A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the direction I felt that publishing would ultimately head for the future. To me, it’s always been about packaging. Dumping raw information on a website isn’t really very effective packaging, as the industry has discovered with its overall inability to get anyone to pay for their material that way. The problem I see is that the technology and devices that are needed to properly package information electronically haven’t quite been invented yet. Sure, there are options out there, but none of them serve the purpose very well. Here is an interesting take on the progress toward what we need to rejuvenate the industry and make an actual migration from print to digital economically feasible. And, no, paying Amazon 75% of your revenue isn’t a model that works or one that I would even consider.
In fact, it appears as though some major publishers agree. A big part of this united front is to challenge the Kindle and its locked-down mode of distribution, not to mention its extortionist-level charges to publishers for making content available. In addition, in a rare bout of good sense for an industry that’s been fighting reality for quite a while now, this new collection of publishers is seeking to make the content available to these devices essentially platform-neutral, meaning they can be read and accessed on just about any device, and sold through an iTunes-like storefront for digital publications. Now, if only the devices can get down under the $100 barrier, we may be on to something.
This next part may come as a surprise to you, but after I read this piece by Rupert Murdoch in the Wall Street Journal the other day, I didn’t find myself in total disagreement with the media mogul. Many people have, however, and here is one such piece that accuses Murdoch of being purposefully disingenuous. I still disagree with his take on the paywall issue, or its potential success, but he did seem to have a little different approach, one I can actually respect. People will pay, he said, if we give them something worth paying for. That’s a step in the right direction for an industry that, largely, has been somewhat oblivious to the fact that their material simply isn’t valuable enough to attract a significant number of buyers.
I also was in complete agreement with his statements about government bailouts, and the point that we shouldn’t be propping up businesses that make products no one wants. Here, here Rupert. He went on to state that government bailouts for the media shouldn’t come to be, and that government interference should be kept very far from a free press. I couldn’t agree more. Now, if he would just lay off the aggregators are thieves spiel, or the self-righteous dismissals of fair use, we might actually get somewhere.
I even somewhat agreed with his take on the FCC’s cross-ownership rules. Now, I am no fan of corporate consolidation, but in this increasingly altered atmosphere, it really does make little sense from preventing an entity from owning a newspaper and a television station in the same market. The real concern should be preventing those who own the broadcast stations, newspapers and web portals from owning the cable companies or internet service providers. That is one reason why I think the recent Comcast-NBC deal should be shot down before it is ever allowed to happen. And net neutrality needs to be enshrined in the law as quickly as we can. If the government wants to help content industries, and the economy as a whole, it should be limited to a modern-day version of FDR’s Rural Electrification Administration during the Great Depression that brought electricity to many in rural areas where market forces weren’t strong enough to reach, only with broadband internet access. Government action like that I can get behind. Bailouts for a failing industry in flux, absolutely not.