The last presses

Last month, I went to Europe for a session at the Guardian’s management offsite. They were just about finished converting the Guardian and the Observer print editions to the Berliner format (halfway between a broadsheet and a tabloid) at great effort and expense and at no small risk. It has been a success so far, but this meeting was not a celebration. Instead, wisely, they came together to start figuring out what their products and businesses would have to become next, now that we have crossed over into the digital age. I won’t recount what happened; this was their meeting. I’ll just say that they had me in — as a few other media companies and organizations have done lately — as the scary guy: Blogboy does his bugga-bugga about the distributed, post-scarcity, small-is-the-new-big, paperless, unplatform era of citizen control of media. I apparently have found my proper role in life: frightening people. But in this case, I was the one who was intimidated, because the Guardian is the most forward-thinking print organization I know and I was all the more impressed after watching their culture in action. And I was all the more cowed when, over drinks the night before meeting, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger went years past where I planned to time-travel the next day. Talking about the presses they’d just spent tens of millions of pounds buying, he shrugged and said:

“They may be the last presses we ever own.”

Presses are good for only a few decades.

That same day, I picked up the International Herald Tribune and read Thomas Crampton’s interview with another forward-thinking publisher, Germany’s Hubert Burda, who created one of my favorite print properties, the newsmagazine Focus. Crampton (of Joi.Ito.com fame) wrote:

…Burda has spent the past few years zealously pushing his media company into everything digital, even insisting that he will never open a printing plant again….

The grease and machinery of the printing press have almost become a sideline to the tool that Burda sees as central to the next generation of publication: social software. This encompasses everything from Web logs to community-building Web sites that let readers create their own content through reviews and comments.

“Printing will not go away, but I do not plan to open a single new printing plant,” Burda said. “We now concentrate on using social software to build closer relations with the communities of readers around our magazines.”

On the way home, I picked up Business Week and read about Random House, owned by another German media company, Bertelsmann, under the headline, “Digital Is Our Destiny.”

* * *

Then I landed back home in the U.S., where too many of the newspaper editors and publishers I know of still hold dear to their identities as publishers — proprietors of presses, printers on paper, owners of content, controllers of distribution, beneficiaries of monopolies. Publishers, damnit. Newspaper publishers.

The contrast struck me as deadly.

Today, the news about newspapers in America is not good: more layoffs (despite MoveOn’s whining), more competition, more fear, less revenue, lower stocks. The time that many hoped was a long way off may be upon us already. Newspapers are going to start to die.

Look at Knight Ridder: There’s talk that there may be buyers for the old gray gals — namely, private equity firms. David Sanderson of Bain said at the Reuters media summit that buyers could finance the purchases on cash flow … and then hope they will get the same multiples in five years. Yeah, sure. What’s unsaid is that these cash cows will have been milked dry and that there is no growth left in them. That makes me wonder whether these buyout firms will really want to buy papers now, knowing that they will have to put in tremendous strategic work to utterly change the nature of the companies. So what if no one will buy them?

Well, some papers will die sooner or later. Papers like the Philadelphia Daily News may die sooner. There are efforts to save that paper and I’m really looking forward to discussions scheduled to begin early next year in Philadelphia about the right strategy to do that … if the paper survives that long. But I have to ask whether that is the right crusade at all. Save the paper? No, it’s not about saving paper. Sorry, but it’s not even about saving jobs.

* * *

It’s not about saving anything. Instead, this is about seizing the opportunity of the internet and whatever that brings.

The people here who are trying to save papers are concentrating on the wrong assets. Listen to Dr. Burda again: He’s not saving paper and presses or even content and creators. He’s growing in new spheres:

We now concentrate on using social software to build closer relations with the communities of readers around our magazines.

I’ll say it again: Distribution is not king. Content is not king. Conversation is the kingdom. It’s about relationships. Burda gets it. That’s what my conversations in Europe were about.

Rupert Murdoch gets it, too. Note well that he did not buy a content company or a distribution company with producers or presses when he acquired MySpace. He bought a relationships company.

This means changing the very essence of what a newspaper is. It’s not about scarcity. It’s not even about news as mere news. Dr. Burda again (echoing VC Vinod Khosla at Web 2.0):

News has now become a commodity, thanks to the Internet, so we must differentiate ourselves in other ways. Content alone can no longer win. You must build and interact with audiences.

