Mike’s speech to a packed house at Hachette, as part of a lunchtime lecture series known as The Publishing Point. Delivering what proved to be a thought-provoking and farsighted view of the future of the book industry, Mike had some clear advice for those planning a long career in publishing: the companies that will succeed will be those that focus on building compelling content for well-defined “vertical communities.”
Speech given at BEA 2009. Focusing on the changes that will take place in publishing in the next 20 years. With a look back to the last 20 years, we are able to look forward and predict not only how publishing will be in the future, but also how information will be shared.
There is a big picture and a long arc within which our day-to-day activities are taking place. The 20th century consumer media were horizontal in their subject matter — that is, very broad — and format-specific. In the States, that means entities like CBS or NBC in television, The New York Times, or Random House. All of these companies provide content across the full range of human subject interests, but they pretty much stick to their formats: broadcast, newspapers, and books, respectively
…in the 21st century, the net is flipping this on us. The net tends to self-organize us by subject niche, so the eyeballs and human bandwidth are linked to the niches, which are vertical, not horizontal. And because web interaction is about file exchanges, format specificity is meaningless. The file can hold text, art or photographs or other graphics, animation, moving images, sound, games, or code that helps us combine, sort, or tag things
We’re going to start with a view of what digital technology could mean to the overall world of communication over the next decade or two. What the history of the Internet seems to be telling us so far is that we will see a growth in niche organization — what people like to call “community” on the web — and a corresponding decline in horizontal media, which is much more threatening to magazines, newspapers, and broadcast than it is to us in the book business. But it will change us too