Pervasive internet, publishing pitfalls and blaming Steve Jobs

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

I’m feeling uncomfortable right now, and I blame Steve Jobs. Now, I admit it’s not very fair to pick on a man on sick leave, but my conscience is clear because (a) he’ll almost certainly never read this and (b) he certainly won’t give a damn if he ever should. It’s his fault, bang to rights, because of the iPhone and the iPad and the changes they’ve worked on the technology world.

Every day that I come into the office and don’t do something that look at a multi-platform future for our content is a day I feel I’ve wasted. My gut, or my instinct for those who prefer a less biological metaphor, is screaming at me that the new reality for publishing is a continuum of devices, that start at phones, and move through tablets and TV and laptops and desktops and ereaders and innumerable devices not yet thought of.

And the journalism business is not ready.

This is the third major transformation to hit the our profession:

  1. The Internet – somebody only went and invented the biggest, most efficient information distribution system ever.  Oddly enough, the whole content business changed. And we’ve just about got our heads around this as an industry.
  2. Social Media – now, the internet always was social, but we ignored this bit until the social element became so loud, so important, that we couldn’t any more. And, as an industry, we’re just feeling our way through this right now.
  3. The Pervasive Internet – this is what people who still aren’t paying attention call the mobile internet or – worse – the mobile web. This is the proliferation of internet connection devices that people have with them everywhere and everywhen – and expect the information they want in easily accessible forms.

I’m worried about this last change for any number of reasons. First up, catering this means technological changes, and publishers have traditionally been crummy at those. Secondly, publishers are still struggling with point two. And lastly, too many people are busy rushing the wrong way with these devices. Too many of the iPad-centered publishing strategies have the reek of people taking one look at TVs and thinking “finally, the perfect vehicle to recreate greek theatre!”

The changes are starting to come faster than the publishing business has proved itself capable of reacting to – and that’s a huge red flag.

Cheery thought, isn’t it?

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.