It’s also not about power anymore. After Murdoch gave a rare interview Murdoch gave to the UK Press Gazette, Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Unlimited (note well the name of that site; it’s about the Guardian no longer being limited), noted that one man, Murdoch, is no longer in the position to singlehandedly change the industry of news and media in Great Britain. That power is now distributed, just like content. Bell writes:

But what we once took from Murdoch, as an industry and as media journalists, was his ability to provide a shockingly radical lead: he was the disruptive technology which now is itself being disrupted. [Bill] Gates, who is arguably Murdoch’s only peer in terms of original insight and business success, has, it seems, stepped away from his business too, accepting that the next wave of thinking will inevitably come from elsewhere….

As a media journalist it is impossible to study the evolution of News Corp and not admire the sheer brilliance of vision and the perfection of execution….

A lengthy interview with Rupert Murdoch feels like an obituary for an era – the sound of a nail being put into a coffin. And just as Murdoch symbolised the mainstream media industry at the peak of its power and used its influence so deftly, so his decline in relevance is a sharp reminder that the media establishment is all in the same boat. The only difference being that Murdoch’s boat is considerably bigger.

I think Murdoch would agree. Listen to him from that interview:

Does he feel now that his internet strategy is fully formed? “It’ll never be fully formed. The internet is changing, very disruptive technology and there are new inventions coming along every month. One has to stay awake and race to stay up with it, or if you get enough brilliant people around maybe you can get ahead of it.”

“The point is the ease of entry. If someone has a good idea on the net the cost of entry is zero. We’re going to have many, many more voices….”

There’s vision left in the old guy yet.

* * *

Now hear Murdoch on the state of journalism and newspapers… in America:

Given all this activity, how fearful does he think traditional journalists have to be for their futures?

“Not at all,” he says. “Just become better journalists. Great journalism will always be needed, but the product of their work may not always be on paper – it may ultimately just be electronically transmitted. But for many, many, many years to come it will be disseminated on both.

“There will always be room for good journalism and good reporting. And a need for it, to get the truth out.”

In Britain he thinks journalism is in as healthy a state as it has ever been. “Maybe better, there’s some great writing taking place, certainly in our newspapers – Times, Sun, Sunday Times – and we don’t have a monopoly on it. There is good writing all over the place….

“And it doesn’t matter because there are so many to choose from. I think the people of Britain are uniquely lucky to have such a great choice of newspapers and news, whereas in America you don’t.

“Outside New York, it’s all monopoly newspapers.

“Some have good work in them, but it tends to be overwritten, boring and elitist, not a reflection of the general mood in the public. And I think you’re going to find their circulations falling more than they already have. With their business models, because they’ve already stripped all the costs out, now they have to depend on advertising. And that is certainly under threat.”

I doubt he’ll be buying Knight Ridder. Too bad. He might be the one guy who’d know how to save the Philly Daily News as a tab, as a paper. But I don’t want to fall back into that trap again: the trap of thinking that our task is to save something from the past, to look back when we should be looking forward.

Our task is to stop seeing old failings everywhere and start seeing all the new opportunities before us, to exploit the future and expand news — to exhibit a passion about the possibilities, as Rafat Ali told the Online News Association. And we must accept the reality of the marketplace and stop wishing it wouldn’t change.

To summarize some of my own pontification on the topic from this blog…

From an editorial perspective, this means we can’t start with a goal of saving the newsrooms we now have. We have to find new efficiencies (how much do we spend on commodity news?) and new ways to help the public gather and share news (see hyperlocal citizens media) and concentrate on our real value: reporting. We need to think in terms of relationships, sharing training, information, promotion, and trust. How can we use online and the join with our public to grow bigger and share more information more quickly? That must be our goal.

From a business perspective, we need to stop whining about readers moving online. If that’s what they want to do, then go with them, damnit! The biggest challenge is to train advertisers that online is more valuable than print because more people are there and they are more engaged in getting what they want, and so advertising there is more efficient and should be worth more. The Online Publishers Association is taking steps to do that nationally; local sites need help, too (oh, for NCN). The next challenge is to find new ways to serve new advertisers, and maybe that’s not on content we own but on much larger and more targeted networks of citizens’ media. I believe we will, sooner than we know, start seeing print as an added cost burden maintained primarily becuase advertisers value it more than readers . I also believe that print will shift to become value added to online. It only stands to reason: If the people are online, that is where the advertisers will be. The publisher with balls will drive toward that inevitability, killing stock tables and even whole sections to encourage readers to go online. As for arguments that newspapers have high profit margins today: Well, yes. But once again, they’re not going to grow as papers. And once again, beware the cash cow in the coal mine that can blind you to your strategic imperitive to change.

