The Future of Publishing: Doom

December 12th, 2008

Well, I must give kudos to Steve Rubel, “a marketing strategist and blogger …and senior VP in Edelmean’s Me2Revolution practice.” (What would a junior VP do there?) Mr. Rubel, has by my estimate, broken the 100,000 barrier on the number of essentially self-proclaimed experts who have grabbed at some superficial data points and decided that the sky is falling for all media.

He wants to make a bet with each of us (he doesn’t specify the amount or where we can send our bucks). The bet: “By January 2014 almost all forms of tangible media will be either in sharp decline or extinct in the U.S.” I guess he may not have offered his bookie’s address because this is what you might call a hedged bet. First we’ve got “almost all forms of tangible media.” Very difficult to parse definitionally. “Almost all” we could note leaves a pretty broad margin of error. Clearly it means “more than 50%,” but does it mean 70%, 80% or 99.9%? I can’t tell you. Perhaps Mr. Rubel can. But he’s got further squirm space with the statement: “in sharp decline or extinct.” The word “extinct” has an unequivocal meaning. “In sharp decline” is significantly more vague. I’m not certain that it even means “more than 50%,” and definitely unsure if it means 70%, 80% or 99.9%?

Mr. Rubel then trots out the usual selective data to try to bolster his argument. I won’t repeat them all (check the link), as they’ve been repeated too often and really weren’t mentioning the first time.

Rubel does note that he hasn’t bought a CD since 2003. He doesn’t note whether he has been pirating music since that time. Apple announced the iPod in October 2001. Perhaps that’s where he makes his purchases. I bought two CDs yesterday from Amazon. Call me old-fashioned. While the dollar value in retail shipments of recorded music has declined by 35% in the last decade, it still represents an $8 billion market in the U.S. This trend line will certainly shrink the market further in 5 years, but won’t make it disappear.

I’ll take your bet, Mr. Rubel. Do you take PayPal?