Print is dead. Long live print.
It can be said that the journey print journalism has taken in the last twenty years heralds the current seismic changes in book publishing. The book publishing industry is learning to respond to their own changing business model. The rise of e-books, digital publishing, and self-publishing all offer lateral solutions to the impact of readerships with tablets, apps, and self-selecting multimedia.
The challenge for print journalism was always getting the business model right. With dwindling revenues and readerships many flagship newspapers run with only a handful of hard-pressed staff who work across many functions. It has become the norm to no longer produce sections such as magazines and features – all to cut costs and keep the main pages of the book going. Better that than closure. Magazines though, continue to thrive and proliferate. Some digital-only magazines have proven so popular that they launched print versions to meet readership demand. Gaming also thrives. There was a poignant, truly ‘sign of the times’ moment in my home city this month, when the signage for the Scotsman newspaper on their iconic building was replaced by Rockstar Games who produce Grand Theft Auto and other world-class games. The Scotsman, going since 1817, moved to smaller offices in Edinburgh.
So newspapers can learn a trick from the magazine and games industries. Crowdfunding offers the opportunity for investors to fund a newspaper or news site, perhaps in return for subscription, shares or equity. De Correspondent in the Netherlands have successfully accomplished this. You can read about their experiences here.
The book publishing industry too. Welcome the ‘authorpreneur’, where the author is also a digital entrepreneur. They fund, e-publish and market their writing. Agents and publishing companies are still as valuable as ever for establishing quality and keeping the industry alive but, as with print journalism, it does no harm to have multiple business models. Perhaps in anticipation of the day when only providing content without a thought for the business end of the newspaper, magazine, book or site, is a halcyon memory. Crowdfunding can only help secure the future of the ink industries and should be embraced and it works two ways. Digital versions can lead to print versions and many publishing deals are made to successful kindle-only authors, the popularity of their books assured. My favourite examples of this phenomenon are the excellent Words with Jam e-zine, which now produces a print magazine. and the self-published authors Mary Wood, Kerry Wilkinson and Amanda Hocking who have been signed up to produce hardback and paperback versions of their e-books.
So digital and technological innovation can reinvigorate print and vice versa and to capitalise on this symbiosis authors, journalists and any other content-producers can upskill. After all, I am sure Charles Darwin and Mark Twain, who serialised their works in newspapers and sought out pamphleteers, would be looking out for their local crowdfunding seminar on eventbrite.