The End of Publishing? Rethinking your Printing and Publishing Strategy

I recently attended the Content in Context Conference from the Association of Educational Publishers. Although the event was mainly targeted to the K-12 educational industry, I feel there are many lessons to be gained across the entire printing and publishing industry.

What I Learned from Teenagers about the Print and Publishing Industry

First some staggering statistics that were shared at the event. These may not be relevant to you and your industry, but I bet you can draw some interesting correlation with your area of the print and publishing industry.

  • Only 70% of American kids receive a high school diploma
  • 25% of freshman at a 4-year college drop out

Why? Kids drop out not because the content was too hard, but because they felt content wasn’t relevant to their lives. In other words, the content wasn’t being delivered in a way that they like.

A recent study shows how kids under 18 get their daily content:

  • TV: 4 hours a day
  • Music: 2 hours a day
  • Computer: 1.5 hours a day
  • Books: 0.38 hours a day

As you produce your products, this study raises the question… Are you producing products in media formats your consumers are using most often during the day?

Take a moment to really think about that. I think I just heard your eyes opening.

Where is Technology Headed?

None of us really know, but we all know that technology and those competing eProducts are here to stay. As a matter of fact here’s how Michael Johnson (Full Potential Associates) ensured AEP attendees that technology is here to stay.

“Recently in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the school system purchased 200 iPod Touches.” Johnson said, “Yes, Sheboygan, Wisconsin. When technology comes to Wisconsin, it’s EVERYWHERE!” The crowd exploded with laughter (referring that Wisconsin is not known for its technical progressiveness).

Does all of this eProduct and technology talk, mean that’s it’s all doom and gloom for the print industry? Many have been predicting the end of print as early as 1894 Yes, 1894…that’s not a typo. Don’t believe me? Read more about it.

Technology plays an important role in reaching people, but that doesn’t mean it’s replacing print anytime soon. Take the Washington Post for example. In 1999, its circulation of 786,000 was limited to just the DC area, and in 2009 with the internet at full throttle, their print circulation is still alive at 665,000 copies, but they were drawing nearly 9.4 million unique monthly visitors from around the world.

Since print has survived against all odds for so long, many are now changing their tune, and saying that content will be delivered in print AND digital formats for many years to come.

Why? Simply for the reason that printed content provides value to the end user that digital cannot…and vise versa.

Four Must-Dos for Every Publisher in the Association Market

  1. Don’t derail your business. Get your organization aligned with E-products, but don’t derail your core business while introducing them into your existing product offerings. Don’t disrupt your entire print business by hiring someone that only knows technology. You need to think about strategy from your organization level, not at a product level. If you hope to introduce eProducts, you’ll need to hire those with knowledge about Associations and eProducts.
  2. Keep making great content. Content creation is important, but begin making the move from content to services. Content will become a commodity (and eventually become FREE, if it’s not already!). The barriers to bring content to market are being removed by technology. An increase in content in the market will drive down price.
  3. Listen to your customers. Involve your customers in the development process when creating E-product solutions – during planning, during design, during implementation… be a partner!
  4. Reverse your thinking about the future of print. 1894 has come and gone. eProducts are here to stay, but it doesn’t mean print is gone. This clever video will help you change your mindset in how you look at the future of print.
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