The first step is to change the way we think. We have to stop thinking of ourselves on paper. Stop thinking one-way and start thinking two-way. Stop thinking centralized and start thinking distributed. Stop thinking about holding trust and power and start thinking about earning and sharing both. Stop thinking we make money by creating friction and owning scarcity and start thinking about how we can make and share money by enabling people to do what they want to do. Stop thinking of what we produce as paper. We need to stop thinking of newspapers as things.

So how do we think? This weekend, I quoted a blogger about owning media and came away thinking that life and the internet are about verbs and so should media be: What do people want to do?

I also love quoting Hugh MacLeod, who told me to share this wisdom with the Online News Association two years ago: Hugh said that rather than thinking of a newspaper as a thing, we should start thinking of it as a place, “a point on the map where wonderful people cluster together to do wonderful things.” Whatever we do, we have to break out of our old assumptions and old ways of looking at newspapers and journalism.

And that is what struck me so much about the contrast I saw between Europe and America. Here, we are talking about saving newspapers and hanging onto the past for dear life. There, they are talking about what comes next and they’re in a mad dash to get there.

The idea that the presses we own may be our last is not cause for mourning but for invention and investment. We have no choice.

* * * * *

: Here are a few ways to break out of the old ways of thinking. Robin Miller has a great piece on lessons for newspapers he has gained from working at Slashdot’s parent company. Here is Dave Winer’s prescription.

: Full disclosures: I write a column for Media Guardian. They paid my way to the meeting but not a fee (who flunked that business test?). I agreed that the meeting was off-the-record but I did ask Rusbridger whether I could blog his quote. And I want to disclose that I’m sorry for writing such a long post.

  • http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink Jay Rosen

    Why be sorry? Was there any fat?

    I think it’s a visionary post.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Except for a small thing, while there is a fight on to save the Daily News – the immediate need in our region – and the discussion we’re having is related to that…

    The work group we are discussing for February is focused future – reinventing news organizations: it’s based on this earlier post by Will that talks of the long term. The transformation of newspapers into news organizations – “or norgs” as Will calls them.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    ‘focused on the future’ it should have said. Wish there was a way to edit comments ;)

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    I continue to have a problem with the question of who is going to pay the “journalist’s” salary?

    Big news organizations can afford to keep a preson on staff who might work on a story for weeks. What is going to replace this model?

    Distribution is something that gets debated a great deal. Off the cuff content (like this blog) is easy, but real investigative journalism costs time and money.

    Perhaps we should have an ASCAP model. In that model the songwriter and performer gets a fee every time the song is sold or played. The micropayment problem is eliminated by use of sampling and the requirement that major users (like radio stations) supply a log of songs played.

    So, we could have independent reporters, who sell their work through news publishers (like music publishers) to distributors like newspapers and TV outlets. Then the number of subscribers or viewers, or whatever measure is appropriate, could be used to calculate the fee to be collected. A portion would go back to the reporter.

    Image libraries use a modified version of this already.

  • http://marginalizingmorons.blogspot.com/ CaptiousNut

    A very good post and ironically another illustration of why I don’t buy newspapers.

    You can’t easily or often find trenchant insights like this in those jurassic newspapers.

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  • Jorge

    No one could seriously consider that progress has somehow taken a powder in the media. Things must go foward, it’s some kind of physical rule.

    In my opinion there are basic guildlines that all journalists citizen or otherwise should adhere to period. Professionalism and truth are the basic requirements to gain the trust of the consumer .

    I foremost do not want to hear the left or the right. I want to hear as close to the truth as anyone can provide. Anything else is propaganda or as they used to say back in W. Va. , bullshit.

  • I.F. Stoner

    Jeff writes:
    “Presses are good for only a few decades.”

    Hah! Mike Bloomberg said that 15 years ago, and went on to build aq mega-billion real-time electronic to-desktop system. Now the “dead tree” publsihers (Mike’s phrase) are trying to catch up with weak-sister web-based products.

