The future of the publishing industry

The traditional music industry is on the verge of disappearing because iTunes, and then Spotify, contributed to a radical shift in audiences’ music consumption habits: from physical packages to digital-only ownership to cloud-based subscriptions.

In terms of movies and television shows, Kevin Spacey, who starred in Netflix’s own hit series “House of Cards,” spoke recently at a broadcasters summit in the UK about how the movie studios and cable TV channels are having the rug pulled from underneath them by online streaming services and audiences’ increasing preference for ongoing, complex character development.


Due to a multiplicity of financial and societal factors, deep character development falls beyond what Hollywood is willing to provide these days (and, to be fair, perhaps even beyond what a feature-length movie is able to deliver). TV series are best suited for that kind of storytelling, to speak nothing of the new behavior conditioned by the “anywhere, anytime” character of Internet services such as Amazon Instant Video and Netflix: We now binge on series, not wanting to wait for the following week to see what happens next.

Newspapers (and, to a lesser extent, magazines) have been struck the hardest by the ubiquitous availability of news and analysis on the Web. Their circulation figures have been plummeting for decades; but in the past few years, newspapers have suffered a vertiginous advertising decline that is affecting their quality of coverage and their adoption among young audiences.

Backing up this troubling diagnosis with research and figures no longer seems necessary, but here are three data points from “The State of the News Media,” published by The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (2012 numbers):


“[Newspaper] print advertising revenue is now just 45% of what it was in 2006. The growth in online ad revenue has been slow.”

“More than three-quarters of print classified revenue has been lost since 2000.”

“[Magazine] newsstand sales continued to decline for a fifth consecutive year. Single copies dropped about 8% compared to the same period last year.”

The recent and surprising purchase of the historic Washington Post newspaper by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos caused in the industry both deep nostalgic lamentations and earnest (if uneasy) hope, at a time when audiences have grown accustomed to getting their news from somewhere else.

In a recent interview, Bezos declared his belief in an upcoming “golden era” at the Washington Post. He knows the quality of the product and is ready to experiment to find out the best and most viable way forward for the journalistic enterprise. However, his optimism is not Pollyannish:

Jeff Bezos

Source: Smashing Magazine


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