Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Where the Heck is the Industry Going?

Where the Heck is the Industry Going?
By BoSacks

As an industry, who are we, where are we going, and will we recognize ourselves when we get there? This rant is intended to be a look in the media mirror—call it a “State of the Union” address of sorts.

There has been a lot of news, conjecture and posturing about what the media industry may be morphing into. These changes are not only affecting the industry, but the psyche of the people who work in it. As I travel around the country, I see some members of our industry who are terrified, some who are exhilarated, some who are fearful of losing their jobs, and some who have already lost them. On the other hand, some are adapting to new business models and thriving.

Where are you in this cycle?

There is wild positive speculation mixed in with some doom, gloom and panic. My good friend and industry analyst Dr. Joe Webb says that some people call him Dr. Doom for stating the facts of an industry in transition. Dr. Joe and I forecast change, but in no way do we forecast doom. In fact, I see it in the opposite light. It is an era of tremendous opportunity and growth for electronically coordinated information distributors (publishers).

Look at the past 10 years. Ten years ago, we were arguing about whether or not digital plate-making was a good idea. Ten years ago, we were wondering what the heck a PDF was, and why we would ever use it. Ten years ago—that’s right only 10 years ago—the Internet was in its infancy. Ten years ago, we all had job security.

But, one thing has not changed in 10 years. Publishers still hire writers and editors. Production personnel still format the information, and send it to vendors for global distribution.

You could say that nothing has changed except the speed and mechanism of delivery.

The underlying conclusion is that we, as an industry, will not be going out of business. We have a fine and honorable future ahead of us, just not quite as we knew it. So what? It is time to get used to it. Your career depends on you adapting to these inevitable facts of change.

Printing ink on paper is a science. Analog publishers had to learn and fine-tune that science to distribute their products. Now, in the Internet age, there are several methods of distributing content. It is still nothing more nor less than a science. This new technology is actually an advantage to publishers and their age-old franchise of information distribution.

Are people getting laid off all over the place? Yes, but new jobs are being created just as fast, if not faster. Page make-up and design is off the scale in actual growth, even production jobs are up, but not producing only ink-on-paper products. Writers are still writing, editors are still editing, and publishers are still publishing, but in new creative mediums, as well as old ones. Even printers are still printing, but they are consolidating like crazy and trying to establish a new survival mode in preparation of the “screenager” years, when today’s tech-savvy teens enter the adult consumer market.

Eventually, even the screenagers will grow up and be expected to perform in the work force. They will grow up with some type of real bona fide reading. The lawyers can’t practice law, the doctors can’t doctor, and the engineers can’t engineer without real reading. And they will be reading what publishers publish. There still will be money to be made with words that have meaning that equates to value.

Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a consultant to the printing/publishing industry and president of The Precision Media Group ( He is 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, cameraman and corporate janitor.

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