The Publishing Industrial Complex is Dead. Long Live the Publishers!
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there were those who participated in someone else’s publishing. You might buy advertising; you might hire a PR agent to get “earned media.” The participation varies, but the process is always the same with publishers gaining an audience and you working with the publishers, most often by giving them money for access to a part of their audience. THAT is what’s changing.
Here’s a concrete example: There’s a husband-and-wife-run deck-building business I know in my hometown of Denver. If they had started their business 20 years ago they would have spent essentially all their marketing budget with the Publishing Industrial Complex—probably the phone book and perhaps the local newspaper. Now they spend essentially zero with other publishers. They do, however, spend money to become publishers. They hire my company, BlogMutt, to help them write blog posts that they publish themselves.
They do that for two main reasons, SEO and currency. They get leads from search, and their search results are killer because of their regular blog posts. Also they get a lot of business from referrals, but they know they are not the only ones being recommended. If someone recommends them to a prospect, and that prospect also gets another recommendation from another friend, the prospect is going to check both of them out online. If one deck company has lots of interesting, current posts and the other has a page that may or may not have changed for years, the more current deck company will get the sale.
The deck guys are publishers now.
One other example: Let’s say Pepsi is worried about public sentiment about some piece of legislation that could really increase their costs. In the old days they’d hire lobbyists and PR agents. They still do, but those PR agents, if they are smart, will either produce in-house or go to a high-end content shop like Contently and come up with white papers and reports and whatever else it takes to move the needle. If the content is good enough, the old media will come looking for it. Pepsi isn’t begging for or paying for coverage from publishers because Pepsi is a publisher.
One last example: VCs. It wasn’t that long ago that perhaps the pinnacle achievement for a VC would be standing on the NYSE just behind the CEO ringing the opening bell for an IPO, and having that moment captured in a photo published by the Wall Street Journal. I guarantee you every time that happened that newspaper clip would get framed and would hang prominently in that VC’s office. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but from the perspective of data it is exactly one data point, and it comes via someone else doing the publishing.
Now take a look at Fred Wilson. I’m sure he wouldn’t be opposed to such a clip and maybe he has one, but he’s not relying on an external publisher for validation, or for data. Fred has real data—number of uniques, where they come from, how many retweets, how many links from other blogs, etc. He has all that because he’s a publisher now.
That’s the tectonic shift. We are all publishers now.