    And while I’m ranting, does anyone else find it funny that Barney the Dinosaur’s Public Editor column is pay-only on Times Select? So much for PUBLIC editor. Geez, they not only circle the wagons and make it hard to critisize themselves, they even hide it from public view…

  • http://unbeknownst.net KirkH

    Distributed editing (Reddit) allows readers to decide what content makes it to the front page. Some of these new sites like Digg.com have stories categorized but none have done it geographically yet. That might solve the localization problem but it doesn’t answer Robert’s expensive investigation question.

    What if the the venture capital model was applied to journalism. A few journalists get together, compile some evidence and pitch a story to an investor who then gets a cut of the advertising revenue. Instead of newsrooms you’d have ad-hoc teams of journalists that would form and dissolve as events dictate instead of as a response to a fear of dead air.

    What is the benefit to an advertiser of loyal readers? Do they click ads more often? And if so is it just a stat skewing attempt to help their favorite blogger or journalist? In any case I’d hate to be a corrupt politician knowing that hoardes of hungry, competitive new journalists are about to invade the media landscape.

  • http://suzuki kat-missouri

    Perhaps we should have an ASCAP model. In that model the songwriter and performer gets a fee every time the song is sold or played. The micropayment problem is eliminated by use of sampling and the requirement that major users (like radio stations) supply a log of songs played.

    Yes, this model or including a set rate for every “hit” the report gets. Further, I think that one problem that the media has is transparency. I don’t mean just who the sources are, but how things get done. How do people get the stories, what do they look for, who do they develop the details, edit, etc. First, because it may help the distributed model by educating would be contributors to the standards and practices of the press.

    Maybe people think it would be boring, but have you ever seen a documentary on say A&E or the discovery channel about journalism? Not that this has to be the model for conveying information about journalistic practices, I’m just pointing out a lack that also contributes to the idea that journalists are strange birds, separate from the masses who do whatever they want, report on whatever they want without any idea about consequences or consumer interests, thus lending to that other media problem which is “trust”.

    Another suggestion which I believe was made here at one time is the idea of a blog or some other format that provides the transparency of the development of a story. This could also act as an education tool along with providing the “transparency” that may seem missing on the development of a story including who, what, when and where the conversations took place and fool transcripts or links to background information.

    Now, I have wondered if it is strictly the extra time that journalists and media are concerned about or if it has some other issues like how to protect sources, parts of the story being leaked without verification, and possibly loss of proprietary information. On the other hand, if they are going to move to a distributed model that is supposed to lend to a quicker and less expensive model for distribution of information, it may become even more important to have transparency and, maintaining standard practices and protecting sources (I mean that more than not outing a source that doesn’t want to be known but keeping the names of resources private so that it remains exclusively a resource of the media entity) is a sure way to dry up the distributed media well.

    I wonder, with all due respect to the idea that we should not try to save old ideas, what will be the response of the unions? I don’t simply mean the printers or the gaffers, but jounalist unions? If you go to the distributed model, it stands to reason that the union will be broken unless it can figure out how to take advantage of the distributed model to increase the number of union members, though, controlling it would seem difficult since the distributed model means the media entity could continue to function without the union members who strike.

    Just a thought. But going further, the idea of aggregated news and paying reporters and other contributors based on an ASCAP type scale means that suddenly, obtaining news will be cheaper for the media entity and profits could be extremely high. On the other hand, smart folks would insure that any contract for a specific story would include language about the percentage of ad and other revenue they would receive in conjunction with the ASCAP type payment. The same way that actors and singers insure that they get a percentage of merchandizing. Still, it would be a win win situation for the owners of said media and for those who spend much time investigating and investing themselves, a good story will pay them a good fee.

  • Hale Adams

    Wanna bet some big-name papers still go to the wall?

    This whole situation reminds me of the old Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1950s and ’60s: Their business was going down the tubes because they forgot that they were a transportation company– their attitude was that they were in the business of running trains.

    (Well, there were a lot of other factors at work, like bone-head unions and even more bone-headed federal regulations, and don’t get me started on the management…..)

    Ennyhoo, the PRR struggled on for some years more before the whole thing (by that time it was called Penn Central) crashed to the ground in 1970 in the biggest bankruptcy in American history up to that time.

    Until newspapers “get” that they are in the business of collecting and disseminating news, and not necessarily printing newspapers, the wreck of the Penn Central awaits them.

