“Never argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton”
“Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.”
“The first duty of a free press it to turn a profit.”
It’s time for a new aphorism for a new journalism. This article by the Inquirer (the unfortunately named online tech journal that always gives me pause in thinking of that sleaze rag The National Enquirer) is a good wrap-up of the changes in the fortunes and mastheads of the tech publishing world, one that has seen in recent months:
- The cessation of print publishing by InfoWorld and a shift to an online model
- The Harry McCracken-Colin Crawford dust-up at PC World that saw editorial trump the business side
- Serious questions about the economic viability of Red Herring
- Serious questions about whether Business 2.0 would publish this fall
- Jim Louderback resigning from PC World and joining Revision3
Taken in a bullet list, the events don’t really add up to much more than a sequence of the usual churn and change in the media world, but what is occurring, and which the Inquirer piece nails, is a movement away from large infrastructure publishing companies — companies with offices and expensive content management systems, and all the overhead one would associate with any commercial venture, to little work-at-home ventures like GigaOM which, while not scoring revenues on a scale of an IDG or a Knight Ridder, are focused on the talent and not the management, the content and not the content management.
As the printing press goes free, as the difference between one page and another is utterly fungible and distinguished only by the contents of the page, then the power and the profit shifts to the creator and away from the administrator and the salesman. This is the true important impact of the publishing 2.0 revolution — not the mashups, not the attitude, not the user participation. Those are byproducts that even the big publishing firms can try to co-opt (but usually fail to do to internal internia and constipation). While micropublishing may not attract top line attraction, it can make a very good living, in some cases, for the very best talent. Fake Steve, based on traffic, is worth about $250,000 a year — the issue is how does an anonymous blogger sell it. The solution is not ad networks like Federated Media, AdBrite, etc.
Check out the Inquirer article.
Back to the title of this post. I still maintain, as I did in
December January, that it is entirely possible to create a publishing company with zero investment in software licenses. It’s the destruction of that barrier to entry that is crushing the big publishers more than any other.