishing industries over to True/Slant, where I will be regularly discussing and opining on current events and future revelations within the media and digital publishing industries.
And, if you’re so inclined, leave me a note or comment and let me know what you think of my new blog site. I’d appreciate your feedback.
In the meantime, thanks for reading. I hope to connect with you soon and continue our discussions about the evolution of media.
This Wednesday (October 14) I’ll be carrying to the Nieman Fellows at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard my message about print’s inevitable migration to digital multimedia, which still seems to many in the publishing business a quixotic notion. I find this very peculiar. After more than thirty years in magazine publishing, about a third of that time at the head of three national magazines whose balance sheets I had to know almost as well as I knew their individual personalities, I find it exceedingly difficult to understand why this migration isn’t happening faster.
Since the 1980s, with few exceptions, mass-circulation print periodicals have relied increasingly on advertising for support rather than circulation, which has become in many cases a loss leader: A rate base inflated by cheap subscriptions supported aggressive ad pricing, but circ income in many cases went negative, sometimes deeply into the red, thanks to the cost of paper, ink and distribution.
What digital migration requires are three basic changes from the print model, all of which should be delicious for editors and publishers to contemplate: 1) eliminate the cost of paper, ink and distribution; 2) charge much less for a subscription; and 3) vastly improve the editorial product through the addition of video, audio, Flash animation and infographics that move.
Please explain this to me: What’s not to like?
FLYP was one of five finalists at the National Arts Journalism Summit. This is a video made at the USC Annenberg Center for Multimedia Literacy and presented as part of the NAJP’s live web event.
This is how it starts.
Last week, 15 prominent German bloggers issued an “Internet Manifesto,” which got the Web so atwitter the Manifesto’s servers went down. Within the day, the statement was back up, this time translated into 13 languages.
For the most part, the Manifesto was pretty tame, not at all inflammatory, except when compared to the counter-revolutionary (royal, you might say) statement issued a couple of months before and endorsed by most of Europe’s most prominent publishers. The so-called “Hamburg Declaration” began with an accusation of theft:
Numerous providers are using the work of authors, publishers and broadcasters without paying for it …For this reason, we advocate strongly urgent improvements in the protection of intellectual property on the Internet.
In response, the Manifesto, while upholding the sanctity of copyright, asserted the responsibility that content creators have to encourage free and robust civic discourse. Even though its 17 principles were for the most part simple statements of fact (e.g., “#1: The Internet Is Different”), the Manifesto was taken to be a kind of declaration of independence for the new world of digital media.
The media must adapt their work methods to today’s technological reality instead of ignoring or challenging it. It is their duty to develop the best possible form of journalism based on the available technology.
Consider that statement for a moment: Adapting to reality is a media company’s duty. Well, yes—a duty to shareholders if no one else, and a supremely moderate position.
So was this: People should have a say in governing themselves. We know how that story ends.
In truth, we know how this one ends as well, or should. Media companies need to start actually adapting to—and embracing—the capabilities of the Internet, instead of punting, pretending and trying to protect themselves from it.
At the same time, both media companies and digital Jacobins need to stop trying to confuse what news-aggregation sites do with peer-to-peer-sharing, a/k/a piracy, so that authors, journalists and other content creators can continue to rely on being paid for the labors of their lives’ work.
Both the royalists and the Jacobins are demagoguing the issue of Internet freedom, but why should these journalistic precincts be immune from that sort of thing? If it’s good enough for Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck….
TIME’s story on Beck by David von Drehle this week may be more even-handed than some might wish (see the flaming tweets of NYU’s Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) on Twitter, for example), but no one could argue with Von Drehle’s statement about America in 2009:
Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar.
You cannot blame this fact on the Internet, as much of an enabler as it may be of loose talk and partisan screaming. When I was the editor of TIME, 15 years ago—when the world was still using 56k modems—Kurt Andersen did a cover story on Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. The cover showed them both shouting into a microphone, and the headline was “Voice of America”.
The Web did not do this to civic discourse. We did it to ourselves.
Next week: The need for a new public square
Below is a guest post I wrote for MediaBistro.com and FishbowlNY. It’s my vision of how the news would be broken by a major publisher that its entire operations – editorial, advertising, everything – would switch to a completely digital format. Let me know your thoughts below.
To: The Staff
From: Your Favorite MSM Conglomerate [leave a comment to vote]
Re: The Strongest Rumor You’ve Heard Yet
Date: September 10, 2010
Following on events in our industry with which you are familiar, we have today given notice to our printers, paper manufacturers, ink suppliers, newsstand wholesalers and subscription-fulfillment agencies, as well as the Newspaper Guild and the U.S. Postal Service, of our intent to become the first fully migrated print-to-digital publisher in America.
Once this transformation is complete, all of our brands will be multimedia titles, utilizing audio, video, animation and full-motion information graphics, brought together by a state-of-the-art platform and the most advanced design and communications software in the industry, which we have been developing off-site over the past eight months and about which you will learn more in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks to these innovations and the now virtually ubiquitous Digital Online NUmedia Tablet (DONUT®), all print publication will cease as of July 1, 2011.
Such a revolutionary step naturally raises many questions and issues, few of them easy. Although we anticipate no layoffs among either editorial or business staffs of our titles, production departments will have to master many new skills, and jobs in every department will require the adoption of new methods. Circulation departments will emphasize new analytic tools and social media techniques, for example. Ad staffs will shift their focus to rich-media and television advertising. Editorial staffs will clearly need to grow and change their current focus substantially in order to incorporate new media and software talent — videographers, animators, interactive and social media experts, programmers, integrators, etc.
The enormous savings that we will realize with digital publication will, however, cause grave dislocations among our partners in printing and distribution, and these will be as painful for them as they would be for us.
I will not dwell on the benefits of this step for the planet, except to say that this move will eliminate more than a million tons of carbon from the earthâ€™s atmosphere each year, radically reducing the company’s carbon footprint.
We undertake this initiative not so much in the interest of employees or shareholders, but rather, for the audience that has always been our most cherished customer, the American public. We live in a new world of media, one that offers far more and richer tools of communication than paper and ink. We fail in our purpose as a company if we fail to adapt to a world in which quotes that were words on a page can come alive with the body language of experts and villains, in which music stories can sing, film reviews can play, book reviews can speak, charts can incorporate movement and audio to convey their information more assertively.
We are story-tellers, and as such we need to master all the crafts and arts that are available to us. We expect all of our brands — in newspapers, magazines, books, textbooks and not least our properties already online — to be greatly invigorated and far more useful to their audiences as a result of this digital migration.
Since opening our doors in the early years of the last century, our ultimate ambition has been to enrich with great journalism that civic conversation which is fundamental to a robust democracy. It is in pursuit of the same goal that we are taking the steps we announce today.
This memo appeared originally at Fishbowl NY
FYI: I’m tweeting about the evolution of the media industry at @jamesrgaines