    Dollars to donuts the first victim will be the New York Times……

  • http://www.richardgrayson.com Richard Grayson

    Jeff, I know you’re right and I agree with everything you say. Still, I remember in 1965 as a sixth-grader being taken on a class trip to the New York Times and being entranced by not only the world of the writers but of the romance of the printing process. I came home with some huge curved cardboardy thing that contained a page of the paper; I have no idea how it was used to make the paper, but there was something about it…

    I remember in the mid-1970s when our college newspaper went from hot type to cold, and how my friends’ fathers and uncles who were linotypers (linotypists?) with the Post and Daily News would, after several strikes, be relegated to playing poker in a room after union settlements had them still employed at the papers but without any real work…

    I remember dead dead-trees papers like the Long Island Press that we used to subscribe to when I was a teenager (I had a crush on the paperboy) and the Daily Mirror (its headline, “Marilyn,” the day she was found dead) and the Herald Tribune that would be delivered to us kids at our junior high with its jazzy-looking front page, so much cooler than the tight eight columns of the Times whose Sunday edition that our ninth grade English teacher, Mrs. Sanjour, gave us quizzes on on Monday mornings (how many Ninas could we spot in that week’s Hirschfeld cartoon?).

    I’ve lived in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire and Wyoming and always subscribed to the Times, even when I had to do it by mail and would get the paper five or six days late. Mrs. Sanjour said reading the New York Times was what separated civilized people from barbarians.

    But I find that in my insomniac old age, I have usually read most of the paper online before I pick up the meatspace copy on my morning doorstep.

    I’m not a Luddite. You’re right. It’s over. But I will miss the touch of the paper, and even the smudges it used to make on my hands and everything white in my house.

  • Marina Architect

    Conversation is content. How the media or press credibility erodes over time is what is relevant. Make no mistake, content is king and conversation is content.

  • http://towersystems.com.au/fhn_blog/ Mark Fletcher

    Thanks for a visionary post. I agree. It’s over. Here in Australia the publishers established a retail network to handle newspapers and magazines and today we have 4,600 newsagencies – independently owned small businesses. In many newspapers and magazines account for 50% of their sales. While the publishers have the vision and financial capacity to cope with the tsunami of change, many of these small businesses remain unaware of what is happening with their core products. Of course, they must reinvent themselves and urgently. They (we – because I own one) used to think distribution was king. Many still think this. In my view the core asset of these stores today is their personal community focused customer contact. They have to leverage that through their reinvention. The ere in no point in waiting for publishers to take their hand as they are now in a different race. So, it’s not just publishers facing challenges of farewelling their last printing press. There are many small businesses at risk as the world embraces a new news and information model.

  • http://www.phillyfuture.org Karl

    Robert, I think the music industry analogy is fitting in many ways – it’s one I use regularly in fact.

    I didn’t say this earlier, but great piece Jeff.

  • http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/weblogs/pressthink Jay Rosen

    This is one of Jeff’s best pieces ever, but one part of it’s greatness its appearing just below that incredible photo of the giant printing press in Buzzmachine’s logo.

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  • http://www.beatcanvas.com Brett Rogers

    The piece of this story that spoke loudest to me is that America is not innovating…

    Global competition. If America’s media execs think it’s new media vs. old media, that’s small thinking. The world media now has the ability to end-run American media. Smal media has the ability to end-run big media. Anyone can be a player. There is no safety on home turf. Home turf is as unique and as close as a home page.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    More on the ASCAP model.

    One of the things that has happened in the music industry is the sampling of existing recordings to use in new “mixes.” This was an issue when the technology first emerged, but there has now been general agreement on licensing and fair use. Essentially any use requires permission.

    With the blogosphere most posters feel that any size excerpt from a newspaper story is “fair use.” In general this is an abuse of the concept. What used to be meant was quoting a few sentences in a review or criticism piece. If this attitude on taking copyrighted material is going to continue then something like the ASCAP model won’t work.

    Enforcement might be achieved via technology. There are already a number of services that scan web sites and process the information for use by teachers trying to uncover plagiarism. Similarly the Google news aggregation service is able to recognize multiple appearances of the same news item and group them under one heading.

    So, perhaps, a policy of scanning web sites with over a certain amount of traffic for this misuse and then require payment. Once again the payment could be in terms of blanket licenses. This would be required of the site and might seem a financial burden to those being run on a shoe-string. But the traffic criteria might serve to distinguish these.

    ASCAP went after restaurants which play the radio in the store and forces them to pay a fee for playing copyrighted music. The fee is a function of their size and other factors. This might work for the web as well.

