The End of the Affair (with apologies to Graham Greene)

Considering that I’ve spent a goodly portion of time discussing the collapse of the publishing industry, I figure its only fitting that, after nearly two years of watching and waiting as everything continues to circle the drain, I have another disillusioned rant about the industry of which I used to be proud to be a part.

I am quite simply disgusted by the industry at this point.  I simply cannot believe that, still, after all that has happened and all yet to come, the vast majority of publishing companies are still rushing headlong towards their own demise.  To be certain, there are those who have made progress, and those who have embraced new technology, but the overall industry ethos is still the same as it ever was.  Transition in a disrupted industry is about a little more than simply trying to same thing, over and over again, redundantly, regardless of the medium.  And these are the folks who’s primary function is supposed to be informing us when they can’t even seem to inform themselves.

Today, for the moment, there may still exist a class of writers at the very top who earn at least a living wage, but the industry’s policies of chopping the hell out of expenses have decimated the rank and file, right down to the once ample freelance rolls who can no longer pay the bills at 50 or 75 bucks an article.  They still don’t see that the one advantage publishers had at their disposal during all of this great internet upheaval was a deep, diverse and multi-talented content generation machine.

No, it is as it’s always been, content the poor, distant stepchild to the advertising end of the ledger.  The funny thing  (and not funny in a ha-ha way but more like throw up in your mouth kinda funny) is that the long, lucrative union between publishing and advertising is on life support.  It’s like a relationship where both sides know its over but they keep holding on too long.  Publishing is becoming the desperate boyfriend trying anything to hold on to her for just one more day. 

Advertising and publishing hooked up in the first place for one simple reason, the publishers were the gateway to the customer.  Ask yourself this, in a world where ads can be instantly zapped to someone’s cell phone when they drive past a store, what in the hell do advertisers need with the publishing middlemen anymore?  They can make their own gateway, to far more people far more effectively than you ever could.  No, advertising has become the old girlfriend who traded up to the investment banker.  And there’s just no winning her back.

So what do they have left?  Well, if they hadn’t gutted their content creation capabilities, we just happen to have at our disposal the most effective, efficient, affordable and widespread content delivery system ever devised by man.  It’s limited only by the imagination of those who use it. 

Do you think if someone, anyone in big-time publishing had recognized this ten or fifteen years ago, like they should have, they might have been able to figure out a way to make some money on it?  The best content by the best creators on the planet, backed by the most successful media companies in the world and the means to distribute it virtually anywhere in an endless variety of formats at almost no cost.  Why ever should publishing have considered such a thing?

But instead, they’ve wasted their time, money and leverage chasing after the unattainable girl.  Sure, she flirts with them, still puts out occasionally when she has to, but she’s just using them until something better comes along.

And this is the 21st century folks. When you’re talking technology, something better comes along every couple weeks.

Publishing had its chance to break the cycle, had an opportunity to see what other fish were in the sea, but they didn’t.  They were too obsessed, blinded by the too-good-to-be-true beauty of the old girlfriend. And now they’re just creeping around in the bushes outside her house, trying to catch a glimpse at who she’s stepping out with tonight.  It’s just pathetic to watch.

But, alas, this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that a pretty face led someone to their downfall.  It’s becoming an epic tragedy.  This time, the obsession is dragging an entire once-great industry down with it.

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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