I am fascinated by change, and I love reading and talking to smart people about how publishing is changing. I wish that I could quote specific people, but since I have not gotten any permission, I won’t.
I will say that I’m in the midst of an interesting stream of people who are thinking about this stuff all of the time. My husband and I have friends who work for NPR. My colleague, John Wimberly, is on the board of the Presbyterian Outlook. I write for Alban Institute, and, of course, I have a wonderful group of creative friends who write and keep up with all of this.
So, let me tell you what I’ve gleaned recently…
We have heard the horrible news of newspaper after newspaper going under. What is happening? What will people be looking for in the future? Here are my predictions, which aren’t really mine because they have all been stolen from people who are much smarter than me.
If publications dig in their heels, and stick only with print media, they will die a slow and sad death. There’s just not much growth in print-only media, and the business there is based on nostalgia. If companies hold on to print-only media ideals, they will end up with an increasingly older, shrinking demographic as their readership.
I know it’s painful. I know we are longing for the way that it was, the smell of an old book and the feel of having a newspaper in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, but younger generations don’t pick up newspapers and they subscribe to few magazines.
And so publishers need to begin thinking of themselves as media outlets, instead of just people working in newsprint. They will need to start diversifying into informative websites, podcasts, twitter blasts, social networking, and whatever else might stick.
Alban does a good job with this. They don’t just publish books, or a magazine, but they have webinars, emails, podcasts, blogs, and twitter updates. They have consultants and speakers. And they are even rethinking their educational events so that they might be communities of spiritual practice and learning. They are exploring the possibilities of on-line publishing.
News will be distilled to fit onto a Blackberry/iPhone screen. We have gotten more and more used to headline news, the scrolling bits, and the distillation of a story into 140 characters or less.
Book demand will increase. This was actually a surprise to me, but a friend in the industry said that people will be looking at short headlines, but when they want to read more, they will turn to books. The in-depth reporters that are being laid off from newspapers, will start writing timely volumes. He forecasted that the quality and pricing of books will go down, and the demand will rise even more.
So what do you think? What would your predictions be? What will all of this look like for church leaders? Will we also be expected to be versed in the multiple mediums? Should seminaries start teaching classes on how to create podcasts and give pointers on what to put on a blog? Should denominations offer continuing ed on social networking? Should pastor search committees be looking for aptitude in these things as they search for a pastor? (For Presbyterians, should it at least be listed as one of the skills on our PIF?) Should we keep putting our church advertising money into newspaper ads? And (at the very least) shouldn’t our colleagues quit ranting about how all this stuff is a just a waste of time?
Photo by alankcrain