Mark Terry

Monday, March 16, 2009

Content with Content?

March 16, 2009
Because I'm scurrying around debating with myself about becoming a publisher, and because, as we speak, the publishing industry--especially newspapers--is imploding, I thought I would shine a light on something a little different.

Publishers deliver content.

Writers create content.

I find it interesting that as the publishing models shift, publishers respond by decreasing content. Newspapers firing journalists, etc. My gut feeling is that publications that respond to the shifting content delivery systems by decreasing the amount of content are going to fail. Publications that focus on ways to deliver content--and a lot of high-quality content for which there is demand--will succeed.

How to get paid for it? I know a lot newspapers, which over history have made the bulk of their revenue by way of advertising, aren't making much money off Internet advertising. (Yet, I think. Once advertisers lose that source of advertising, they're going to pay and pay a lot on websites with high traffic. That suggests to me that newspapers and others need to concentrate first on how to drive up traffic instead of how to get paid for it, but that's easy for me to say, isn't it?). 

There's always those webanistas who think everything on the Web should be free and they won't pay for anything. I keep wondering which planet they're from. Just keep in mind the truth behind this expression: you get what you pay for.

Anyway, the point of this, which could go on for pages, is that I believe there will always be a need for good content, no matter what the delivery method. And that as WRITERS, our job is to deliver that content.


Mark Terry


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

This is a rant of mine for another day. Definitely. I am sick to death of seeing ads on craigslist or whatever for writers that do not pay PROFESSIONALS fairly. I responded to an ad and the rate was like less than a quarter-cent a word! It's insane. But I have to believe the better writers will rise to the top.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

And my perception is that the current economy has driven those people out of the woodwork. I can't believe the number of adds offering to pay $5 per 500 word article.

9:40 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Whatcha got in the works, there, Mark? Sounds interesting!

You know, if you're on Mac, talk to Melanie. She's a graphic designer and knows that sort of stuff.

I think a large part of what will make a publishing model succeed in the coming years is convenience. People were stealing music left and right, but iTunes made it convenient to buy from them, and they succeeded. Kindle does the same thing. Gosh, a single click and it's there.

Honestly, I just bought a book unavailable in digital form, dropped it off at the library, and stole it online. And having paid for THREE books that were so locked down I couldn't put them on my Kindle, I now know how to remove DRM so I can read the content I bought where I please.

I'm not saying I'm proud of the above, but... I do believe I'm representative of the mindset of the digitally-inclined.

I also believe if publishers can't keep up with what we need, this same generation will find a work-around. And I believe most will just steal the damn ebook rather than go buy the paper version out of guilt, or go through the digital rigamarole of having to remove DRM.

Which is sad, because I believe that most ARE willing to pay. The way publishers do it now? By treating us like thieves, they're forcing regular readers to become knowledgeable of the art.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

The problem is that if people continue to steal or get it for free, pretty soon there won't be any professionals providing it. It's a problem. I understand the underlying philosophies, but it's a problem.

10:22 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

But an easy solution! Just keep providing DRM-free books, like the publishers who do. DRM-free is not money-free, it's just lock-free.

Just like iTunes has been switching to lock-free, lately. It's just as profitable.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Spy raises a really good point. I never steal tunes. And it's not like I can't work Limewire. And I can't say I am insanely moral about it (that's a part of it)--it's they made it SIMPLE for me on iTunes. I love it.

11:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

iTunes also made their pricepoint just about right. I download a fair number of TV shows to watch on my iPod or iPhone and at $1.99 per episode it's hard to complain and it's convenient.

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Jim said...

I've been watching (with horror) the decline of the Providence Journal, Rhode Island's only daily paper with state-wide circulation. It is getting so that on many days it is putting out a product that is about the same size as the South County Independent, our local weekly paper. Given the number of newspapers around the country that have failed, it is becoming clearer that ProJo is in deep trouble.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Linda Pendleton said...

Seems to me Publishers Weekly is an example of downsizing content, especially since the company let go its editor in chief and several other long time employees. And I just renewed my yearly subscription days before this happened. I've read the magazine since 1985 and it now reflects the economic situation of the industry, as do many of these newspapers closing down after many years. Some give up all together or are going on-line only. On-line may be great for many of us to catch but not everyone has Internet access.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous JW Johnson said...

I've always wondered why ads dont pay for entertainment(stories) on the web like they do on television or the radio. Maybe its just because advertisers haven't moved to this medium yet because they aren't being steered this way. I bet it changes before it's all said and done. You just need a big ad-house to pitch for you.

7:30 PM  
Blogger LurkerMonkey said...

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this ... I don't think the problem is a lack of high-quality content from publications. Rather, I think the problem is a flood of free content, much of it very high quality and a good percentage of it from the very publications that are currently going out of business. The Washington Post, for example, has been through several deep rounds of lay-offs, but the paper's website is still growing.

I think the mistake was made several years ago, when publishers folded to the demand to provide free content online. Once that horse was out of the barn ...

As for books, again, a flood of content. Although this downturn has slowed NY publishing, it's worth remembering that more books were being published than ever before from traditional publishing companies before this recession hit. And that's not including the massive swamp of self-published books.

But I think you're heading down the right road with your idea. Highly targeted, value-rich, expert content is still needed, however it's delivered. It's much harder to knock off something that only a few people understand, and there's no endless sources of free information.

5:40 AM  

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