THE RISE (AND FALL?) OF THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY – WHERE IS IT GOING?

‘It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves—the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public—has stopped being a problem.’ (Clay Shirky) Are digital and networked media dismantling the “publishing industry”? Is it being replaced? If so, what is replacing it? If not, what is the publishing industry becoming, and how is it doing so? Are there new difficulties and complexities or expenses involved?

During the passage of time, humanity has gone from verbal story telling, to printed works, and finally, in an era over-run with technology, the transfer of printed works to the digital sphere. While there is overwhelming support for a move considered to be efficient and prospective, one must consider whether the timeless concept of print publishing has been overshadowed by a generation addicted to technology. Before attempting to answer the question of whether the publishing industry is being replaced, the definition of what publishing actually entails needs to be considered. According to Wikipedia (a publishing platform itself), publishing is ‘the activity of making information available to the general public.’ Prior to the digital age, this referred to the distribution of print material, such as books and newspapers; however the extent of publishing has now broadened to include electronic resources, such as e-books, blogs, and more. With these new digital forms of publishing, there are arguments being made that the publishing industry in its traditional form is no longer operative or relevant. However, although the industry is undoubtedly transforming, it is by no means being replaced – conversely, it is expanding to accommodate for the ‘dissemination of information in all possible venues’ (Schisler 2014). In order to support this claim, I will focus on the specific example of newspaper publishing, and how digital and networked media is transforming the industry by enhancing it.

EXPANDING TO A GLOBAL AUDIENCE

As Schisler writes, ‘publishing has become more democratic and less aristocratic: it is not in the hands of a few decision makers anymore’. When looking at the newspaper industry, the source of profits – originally primarily advertisements – is undoubtedly changing. There is no longer a need for companies to utilise newspaper advertising to make their services visible. Nonetheless, as Satell (2014) argues, the reason why publishing businesses, including newspaper ones, continue to run, is because they’re ‘selling a product that people want and need. As long as people want to be informed, entertained, and inspired, there will be profitable opportunities in publishing.’ Ironically, although digital media is seen to be the primary reason for the diminution of the publishing industry, it is one of the ways in which such opportunities arise – primarily through the ability of infrastructural globalism. For example, British newspaper The Daily Mail started as a broadsheet newspaper circulating only nationally, but by expanding to an online platform has developed into one of the biggest newspaper websites in the world, with pages designed specifically for Australia, the US and even a specific section for women. This is just one example that demonstrates the way in which the print industry is being enhanced – the Daily Mail has not stopped distributing its papers, but has now also reached a global audience and thus legitimised its status as a viable corporation. The ‘aristocracy’ is being abrogated by breaking down the obstacles that once needed to be overcome.

POTENTIAL DIFFICULTIES FACING THE INDUSTRY

However, one of the main concerns that digital media raises – unseen when media such as radio and television were introduced – is the power of user-generated content, creating a commons through practices such as j-blogging and podcasting. Although this is, as previously mentioned, beneficial in shifting from an aristocratic to a democratic form of publishing, it means there are new difficulties and expenses that need to be considered. Pattabhiramaiah et al. (2014, p. 14) comment that the increasing availability of alternative sources of news, especially free content provided on newspaper websites and by news aggregators (e.g. Google) has made paying for the print newspaper less attractive to readers. Consumers are now changing from passive to active participants of content creation and distribution, in turn raising new challenges for the once hierarchal publishing industry. Therefore, in one sense, as digital and networked media increasingly affect the future of the publishing industry, there will be decreases in profits made from advertising and sales. However, on the other hand, going online means that it is still possible to generate profits through paywalls, subscriptions and other content barriers, while massively reducing the cost of printing and distribution. Further, by utilising the power of user-generated content and integrating into their content, the publishing industry and particularly the newspaper industry can prove to have a beneficial outcome. However, although all of these changes will likely lead to a decrease in the total profitability of publishers, it is certainly not dismantling the publishing industry – the industry just needs to find effective ways to adjust to these technological changes. As Critchlow highlights, ‘the printing and publishing industry is undergoing technological change characterised by increasing employment, rising production, growing capital investment, intensified research and development, predomination of small firms, and strong craft unions’ (p. 3). Focusing on the example of The Wall Street Journal as their case study, Johnson and Gutierrez (2010, p. 70) argue that publishing companies can avoid the destruction of the ‘old business model’ by continuously identifying, investing and creating new resources. The introduction of the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (the ‘Interactive Journal’), has led the company to have a profitable e-business model that effectively complements its printed works. This is just one example of how the publishing industry can and have the ability to transform to better adapt to the changing nature of content dissemination.