    Once independent news creators were assured that their work would be compensated we might see a rise in people willing to try this. Josh Marshall has taken the lead in this and is starting a new site with reporters paid by contributions from readers. I think it will be called TPMmuckrakers.com, but so far it is still underdevelopment. The only person that I’m aware of that was able to pursue this model in prior times was I.F. Stone.

  • Jorge

    Hale Adams

    Bonehead Unions?

    You wish you had the Balls to belong to a bonehead union!

  • http://www.smlxtralarge.com Alan Moore

    The Future of news is: Grassroots, Mobile, Immediate, Visual, Participatory, Trusted

    Absolutely understanding that news has to become more social is the very key to survial.

    And lets not forget the mobile.

    RSS aggregation to personally curated news could well be of value to niche audiences

    Here is a link to a post I wrote last August

    http://smlxtralarge.com/archives/000036.php

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  • Hale Adams

    Jorge writes:

    “Bonehead Unions?

    You wish you had the Balls to belong to a bonehead union!”

    I’m not sure whether this is a scatological pun or not….. :)

    Jorge, I once worked briefly (in 1990) for Conrail, the successor corporation to a raft of Eastern bankrupts– Penn Central (which in turn was New York Central plus Pennsylvania plus New Haven), Lehigh Valley, Central of New Jersey, Lehigh and Hudson River, Reading, Erie-Lackawanna, and probably several others.

    My job was to supervise the inspection of railroad freight cars moving through Conrail’s Elkhart Yard in Indiana. All of my subordinates were union members, and most of them were decent, hardworking people. But some of them were boneheads, STILL fighting the Red-Green battles left over from the aftermath of the Pennsylvania/New York Central merger of 1968! Still others were determined to do as little work as possible, in order to make it look like there was too much work to be done with the relatively few people we had (the “youngest” guy working had a seniority date of 1976), the better to get the “younger” guys (ones with seniority dates in the ’80s) on the active list. We had one clown who would regularly fake minor injuries, just to annoy management and waste our time.

    But somehow, we made the trains run on time– thank God I had good foremen… Thank you, Dave and Dan, wherever you are.

    Yes, unions have their place. But I have a great deal of sympathy for the junior-level managers on railroads in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s: they supervised the obstreperous in the service of the clueless.

  • Michael

    I wonder what of the humble travel guidebook .. safe from google as its more of a safety device, althought as most (except the popular destinations) of them are published for 3 year runs, will they continue to be utilised. Will Amazons “pay for page, chapter” idea make them obsolete?

    Mike

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  • David Iannone

    A lament to the death of . . . “don’t say it- not yet!”

    I must say that I have enjoyed reading everyone’s comments, thoughts, visions and ramblings about an industry I have grown to love, but rarely embraced as a reader. I am one of the youngest employees in my company, currently in my first “real” job after graduating college in Dec. 2003. Previously, I worked for my college paper in graphics and then in advertising. I am now a promotion designer. I will soon be looking for a new title, in a new company, and most likely a new industry.

    In the end, which is now upon us, and much sooner than senior or middle management ever thought, the reality of our industry and coming to terms with our future is bittersweet. I will forever remember the tingle I get when I walk into a pressroom, give a nod to the grease and ink covered plate man, duck below the thousands of feet/sec sheet feeder, and pickup the new, still wet, special section edition tabloid pullout that I had just finished designing the cover to, the night before.

    It always amazed me, as being born into the digital era, of how just a few years before I began learning my trade, designers used the xacto knife and paste-up method. Fortunate for me, I just use a mac. But still to this moment, there is a conversion that needs to happen before going to print. A digital to analog conversion (opposite of the current trend – analog to digital). Meaning that no matter how creative of a solution I developed, the final output has to be separated into four plates, covered with ink and printed offset onto paper. This downward conversion is the rearguard of the digital divide.

    The writing has been on the wall for a while. It, like everything else, just takes some longer to read. And, we all know, reading doesn’t necessarily mean comprehending.

    Ironically a couple of years ago, when I chose my departure from the interactive based design program as my major, it was in favor of working at the student run newspaper as a graphic design manager, with a concentration in communication sciences. I assumed the role of responsibility and got paid for it. My vision at that time was limited to my knowledge and surroundings. In reality I felt that making money and getting “real” experience in college would give me the upper hand when I got out. This held true until now.

