New Year to me is like drawing a line in the sand. It is a moment to reflect and review how much was achieved in the passing year… but also what might happen in the next 12 months.
If there is one thing I am absolutely sure of, it is that the rate of change will continue to be dramatic. We will continue to struggle to identify whether new innovation is fad or ground-breaking. But what I can see clearly is those things that are simply no longer relevant or pervasive will become redundant. Business models will continue to be challenged – fortunes will be made and lost.
The only Australian weekly business magazine is disappearing from newsstands. Its last print edition rolls off at the end of 2014. BRW has become an online journal. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
I remembered an article from October 2013 that foretold of the sale of a printing press by one of Australia’s iconic media giants, Fairfax Media Limited.
Fairfax is one of Australia’s largest diversified media companies. Their operations include newspapers, magazines, radio and digital media. This year they announced the $220 million purpose-built printing press – only ten years old – would be sold. The plant is due to shut down mid-2014, signaling the loss of 1900 jobs. The company has also erected paywalls around the websites of its two main metropolitan newspapers, and shifted to a compact tabloid-sized edition of its famous broadsheet newspapers. These changes were all prompted by shrinking advertising revenue as brands sought to advertise their products within more relevant media, including social media platforms. Simply, print media is dying. It’s sad, but it’s true. The days of cutting out coupons, wedding and birth announcements, or that hilarious Far Side comic, are numbered.
Print media is being surely (and not at all slowly) replaced by the instant world of online media and social media – where everyone is a publisher. 2014 will bring a certain continuation of this – and with it, job losses, a likely continued decline in the quantity and quality of journalism, and the diminishing role of the “fourth estate”.
This is not an isolated issue. One only needs to look to the UK and the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Ironically this involved another Australian brand, “Murdoch”, and brings up the related issue of privacy. As businesses, yes we need a certain level of information about our customers to deliver a relevant product, at a relevant time and in the most relevant manner for them. But where do we draw the line?
I have a feeling that people will soon rebel against what has been a very common and accepted sharing of personal information, specifically online. For example, there has been a steady rise in the number of people deactivating their Facebook accounts over the last 12 months. I think this is a symptom of a larger grappling by individuals to try and secure the privacy they were once so willing to trade for “likes” and “shares”. I’m not alone in this thinking.
As one US author put it, “On Facebook, we are no longer just users, we are data”. And most of us don’t like the idea of this. We don’t like that there is a price tag on what we like and do not like. That the videos, images and articles we view online say something larger about us or our behaviour. That by purchasing something means we are “engaged” with a brand.
Author and CNN contributor Douglas Rushkoff recently terminated his Facebook account because he felt the site was turning him into a commodity. “Facebook has never been merely a social platform. Rather, it exploits our social interactions the way a Tupperware party does. Facebook does not exist to help us make friends, but to turn our network of connections, brand preferences and activities… into money for others.”
News is no longer news; it’s entertainment. Journalists are no longer journalists; they’re entertainers. Social media is no longer social; it’s the biggest and most targeted marketing channel we’ve ever seen.
The fact is, there are different versions of the truth depending on which paper you pick up in the morning, which channel your TV lands on or which page you choose to “like” online. When there are so many vested interests; fewer media outlets owned by fewer individuals; and print media, once the bastion of great journalism, under serious threat, how are we supposed to maintain our privacy and “keep the bastards honest”?
I hope my “prophecy” is wrong, but from where I’m sitting it’s looking more and more likely that printing and privacy may become a thing of the past.
This post first appeared in my LinkedIn collection