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The Last Samurai

E-media surpases print in too many ways to pretend the scales haven’t tipped.


Tony Silber By Tony Silber
11/23/2009 -13:11 PM






My friend Ted Bahr, CEO of BZ Media, blogged on this page recently that he’s retained his belief in the power of print media in b-to-b communications. Not only does he believe in its continuing power (a lot of us believe in that), he fights to assert its primacy.

“More and more marketers start conversations by letting you know that they’re not doing print as a matter of fact,” Ted wrote. “Many of my competitors and fellow high-tech publishers have given up, letting the river flow, and you can see the results in the steadily eroding group of high-tech titles still in print. I can’t quite explain why, but I refuse to yield. I refuse to bend to the times, to just accept the advertiser’s misguided notions that print is dead and not even worth talking about. I’m not giving an inch.”

Ted, in my opinion and many others’ opinions, is one of the bright leaders in our business. Whenever I spend time with him I learn things. He’s just really smart. He’s a big believer in FOLIO:, and a real supporter.

But I’ve got to say, I’m mystified at his position in this instance. What does he see that others don’t? Print advertising is in inexorable decline. This is a fact, and has been for some years now. New forms of media have emerged that perform the core function of b-to-b media—connecting buyers and sellers through the use of valuable content—better than print. The evidence is overwhelming. It’s something to be embraced, explored, exploited. Not resisted. Just look at the ravaged condition of so many print b-to-b magazines. So many are barely limping along, shadows of their former selves, thin, pamphlet-sized ICU patients.

Marketers are voting with their dollars on other forms of media. You can’t stop it. The fact that we haven’t figured out yet how to replace the money spent on the print ad with money spent on our online businesses, dollar-for-dollar, doesn’t change the more important fact that we need to figure it out.

Print will always be part of the mix because it’s still hard to beat in impact. It’s extremely valuable in establishing awareness as well as the important, hard-to-define element of prestige. It’s also still good at generating leads.

But e-media is better at too many things to pretend the scales haven’t tipped. We need to not fight the battle that radio executives fought in 1948. We need to move on.

In the movie, “The Last Samurai,” an American Army officer on assignment in Japan becomes entranced with Samurai warriors, and takes up their code. The movie ends with the Samurai wiped out by a modern Japanese army with guns and artillery and backed by Western countries. The scene symbolizes the inexorable march of progress and how technology changes, the new replaces the old, cultures clash, and the traditional ways can’t be held forever.

Image via EW.com

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