LONG-FORM CONTENT AND AN ATTENTIONS-BASED ECONOMY

Another way in which the publishing industry is transforming, but certainly not dying, is through long-form content. Hyrkin (2014) states: ‘long-form content is experiencing a resurgence thanks to new technologies that create new monetization opportunities for the publishers.’ For example, Palmer and Eriksen (1999, p. 33) argue that digital newspapers can replicate traditional print papers, but additionally offer ‘multimedia content tailored to the individual consumer in a manner radically different from that of traditional newspapers’ (p. 34). They further note that the industry is driven by three key elements: content, delivery and advertising. This means that the publishing industry, by moving to a networked age, is transferring emphasis from delivery to focus on how content can be created and framed to target individuals. This is directly related to the notion of economy of attention; that is that the flow of attention anticipates the flow of money (Goldhaber 1997). Although technology is now dictating where readers’ attention – or lack thereof – lies, the newspaper industry is transforming to adapt to this by utilising and integrating various forms of publishing to create a more interactive and attentions-based economy. There is now the possibility of including a better design, videos, multiple images and external links to stories, without having to work around restrictions of space, deadlines or localised audiences. Palmer and Erikson (1999, p. 37-38) state that ‘the convergence of audio and video forms has the potential to generate substantially different products from the text and photographs of the paper version and to stimulate increased consumer interest’. Further, having this form of digital data enables information to be more easily ‘stored, accessed, manipulated, consolidated and transmitted’ (p. 36).

THE CHANGING NATURE OF ARCHIVING IN THE INDUSTRY

As a consequence of these new forms of data manipulation that the publishing and newspaper industry can now utilise, the way in which archives are formed is also transforming. Archive fever, as Derrida (1995) states, involves determining what is inside and outside our culture. His discussion revolves around the impact of electronic media and the threat it produces to transform both public and private space. Shirky (2009) notes that the ‘organisational forms perfected for industrial production have to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data’. As previously mentioned, the changing nature of data retention in the publishing industry is resulting in the publishing industry becoming more online-based, with now both the creation and dissemination of data being done digitally. Therefore, Shirky’s statement that ‘the core problem publishing solves—the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public—has stopped being a problem’ is true to the extent that this public collection of information has moved online and thus is easier, cheaper and simpler to maintain. However, this does not make the publishing industry irrelevant: taking the example of newspapers once again, companies are now able to publish material digitally that is able to be searched, saved, and archived online. Palmer and Eriksen’s research found that over 80% of newspapers maintain archives, with many digital newspapers continuously expanding their archives, while others may only keep material for a limited period of time. Some newspapers (10% in their research) even charge readers for access to the archive through charging per article, per time session, or periodic use. This effect of archiving on the publishing industry is important in that it changes the nature of how content is not only created but also retained, something that was not a practical possibility before the digital era.

