Blogs, Bubbles and Publishing

Blogging Bubble
The web is abuzz with news of the changes made by Nick Denton at Gawker Media. If you have missed it you can read more here, here, here and here or you can read the NYT article here.

You might wonder why this is important to writers, editors and publishers well the main reason is that while on the face of it this seems like a set back for digital publishing in reality the sites that Denton is holding on to, and in some ways reinforcing, are the very successful sites with heavy traffic and quality content. In every way, as Jeff Jarvis makes clear, this is a media company operating in the way media has always operated, throw a lot at the wall and see what sticks. When something sticks make hay. It happens in book publishing, magazine publishing, radio broadcasting and music publishing, not to mention the notorious fields of television broadcasting and movie publishing, it even happens on the stage.

Why this Matters
The main reason I want to highlight this is that Denton has shown the way forward for publishers. Caution in approaching the web seems to me to be misplaced caution because, as Denton has shown by his slick moves in the last while, flexibility is one of the hallmarks of the web. If something does not work the investment has not been huge and you can kill it without too much pain.

Equally he has shown the danger for publishers in that his network has built a mini empire of mind space and traffic in such a short time and shows no sign of stopping. How long will Publishers, big and small wait until they jump into the web?

The longer they wait, the longer rival routes to their content (i.e. stations the money train stops before it gets to the content owners bank account) will have to build their base and the harder it will be for publishers to take that lost share back.

You only need to look over the sites of publishers at present to see how few of them have a concept of engaging with their audience and customers or of building communities around their brands, books and authors. Some have made headway but few.

The talk of bubbles and the death of blogs is well over baked and foolish. The real crisis is that early adopters are being joined at a rapid rate by the mass market and they don’t like it. They resent the new arrivals as blow ins who really don’t know what they are doing. But publishers should see that that very dynamic as opportunity. Its time to move online rapidly, methodically even if not to offer content yet to build a loyal base of book readers who will be directed to your content when that time comes. Soon it may be too late and too many competitors will be between you and the revenue.