Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 24, 2010 9:18 PM

The Media Disruption Within

One media channel always accuses another media channel when either popularity or advertising within the channel begins to wane. Before pointing fingers at others, it may be better to look at what is happening within.

Shel Holtz (famed communications expert and Podcaster - along with Neville Hobson - of For Immediate Release) often says, "new media don't kill old media." I'm starting to think that there is a second part to this word play: "new media don't kill old media, because there's no point in killing something that is committing suicide." Whether it's unclear business models, lack of innovation or a general presumption that everybody, everywhere needs whatever it is that you are producing, it's becoming clearer that media disruption comes from within. Outside (maybe even, newer) media channels only add to that disruption by speeding things up or adding choice for the consumer.

Take a look at television, radio and print. But, let's focus on magazines.

Last night I attended a panel discussion that was part of a literary summer program that enables participants to travel to unique places to not only write, but also learn from some of the best writers and professionals in the literary world. The panel discussion was billed as a conversation on the state of the magazine publishing industry, and featured senior editors from The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker and The Walrus magazine. I left in the middle. I was bored. I was hoping for a conversation about how magazines evolve in a mobile world. How magazines will change because of devices like iPhones and iPads. How content and publishing has evolved since the advent of Social Media and instant publishing platforms like Blogs and Twitter. I was hopeful to hear how these editors engage and connect in spaces like Facebook and what the future holds for a media that - like most other media - is adapting to digitization, shifting consumer habits and a very different advertising landscape. How are these businesses dealing with their own evolution and what does this mean for the future of magazines?

Navel gazing.

In the end, what transpired was a weird belly rubbing meets self-congratulatory back-and-forth that included name dropping of obscure magazine industry professionals and writers that the general populace has never heard of. It became a session where the advice bestowed practically dismissed the fact that publishing - as an industry - has changed at a fundamental level because anybody, anywhere can (and should) publish their ideas to the world instantly (and for free). Writers no longer have to kneel before the publishing slush pile. It was almost as if the participants (both on the panel and in the audience) were attempting to make the Internet go away. It was almost as if the participants (both on the panel and in the audience) were trying to make the Internet bend to their will. It was if they wished the Internet had never happened. They were all a little too comfortable with the way things were and practically ignoring the world as it is in front of their eyes.

But we're on Twitter and Facebook and we are using Blogs!

They're on these channels and platforms, but they're not thinking about them differently and they're not seeing how this changes what it means to be a magazine publisher in 2010 (and beyond). To them, the Internet is the proverbial red-headed stepchild. Blogging, Facebook and Twitter are not serious. The words in print matter most over everything else. Everything else is considered "less than". It's only credible if it's in print.

It's not just this panel... it's almost everyone.

Change is hard. Disruption is harder. It's one thing to be shortsighted when you're invested in the printers and distribution models of yesterday (like a magazine publisher is), it's another when you're the actual vision for the content, but you still act like the game (or money or business) is in the printing and traditional distribution, when the power to publish has been given and granted to all with a story to tell.

When you do it to yourself, you can't blame technology, the Internet, Social Media (or anybody else).

By Mitch Joel