As part of my company’s focus on the media industry, I sit on a few industry groups where I have the opportunity to spend quality time with senior media and publishing industry executives.
Like any CEO, I have a natural tendency to believe that my company is, if not totally counter-cyclical, at least somewhat immune to the effects of the economic downturn. I’ve heard enough CEOs make the claim (cf: this query), often where it’s ostensibly absurd, that I should ask myself if I don’t have a case of CEO denial. Am I arguing something akin to the rise in bedbugs is good for the hotel industry or not?
So when a recent publishing executive group I sit on started to discuss the economic downturn, I turned up my defenses to make sure I didn’t have my happy ears on.
But executive after executive said that they believed the downturn is accelerating the digital publishing transformation. Not because I said it. Not because, as a technology supplier that helps companies transition, I want it to be true. But because about a dozen senior folks from many different publishing sectors said it.
- Foot-dragging in some publishing sectors has already gone on almost a decade, slowly whittling away at the traditional models and those who support them.
- As the decade has passed, the top brass at publishers continues to change, slowly replacing less tech savvy executives with more tech savvy ones.
- Enough time has passed that there are now examples of both new and traditional publishing companies who have successfully transitioned business models. The “it can’t be done” rationalization starts to wear thin.
- Hands are being forced. Seeking to cut costs, publishers are forced to make real trade-offs between investing in the future and preserving the past. When forced, most executives will bet on the future.
Now that I see the picture, it’s clear: after roughly a decade of fence-setting, the downturn is forcing publishers of all ilks to move. The downturn is accelerating the transition to digital publishing. And that’s not happy ears.