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Industry Insight

Paranoia in Publishing

I want to shine the light on an issue that I think warrants discussion by our industry. For lack of a better term, I have been calling it PIP-that is, paranoia in publishing. Here is the core of the issue: We believe that publishing will survive and be quite lucrative for many of the industry's smartest folks, but we can't quite figure out whether we will be part of that group-or part of that survival. And that is the terrible sadness of it.

By Bob Sacks
Published: April 19, 2010

The golden age of publishing lies ahead . But will we as individuals be part of it?

I want to shine the light on an issue that I think warrants discussion by our industry. For lack of a better term, I have been calling it PIP-that is, paranoia in publishing. Here is the core of the issue: We believe that publishing will survive and be quite lucrative for many of the industry's smartest folks, but we can't quite figure out whether we will be part of that group-or part of that survival. And that is the terrible sadness of it.

We are in an extremely noble and wonderful business. As a group, we educate, entertain, inform and are one of the true bedrocks of civilization. It is very clear that what we do as an industry is vitally important and, in whatever form it finally manifests itself, will remain incredibly vibrant and necessary. And, after a short pause of serious introspection, we will be back on track to growth and grandeur. We as a group will definitely survive, but we as individuals haven't a clue whether that survival will include us.

As I travel the country going from various publishing houses, associations or business conferences, I sense the fear. Not a fear of life, but of livelihood. It is our livelihood and the very jobs that we have that create a sense of stability and, for lack of a better expression, continued self-worth. We can't help that kind of introspection; no one can.

At every conference I attend, there are sessions with titles like "The Future of Publishing" and "The Road Map to Publishing Success." Their purpose is fine in the broad sense of mapping where the industry needs to move and how we must reinvent ourselves in these trying times. But there is little help for the angst that we as individuals are feeling.

I realize that I'm not able to offer you any specific prescription to cure your anxiety. The reason for my inability is simple-your fear is not misplaced. None of us are safe, and we all know it. In one way, perhaps, I am at one of the centers of this knowledge base, because I send out 45,000 e-mails each day to the individuals of our industry with my daily newsletter. Every week I receive hundreds of notes, letters, questions and pleas. The concern of these individuals goes across all boundaries and across all job levels. Not only are the journeymen, apprentices and middle management at risk; many in the industry's most senior positions are wondering whether they will still have a job tomorrow.

If I could write some comforting words and tell you it will be all right, I would. The truth is that our industry is actually headed for the next golden age of publishing; I just cannot promise you that everyone who reads this will be part of that future. I am not expressing anything you don't already know, but I feel an obligation to let you know that your observations and concerns are being felt by the rest of us as well.

There is really nothing we can do, but take a deep breath, be indispensable and learn every aspect not only of our own jobs, but of those positions around us. We must understand that as old media transforms, it will be replaced by new jobs, new responsibilities and new opportunities. Although we are still working out what that successful business model will look like, the core of what we do remains the same: We educate, entertain and inform, and we will remain one of the true bedrocks of civilization.

 

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