Monday, January 4, 2010

Find Your Place in the Great Search Society

BoSacks - The Profit Prophet

The sea change in how we seek information presents challenges and opportunities for publishers

By Robert M. Sacks

Over the past 15 years or so, I have become a genius. I know that sounds brash, but the thing is, so have you. In fact, everyone's a genius these days. It is no longer important to just know facts; it is more important to be able to find facts. That is a definite sea change for society and especially for the information distribution business formally known 
as publishing.

With the push of just a few keys on any computer, you can find out anything you need to know on any subject at any time. The next generation is already comfortable with this new reality, having grown up in the "great search society." They have the ability to settle arguments, finish projects, or complete any task or chore with an efficiency and speed unheard of a few years ago. You want to build a jumbo 747 airliner in your spare time in your backyard? There's an app for that.

Unfortunately, this concept of "instant information" is growing faster than any business, including publishing, can adapt. And if you can't adapt to it, how can you monetize it?

If you think about it, magazines, especially niche magazines, were the focused apps of yesteryear. They were the 
system-specific resources for information on subjects that were near and dear to you. For me it was, and still is, the how-to titles—Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and PC Magazine, to name a few. I still enjoy perusing these titles for the thrill of focused, personal information discovery.

While the natures of the editor and writer remain the same, the key for them to remain functionally lucrative today will rely upon their ability to join the still evolving "great search society" infrastructure.

It will be important to isolate and monetize the various components of the "great search society." In which part of this process do we (publishers) belong, and which part, if any, are we willing to allow someone else to monetize?

What we do now is different and much more complex than ever before. Our core may be the same, but the ways in which we perform our magic have been completely 
altered forever.

If you've been in the publishing business for any length of time, you remember the old adage, "It's Christmas in July," which meant that in July you already were working on the Christmas issue. But today, of what use is information that is several months old? Unless it is fiction, the older the information, the less value it has, especially to the "great search society" of today and tomorrow. We need to turn our old and successful apps (niche magazines) into modern products for the current technologic age in which we live.

Today's consumer wants to find what he wants, when he wants it. For old-style publishers, this is a new concept, but for the adventurous publishing entrepreneur, it has unlimited possibilities. There will be a number of ways to monetize this desire for instant, informational gratification—the public has already been programmed to pay for access to desired entertainment and informational services. All the publisher needs to do is provide unique and worthwhile content, any way and anywhere the reader wants it. That should be both your mission and your mantra.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.comOpens in a new window). He also is the co-founder of the research company mediaIDEAS (MediaIdeas.netOpens in a new window), and publisher and editor of a daily, international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator, and every other job this industry has to offer.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Profit Prophet : The Organized Chaos Theory

Publishing’s systems are under tremendous stress, but we have been given a brief period of time to adjust to the new media order.
By Robert M. Sacks

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of Bob Garfield's 5-year-old book, "The Chaos Scenario," in which he explained that various converging forces will doom mass media and mass marketing. Garfield argued that the style of old media will continue to be under stress and that this stress will change what we, as producers and users, have grown accustomed to expect from our media.

Garfield once said, "It would mean radical changes in the economy, the culture and the society itself. And they wouldn't be easy to swallow. And, by the way, it's happening right now. We are heading, all of us, into a historically turbulent moment in the history of media, with the very real risk of disruption on a mass scale."

Upon a review of his statement five years later, I think Garfield was correct. Applying his theory directly to our own print publishing industry, I think it is time to consider that what we are still confronted with is, at best, organized chaos. I say "organized" because we have been greatly privileged to have a period of adjustment between what was and what will be. We are still able, in many cases, to make a very nice profit from our old media tools as we seek a sensible path to use the new tools and methods that are now available to us. As fast as the new media order is changing our universe, we haven't been totally vaporized, but rather greatly scorched. It seems that we have been permitted a short period of time to make adjustments to our business plans toward a new era of publishing sensibility and sustainability.

So, contrary to what many believe, we are not yet in complete chaos, even though our systems are, indeed, under tremendous stress to survive in this still-evolving convergence of technology and society in addition to what is now a stressed global economy.
What we are all going to need in this new environment is a superior business plan and some luck. Like any successful publishing platform in the past, we still need to be in the right place with the right product and recognize the market conditions as they constantly change. It has always been my personal mantra that change is unavoidable and should not only be welcomed, but must be continually used to your advantage.