THE EFFECTS OF CONVERGENCE

Convergence is yet another factor in determining whether the publishing, and particularly the newspaper industry is being dismantled by digital media. Lawson-Borders (2009, p. 92) defines convergence as the blending of old media, (e.g. traditional media) with new media (computers and the Internet) to deliver content. Despite Shirky’s contention that there is no longer any reason to have regard for the publishing industry, as they no longer have a practical function, convergence has proved to be a benefit for publishers to extend their reach. This is due to the fact that ‘changing demographics and competing messages have made the Internet particularly attractive to traditional print and broadcast media who have sought to protect brand name and their historical specialty of gathering and disseminating news, information, and entertainment’ (Lawson-Borders 2009, p. 91). For example, Sydney Morning Herald launched their online website in 1995, but simultaneously built a printing press to accommodate for wider and faster circulation of their print papers. This demonstrates that digital and print media do not have to be mutually exclusive, and although new media is becoming the dominant publishing platform, through convergence print media and the publishing industry are still relevant today. Nonetheless, the publishing industry is becoming a web of cross-promotion that still needs to find an effective way to sustain profits through new and technological means. Gilbert and Ure note: ‘too many newspapers are focused on where their online and print businesses overlap and are not capturing all the growth opportunities created by disruption’ (2005, p. 6).

The transforming nature of the publishing industry is not a new phenomena – in fact, and particularly in relation to newspapers, the industry has been in a constant transformative state. Even as early as 1945, it has been argued that ‘the number of daily newspapers have declined rather persistently… and have been siphoned off by competing media’ (Kinter 1945, p. 43). Thus, there has been and always be different forms of emerging media that will challenge the validity of the publishing – particularly the newspaper – industry. Thus, the industry is not dismantling: there is merely a shift in focus. Whereas previously, digital material complemented print material, now it is vice versa. So what can publishers do to take advantage of this? Some recommendations include: subscription fees, enhancing distribution channels, customised product development, charging for access to archives, and becoming a market-maker (Palmer and Eriksen 1999, p. 39). The future of content undeniably lies online, however, print material is still alive and breathing to supplement it. As Satell (2014) succinctly states:

There is no intrinsic problem with publishing. There is still enormous value in uncovering stories and telling them well. That publishers need to innovate their business models just puts them in the same place as every other industry.

Word count: 1923

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Critchlow, R 1970, ‘Technological changes in the printing and publishing industry’, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 93, No. 8, Bureau of Statistics, US Department of Labor, pp 3-9.

Derrida, J & Prenowitz E 1995, ‘Archive fever: A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, Vol. 25, No. 2, The John Hopkins University Press, pp. 9-63.

Gilbert, C & Ure, G 2005, ‘Reading Disruption’s Fine Print,’ Harvard Business Review.

Goldhaber. M 1997, ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, accessed 4 November 2014 <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html&gt;

Hyrkin, J 2014, ‘The publishing industry isn’t dead – but it is evolving’, The Next Web, accessed 1 November 2014 <http://thenextweb.com/dd/2014/06/21/publishing-industry-isnt-dead-evolving/&gt;

Johnson, R & Gutierrez, A 2010, ‘Reinventing the business model of the newspaper industry: electronic business models and the newspaper industry – The Wall Street Journal as case study’, MBA Master’s Thesis, Blekinge Institute of Technology School of Management.

Kinter, C 1945, ‘The Changing Pattern of the Newspaper Publishing Industry’, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 43-63.

Lawson-Borders, G 2009, ‘Integrating new media and old media: Seven observations of convergence as a strategy for best practices in media organizations’, International Journal on Media Management, Vol. 5, No. 2, pp. 91-99.

Palmer, J & Eriksen, L 1999, ‘Digital newspapers explore marketing on the Internet’, Communications of the ACM Magazine, Vol. 42 No. 9, ACM, NY pp. 32-40.

Pattabhiramaiah, A, Sriram, S & Sridhar, S 2014, ‘Rising Prices under Declining Preferences: The case of the U.S.Print Newspaper Industry’, Marketing Science Institute, pp. 14-105.

