Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought

November 12, 2014

I read two articles snagged by my Overflight service. The first is “Are You Ready for Marketing in 2020?” The story ran in what I thought was one of the UK’s most eager of the electronic pony riders. The other is a news report that LinkedIn, the social network for those desperate for contract or 9-to5 work and individuals with a hunger for getting 15 nanoseconds of fame. Yep, the entity “Stephen E Arnold” has a presence on LinkedIn. However, the “entity” is powered by the efforts of two of my research goslings and a real law librarian. We find the response to the “Stephen E Arnold” postings to the LinkedIn faithful amusing and somewhat horrifying.

Let’s look at each news item and then do some social and digital strategery, a neologism from the W era of the US presidency.

The Guardian asks a question and then promptly answers it without any reference whatsoever to the steady erosion of the traditional newspaper and magazine business. The author, a real journalist I presume, shows some grim data about the decline in ad revenue. There is a fix for this. A “real” newspaper or magazine can quit fiddling with the objective journalism stuff and get down to selling “inclusions.”

If you are not familiar with an inclusion in “real” publishing, allow me to explain. Think about those big, fat college guides that parents buy when Jill or James is “looking for a college.” Some of the entries are obese. Ever wonder why? Well, the business model of many college guides are based on selling space to the colleges and universities. Instead of calling these juicy descriptions of caring faculty and well groomed campuses advertising, the publishers use the euphemism “inclusion.”

How does this fit into the decline of newspaper advertising revenue? Easy. Just sell stories that pitch the advertisers’ view of reality. Then sell social media posts about the inclusion. Keep beating the drum until the inclusion buyer’s money runs out. Rinse. Repeat.

The solution is different from mine. The future in 2020 marketing will be data, content, channels, and technology. I think  these are fine words, but the job is to hook these words to money. That will be done by charging for the newspaper or magazine endorse, brand power, and ability to put out content that has more credibility than a blog produced by an unemployed journalist, a failed Webmaster, or a retired person like moi.

The Guardian “real” news story concludes with a question: “Are you ready for marketing 2020 style?” Well, the answer in my opinion is that “real” newspaper and magazine publishers are not ready for 2020. They were not ready for online content in the 1960s. Now a half century later, these outfits are still struggling in a digital fish bowl. By 2020, most of the “real” newspapers and magazines will either become PR and SEO outfits, get into a different business like real estate, or fail. In  my opinion, the very expensive and complex business model of the Monocle will not be viable due to the difficulty of generating enough revenue to keep prints, shops, online, and other bits and pieces affordable.

The second article is “LinkedIn acquires Newsle, a Google Alerts-Style Service for You and Your Network. One good thing about LinkedIn is that it is more focused than Amazon or Google. The company offers the ego- and unemployed focus that sets it apart from other social networks. Also, the company has snagged a couple of content centric properties. I quite like Slideshare because users create content, upload it, and get the benefit of being able to hunt for work or boost their ego. That’s synergistic in the MBA 1975 definition of the term. The Newsle deal, like the Pulse deal, is aimed at service. These have potential to distribute Linked In “posts” and news about Slideshare uploads as well as content that some publishers provide. Please, note that the savvy publisher will charge a person or company to write a story, slap the “real” publication’s name on it, and then hose the data to LinkedIn’s services. So I am on board with this type of acquisition for LinkedIn.

But the real impact of this LinkedIn constellation of services is that traditi0nal database publishers like ProQuest and Ebsco Electronic Publishing are likely to find themselves in a deeper hole than the one they are now in. The traditional market for these outfits is a library willing to pay outrageous prices for content produced by others. Publishers are rightly suspicious of these database outfits. If specialized information is the focal point, the audience for ACM or IEEE content remains small. As a percentage of the working population, the specialist markets are more difficult to increase. Selling cheaper mobile devices is a tough business, but these burgeoning prospect pools are looking for ways to reduce their costs of online, not raise them by reading the full text of Elsevier journals.

Raising prices for this specialized content will squeeze both the professional customers and the go-between companies like Cambridge Scientific Abstracts. Westlaw and Lexis already are feeling the effects of having their core market flee for jobs at Uber, Kentucky Fried Chicken, human resources, and trying to make a franchise pay for the kids’ sneakers. Legal information is indeed a very tough business compared to the salad days of expensive online information. I balk at paying $100, $250, or more for a query of US government produced legal documents. I am not alone I believe.

This means that LinkedIn may benefit from “real” newspapers and magazines charging for inclusions. As LinkedIn’s audience grows, it—not the publishers nor the intermediating database folks—will get the big paydays necessary to live high on the hog.

Good for LinkedIn. Not so good for the folks who have not adapted to the 1970s. By 2020, many of these outfits will be like the snow leopards. LinkedIn could be one of the winners.

Stephen E Arnold, November 12, 2014


2 Responses to “Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought”

  1. videos between three-five on November 13th, 2014 10:18 pm

    videos between three-five

    Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search

  2. sexy scorching on November 23rd, 2014 3:40 pm

    sexy scorching

    Why Traditional Print and Database Publishers Are in Even More Trouble Than Thought : Stephen E. Arnold @ Beyond Search

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