    Over the past five years, the newspaper industry has undergone tremendous change. Readers and consumers have forced us to rethink our model. Newspapers in general have been reluctant to view the future as an opportunity. Rather, we view the changing landscape as a threat. The reality is, it’s both. It’s a threat to the old dogs, who fret learning new tricks. It’s an opportunity for the new puppies and those with an open mind and a passion to spread the word.

    Fortunately, I am young, so tired is not in my vocabulary. I am just glad that I got the chance to take part in an industry that has changed the world. And now, I have the opportunity to take part in a new industry that is being defined by the world.

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  • Bounce Brewer

    Surely this is a joke — a sly reprint from 1999. Ha! Next week tell us how electronic commerce is going to revolutionize shopping!

    Seriously, I was reading articles just like this five years ago. What is wrong with the publishing industry that “insight” into these issues should not have progressed over half a decade beyond the introduction of the word “blog?”

    It is stunning to find publishers still scratching their hoary old heads over what to do with this Web thing. And it’s frankly puzzling that any publishers should cry about readers wanting choice, access, and interaction with their daily dose of information. Of course they do. Of course.

    Successful communication needs appropriate messages and media, and companies that are too insular or calcified to respond to this maxim will simply wither. They deserve to.

    And if all of this is news to you…well, good luck. Maybe those computer things won’t actually catch on.

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  • http://www.jphotog.com Eric

    Content is king. You can have all the realtionships in the world, but if you don’t have content gluing them together, then they are shallow, meaningless connections.

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  • I.C.A Carpetbagger

    The printing and publishing industry is its own saddest and worst enemy.
    The news of the recent hiring of Wes Lucas by Quebecor, a large printing and publishing public company in the Stock Market, proves that the Board of Directors at Quebecor has apparently not investigated very closely the carnage that took place at Sun Chemical under the tumultuous and very short reign of Wes Lucas there and until his resignation was forced recently by the Japanese parent of Sun Chemical. This, only 2 or 3 years or so after he came in totally inexperienced in the industry of printing and printing inks.
    According to Sun insiders it will take many years before the damages done by the Lucas Gang, as they are referred to there, can be repaired. He thrashed the place completely and lost many of the key people while providing lucrative employment to a group of cronies that travel with him from job to job. All cronies were also inexperienced outsiders. At some point Sun Chemical observers started calling Sun Chemical as FEMA NEW JERSEY. Today most of the top 7 or 10 people at Sun are from outside the industry. Lucas seemed to hate printers and ink people and appeared to embark in a form of staff cleansing there in that respect in which the ink people and Sun Chemical staff were purged and humiliated into insignificant roles in favor of the highly paid cronies. The company became paralyzed.
    With all that on the record, low bottom morale, booted out by a typically tolerant parent in Dainippon Ink and Chemicals, he was immediately hired to run Quebecor, one of the largest printing and publishing and media companies and a major customer of Sun Chemical. Double jeopardy for sure. Lucas returns to haunt the Sun staffers again as a customer.
    Well the industry does not deserve to survive when its largest and best companies are their own worst enemies. Management like this should be kept out of this struggling industry or we will have the so call LAST PRESSES you mention much sooner than expected.
    I.C.A. Carpetbagger

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  • jojo1942

    It seems crazy that a company with so much to lose like Quebecor would hire Lucas to run show. What kind of damage did he and his cronies do at Sun?

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  • David Locke

    The content is just there to motivate the conversion, but the conversion is about location, the address, of the response. Only at the response address will you know that the coversion actually happened. This is possible both on the web and in print, but who actually does it for print, and if they did, would they be so quick to migrate to the web?

  • David Locke

    Whose going to pay for in-depth, long investigative journalism projects?

    We could bid on stories, and collectively the bids would go to the investigators. After that the book publishers would get involved.

    Another thing we could do is create annuities for each member of a story taxonomy. Then, the stories would get readers and feed contextual advertising click-throughs to monetize the situation. The monies wouldn’t go directly to the writer, it would get turned into an annuity, and the annuity would pay all the writers in a given category.

    The problem with the ASCAP model is that it is broken as well. Software publishers learned a long time ago that license protection schemes diminished the amount of money they could make. The music industry will wake up to this as well. Stories are always going to be about another story.

    Most news comes from a story called a press release or a placement. If you tried to pay the sources for their words in a given story, you’d have an accounting nightmare on your hands.

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