Word Version – Essay in-lieu-of Examination – Daniel Ferrara (z3375133)
‘It makes increasingly less sense to even talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves – the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public – has stopped being a problem’, (Clay Shirky). Are digital and networked media dismantling the “publishing industry”? Is it being replaced? If so, what is replacing it? If not, what is the publishing industry becoming, and how is it doing so? Are there new difficulties and complexities or expenses involved?
The emergence of rapidly expanding digital technologies and practices over the last decade has forced a powerful and fundamental change in the publishing industry forever. The innovation of the digital age, the internet and networked technologies has completely reconfigured the relationship between writing and publishing, affecting the shape of authorship and production in an online writing environment (Laquintano, 2010, pg. 469). The printed page is giving way to the networked screen (The Institute for the Future of the Book, 2007), and it is clear that there are both opportunities and challenges facing the printing and publishing industry as society moves from print to digital distribution (Guenther, 2011, pg. 327). The increasing popularity of the internet and digital technologies has provided society with accessible publics and self-publishing social media platforms, altering the lives of many individuals who were previously limited to professional authors and publishers (Laquintano, 2010, pg. 470). Tonkery (2003, pg. 35) writes that the information chain is facing a fundamental change in the way information is created, organised, disseminated and assimilated. The rapid transition from print to digital publication has given publishers an opportunity to use new methods to reach consumers, and this evolution of traditional publishing methods will determine the success of the publishing industry in the long term. Publishing is shifting into a complex new world of digital information abundance, however, the speed and extent of these changes are still unknown (Lichtenberg, 2011, pg. 101). This essay will explore the way in which digital and networked media platforms have changed the publishing industry, as well as how the publishing industry is looking to adapt in order to account for these changes in society.
The swift development of online publishing, e-books and digital libraries has seen publishers face many challenges, none more so than the ability of networked media to take on the publisher’s traditional role as ‘gatekeepers of literary culture’ (Murray, 2010, pg. 23). Communication technologies in the 21st century have changed the very conception of the author in the modern era (Murray, 2010, pg. 24). During a time where newspapers and other forms of traditional media are attempting to reinvent themselves in a web-based world, it is important to recognise the ability of networked media to publicise information almost instantaneously. It is this change in the capability of new media to disseminate information around the world in such a short space of time that makes it harder for print media to continue being a viable source of up-to-date news and information, diminishing the importance of the printing press in an increasingly digital world. Clay Shirky (2009) writes that the key issues that publishing used to resolve are now obsolete in an age of digital and networked media. We are now seeing a blurring of writing and publishing in online digital environments (Laquintano, 2010, pg. 471), and in the past decade, we have seen publishers attempt to incorporate the capabilities that the internet promises into their services and publications (Stewart et al., 2013, pg. 415). The magazine publishing industry in particular have embraced the opportunities provided by new media technologies, attracting readers through interactive content both online and on e-readers such as the iPad, without the high production and distribution costs faced by traditional print magazines. According to Silva (2011, pg. 31), 51% of consumers aged between 18 and 34 are reading magazines electronically. These stats show us the increasing influence of digital publishing platforms, and how the traditional publishing industry must adapt in order to be successful in today’s technologically savvy society. In today’s world, people are able to consume news through a variety of digital media and social networking sites. The Pew Research centre concluded that 77% of tablet owners surveyed obtained news on their computer, while 19% of all respondents received their news from social media sites (Editor & Publisher, 2013). These statistics show us the increasing influence of new media technology in everyday life, as well as the importance of reinventing traditional media platforms to be successful in a networked environment. Johnson (2011) writes that the e-book shift is not being driven by publishers, but by consumer demand, showing us the necessity for the printing press to adapt their methods in order to increase their convenience and accessibility to consumers. Since the early 2000’s, we have seen shift away from the mass media approaches of traditional news broadcasts, which used to have top priority, to the adoption of a ‘web-centric’ approach to organising news (Grabowicz, 2013). This means that information and news stories are now written for the internet first and then adapted to suit the print edition, again showing us the increasing importance digital and internet technologies are having on publishing processes and industries. The public embrace of tablets and e-readers that provide instant access to archives of books and information content not only bring into question the usefulness of print publishing, but also their ongoing role in a digital age where we see the immediate spread of information and news content (Lichtenberg, 2011, pg. 103).