‘Publishing’, Wikipedia, accessed 30 October 2014 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publishing&gt;

Schisler, M, ‘The Future of Publishing – Introduction, What is Publishing?, Publishing and Photography, A More Democratic Publishing Network, Changes in Printing’, accessed 1 November 2014, <http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/1088/The-Future-of-Publishing.html&gt;

Satell, G 2014, ‘Publishing is Not Dying’, Harvard Business Review, accessed 3 November 2014 <http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/08/publishing-is-not-dying/&gt;

Shirky, C 2009, ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable’, Shirky.com, accessed 20 October 2014 <http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/&gt;

‘To survive online, newspapers are seeking a worldwide audience’, 17 March 2012, The Economist, accessed 2 November 2014 <http://www.economist.com/node/21550262&gt;

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Distribution and aggregation: its relevance in our world today

It is abundantly clear that the introduction of new media and a digital culture has broken down barriers to many forms of distribution and aggregation. Not only does this apply to stand alone devices such as computers and mobiles as Andrew notes, but also includes how our distribution and aggregation within the social and the public sphere.

Hubert Guillaud, writing a reflection of Danah Boyd’s “Flow of Information through New Media Speech“, discusses how historically forms of distribution were much simpler but also much more highly regulated, with the power lying in “those who control the channels of distribution”. However as we all know and he notes these structures are rapidly collapsing, with participants (actors) of the digital network now holding that power.

John Salvo notes that moving from an Information Age to a Systems Age involves “sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision… the separation between leaders and followers will cease to exist, as the internet democratizes the planet and good information becomes ubiquitous”.

However Boyd makes a good point here – she notes that just because WE now have the power to dictate what is distributed within the public sphere, that does not mean that attention is divided equally. In fact, as I’ve noted in previous blog posts, I’d take it one step further and say in a way attention is even harder to maintain now than maybe 50 years ago. This is because not only do users prefer fast bursts of information, but this explosion in the amount of “publishers” means that it is harder to get your voice heard. Obviously easier access to distribution and the destructuring of mediators makes getting it out there easier, but that’s not equivalent to being heard.

Another point which relates to this that Guillaud discusses through Boyd’s speech is that we choose content that stimulates us, not necessarily content that is informative. She notes the example of Facebook, saying it gives rise to parasocial relations: “on Facebook, you can turn your friends into celebrities, without actually gaining the benefits of social intimacy and bonding.” I think to an extent this is definitely true. For example, I have about 1,100 friends on Facebook, but if I had to count how many I interact with personally and physically regularly it would be about a tenth of that number. Regardless, how I publish and distribute data is affected by all of these 1,100 friends. I think this demonstrates Boyd’s point – that sense of connection that was there before has diminished to an extent. It becomes a way of representing one’s public image, rather than actually building a connective network. Boyd in her blog stated that during her presentation, having tweets projected on the big screen meant that she lost connection with her listeners, who became more invested in their communication with themselves.

Therefore, as Andrew notes, aggregation and distribution are forms of expression; ways of personalisation. YOU dictate your world by choosing what, with whom, and how you engage both digitally and physically. These forms of content/expression then turn into your experience, which you later archive. And this is the neverending circle of publishing!

Theories –> practices –> archive fever

The archivist produces more archive, and that is why the archive is never closed. It opens out of the future.

THEORY

Theories, as Andrew states in the lecture this week, are a “form of mediation/communication between ideas and practices” that allow us new ways of “understanding familiar things, so that we can work with them differently; or sometimes so that they might work differently.”

So, for example, classical conditioning is a theory. It connects the idea that learning occurs through interactions with the environment with the practice below. (as performed by Ivan Pavlov).

Now let’s look at archive fever. Jacques Derrida, author of ‘Archive Fever’, argues that archives are a basis for authority by having an ability to determine what is “inside” and “outside” out culture.

