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.

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