How is this chaotic period different from other historic periods? It is what I call the disruptive factor. In the past, when new technologies were invented, entrepreneurs could devise a system to sell that new technology at a profit with the reasonable expectations of both a return on investment and some assurance that the technology would not rapidly or radically change. This is no longer true. Ever-morphing technology increasingly enables fine targeting and interaction between marketer and consumer, while our old-style measurement and deployment standards are primitive almost to the point of ridiculousness.

Did you know that just three years ago the average Internet user spent little to no time with social media? In a recent report, Internet users were found to be spending approximately 16 percent of their time online with social media. Do you think that this social-information phenomenon will go away or continue to morph into some greater form of a socialized, community-information distribution system? The growth and power of this kind of World Wide Web social word of mouth cannot be underestimated. It is, in fact, beyond our understanding. It is a new form of niche. And niche is the publishing world's bread and butter. It doesn't matter what your successful title is; you can survive in the world of chaos with niche.

Now that there are alternatives to our magazines, we need to attempt to own the printed and the electronic population of our individual nichedoms. As I see it, this is not far from what our goals have always been—bringing stability to apparent chaos by owning our sector outright in each and every form available.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

What's the Formula for Our Future Business Plans?

BoSacks - The Profit Prophet : What's the Formula for Our Future Business Plans?
A hint: The printed magazine replicated digitally is not the answer.
By Robert M. Sacks

I get the very strong impression that we are on the cusp of the next phase of information distribution. Kindle sales are booming, and there is competition aplenty for the black-and-white Amazon e-reader. Several new machines that cost at least $50 less than the Kindle now are on the market, with more seemingly on the way each week. In cooperation with Google, Sony is making available 500,000 free e-books for e-readers. It is important to note that Kindle sales figures are believed to have grown faster than iPod sales in the same time frame. That is very impressive. Most book publishers are adjusting and adapting to this new platform in one way or another at a rapid pace.

But where do magazines stand in this race for a digital foothold? The most obvious fact we all can agree upon is that magazines are not books. And while book publishers can get away with offering an exact digital replication of their text-only products, can and should magazines do the same and expect success?

I am a voracious digital user, reading multiple newspapers every day and dozens of magazines every week in digital format. But let me be clear: I'm not talking about going to a Web site and reading the news. I'm talking about reading, scanning and thumbing through entire issues of said publications in a paginated format.
Let me ask you this: What's the point of owning a sports car and never putting your pedal to the metal? What's the point of owning the best stereo system money can buy and not turning up the volume? Likewise, what's the point of having a digital magazine that doesn't exploit the full digital nature of the product?
Should the digital version be exactly the same as the printed version? The answer should be a resounding "no"! The editorial surely shouldn't be the same. Why set ridiculous restrictions on an amazing, new publishing product? There are terrific opportunities in the downloaded versions of magazines that ink on paper just can't match, and it shouldn't.
We absolutely need accountability and creditability when detailing circulation figures, but we also must not hamper the new digital magazine business with arcane restrictions based on ancient printing technologies and abacus accounting methods. We must move forward, not back, if we are to survive as publishers in the growing digital information age.
The bottom line is that the ads and the edit do not need to be and, in fact, shouldn't be exactly the same in both mediums.
They should be more enriched and focused in the digital version and have as much creative involvement and special interest as the technology allows. A static informational/branding ad should run in the print issue, while a dynamically charged ad appears in the digital issue. Static, informational editorial belongs in the printed version, while hyperlinked, graphically active, fully charged edit belongs in the digital issue. Those are the choices.

Does the advertising and edit have to be exactly the same in the digital version as in the printed version to be fully credited on an ABC or BPA statement? Of course not. It's time we as an industry start a constructive dialog. What is a successful and satisfactory formula for our future businesses?

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group ( He also is the co-founder of the research company mediaIDEAS (, and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator, and almost every other job this industry has to offer.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BoSacks Speaks Out: On why Twitter is important to Publishers and their employees

BoSacks Speaks Out: Well, What can I say? I have been posting since 2007 that publishers and publishing employees had better get familiar with social networking and specifically Twitter.

