Shifts in publishing


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


7 thoughts on “Shifts in publishing

  1. Carol

    I have to admit that in this age of instant news on the web and 24 hours news on the tv, that I don’t really read the newspaper. I have noticed that more and more members in my small town don’t get the local newspaper. While it is a small paper, I honestly subscribe so that I can read the obituaries and to read the weekly column that rotates among the local clergy.

    But I pleased to hear all may not be lost on the book industry. For me, there is nothing like sitting in bed snuggled up with a good book (and even a good religious book). It is a passion that I have been passing down to my daughters.

    As one who is often skeptical of technology (it often breaks down on me and I don’t know how to fix it and still have my patience), I have actually come to enjoy watching webinars. They have come to be a great way for me to learn something without the huge expense of going to a continuing education event. Blogs have become a great resource and inspiration in my preaching and teaching. I actually have even commented to my members what I have been reading on the web.

    I think denominations should offer classes in technology and encourage pastors to use it. This would be a wonderful way to help connect pastors together who have a limited amount of time and financial resources. One of the things I commented about to my present church was that they had NO web presence. It took four years, but we now have a website and members are constantly commenting about what is there and what they would love to see there. Sometimes we need the push. So yes let’s have a section on the PIF about your use of technology—do you twitter, blog, facebook—which then may encourage churches to think outside the box.

  2. Hmm… here’s something to think about: college students are constantly told that their facebook profiles will be checked out by potential employers, but does the same go for ministers? Do PNCs look up facebook profiles? I rather expect that starting now more and more parishioners will expect to see their ministers on facebook, so perhaps seminaries should have Social Networking 101 sessions. But they probably wouldn’t have to warn seminarians not to upload photos of drunken escapades. 😉

  3. I will admit I am a daily newspaper reader. Even thought my local paper has been gutted by staff cuts the last few years. I look at every page of every section. I don’t read every article. I also read the weekly altpaper. And the monthly city magazine.

    What I can’t get my mind around is how the new media will replace the newspaper if it goes away.

    Reading a daily paper is bit like getting a broad liberal arts education. You read some things becuase they interst you. You read some things becuase they are important if if you are all that intersted. And you stumble across some things that are interesting that you might never have looked at otherwise.

    I realize that newsprint is simply a delivery system. So how is the new media going to deliver EVERTHING to me that a good daily paper delivers.

  4. 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?)

    Interesting. For the time being, I’ve actually been downplaying (or just not mentioning) my online presence to my CPM. Mostly because I don’t know how folks will respond (I often say I’m too conservative for the liberals and too liberal for the conservatives). But this is a valid point, and I have experience (if not necessarily expertise) in all three of these areas.

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