I ran across this piece earlier today about media consolidation, something that I have long been opposed to, particularly in publishing. While the article itself is primarily referring to media companies rather than publishers, the gist is the same. Basically, the acquisition run of the past twenty years hasn’t been particularly successful and the business is headed toward a period of break-ups and deconsolidation. Here, here. At least someone in the media business seems to get it.
This is precisely what needs to happen if publishing is to have any future at all. The only problem is that most, if not all of the big players who bought up so many little newspapers all over the country are suffering under massive amounts of debt that can make the whole process more complicated. Things haven’t gotten quite bad enough where companies are selling off publications just to pay off debt, with most of the sales I’ve seen at this point attached to accepting large debt loads, which will still hamper any progress, but I believe the time is approaching where the industry will splinter back into many smaller, leaner (and significantly cheaper) independent organizations.
When profits were rolling back in the hey day of newspapers, there was plenty of money to go round to support the large, central office of these conglomerates. Even then, however, money was frequently taken from the people who produced the revenue in favor of the upstairs decision makers. That feeding trough for management doesn’t exist anymore. We’re in a day and age now where the poeple who profit from publishing are actually going to have to have and routinely use publishing skills like writing, photography, design, sales, etc. No more free lunch for managers and paper pushers. And that can’t be anything but a positive development. If only things would speed up a bit.