My Friend Steve Smith clearly agrees with me by his report..

Did you know that Business Week editors have over 40 Twitter accounts that they use for reporting. So do many other newspapers, magazines and journalists across the country.

Publishers as diverse as Playboy and Christianity Today have editors posting and experimenting with this unusual communications tool.

Is it the be all and end all? No, of course not. It is just yet another platform in the ever-changing universe of Information Distribution, formally known as publishing.

If you aren't there yet you better get there soon. It just might come up on your next job interview.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.
Dr. Joyce Brothers (1928 - )

Steve Smith's Eye on Digital Media: Listening To Twitter
Posted By Steve Smith
It's 12:11 p.m. and Martha Stewart is at lunch with Ludacris. It's 10:31 p.m. and In Style staffers are watching "Jack and Sharon Osbourne walking in" to an American Idol "Top 13" party in L.A. It's 7:30 p.m. and BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE editor-in-chief John Byrne mentions that he began his career as a rock critic at a college newspaper. This comes after Byrne's asking readers what intro music to use for his next podcast.

Then, it's 3:10 p.m. and Scientific American seems to be responding to a reader query and states (in a way only SciAm can) that "consensus view is that spontaneous mutations of natural pathogens is far more dangerous/likely than terrorist- building smallpox."

Huh? We can't say you will understand all of the chatter on Twitter, but you and your magazine brand had better get there pronto. At MINONLINE's own Twitter page (TWITTER.COM/MINONLINE) we are constructing a makeshift directory of magazine brands and their main Twitter feeds. Visit it yourself to see which of your competitors is already using the micro-blogging service, or tell us about your brand's feed.

So far, we are following nearly 100 of you and getting a fair look at how magazines generally are using this phenom of 2008. Twitter has been exploding in recent months and it is downright fashionable in media circles to broadcast these little 140-character missives to "followers" who subscribe to the feed. Magazine online managers have been setting up official, branded feeds in recent months, and we will be aggregating that list at our own Twitter home for our readers to peruse.

Everyone is in test mode when it comes to broadcasting media messages and/or interacting with readers. Many magazine Twitter sites merely repurpose their RSS (really simple syndication) feeds and treat this as another content distribution platform. BW Online's John Byrne, who uses the platform much more broadly with his 10,700 followers, says that Twitter "is showing up as one of the top referring domains...user response has been overwhelmingly good." His editors now have over 40 accounts they use for reporting. BWO recently put a Twitter feed on its site to invite readers to suggest how President Obama could craft an economic stimulus package.

Redbook editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison says her Twitter feed will point followers to new stories, but it is the chatter over Redbook's annual Americans' Hottest Husbands feature that blew the doors off. "Finalists' wives from around the country are tweeting to drum up support for their guys," she says. "We expect a big increase in the number of votes this year thanks to this additional platform."

You can attract a massive following quickly in this viral atmosphere. Women's Wear Daily editors have been tweeting about celebrity sightings at fashion fetes, and in just three weeks the feed has attracted 69,000 followers.

While posting new content links back to a publisher's main site is a standard, albeit unimaginative, use of the tool, the best feeds that we have seen respect the conversational and even trivial roots of the platform to craft a new kind of reader/publisher relationship.

Playboy's feed will punctuate the links to the latest cyber-Playmate pics with complaints about Twitter's and a roundup of what his Twitter followers snack on. Christianity Today editors post: Editorial page meeting Thurs. p.m. What should we opine about in the May issue? And an editor at defunct yoga magazine Ascent twittered (above) until the bitter end: counting down: 4 days till the final issue goes to the printer.

Doubters once bashed the micro-blogging fad (and who knows? It may still be one) as self-absorbed techies posting the detritus of their bored lives to one another.

This it is. But when you weave into that everyday ephemera real conversation and actual content, then the trivial becomes the essential. It is in the little personal observations and meaningless asides that Twitter feeds achieve an intimacy that is unique and quite different from a blog post or e-mail missive. When handled well, these feeds move between the personal and promotional, the outward facing content that builds a brand and the inner, human workings that make the content.

It is still unclear to any of us how once-imperious media brands go about building the kind of personal connection and community readers now crave. Whether Twitter itself is the answer seems unlikely. But interacting with it sure seems to be raising some good and necessary questions about who media are and how they relate to audiences.