Ironically, Julie Enszer’s blog post, which summarises the writings of Derrida, is part of an archive surrounding his work . The irony is seen where she notes: “the archive is shaped by the “paternal and patriarchic, principle only posited itself to repeat itself and returned to re-posit itself only in parricide”.

archive fever

 

Further, we can see in the above photo that Facebook is a prime example of an archive. On Derrida’s page there is a year-by-year recording of his activities, and his information, photos and interests (“likes”) are categorised also. I think this highlights the 3 definitions of what archives are (as stated in the lecture):

  • a basis for individual or collective memory (we can view what happened in 2009 where our memories fail us)
  • a basis for authority, social formations, culture (those that have “liked” his page have formed a community)
  • a basis for individual/collective experience (we can experience as a community the activities of Derrida*)

*the guys that run his page

As Ogle comments: “without deliberate planning, we have created amazing new tools for remembering. The real-time web might just be the most elaborate and widely-adopted architecture for self-archival ever created.”

However he also notes a problem with this – “the current philosophy underlying most of the real-time web is that if it’s not recent, it’s not important. This is what we need to change.”

The way in which digital media advancements have influenced this is phenomenal (as I mention in every blog post). Omeka is one good example of this. As explained on their site, Omeka is “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions. Its “five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.” I.e. technology = archive-making in 5 minutes. Me having this blog for example, is me setting up an archive. Thank you WordPress.

PS. I know Andrew suggested avoiding using Facebook as an example, but I couldn’t help but think it was the easiest way to exemplify the idea!

Getting familiar with the term “Publishing”

It’s a common word, used in a variety of contexts and with different intended meanings. However there hasn’t been a time, until now, where I have had the reason (or thought) to really grasp what publishing actually means.

The two mind maps below reflect my ideas (and generalised misconceptions) about publishing before and after reading the coursework for this week:

One of the most interesting reads of the week was an article by Will Self, in which he comments on how digital media is leading to “fewer paper books being sold, newspapers folding, and bookshops and libraries continuing to close”; going on to state that “the advent of digital media is not simply destructive of the codex, but of the Gutenberg mind itself”. Although I do agree with most of his ideas – ‘difficult reading’ is in decline, producer-consumer relationships are rapidly changing and it is close to impossible to generate ‘original’ content – the shift of focus to digital media is not necessarily a negative one. With barriers being broken down in terms of accessibility, immediacy and resources, more people are able to publish material than ever before. Not only this, but online media sets the stage for a (or many) digital community(ties) of users who can connect and share data, reforming the top-down approach of communication that traditional forms of publishing had encompassed. This is reflected in the emergence of new projects that aim to keep up with these advancements in technology, such as the ‘creation’ of the multigraph and Future of the Book – creating books that “is not bound by time or space” and “is always a work in progress”.

However, Self raises a number of issues that are also echoed in other writers and statistics; many of which I agree with. For example, Tony Haile notes “we confuse what people have clicked on for what they’ve read. Where TV asked for your undivided attention, the web didn’t care as long as you went click, click, click.” Kendell further comments: “Today we’re driven less by the words on a page (or screen) inspiring thoughts in our minds, and more by how a title or topic trigger other people to validate, praise, and fight us.”

As well as this, there are so many ways of publishing that are continually emerging that it’s difficult to even keep up – the e-book, in particular the development of Spritz for example, as well as 3D and 4D printing. Have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aghzpO_UZE. It printed a functioning wrench from powder. Crazy. Even better, with talks of 4D printing there are transformable objects on their way too.

I Think Barbara Brannon sums it up by saying:

In the 1450s the technology of printing arose as a way of duplicating the way people wrote; in 1984 and beyond, is it too much to imagine that digital technologies aim to duplicate the way people think?

Overall, one of the most valuable things I’ve learnt from this week’s material is that publishing is not confined. At all. It’s continually extending to include new methods of production and dissemination, from a newspaper column to new music on Soundcloud to Spritzing and all things in between. This means that our ways of reading and processing are changing – be it a good or bad thing.

I think I need to find a quiet corner to read now… on my Kindle.

BIBLIOGRAPHY