Published on: February 19, 2009Now available on iTunes…
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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, now available on iTunes and sponsored this week by Webstop, experts in retail website design.
At the risk of beating a dead horse…
I spent a fair amount of time last week suggesting – and then defending the suggestion – that the slowing of magazine sales was an early warning that the magazine industry is dying and that retailers might be well advised to get rid of their periodicals sections and replace them with something a little more 21st century. Maybe a little Internet café?
Yesterday, Michael Sansolo waded into the discussion to suggest that I hadn’t gone far enough…and that virtually every department of the store ought to be open to scrutiny and second thought. He was saying the same thing that Beau Fraser and his co-authors were saying last year when they published a book entitled “Death To All Sacred Cows,” which is available on Amazon.com either in a paper version or for the Kindle, and which I still think is definitely worth a read.
Now, I got a fair amount of email on this subject last week…some of it from people in the magazine business who suggested that 1) people always are going to read magazines and that 2) magazine titles appropriate to a store’s customer base always will generate sales.
I understand these objections and the context in which they are made. And I would emphasize that the changes that I suggested last week, that Michael Sansolo mentioned yesterday, and that the Sacred Cow guys talked about in their book, aren’t going to happen immediately – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart’s Rick Blaine, but soon…and they’ll affect the rest of your life.
One word that ought to be eliminated from our vocabularies right now is the word “always.” I hate to break it to you, but people aren’t always going to read magazines and magazines aren’t always going to generate sales. Just as Walmart wasn't always going to be in just the discount store business, Amazon.com wasn’t just always going to be selling books online, Starbucks wasn't guaranteed to always be a success, and…well, do I have to go on?
There are no guarantees. There is no “always,” at least when it comes to things beyond science, math and physics.
Sure. People are always going to eat…that’s a basic rule of nature…but there is no always about what they are going to buy their food, or what kinds of food they are going to buy, or even how they will think about food’s role in their lives.
In Time magazine a week or so ago, former managing editor Walter Isaacson – a product of print journalism – speculated about how the new world order is affecting journalism, and how the profession needs to change in order to survive. He foresees a time when people might actually pay small amounts of money to read individual stories and punditry by the piece…the same as people paying by the song on iTunes…a business model that few people saw coming just a few years ago. Is he right? Maybe…but it is only by considering such business models that we can start to identify ways to be relevant to the consumer of the future.
Go check out Isaacson’s piece. Then think about your kids, and how they get information. I find myself thinking not about what is possible when it comes to journalism, but rather about how little is impossible. Or, to use a phrase oft quoted here, from Jean-Luc Picard: “Things are impossible until they’re not.”
We all have to be both cold-blooded and hot blooded when it comes to our business models. Cold blooded in our willingness to cast aside anything that it irrelevant or outdated, no matter how cherished or traditional. And hot blooded in our passion to accept – no, embrace – change.
For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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