The new min Twitter (TWITTER.COM/MINONLINE) feed will be used not only for reporting and content posting, but we will also aggregate the many other magazine brands in our following section. Come here to see what brands are using the platform or to add your own.

Steve Smith (POPEYESMITH@COMCAST.NET) is digital media editor for min/min's b2b/MINONLINE.COM. He posts regularly on The Minsider blog and directs the min Webinars. Smith also co-chairs the annual min Day Summit and as ceo of Roving Eyeball Inc., consults for a number of publishers in the digital space.

Friday, December 19, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: A Time for Reflection and Hope

BoSacks Speaks Out: A Time for Reflection and Hope

As 2008 draws to a close and, to most publishers, the world's future seems somewhat dark or at the very least uncertain, we are all looking for shafts of hope and light in the current financial storm. That hope and that brightness are still here if we look in the right places. I actually think there is room for more optimism then may at first seem apparent to many other prognosticators.

Our industry may be a bit battered, but it is not defeated. It cannot be vanquished, because the distribution of information is the cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Writers will write and publishers will distribute that writing to a willing public. Our future is just as vibrant as it always was and I expect, as necessary changes occur, it will manifest itself in positive ways we can't yet imagine.

So, as we drift into 2009, it is a perfect and natural time for us to take a moment or two for reflection and review and for a reassessment. It is a perfect time for evaluating the current and future possibilities of our professional and our personal lives.

I first suggest that we look back with pride on what we and our fellow publishers have accomplished in the past before we look forward into an unknown future. We as a group and as a business are indispensable. As information providers we are the glue that holds society together. We provide the mortar known as knowledge and we make it available to all.

Technology has given us expanded markets of information distribution unheard of a decade ago. Though the outreach and growth is exponential, our profits haven't been able to keep up with the new technologies. We clearly need new business models. Fear not, we will invent them.

There are currently four billion mobile phone users and around one billion personal computer users around the world. That means that there are at least four billion potential readers for publishers to learn how to tap into and profit from. This technologic growth and apparently inexhaustible need to read is proof of our value and of our continued existence. The publishing nation has grown and will continue to grow, but most likely in directions that are unexpected. Our former sphere of influence is changing, and our business models must grow with the times and the ages before us. We will go through a complex series of transformations before we are who we are going to become - new age information distributors. This is not a might be, but rather a will be state of affairs.

I feel it very safe to say that as we go into the 6th year of on-going war, with continued industry-wide lay-offs still on the rise, and the general uncertainties of an industry and a country in transition, we have all had a moderate amount of reassessment forced upon. It is probable that many of us are challenging our own personal paths and calculations of who we are, where we are going and when we will get there. Let me suggest that I believe our industry can and will not only survive but thrive and prosper as never before.

A look at history proves that wars come and then they go; that economic down turns have happened before and will happen again. They appear when least expected and retreat with the same regularity. We know that the winter is cold only to be followed by the joy and beauty of a warm summer's day. But the most enduring cycle throughout history is the love of family and friends.

I send warm greetings to all with a big hug and the hope that you are surrounded by the love of your family and friends.

I found the following message from Fra Giovanni almost 12 years ago. It was first sent from one friend to another in 1513 A.D. It has become part of my traditional year-end expression of hope and reflection. In it I find a certain central peace and great depth. Every time I read it, I come away with a little more understanding.

Like the author, I hope that your paths are clear of shadows and that you have the time and sensibilities to take a few moments to really stop and look around you. Most of us work too hard and forget the reasons for our energetic professional pursuits. I learned years ago that I was "working to live, not living to work". I think sometimes we have a habit of forgetting that. Work is a means to keep a safe roof over our heads, food on the table, and to help facilitate the comfort and joy of our family and friends.

In the end, the truth is it is our ability to love and share that love that has any real or long-lasting meaning.

There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so, at this holiday time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever,
the day breaks and the shadows flee away.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: Twitter has made Dell $1 million in revenue


The following two articles are about Twitter. I have been experimenting with Twitter for a few weeks now and I am here to tell you that Twitter is a piece of our media future.

