Seth Godin has earned a reputation as a marketing guru who provides both intelligence and buzzwords. It was a disappointment, then, to see him venture recently into unknown (to him) territory with an ill considered and hastily assembled blog post titled “When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?” The post reveals clearly that Seth knows little about journalism—neither the practice of it nor the economics. Truly, no one will miss Seth if he gracefully bows out of the conversation about journalism’s future.
The media business has been in chaos for a decade, and there's more coming. The next big media revolution will be an escalating and increasingly bitter competition between the content creators--especially newspaper and magazine publishers--and their former friends, the traditional ad agencies, which still create and buy most print ads for their clients. The traditional ad agencies are going to lose because creating great, engaging content is emerging as the key skill in marketing. And they don't have it.
I’ve been working on this post for more than a week. I’m beginning to suffer from the writer’s version of Stockholm syndrome—I’ve been taken hostage by my own ideas and I’m starting to identify with them even when they’re bad. So I’m going to abandon the notion of explaining everything to everybody and just try to make my main point. In case it’s gets lost, by the way, my main point is that traditional media need to get their heads out of their hidebound histories and redefine what advertising is. (You heard me: redefine advertising, not journalism.)
Walter Isaacson is a good man to have at your side in the 19th century, but something of an economic dead weight in the present. In Time magazine’s cover story, “How to Save Your Newspaper,” Isaacson advances the wrong old argument as he doles out some free advice for rescuing the imperiled craft of journalism. (I call it free advice because I read it on the web for free, but I must confess that my wife bought me a copy of the magazine first for $4.95.) His advice is (1) worth every penny I paid for it and (2) virtually guarantees the death of the newspaper industry if anyone pays serious attention to it.