As a rule I don’t believe in coincidences. So when you put together in the same month four separate corporate decisions, it could present an overall pattern that can be misinterpreted.
Here is who announced what:
- Sappi Paper is halting its stock dividends
- Quadgraphics is cutting their stock dividends in half
- Meredith Corporation announced it is about to publish the last monthly issue of Family Circle.
- McClatchy is saying so long to Saturday (print) newspapers.
It has to be understood that the coincidences listed above only tell a small slice of a broader picture of what is happening to our industry, not the whole story.
The news could feed irrational fears if looked at from a single glance. But I don’t see it that way. This doesn’t mean the demise of paper, publishing, or printing, but it does mean we are still finding our trajectory to wherever our profitable futures lay. These business decisions are just adjustments to the ebb and flow of market conditions.
Sometimes what’s true doesn’t matter, and the only thing that is relevant is what we are afraid of. I believe as an industry we have nothing to fear. I have attended seven publishing conferences this year, and the overall, overwhelming consensus is that all is well in our various media communities, and what has been a long lingering fear is now gone.
For two decades there has been a lot of news, conjecture, and posturing about what the media industry may still be morphing into and becoming. These changes are not only affecting the industry but the psyche of the people who work in it.
I have to say that as I travel around the country, I see more outstanding successes than failures.
We have evolved and are using new tools and business models to thrive. The thriving thing is independent of substrate. A lucrative future can still be successfully developed, and it doesn’t matter if it is paper, pixels or – more preferably – both. The only reasonable forecast to expect is continued change. I see this as an ever-changing era of tremendous opportunity and growth.
The underlying conclusion is that we, as an industry, will not be going out of business despite some unfortunate coincidences. Writers are still writing, editors are still editing, and publishers are still publishing, but in new creative mediums, as well as the old ones. We have a fine and honorable future ahead of us, just not quite as we knew it. So what? It is time to get used to it. Your career depends on your adapting to these inevitable facts of continuous change.
A few years ago I suggested that this is a great time to rethink the unthinkable, that this is a unique and historic period where the unthinkable has never been more possible.
We live in a period of experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism that the world has never seen before. We should embrace it, not fear it.
I think this is the new golden age of publishing. I think there’s more real opportunity than ever before; if we are smart, energetic, observant and flexible.
The only time to panic is when people stop reading.
Bo Sacks, President, Precision Media Group
This commentary originally appeared on Bo Sacks daily newsletter and is re-published with kind permission. You can subscribe to Bo’s e-newsletter here.