I can't tell you the what or the how of it quite yet, but I can firmly suggest it is part of a newly developing communications platform. Dell Computers claims to have made at least a million dollars using twitter. Imagine that? How much have you made off of Twitter?  Communications and creativity is a very powerful mechanism as Dell has creatively just proven.


The only suggestion I am making to you is to look at it, so when your boss, or your boss's boss starts asking questions, you understand what the heck he is talking about.

For what it is worth you can find me in Twitter at:  


What Keeps Twitter Chirping Along

By David Miller


It's practically impossible to find a story that doesn't darkly point out that the microblogging service Twitter has no revenue model, yet despite that concern, all the complaints about unreliable service, the rants about the exceptionally high noise-to-signal ratio, the outright attacks that accuse the company of "top-to-bottom incompetence," Twitter keeps on tweeting and seems likely to continue doing so into the foreseeable future.


The question in Twitter's case is whether that's likely to happen due to a buyout, another round of funding or its owners finally finding a way to monetize a service, like it said it would do, that an increasing numbers of users (including are finding useful for more than just posting 140 character tweets (short blurbs) about what they happen to be doing at any given moment.


"We're using Twitter to get info out to the public and the media," said Claire Sale, an interactive media specialist with the Red Cross. "Twitter offers a single stream of information, and it's been most successful in disaster response, like the recent wildfires in California.


"I think people like to follow breaking news on Twitter because it's so instantaneous," Sale added. "And it's self-correcting. You might check a blog or an RSS feed once a day, but people tend to follow Twitter constantly." The Red Cross has 3,000+ "followers," people who have signed on to view their tweets.


Less altruistically, some businesses have discovered that Twitter is an effective way of communicating with consumers. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company's Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.


Dell started experimenting with Twitter in March of 2007 after the South by Southwest conference, an annual tech/music festival in Austin, Texas. Conference attendees could keep tabs on each other via a stream of Twitter messages on 60-inch plasma screens set up in the conference hallways. There are now 65 Twitter groups on, with 2,475 followers for the Dell Home Outlet Store.


"A million dollars isn't a lot of money, but it shows that people want to sign up for feeds," says Bob Pearson, head of communities and conversation for Dell. Pearson is a big fan of Twhirl, a free desktop client for that lets users manage feeds from Twitter and other popular microblogging sites (, Friendfeed and seismic).


"It's a good quick way to see what's going on in the world," Pearson said about Twhirl.


Good for customer service


Discount airline Jet Blue also uses Twitter to offer real-time discounts, sometimes even offering tickets or adding flights when large numbers of people are Twittering sadly about the lack of transport options to a conference or festival. JetBlue also monitors Twitter for comments about the company, responding quickly to compliments and complaints, and following its customers.


"Asking when Twitter will end is like saying, 'When will the cell phone fad end'?" said David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, a storytelling production company. "The value of cell phones can't end, it only can be replaced by something that provides the same value and more. Once we have a capability, we never want it taken away from us."


Spark, who recently documented "16 Great Twitter Moments," believes that all companies should be listening to what's happening on Twitter, blogs and elsewhere on the Internet, noting that "it's truly the cheapest and most accurate market research you can possibly have.'"


Tech evangelist and well-known blogger Robert Scoble suggests that Twitter can make money by offering a premium service.


"If they turned out a lot of cool features, I would pay," said Scoble. "Direct messaging where I could forward and sort messages, real e-mail messaging features, stuff like that. Or put pictures on my tweets, like FriendFeed has pictures and videos. It would have to be part of a suite of other features, like the 'pro version' of Twitter. I would pay for that."


He added that Twitter could turn to advertising as a revenue model, perhaps inserting ads between messages like Meebo does, but he thinks it's possible people might complain and also wonders if the advertising could be targeted enough to appeal to marketers.


Describing Twitter as the love child of IM and chat and blogging, Scoble said the big attraction for him is the interactivity.


'When I post a comment on my blog, it's usually 20 or 30 minutes before I get a comment. With Twitter, I get feedback in seconds," said Scoble. "And it's a worldwide community. You can talk to camera guy at the White House, a supply chain manager in China, a reporter in India. People find that fascinating and useful."


