The Laws of the Future of Publishing

January 1st, 2009

I’ve chosen the first day of the new year to inaugurate a series of blogs and essays that I refer to as “The Laws of the Future of Publishing.”

The idea came to me last summer in Toronto, in conversation with my wonderful webmaster and web designer, Elia Kanaki. I wanted to try to distill my haphazard observations about the changing world of the future of publishing into some tight rules that organizations could observe on a regular basis, despite the changing tides.

Today is an auspicious day for its debut, as I am able to quote from an article in today’s Wall Street Journal about the music industry. The article, which will no doubt bring tears to your eyes, is titled, “Music Sales Decline for Seventh Time in Eight Years.” It offers the usual unenlightened blah-blah: “Increases in digitally downloaded albums and songs were not enough to offset a nearly 20% plunge in CD sales in the U.S., according to year-end figures published Wednesday by the Nielsen Co.’s SoundScan service.”

It leads very well into Thad’s first law of the future of publishing:

1. Digital versions of analog forms of content will not draw the same revenue as their predecessors. Costs, however, can be greatly reduced. The challenge for all content producers is to find a new business model that allows profits to be maintained, or ideally, increased, in the digital world we occupy.

The music industry has been the biggest crybaby through these years of digital change. The same issue of the Wall Street Journal notes that “Microsoft Corp. said a court in China convicted 11 people for manufacturing and distributing counterfeit Microsoft software that the company valued at $2 billion.” Microsoft has been pursuing these folks since 2001!

I will note in its favor that the music industry seems to be slowly getting with the program: they stopped suing teenagers. Look to Thad’s law: there’s more money to be made in digital than there was in analog, it’s just that the business model is entirely different.

Check out the current issue of the Oxford American magazine and then tell me that the music scene has become morbid in this digital world!

I’m going to be reporting on my “laws” mainly through blog entries in the months ahead. Stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s the short version:

Happy New Year.