The innovation of Web 2.0 services and publishing formats has led to an ‘increased emphasis on user-generated content, data and content sharing and collaborative effort, together with the use of various kinds of social software, and the use of the web as a platform for generating, re-purposing and consuming content’ (Stewart et al., 2013, pg. 415). This has meant that many publishers have attempted to incorporate these online capabilities into their activities and services in order to keep attracting consumers and readers to their products. Digital publishing platforms today rely on a user interface that has the ability to aggregate, manipulate, measure and leverage data, which has increased the value and popularity of social media sites in the last decade (Guenther, 2011, pg. 329). It is this fundamental shift in the way society use digital and networked media that have forced publishers to respond to the reality of readers who are demanding e-content, or risk becoming irrelevant (Johnson, 2011). Naughton (2010) writes that the concept of a ‘book’ will change under the pressure of digital devices, just as magazines and newspapers have already changed. Paper publications will never become obsolete; however, print publishers who wish to thrive in the new digital environment must add a technological edge to their publications (Naughton, 2010). It also makes financial sense for traditional media outlets to become digitally based, with Shatzkin (2012) writing that by reducing your printing and distribution costs, many publishers are able to increase their gross revenue margin, even taking into account other small online costs such as marketing and administration. Publishers are now coming to terms with the changing media landscape, adapting their practices to suit digital publishing platforms, increase their attractiveness to consumers and ensure that they are able to rapidly distribute information at the same speed as social networking sites which are led by user-generated content. The increasing reliance on digital technologies by society today means that traditional products and practices are no longer adequate in addressing unmet consumer needs or unexploited potential in the market (Lichtenberg, 2011, pg. 102). Digital and networked media have not necessarily dismantled the publishing industry; however, these technologies have forced a fundamental rethink in the way the publishing industry develops to deal with consumer demand and the difficulty and complexity of user-generated publishing platforms.
The increasing popularity of digital and networked media has changed the way audiences, or publics, look at the publishing industry. As a result, publishers have been forced to adapt their methods in order to ensure that they are not replaced by social media and other user driven social networking platforms. Laquintano (2010, pg. 487) writes that ‘authorship has now become responsive to the idiosyncrasies of the digital environment’, showing us the increasing importance for publishers to increase their online publishing presence and expertise. In an age where self-publication is becoming increasingly apparent, the lines between writing and publishing can blur, reconfiguring the categories of author, publisher and reader in the context of digital writing environments (Laquintano, 2010, pg. 487). By understanding the dynamics of digital publishing platforms, publishers are more likely to be able to deal with the difficulties and challenges associated with the changing nature of publishing in the 21st century. Along with this, publishers must also learn to deal with the rise of social media, and how it has shifted society away from static content for a passive audience toward a digital culture of public participation and mixing of data and information by individuals (Grabowicz, 2013). The shift by publishers to account for these difficulties and complexities is seen with the increased digitalisation of traditional media platforms such as magazines. Digital magazines are designed to compete for the attention of online readers, with pages formatted to include interactive sections such as flash animations or embedded videos in order to compete with other online digital publishing platforms (Silva, 2011, pg. 302). These processes are being put in place by traditional publishing industries in order to ensure it can keep pace with digital media, showing us that these industries are not necessarily being replaced, but are instead adapting to the changing media landscape by becoming more technologically sound in accordance with consumer demand. However, there are also difficulties associated with these changes. Digital technologies are turning publisher’s business models inside out, moving away from a product business model based on selling physical commodities via distributors and retailers towards a service business model that begins with the customer’s needs and expectations (Lichtenberg, 2010, pg. 112). This shift has been seen in conjunction with the rise in popularity of social media platforms, which promote user-generated content and allow the free and rapid flow of information instantaneously around the world, subsequently changing the way in which traditional publishing industries produce news content for audiences and publics. Moreover, Clay Shirky (2009) writes about the expenses associated with the printing press, showing that digital publishing technologies make commercial and financial sense in today’s society.
In conclusion, digital technologies have drastically altered the publishing industry forever (Lichtenberg, 2010, pg. 112). The demands of consumers in today’s information based society have shown traditional media industries the advantages of new digital media formats over traditional print media (Silva, 2012, pg. 310). The innovation of many web-based technologies has increased the amount of user-generated content seen online, blurring the lines between writing and publishing and hence bringing the importance of traditional publishing into question. However, this essay has shown that the ‘publishing industry’ is not being replaced, but is rather being forced to adapt to a new digital communication and information landscape that will provide new difficulties, complexities and expenses for many traditional publishing business models. The increasing popularity of the internet has given traditional media the opportunity to adjust its methods in order to account for consumer demand, and the evolution of these approaches will lead to the success of the digital publishing industry in the long term. Social media platforms and other types of digital media have provided society with an abundance of information, leaving traditional media outlets with both opportunities and challenges in order to acclimatise to the new media environment. Digital and networked media are not necessarily dismantling the publishing industry, however, it is changing the fundamental business thinking of traditional publishing platforms, forcing them to become technologically viable and attractive to online consumers. This shift in thinking, caused by the dynamic and complex nature of digital media today, has created many opportunities and challenges for traditional media outlets, none more so than the changing financial positions associated with the printing press or online publishing. Overall, digital media and social networking has changed the way information is transmitted around the world, affecting traditional publishing platforms which have had to adapt their practices and procedures in order to cater for the digital consumer. Traditional media forms have faced many opportunities and challenges in attempting to change their business models to suit the new technological environment, and we are able to see that new media technologies have completely changed the nature of publishing as we know it today.
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