Of course not everyone is a fan. Google "I Hate Twitter" and you'll see plenty of gripes, mostly about the banality of tweets and peoples' increasing belief that everyone in the world is their very own '50s sitcom mother, endlessly fascinated by every single one of their thoughts and actions.


"I find Twitter incredibly annoying, both as a user and bystander," said Trisha Creekmore, interactive executive producer for ''There's nothing more annoying than trying to enjoy an event with a bunch of Twitter geeks and having to stop every five seconds for them to tweet into their mobile device. If you're at an event, BE at the event. Or leave."




Twitter has made Dell $1 million in revenue

BY MG Siegler


Everyone loves talking about Twitter's business model - because there isn't one yet, and they'll keep talking about it until there is one. But it's becoming more clear that while a business model is of course important, Twitter is perhaps the perfect example of a company that can afford to take its time in finding the one that is perfect for it. That's because other businesses are building so much on top of the micro-messaging service and using it for their own services. If worst came to worst, and Twitter had to sell, there would probably be a bidding war of a magnitude that would make it seem like this country wasn't in the midst of a recession.

InternetNews has a good rundown of the Twitter/business phenomenon. Buried in it is this gem:

Less altruistically, some businesses have discovered that Twitter is an effective way of communicating with consumers. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) says Twitter has produced $1 million in revenue over the past year and a half through sale alerts. People who sign up to follow Dell on Twitter receive messages when discounted products are available the company's Home Outlet Store. They can click over to purchase the product or forward the information to others.

If Twitter has made Dell $1 million in revenue, imagine how much it's making for all of the companies it helps promote. While a million dollars may not be much to a company like Dell, for some smaller companies that are also using Twitter as a sales/promotional tool, it is no doubt invaluable.

Twitter is expected to lay out its plan for how to monetize the service in 2009. It may involve creating premium, corporate accounts, which seems like a good idea given the numbers Dell is stating. But while everyone is busy getting in a tizzy over its business model, Twitter continues to gain popularity, including the all-important mainstream variety.

One way or another, Twitter will be fine - even if that still doesn't make sense to some people.

You can find me on Twitter here along with fellow VentureBeat writers Eric Eldon, Dean Takahashi, Anthony Ha, Chris Morrison and Dan Kaplan. Oh, and we have a VentureBeat account (for our posts) as well.

[via Fred Wilson, who is a Twitter investor]

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

BoSacks Speaks Out: It's a Digital World Now

BoSacks Speaks Out: It's a Digital World Now
by Bob Sacks
Insiders Bob Sacks and Samir Husni square off in the magazine industry's hottest debate: Will print magazines survive-or even thrive-in the next century? Here's what Bob Sacks had to say.

Intro: Bob Sacks, better known as "BoSacks," is a 38-year veteran of the publishing industry whose e-newsletter, "Heard on the Web: Media Intelligence," reaches nearly 12,000 readers daily. Samir Husni, nicknamed "Mr. Magazine," holds a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and is the author of Launch Your Own Magazine: A Guide for Succeeding in Today's Marketplace. Sacks and Husni have lengthy publishing résumés. Both run private consulting firms primarily focused on magazines and media. Both are well-respected experts in the publishing world. And both have strong opinions on where the magazine industry is headed.

We asked BoSacks and Mr. Magazine to share their views and let you be the judge. Here are BoSacks thoughts on the future of magazines. . Click here (or the link at the end of the article) for Mr. Magazine's take.

A basic modern assumption is that things will be as they are, only more so-that is, that we'll still have the same needs, wants and desires as our forefathers, but we'll continually satisfy those needs faster and more efficiently.

Writer and publisher alert: The speed and efficiency of the future is here right now, and it's accelerating at an unprecedented and perhaps even uncomfortable rate. Because we're actually in it, sometimes we don't realize how far we've progressed into the future. But it's possible to recognize that change when we reflect on the past and look into our tedious recent and former methodologies.

Even if you went as far back as Johann Gutenberg, you couldn't find a more interesting and complex period in our industry than right now. Gutenberg created movable type and an industry was born-the rapid distribution of information as never before achieved, nor dreamed possible.

