We in the media business have been rightfully concerned about the technology changes of the last two decades and what these new systems of broad communications have done to our businesses and our bottom lines.
Communication, which is the business we are actually in, has changed in scale, scope, ease of use and, perhaps most importantly, in the way we can intimately relate to instant communications from fellow humans or media companies anywhere on the planet. Add to that the radical global nature of business efficiencies in communications that have empowered fewer people to perform double the amount of work previously thought possible. These changes continue to speed progress and further efficiencies to deliver yet more of the same — increased speeds in every aspect of life including, of course, media communications. But these earth shaking changes haven’t been just about us media folk. The global economy has morphed and adjusted right along with us, sometimes for our benefit and many times not.
That said, I think you will agree that we are still only in the earliest stages of world changing events such as we haven’t seen since the first industrial revolution. Two hundred years ago businesses and society in general also had to deal with changes in processes, efficiencies, and manufacturing quantities beyond anyone’s imagination.
We now are in the midst of an equally potent process that I’m calling the Era of Collaborative Media Communications. Collaborative Media Communication is only possible with the consent of the public, who have obviously already given their approval. It is a combination of interactions between media businesses and people, and also between people and people, which happens only with an intermediary. That intermediary is actually twofold. One is the physical device, usually handheld, and the other is the “software as a service” that coordinates to bring people and/or groups into the evolving communications system.
These collaborative communication services create a new kind of tribalism. Instead of religious or geopolitical tribes, which still do exist, these are tribes of like-minded people brought together not physically, but emotionally, around common ideas.
These changes to our ability to communicate with collaborative media processes have empowered tribes to insert themselves effectively in places never before possible and more quickly than ever before. The power of the communication tribe is in our politics, our economy, our religions, our “likes,” and surely our biases. This power is, in fact, everywhere. Part of the tribe’s power comes from instant coordinated collaboration. It is, to use a term from the radical 1960s, Power to the People.
Commerce now runs on “likes” and online popularity, as proven with Facebook and Amazon and dozens of other major collaborative players. News is instantly spread by tribes of readers sharing their joy in or horror of any particular story. Their combined mass moves empires, be they commercial or social or political.
That being said, the magazine media industry is at a major decision point. Can we and should we put our energies into a new collaborative style of media communication systems or stay in the traditional magazine format? We all know that the traditional format has many features that make it unique and valuable. But collaborative media communication also has valuable and unique features. When you compare the two, print with its folksy comfort zone is on the whole losing the revenue war to the always on, always available, always refreshed, always collaborative media platforms. That traditional format can be print or digital, but if it is kept in a non-responsive, non-collaborative style, then it is by default old-fashioned.
Snapchat, Upworthy, Buzzfeed, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Instagram all have massive collaborative tribes, and they are usurping the time once spent in the traditional magazine format. They do so because they are perceived to be a better way to instantly be informed, entertained, or educated.
Increasingly it is clear that magazine media must develop greater collaborative media platforms that bring our most valuable resource, the paying reader, into our platforms. We can keep our traditional format, but we must also move beyond the one-way street of communication to develop and encourage the reader to comment, share, and offer diverse opinions on the products we distribute. Today, to remain in a static traditional platform is increasingly counterproductive to being a successful media company and capturing the revenue streams derived from the still-developing collaborative style of media communication.
Bob Sacks (aka BoSacks) is a printing/publishing industry consultant and president of The Precision Media Group (BoSacks.com). He is also the co-founder of the research company Media-Ideas (Media-Ideas.net), and publisher and editor of a daily international e-newsletter, Heard on the Web. Sacks has held posts as director of manufacturing and distribution, senior sales manager (paper), chief of operations, pressman, circulator and almost every other job this industry has to offer.