The Radical Changes in Content Creation (And why we may not get it)
I was struck recently by a couple of blog posts that raise troubling questions about how we, as an industry, view what we do. Typically, as the world of media transforms before our eyes, we retreat to a couple of seemingly safe positions:
- The world will always need quality content and as long as we can create it and sustain it, we stay relevant.
- Our brands mean something important, so as information consumption migrates to new channels, we retain a halo benefit.
The truth may turn out to be significantly more complicated. The blogger Scott Karp (who is joining Foliomag.com as a featured blogger starting this month) did a post in late May asking whether content creation is a sustainable long-term business. He noted a recent Wall Street Journal article in which a music-industry executive described CDs as a mere promotional tool. "There’s no money," the executive said.
Karp noted the root pattern here is disaggregation, and that what happens in music often is replicated elsewhere. "You could argue," Karp wrote, "that the most striking consequence of digitizing media and distributing it online is that all content is now available in a discrete, granual form. Music file. Article page. Video clip. Podcast. Photo. There are very few places that require you to buy a whole package in order to get one item. This is a radical transformation of the content business."
In other words, the fundamental premise of a magazine, a collection of content selected and edited by experts, has been wiped out as people get to pick and choose what they want.
The other post I found fascinating was by 8020 Publishing’s Paul Cloutier. In it, he argued that the Web is making magazines more valuable, not less so. But one part of the post seemed to argue the opposite.
"Printing a magazine costs money," Cloutier wrote. "You have editors, publishers, photographers, ad sales managers, designers, the list goes on. One of the reasons it is cheaper to start a Web-only magazine is that Web-only startups generally eschew all of the traditional staff and structure. The entire editorial process is changing from a centralized staff-intensive process to a much more agile software-based method. Most publishers have not yet grasped this and are still employing the cost structure that they have used for the last 50 years."
"A new, agile software-based publishing model." The scary thing is he’s right.