In a recent blog post, Bob Sacks argued that print publishers have a misplaced, irrational fear of digital publishing. The general reticence of old-guard magazine executives to adapt to the wild world of the Web has been discussed at length on this blog. But the fear part hasn’t.
The very same executives that sit in meetings, on trains, and at home reading hundreds of text messages on their BlackBerrys for hours will deny there is a comfort zone for long-form reading in a digital format.
I couldn’t agree more here. This was precisely the scene at the MPA’s digital conference last week in New York. Publishing executives firing off e-mail messages from their Blackberrys and iPhones, some tweeting, many complaining about the lack of WiFi in the Marriot Marquis ballroom. Yet, they were having far too long a debate on how launching too many digital products like blogs (really?) and aggregation sites and widgets risks dilution of a magazine brand.
No it doesn’t.
The only valid argument for having this fear and it’s a shaky one is that digital revenue, while growing, is still, for the most part, miniscule compared to print.
Perhaps it’s miniscule because they haven’t fully embraced the digital innovations they should have, say, four years ago?
Maybe it’s because they are desperately trying to validate their print-centric skillsets, watching pure-play innovators pass them by (see: Rodale EVP MaryAnn Bekkedahl’s absurd comment about a phantom blogger from the digital conference).
The print business has been forever changed. It’s not going back. To think that it will is irrational.