At the time, the growth of the printing press and the distribution of information were irresistible forces whose only combatants were ignorance and, to us, extremely limited technology. Of course, that limitation is only apparent with tremendous hindsight. The technology of those days was no less amazing than our reaching out to the stars or the World Wide Web. Remember, it took a single scribe more than a year to hand-copy a single book. And there were no "pre-flighting" and "spell checking" to make sure he got it right. But Gutenberg could turn out hundreds of books in a week, each one identical to the next. So, it's not hard to envision the exponential growth of ... well, everything. You no longer needed old wise men to learn from. You didn't even need to be an apprentice. You could learn anything and everything from a book. What Gutenberg actually achieved was the democratization of knowledge. Does that concept sound familiar?

From the time of Gutenberg 600 years ago, we've seen little change in our expertise except the speed with which we produce words, type them and print them on paper. But now the future portends to possibly eliminate the need for paper, and thus doom the otherwise noble process (and lucrative business model) of putting ink on paper. Is that important? Where does the importance really lie-in the creation of thoughts and words or the substrate on which they rest and are read?

In discussing the future of reading and publishing, electronic publishing is an unavoidable topic. I prefer to call the process Electronically Coordinated Information Distribution, or El-CID. It's clear that publishers must now consider themselves information distributors and be independent of a reliance on any single platform or substrate.

The reading of a book is the distribution of stored information, passed from one person to another. Could it be a book printed on dead trees? Yes. Could it be the same book delivered in electronic format? Yes. The point is that all the world's information is now available for immediate distribution in any format the reader requires.

Bernard Baruch once said, "A speculator is a man who observes the future and acts before it occurs." This seems like prudent advice for today's writers and publishers to ponder as we proceed into the future of publishing in the 21st century.

From a 20th-century perspective, one of the most wonderful things about magazines and books, apart from their content, is their amazing and convenient portability. You can read them anywhere, at any time, without a plug or an Internet connection. Simply put, magazines and books are easy to get and easy to read. With ink printed on paper you're usually provided with a crisp, high-contrast, highly reflective substrate. And because it reflects light evenly in all directions, you can read it at almost any angle. Not bad for 600-year-old technology.

On the other hand, a computer-be it a laptop or a desktop-is not so uncomplicated, not kind on the eyes and not nearly as convenient. But it can store as much information as the Library of Alexandria and can instantly summon text or images from deep within its memory or from the Web.

There's a new product called e-paper that combines the best of the new and the old media through the use of thin, lightweight and flexible displays that simulate traditional paper while providing the immediacy and versatility of a computer screen. A company called E Ink has already commercialized a large-scale version of its electronic paper technology for use in products such as the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, and as screens in PDAs, cell phones and pagers.

These displays perform just as paper does and can be read under the same light conditions as paper. There's no backlight to e-paper like a traditional computer screen-it works on reflective light. You can read e-paper wherever you can read traditional paper, and it's serving as the substrate for electronic books, magazines and newspapers, the content of which can be stored, updated and changed wirelessly. The power requirements are meager, because the voltage only needs to be applied once to change an image. So, in the example of an electronic book or magazine, power would be needed only when downloading new text onto the plastic pages. Thereafter, the text could be carried around and read anywhere without using a power source until you change to the next page.

Many researchers and corporations are in hot pursuit of this new vision of El-CID, and they've already produced and sold millions of products. As this technology matures, the results of their efforts could conceivably and permanently change the face of publishing and reading.

Information distribution (formally known as publishing) is no longer just about the paper, and it's not about your computer browser, either. It's about getting all the information anywhere, anytime, on any substrate and any platform. Are we headed toward a totally paperless society? No, not quite yet and perhaps not completely in our lifetimes, but that doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels. It's a digital world now, and the digits aren't going to go away.

There is a revolution brewing and the change is us. The speed and accuracy of information distribution increases every day and we like that. The portability, costs and flexibility of the electronics improve everyday. What we want and what we will have is an easy-to-read, flexible device that that can go anywhere, be read anywhere, and have all the bells and whistles of a computer-driven web-connected cozy book or magazine. You want comfort and style. You shall have it. You want the joy of a cozy plush reading experience. You shall have it. You want to tap on that unknown word and pull up the dictionary, you shall have it. You want to check the author's references or see pictures of the settings in the book you are reading. You shall have it.

There is nothing wrong with paper, but there will come a time in the very near future when we will wonder what all the fuss was about.