BoSacks Speaks Out: Publishing’s Road to Recovery
on July 07, 2020
In life during troubled times, there are always many ways to cope with the situations kismet sets on our paths. I think it is fair to say we are living through an historical period that will be written about and examined for decades. As the examination unfolds and is retold by scientists, authors, book and magazine publishers, there will be a Macro view and a Micro view.
Anything macro is on a vast scale. A macro perspective on life is one that stands back and takes in the entirety of the experience, rather than examining smaller details up close. Micro views, on the other hand, focus on the individual and how they're interacting with the situation on a very personal level. Put another way; macro views are impersonal while micro views are personal.
This line of logic has been percolating in my brain for months now as I try to ponder where our industry is and what might be happening to it. I'm finally putting these thoughts down on paper – an antique expression, isn't this? – as a reaction to correspondence I had with Folio's Caysey Welton. Caysey wrote a heartfelt essay called "A Tale of Two Economic Indicators" .
In our correspondence, Caysey wrote to me and said: "Unfortunately, it's hard to forecast anything positive, but there will be survivors." And that comment got me to thinking about the Macro and the Micro. Much of our industry is in turmoil with advertising decreased, staff working from home if they still have a job, and the economy in a shambles.
On the smallest scale possible, too many of the people of our industry have been left without a job and the steady income we all need to support our families. The publishing industry has always had a life and death cycle. Some publications outlive their original purpose and pass away into history. At the same time, under the old rules, new magazines with new ideas start and repopulate the magazine racks and mailboxes of the world.
On April 29th, 2020, I wrote about my presumptions of the new normal, where it seemed apparent that we were/are in a time machine, a machine that accelerates whatever was happening before. If your business was in decline, that decline is now accelerated. If your business was doing well, the methodologies and the technology you used for success should/could lead to further achievements, if not now, then in the near future.
So back to Caysey's observation about how hard it is forecast anything positive.
On the micro level, one person at a time, I cannot offer much that is positive. If you still have a job and a paycheck, that is about as positive as you can get, especially if you and your family also have your health.
For those on the outside, I can suggest that eventually the plague will pass as all other diseases have done throughout recorded history. It is the micro – the stress, the pain and the worry – that many will never forget. In truth, how could they?
On the macro side, I think I can offer several positive things. The first is that people will always require knowing things. We have as the publishing industry always fulfilled that request for knowledge for a profit. That formula other than the substrate hasn't changed in 600 years. During the pandemic and afterward we will retool our business plans, adjust to new realities, and publish for a fair income.
I think I can take it a step further and suggest the information distribution business formally known as publishing has a bright and lucrative future. We will use experimentation, innovation, and entrepreneurism the likes of which the world has never seen before to entertain, educate and provide for the needs of a reading public. I am confident this observation is part of the still evolving new normal.