Jan 15 2014, 11:29am CST | by Forbes
The author, speaker, investor, and business mogul has quite a resume — he was part of Apple’s early days and recently announced a new gig at Google. He’s written extensively on topics like Google+ and self-publishing, and his latest startup, AllTop, has added to his legacy in the digital media revolution by aggregating the best headlines from everywhere on the Web.
So just what can business leaders learn from this media mogul and successful founder? Quite a bit. I recently spoke to Kawasaki to hear his take on all things business, publishing, and digital media — and how all that relates to dinosaurs. Here’s what he had to say:
Ilya Pozin: Where do you think the publishing industry is headed in five to 10 years?
Guy Kawasaki: A long-term trend will be us going in the direction of established, digital readers. I realize there’s a resistance to giving up paper, but just as we’re not using cartography or landmines anymore, we’re not going to be reading paper books. Publishers will disagree with that, mostly because they don’t have an alternative, but I think that’s just the way it is.
IP: Sites like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post use contributor models to provide great content. We’re also seeing a lot of great media startups like Upworthy and Medium. Do you think those models will work in the long-term?
GK: We’re seeing new companies pop up, but not necessarily succeed. There is a sense of entitlement on the Internet. People seem to believe their time is so valuable that they’re doing any content creator a favor just by reading. And when you have that sense of entitlement, payment goes out the window, because you think you’re doing content creators a favor. I don’t see why it’s going to change, so many will have to find another business model.
IP: Do you think this contributor model will begin to take precedence over traditional journalism as content moves online?
GK: Well, as long as contributors believe that writing for Forbes or The Huffington Post for free somehow improves their career possibilities, then it’s a viable model for them. That said, I don’t think the issue is controlling costs. I think the issue is increasing revenue. That’s a very different challenge, creation of revenue as opposed to content.
Not only are there many places to advertise, there are many people who do not believe in paying for advertising because they can use Twitter, Google+, and other social media platforms. They’re free marketing platforms. So only brands with more money actually pay for social media promotion.
IP: So businesses are now talking to unpaid contributors to get their names in these outlets. Do you think eventually this model will catch up to these media companies? Will they end up having so much irrelevant content that it will hurt more than help them?
GK: I think the free contributor model will last as long as there are young people who will do anything to build a resume. It’s in the same sense that there are interns working in Hollywood for free because they want to break into the movie business — when do you see that ending? When do you see interns ending? I don’t see it ending.
The scary part is, what happens for the investigative reporters who take six months to compile a solid piece? That is the question. So consider Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. How would they have uncovered Watergate if they weren’t employed by The Washington Post?
I think there are going to be two solutions. One is that the government may have to pay for experienced journalism. The second is foundations like the McCarthy Foundation and Ford Foundation pay for investigative journalism. Just because you have 100 million pageviews on Medium, it doesn’t mean you can suddenly afford to have someone on Medium conduct a six month-long report about toxic waste dumped by Boeing in Seattle — that isn’t gonna happen.
IP: We’re also seeing a generation of lists instead of in-depth pieces. It’s both good and bad, but I think it really defines the state of journalism today.
GK: Right. I’ll give you another possible business model. So you become a writer, you give away your content and make your money on paid speeches and webinars. That is also possible. No one ever got into writing for money, right? I mean, it’s just not the path.
Publishers are basically dinosaurs. They look up and see a tiny speck in the sky and they think it’s dust, but it’s actually a meteor coming for them. I think it’s a great time for writers because everyone can publish a book, more or less. But now you don’t rely on five publishing houses in New York to see success. So the democratization of publishing is good in that sense.
IP: Did you self-publish your books?
GK: I did a book called Ape which explains how to self-publish and market a book. The other is called What The Plus!, and it explained Google+. So the last two are self-published. And they did better in terms of dollars than going to a publisher.
The math doesn’t work for publishing if you have the ability to sell your own book. On the other hand, if you’re Hillary Clinton writing a memoir for a $5 million grant, then fine, it will work for her. But there are only 500 people in the world in that category.
Kawasaki contends publishing is becoming much like the music business. As this interview illustrates, publishers, writers, and journalists are facing a tough media landscape. Time will tell if Kawasaki’s predictions come true, but one thing is for sure — entrepreneurs have a tricky road ahead when it comes to avoiding dinosaur-like naiveté and creating sustainable business models in this field.
What do you think the future of publishing holds? Share in the comments!
Source: Forbes Business
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